I did not make this headline up
As I start this, the clock has just expired on one of the worst seasons ever for Big Ten football.
The season ended with another embarrassment for the conference, summing up a season of negative momentum and catastrophe. The 7-5 Wisconsin Badgers, 4-4 in the conference, are your 2012 Big Ten champions. Your Big Ten champions won the conference by showing up in the title game, and getting grouped in with two ineligible teams. Hurrah.
This game, one where the Badgers blew out the scoreboard and blew away a national television audience to other games, seemed like an appropriate end to it all. Sloppy football, in the most generic of settings, with every other option more attractive.
How did we get this way? A couple of reasons, all of which can be turned around.
First, there's Ohio State and Penn State's ineligibility. With these two banned teams doing so well, they essentially knocked off all the legitimate schools on their way to useless records. Since neither school counts in the BCS standings, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions created a scenario where the talking point was constantly 'the Big Ten has no schools in the top 10/15/20...but would have one if Ohio State was eligible!'
Looking at the week-to-week polls, Ohio State's victories knocked Big Ten contenders out of the polls, and out of the national discussion in the process. In week 5, a Michigan State team that had dropped from 10 to 20 after a loss to Notre Dame faced Ohio State, and the Buckeyes' 1-point win dropped Sparty out for good.
The next week, Ohio State beat a 21st-ranked Nebraska team, knocking them out of polls for a month or so.
Meanwhile, Penn State struggled early (taking them out of any polls), but lit up the Big Ten schedule. Their 3-0 start inside the conference included Northwestern's first loss, a crippling blow in the rankings for the Wildcats.
If these two teams came out struggling in 2012, the perception of the conference is that of a strong conference with traditional winners and new blood, plus two longtime powers that will come back soon. But with their success this year, Ohio State and Penn State created wins that couldn't really be celebrated and losses that really made an impact.
Second, Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are 12-0, with two early wins over Michigan and Michigan State. Typically, both of our in-state teams can beat up on the Fighting Irish in at least one of the two games, and get a momentum-building win on a national stage. That didn't happen this year.
On top of that, both Michigan and Michigan State lost to Notre Dame before they became the nation's darlings. Notre Dame won in East Lansing as the underdogs, with a #20 ranking against the #10 Spartans. The Fighting Irish beat Michigan as the #11 team in the country two weeks later, just out of top-10 status. No honor to be gained at the time with those losses.
Third, all out-of-conference play killed the Big Ten.
It wasn't Michigan losing badly to Alabama. It was Michigan losing to Alabama after Wisconsin barely beat Northern Iowa. It was Wisconsin getting upset by Oregon State, despite that unranked Oregon State team going 6-0 to start the year. It was Penn State starting 0-2, Iowa dropping a couple early, and the week-to-week consistency of a surprisingly tough schedule beating the dregs of the conference.
Even though Louisiana Tech finished 9-3 and Illinois finished 2-10, it still looks bad for the conference at the time.
Even though Wisconsin lost to Oregon State and barely beat Utah State, two opponents who ended with great seasons, it looked bad in the national dialogue.
And having the flagship program, Michigan, start 2-2 seems to be a bad sign of things to come.
There aren't that many great games in September, so any kind of storyline gets beaten into the ground. And by the time conference play began, the Big Ten had a rough month through a stretch of shockingly tough opponents, with the effects showing all year.
Lastly, legitimate scheduling hurt the conference.
The vast majority of the nation's football fans only look at the top 25. When there's no Big Ten teams in the top 10, and barely any outside of the bottom, there's a bad perception. Sure, it's only perception, but that really is the only thing keeping this sport together.
By having a tradition-based conference where so many good teams play each other, teams are bound to drop a game or two. Of the top conference teams, here's who they lost to:
Nebraska - Ohio State
Michigan - Nebraska, Ohio State
Northwestern - Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan
Ohio State - None, but they're ineligible, so are always mentioned with a verbal asterisk
Penn State - Ohio State, Nebraska
Wisconsin - Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State
Of the top six teams, only one lost to a team outside this group, Wisconsin to Michigan State.
It was the same in the SEC, where the top three teams in each division went undefeated against everyone else.
Problem is, a loss in the Big Ten means that you're not as good as you thought. But a loss in the SEC means that the SEC is just a great conference that's so tough to win in. Perception, perception, perception.
Once again, when looking back, Big Ten teams played the toughest schedule. At the time though, it just looked like a weak conference.
All of these problems can easily be fixed next year.
