Sanity Check: Will having a first year quarterback prevent Michigan from competing for a national title?
Edit: this diary is not meant to be taken as a homer-rific prognostication of making or winning the playoffs, but only looks to dissuade the notion that Michigan cannot reach or win the playoffs solely because of the QB situation.
As many of you may have noticed, Michigan has been ranked inside the top 4 in quite a few national “way too early” Top 25 polls. Of course, if Michigan were to finish in the top 4, that would mean that we would be competing in the 3rd edition of the NCAA football playoffs.
Many jimmies across the land have been rustled (and many revenue-friendly clicks generated) because of this lofty ranking bestowed upon Michigan football in these meaningless pre-preseason polls. This playoff prognostication has driven any or all of the following reactions in the Michigan community, in no particular order:
Meanwhile, other fanbases be like
One of the reasons that I see cited most frequently that Michigan should not be ranked so highly is because we will be breaking a new quarterback (and we don't even know who that quarterback will be). Admittedly, this does feel like a pretty valid reason to expect that Michigan will not reach the very top of the football post-season. Because of this, I've decided to investigate a simple question: ignoring other factors, has having a first year QB historically prevented teams from making the national title game?
I’ve compiled a list of the national champions and runner-ups from each of the past seasons from 2000-2015. The list includes starting quarterback, whether or not the quarterback was a first year starter, and if so, what year the quarterback was at in that point in their career. Behold:
|Year||Name||QB||1st yr starter?||Year||Name||QB||1st yr starter?||Year|
|2000||Oklahoma||J. Heupel||N||FSU||C. Weinke||N|
|2001||Miami||K. Dorsey||N||Nebraska||E. Crouch||N|
|2002||Ohio State||C. Krenzel||Y||RS JR||Miami||K. Dorsey||N|
|2003||LSU||M. Mauck||Y||RS JR||Oklahoma||J. White||Y||JR|
|2004||USC||M. Leinart||Y||JR||Oklahoma||J. White||N|
|2005||Texas||V. Young||N||USC||M. Leinart||N|
|2006||Florida||C. Leak||N||Ohio State||T. Smith||N|
|2007||LSU||M. Flynn||Y||RS SR||Ohio State||T. Boeckman||Y||RS SR|
|2008||Florida||T. Tebow||N||Oklahoma||S. Bradford||N|
|2009||Alabama||G. McElroy||Y||JR||Texas||C. McCoy||N|
|2010||Auburn||C. Newton||Y||JR||Oregon||D. Thomas||Y||RS FR|
|2011||Alabama||A. McCarron||Y||SO||LSU||J. Jefferson||N|
|2012||Alabama||A. McCarron||N||Notre Dame||E. Golson||Y||RS FR|
|2013||FSU||J. Winston||Y||FR||Auburn||N. Marshall||Y||JR|
|2014||Ohio State||C. Jones||Y*||SO||Oregon||M. Mariota||N|
|2015||Alabama||J. Coker||Y||SR||Clemson||D. Watson||Y||SO|
Huh. Exactly half of the teams competing in the National Title game over the last 16 years were using first year starting QBs. Interestingly, 10 first year QBs won the national title, while only 6 lost (and 5 of those were facing other first year starters!)
Also interestingly, many or most of the guys on the list were not perceived as "big-time" quarterbacks. The data seems to indicate that even younger first year QBs can, in fact, play in, and win the national title, but will probably be an athletic QB in a high-powered spread offense, so that will not apply to us.
Michigan seems to have most other pieces in place going into the year - we have what looks like a dominating defense (LB questions notwithstanding), solid-to-great skill position players on offense (Chesson, Butt, Darboh, PEPPERS), and a pretty solid, if not overly deep or dominating offensive line. Our QB options do not look like absolute stars, but they don't need to be, if the above data is taken into account.
In conclusion, yes, it is entirely possible for a team to not only make, but win the national title with a first year starting quarterback, and not necessarily a star quarterback. There is a lot of historical precedent that bodes well for Michigan in 2016 in terms of the quarterback situation.
This is an admittedly over-simplified analysis, only intended to disprove the notion I've seen across the web that our QB situation will prevent us from making the playoffs or winning it all this year.
That's all I got, but for those of you who read this far, here's an unrelated bonus gif (one of my absolute favorites of all time):
June 1 - Thursday
Liveblog from game 5 of the Pistons vs. Heat Eastern Conference finals. Here is the box score if anyone is interested. Lots of good stuff here, but I will just add this early autobench gripe:
Then some other stuff happens... Wade gets his second and is yanked with 12 seconds let in the half, which brings me to a pet peeve of mine: why is it verboten to play Wade with 12 seconds left in the half but okay at the start of the third? Do you get spanked if you have a player with three fouls before the half?
A game recap to accompany the liveblog.
If -- and I want to stress "if," as the chances the Pistons win the next two are certainly below 50 percent -- the Pistons manage to win this series, then no matter what happens in the Finals they'll have cemented their reputation as best Rasputins in the history of the NBA*. Shot, stabbed, drowned, maimed, assaulted with hamburgers, attacked by leering gangs of bicyclists, thrown from a balloon, shot across the Channel in a V2 rocket, beaten, locked in a room with Stephen A. Smith on speed, run over by extremely determined ant skateboarders, abducted, or stuffed into the overhead compartment on a flight to hell: it matters not. What yesterday seemed like an insurmountable challenge is now just one slightly improbable road win followed by game seven in the Palace. It could happen. Maybe. Probably not. But maybe.
June 2 - Friday
Recruiting board update. Steve Paskorz commits to ND. Toney Clemons is Steve Breaston’s cousin.
June 3 - Saturday
The Pistons lost game 6 and the series. Brian says it was because they were out coached. Now, speculation begins on what Ben will do in the offseason.
June 5 - Monday
Brian gives fair warning that if you hate soccer, you’re not going to enjoy the upcoming contents of the blog (World Cup coverage). I must admit to only following soccer peripherally, so my comments on the soccer posts will be pretty light.
Brief recruiting board update mentioning John Ditto and Taurian Washington.
June 6 - Tuesday
Unverified Voracity: Yee Haw Hee Haw includes a comparison of top 100 rankings for Rivals and Scout. Also this is of interest to Lions’ fans:
Something you must know: Tennessee's Jim Bob Cooter was arrested for DUI. God willing, this was a moonshine incident.
June 7 - Wednesday
Brian gives a defense of soccer.
It seems the best way to shore up your average comment count is to declare that the World Cup is of interest and that you intend to post on it. It also helps if you then mis-date the next day's post so that the shocking revelation that you are some sort of hippie euro-snob fairy remains at or near the top of the blog for all red-white-and-blue blooded to see and fret over. If you, the blogger, do this, then you will return to see the soccer-sucks-no-it-doesn't sniping has bloomed like algae across any surface it can attach itself to. It's so bad that other noted college football bloggers have retreated to obscurer interwebs in a (thwarted) attempt to avoid serious loss of street cred.
June 8 - Thursday
There is a new MSU blog call Spartan Bob who is attacking the gameday atmosphere at the Big House. Brian’s assessment?
I do know that Spartan Stadium has all the atmosphere of your local Walmart and the class of the woman selling herself outside of it.
June 9 - Friday
The internet is down.
Unverified Voracity: Better Late. Chris Summers and Mark Mitera are looking good to join the hockey team.
June 10 - Saturday
Game recap of Trinidad and Tobago’s tie against Sweden.
June 12 - Monday
June 13 - Tuesday
Recruiting Board Update. Added David Molk and Troy Woolfolk. A few more notes about Molk camping at ND.
Zach Gibson is transferring to the basketball team from Rutgers, and Bryan Hogan has committed to the hockey team.
June 14 - Wednesday
There seems to be some progress in the attitude toward soccer in the US. There were various moments of outrage over the loss to the Czechs.
More hockey notes on Chris Summers and Mark Mitera.
June 15 - Thursday
A post containing various, murky insider tidbits. Some prove accurate (Junior Hemingway); some prove very murky (Ronald Johnson).
Edmonton beats Carolina to force game 6 in the Stanley Cup Finals (In case you didn’t read the May edition, Brian has become a huge Oilers fan).
June 16 - Friday
Updates and corrections on the recruiting tidbits from the previous day. Taurian Washington is likely to commit soon.
Brian’s answers for an offseason roundtable on another blog. Most interesting is that Brian has never purchased any CFB preview magazines.
June 17 - Saturday
The game ends in a tie. Sounds like the US scored a goal that was called off because of offsides. Brian is not happy.