It starts by taking care of business in September, and getting that momentum going for the conference schedule. In the second week of the season, Michigan hosts Notre Dame. One week later, Nebraska hosts UCLA. Those two potential wins, over 2012's most talked-about comeback teams, could set the tone for the season.
Next, having Ohio State come off probation is huge. The Big Ten needs to get teams in that BCS discussion when the time comes around, and the obvious candidates are Michigan, Nebraska, and either Ohio State or Wisconsin. The either/or is due to those two teams playing in late-September, knocking one out of the national championship discussion.
In a perfect world for the Big Ten, Michigan and Nebraska go undefeated for two months, both open up in the top 10 of the BCS, play a game with national implications, then end the season with Michigan aiming to knock off Ohio State, and Nebraska awaiting their potential shot after that. That's the best case scenario for the Big Ten, and it only happens when Ohio State is eligible.
Last (or first), the conference has to win some bowl games. If Wisconsin can upset Stanford like they upset Nebraska, it's good for the conference. If Michigan can take out Johnny Football, it's good for the conference.
Since everything comes down to perception, those wins to end the year can start some positive talk for the conference, or at least shut up the naysayers for eight months of offseason chatter.
This was a rough year for the Big Ten. Conclusively 4th out of the major conferences. Shut out of national title discussion. It was a perfect storm of suck.
But hey, next year starts tomorrow. And there's always basketball.
Beginning in 2013, the Priority Points system will be modified to give more points to Michigan alums and athletes. Specifically, the priority points for one alumnus(a) will increase from 5 points to 20 points and the priority points for one athlete will increase from 10 points to 40 points. Alumni couples and athlete couples may combine their points to a max of 40 points and 80 points for each such category, respectively. [Chart below highlights these changes (note: an athlete is also assumed to be an alum for purposes of the calculations below). The plus numbers are netted as compared to current point values for their respective categories.]
This will cause significant priority point inflation for alums and athletes (and conversely, depreciation for non-alums and non-athletes). The magnitude of this change can be extrapolated into dollars by converting 1 point to $100 (i.e., which is the conversion rate based on direct donations to Michigan Athletics), which results in a net benefit to single alums in the amount of $1,500... and to athlete/alum couples of $9,000, etc.
Given that the current (as of 2012 based on the Michigan website) median for priority points is 21.2, this is a huge change.
What are your thoughts re: whether this is an appropriate change to properly value a Michigan degree and/or varsity athletic involvement? Does this unfairly affect the Michigan fans who are not alums?
I decided to create the companion diary to “When We Went To The Air” because it might be interesting to show the “behavior” of our rushing offense this season. Although the results are something the MGoCommunity may not find shocking, they are intriguing when presented in this fashion, I believe.
Average yards per carry (YPC) managed to stay fairly steady throughout the season. Indeed, after Alabama, we showed very little variance in this statistic with each game. The average moved in a range between 5.6 and 5.0 yards per carry, but the game-by-game performance, as you will note, was far more erratic. In games where our YPC was above the current average at that time, we were 5-0, but when we were at or below the average, we were 3-4 (include Alabama as “at average”).
It should be noted that all three of those wins where our YPC was at or below average were games which Gardner started as well, so the implicit message is something that someone pointed out in the previous diary quite succinctly and something that is likely not going to shock anyone – when Denard Robinson was not moving on the ground, we were having issues.
A similar story can be told for net yards as well – when we were producing more than the current average, we were also 5-0, and when we weren’t, we were 3-4 overall (again, including Alabama as “at average”). You will also see in this chart the effect post-Nebraska, which is again not news but very interesting to see in this format. We did not fully recover and we took until Iowa to get back to the season average as of that time.
I also looked at total carries versus the cumulative average, and this one was interesting to me, and hopefully to the board as well. It was a subtle shift, but we end up 5-1 when going to the rushing game at a rate above the average, and 3-3 when we went to the ground at or below the average number of times.
I tried to find as well a way to get a glimpse of offensive line play statistically, which is sometimes difficult, I think. I decided to look at net yards as a percentage of gained yards, because it seems to me that this would show us – at least a little – how the offensive line was performing on rushes, and yet again, the split is 5-0 / 3-4 for above cumulative average versus at or below it.
So, to tie the two diaries together (hopefully) for a moment…
I gave the same treatment to total offense, and it was something of a feast-or-famine proposition this year. When the offense was above its running average, we were 7-0, and when it was not, we were 1-4. That sole win in the latter group is actually the win against Michigan State. Further, I also charted the percentage split between passing and rushing for both cumulative season totals as well as individual games, just to see what and where the balance might be, if any.