June 19 - Monday
Unverified Voracity: Fried Ice Cream. There is a new ‘M’ blog (Michigan Football Saturdays). One of the first posts is to highlight the 3rd annual “Carr Wash”. Apparently, this was a regular thing where players would wash cars at the stadium to raise money for charity. The link to the original post is still active, and I would recommend it for some great pictures of Alan Branch.
Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals is about to begin. Brian pays tribute to the Cup and recaps Edmonton’s run through the playoffs.
June 20 - Tuesday
The Oilers lose game 7.
Still, today I'm going to shave the playoff beard and I will not be putting it in a plastic baggie carefully labeled Playoff Beard 2006(!) WOO! GOILERS! WOO! In times of stress I will not remove the baggie from its secure location, gingerly open it, and stroke the hairs therein as Michigan plays Notre Dame or my sixth wife says she wants to divorce me because I watch too much football or someone close to me is gravely ill or Michigan plays Ohio State.
June 21 - Wednesday
Unverified Voracity: They Will Suffer has details of the Big Ten’s renegotiated TV contract. Also this:
Also, the rumored Big Ten Channel is official. Coming next summer
June 22 - Thursday
USA vs. Ghana open thread (no content is still available).
Woolfolk is some sort of defensive back but is still sixteen and growing, so whether he ends up at corner or safety is yet to be determined.
Four years of college wouldn’t help to figure this out.
The US lost 2-1. Brian tries to figure out who to blame. I think soccer fans will find this line interesting:
Maybe the fault lies more at Donovan and Reyna and Beasley's feet than in Arena's head, but at this point I just want a Dutchman. Or Klinsmann. Or just anyone who doesn't remind me very strongly of Lloyd Carr with a two-touchdown lead.
June 23 - Friday
More NHL draft news regarding incoming ‘M’ freshmen.
June 26 - Monday
Recruiting Board Update. Lots about a legacy recruit named David Arnold. I couldn’t find much about him on the internet, but it looks like he might have ended up at Northwestern.
June 27 - Tuesday
Unverified Voracity: Seriously. Trevor Lewis, Mitera, and Summers were all taken in the 1st round of the NHL draft. Also, some quotes from Uni Watch about how the outrageous Oregon uniforms came to be.
Link to a helmet being auctioned off on Ebay. It has been signed by many current players and proceeds will go to charity.
June 28 - Wednesday
The first of the opponent previews. Up first: Michigan State.
On a micro level MSU is completely unpredictable week-to-week. On a macro level it's always Same Old Spartans.
In short, Stanton and Ringer are good. The O line, D line, and DBs are terrible. The linebackers are okay. (Also, a Josh Thornhill mention, so shoutout to his uncle Nay, a former co-worker of mine.)
June 29 - Thursday
Hello Reed Baker, and Brian is not pleased. It does sound pretty sketchy. He was dropped by the Citadel after their coach left, committed to Birmingham Southern but then they dropped from D-I to D-III because of finances, was offered a scholarship by the Air Force but couldn’t commit because of a severe peanut allergy, and finally was offered a scholarship by Amaker...who never saw him play in person. (It is interesting to contrast this to the leeway that Beilein still gets and deservedly so. “Oh, I guess he’s the next Spike Albrecht.”)
The Big 10 only had three team defenses give up fewer than 400 yards per game. Too much spread? Too many experienced QBs?
June 30 - Friday
Brian was born in Saudi Arabia? Here’s another offseason roundtable of bloggers, this one focusing on biographical information.
Also...Brian was in the World Series of Poker. Apparently we’re going to find out more in July.
If I get far enough to actually be on TV, and find myself in a big TV-worthy hand, I will tell the world that Lloyd Carr needs to stop punting on fourth and medium when a first down seals the game.
Unverified Voracity: Bakermania. Randy Walker has passed away. Also, more complaints about Reed Baker. Brian is fully on board with firing Amaker.
When announcing the schedule for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the conference's web release proclaimed, apparently proud of itself, that "Every [team will] play against every other team in the conference at least once during a four-year period."
This is inane.
What if I told you that delay could be cut down to the point where you play every team in the conference twice every three years? The catch I'll put right up front: except for your designated rival, whom you play every year, you only get any other team twice every three years.
Caveat: I've done a quick search both on mgoblog and the rest of the web to see if anybody else has had this idea. I haven't found it elsewhere. If you came up with it first, claim credit!
Here's how it works: a 14-team conference can easily be split into you, your rival, and twelve other teams. Those "twelve others" can be broken down into three per-school pods of four each. In any given year, you play two of your pods.
Here's a sample of how the conference might be broken down:
Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to get the grid lines to show, but corresponding to this particular arrangement, we get the resulting schedule of opponents:
A couple notes:
- Each school and its rival play the same teams in any given year. Additionally, teams are paired up rival and rival, so that home/away sorts itself out fairly naturally. Unfortunately for perfect comparison purposes, although Michigan and Ohio State (say) have the same opponents, Michigan will e.g. play Iowa at home and Nebraska on the road while Ohio State gets Nebraska at home but has to travel to Iowa. I did not go through and work out what the whole home/away schedule would be, but the process should be fairly straightforward (if annoying) unless I've missed some crucial detail.
- The rivalry games are the 9th game on each team's schedule and naturally will alternate home and away.
- I set up this particular set of pods with the goal of making sure Michigan's home schedule stays interesting and fairly balanced every year. Some other pairs of schools come off well also (Iowa/Nebraska get balanced schedules, while Indiana/Purdue and Illinois/Northwestern are no worse off than they have to be) but others are unbalanced year to year based on current expectations (Penn State/MSU and Minnesota/Wisconsin get easy-hard-balanced, while Rutgers/Maryland get killer-balanced-balanced). I've played around with the pairings a bit to try to fix this and this was the best I could come up with.
[Ed-S: We asked SBW to cover one of the best teams in Michigan sports history. Previously: Postseason primer]
All photos from Bryan Fuller
The Ann Arbor regional featured one of the more noteworthy upsets of the opening weekend of the NCAA softball tournament. Fortunately for Michigan, it didn’t happen to us. The Maize & Blue marched through the regional with relative ease, not quite hitting on all cylinders, but never seriously threatened either. Before looking ahead to the upcoming super-regional showdown with the Missouri Tigers, let’s take a quick look back at how Michigan became one of 16 teams in the nation lucky enough to go to practice this week.
The Wolverines started the weekend off against a Valparaiso team still trying to figure out just how they found their way into the tournament in the first place. With a record well below .500, the Horizon League tournament champions were one of the strangest sights in regional play in years. Michigan didn’t wait long to get on the board, with senior super-star Sierra Romero lining what’s known in Ann Arbor as a “Rom-Bomb” over the wall in the first inning. In addition to giving Michigan an early lead, the solo shot gave Romero her 300th career RBI. The Wolverines added a couple more in the 2nd, but were not able to fully solve Valpo’s pitching until the 5th inning, when all Hell broke loose. 5 singles earned Michigan 3 runs and brought about a pitching change. The change didn’t help, as the relief pitcher walked the next three batters on only 14 pitches to drive in the game-ending runs. Megan Betsa was majestic in the circle, ceding just one hit and one walk while piling up 9 Ks in the 8-0 run-rule walkover.
On Saturday, Michigan was expecting a tougher challenge, and they got one from an unexpected source. Instead of the presumptive challenger Notre Dame, the Maize & Blue had to square off against Miami (NTM), who had upset the Irish with a controversial 3-2 win on Friday. Betsa was again phenomenal, but the story of the early part of the game was Redhawks hurler Amber Logemann, who didn’t allow a hit until the 4th inning. In the 4th, though, Michigan showed a tendency familiar to anyone who watched the 2015 NCAA tournament. A good pitcher can get through Michigan’s order once, maybe twice. After that, though, the offense starts to lock in on tendencies & weaknesses, and the runs can come in bunches. 2 runs in the 4th led to 4 more in the 6th, and Michigan finally had the breathing room they wanted. Hutch took advantage of the extra cushion, resting ace Megan Betsa for the rest of the game. After a wobbly start put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, Driesenga retired the next 6 batters she faced on 6 consecutive ground-outs, securing a 6-0 win.
To no one’s surprise, the Irish shook off their Friday funk and emerged from the losers’ bracket to face Michigan in the regional final on Sunday. The Irish have seen their season end in Ann Arbor again and again in recent years, and would need to take 2 in a row from #2 Michigan to avoid the same fate in 2016. Sierra Romero sent a message early on that the “luck of the Irish” wasn’t going to apply in Ann Arbor, getting her money’s worth on her 300th career hit, launching a first-inning long ball for the 2nd time on the weekend (the blast was also good for her 299th career run scored, extending her own NCAA record). Another Sierra home run, this one from Sierra Lawrence, put Michigan up 2-0, but an unexpected blast from Irish lead-off hitter Karley Wester trimmed the lead back down to 1. Again it took a few innings for Michigan’s bats to acquire target-lock, but when the Irish gifted Romero 1st base on an error to start the 5th, the Wolverines were determined to take advantage. A bunt single & a walk loaded the bases, and singles from Aidan Falk and Lindsay Montemarano stretched the lead to 6-1. The Irish would get one back in the 6th, but never seriously threatened to catch up to the heavy favorites.
On the weekend, Michigan outscored their opponents a combined 20-2. On a historical note, Sierra Romero joined the extremely exclusive 300/300 club (hits & RBIs), and moved to just one run away from creating an entirely new 300/300/300 club (hits, RBIs, & runs-scored). For a team of Michigan’s caliber, the victories were expected, and celebrations were moderate compared to scenes around the country. The Wolverines will not be satisfied with anything less than a trip to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series, and they know that just one team stands between them and that goal.
[Hit THE JUMP for a Super-regional preview]
[Bryan Fuller. They all are. Also he bugged us all to get this done.]
A Fast Start That Felt Slow. Michigan softball came into the 2016 season riding a tremendous wave of momentum from their phenomenal 2015 performance that saw them fall just one game short of reaching the sport’s highest glory. The newfound momentum was a mixed blessing however, as it brought with it raised expectations and the pressure that comes hand in hand with success. The 2015 team was able to play free and have fun at every stage, in large part because they were supposed to be good, but not that kind of good. Their record-shattering performances were as much of a surprise to the players as to the fans, and we all went on the crazy ride together. In 2016, by contrast, Michigan came in bearing all the pressure that comes with a #2 pre-season ranking.
Even with all the pressure, if you focus on the win/loss column, Michigan blazed through the non-conference schedule with scarcely a bump in the road. Losses to #1 Florida and to then-top-ten Washington (now #13) are simply things that happen, while the Wolverines piled up plenty of signature Ws, including a pair at the home turf of a now-top-ten Florida State squad and a 16-9 slugfest triumph over Oklahoma that doubled as a Romero-family grudge match. An 8-6 thriller on the home turf of UCLA, the ultimate softball blue-blood, and a merciless 13-0 blasting of Missouri rounded out Michigan’s marquee victories.
Despite the glittering 22-2 record and persistent #2 national ranking, the mood in the softball fanbase was tending towards the restless side. The offense was effective, but had not been able to recapture the free-wheeling, long-bombing swagger of 2015’s “Year of the Pizza” unit. Meanwhile, injuries and official “points of emphasis” combined to hamper Michigan’s top two pitchers. Unquestioned ace Megan Betsa has always been queen of the rise ball, but a renewed emphasis on call high rises balls sent her walks through the roof early on, while Sara Driesenga took some time to get back up to speed after missing almost all of 2015 due to injury. Even more concerning was the fact that the loss to Florida was not just a loss, but an 8-0 5 inning mercy-rule shellacking that left many Wolverine fans questioning whether the Maize & Blue would ever be able to challenge the Gators’ national dominance. Worries persisted even into the early stages of the Big Ten season, as the Wolverines opened Big Ten play with a dismal defensive performance, dropping a 13-12 contest to a solid but unremarkable Northwestern squad.
In addition to the quantifiable problems, there was an intangible sense that the 2016 team hadn’t really come together quite yet. Hutch talked in interviews about how the team wasn’t responding well at the beginning of spring practice, and only locked in over time. The pizza-making passion of 2015 had not yet been replaced by any new charming quirks or wacky antics. Even many of the wins felt simply dutiful, rather than joyful. A 3-1 W over a mediocre Virginia Tech team or a 1-0 squeaker over an Illinois State team that would go on to post a losing record in the Missouri Valley Conference felt more ho-hum than hail, hail. The team were still strong favorites to win the Big Ten and even to retain a super-regional (top-8) seed, but there was a clear need for something more.
[Hit THE JUMP for The Team The Team The Team, The Enemy, The Enemy, The Enemy, and The Hutch The Hutch The Hutch.]