So, consider this a Big Ten Primer. A lot of my impressions are from the B1G- ACC challenge, so small sample size AND watching 3 games at once caveats apply. Feel free to add/dispute/discuss below. As obvious from the rankings and hype, I wouldn’t be surprised if any combination of IU, OSU or UM are Final Four teams at the end of the year. I think everyone from Wisconsin up makes the tournament (7 teams) with Purdue and/or Northwestern having a chance to make it 8. Teams are listed in order from best to worst (in my view).
Indiana – This team is ridiculously good. Zeller is a beast inside and will be hard for anybody to handle. We’re going to need the Morgan that showed up against OSU and Sullinger to have a chance. They have no big weaknesses that I can tell, especially considering they were down 2 big men against UNC. We can definitely beat them, but it’s going to require one of our best games. Hulls is dangerous as a shooter as well as a passer. Oladipo is also dangerous as a slasher from the wing. Look for Trey to maybe take advantage of an (admittedly very good) freshman PG. I’m also not sure that they have enough perimeter defenders to stay with Hardaway, Stauskas and Burke.
Michigan – ACE has told you all about us. We have good bloodlines that are 1/15 canadian, 3/15 Hoosier and %131 Awesome.
Ohio State – If I was making a spread for an OSU-UM game it would be 0, possibly 2 or 3 pts to the home team. On defense, they have a bunch of long athletic defenders that will take chances. This will create some turnovers but also leaves them susceptible to easy shots off of off the ball cuts and screens. I am very scared of Spike trying to handle OSU’s pressure. On offense, Deshaun Thomas is Option A and has developed an outside shot I didn’t know he had. This team is dangerous because they also have players like Quintin Ross, Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson who are good enough to explode for a 15-20 pt game if given an opening. Aaron Craft will be good for 5-6 plays a game that will keep OSU in it or put the nail in the coffin. You will also want to punch him approximately %200 of the time. Craft can harass Burke like noone else really can, and both games against OSU will be toss-ups.
Michigan State – As always, a tough, hard nosed team, that rebounds and plays good defense. Adreian Payne spells his name just like a Spartan would, and leads the banging inside. However, the scoring will come from the Appling/Dawson/Harris backcourt. Appling is lightning quick and will give Burke problems with his speed. This could end up a PG shootout, and I’ll take our Preseason All-American in that situation. They are struggling now, but I think they get it together by the time we play them. This is not a team we will pull away from, but if UM stays tough down low and don’t let themselves get pushed around, MSU will stay at arm’s length. Not an easy game by any stretch, but should be a win at both Crisler and Breslin.
Minnesota – They might be the surprise team (at least to me) of the Big Ten. They play a reasonably up and down style. No one player really stands out. It’s a team full of people who can all move and score pretty well. I almost see them as playing similar to us this year, only not as talented. Mbakwe is relevant as a defensive presence and of taking the Robbie Hummer Senior Citizen award. They are definitely at the top of the 2nd tier of the Big Ten, and will probably pull an upset or 2 of the teams above them.
Illinois – Brandon Paul will shoot. A. Lot. Occasionally he will make a couple. Occasionally occasionally he will actually make enough of them that his coach will be happy he’s shooting that much. So far this year, the percentage looks sparkly, my prediction is that the percentage starts falling, but he keeps shooting just as much. They have that Buster Douglas puncher’s chance of upsetting anyone because of this.
Wisconsin – Your traditional Wisconsin team. They play hard nosed defense and will make you work for points. They play a Princeton type offense with a lot of cuts and ball screens, but with no Jordan Taylor like player to take over, they should be pretty harmless outside of Madison. I would expect GR3 to go off on this team since I see no one remotely capable of handling him. Dekker will be good, but he’s not a dominant player yet.
Purdue – They have 3 Johnsons to handle one ball, and I don’t think any of them do it particularly well. I think good defense can pressure this team into turnovers. They have no big time scorers (no one averages over 12). D.J. Byrd had a Stauskas like game against Clemson (21 pts, 6-11 from 3), but that will not continue. This is not a game we should lose in any circumstance.
Northwestern – Looked like a team filled with shooters, and no real big man to worry about. Another team with a Princeton like offense, but I think if UM was to play aggressively, Northwestern would turn the ball over. This is a game where McGary/Morgan may be able to break out and have big games. Also a possibility they get hot from 3 and pull off an upset.
Iowa - I did not really watch them, but they are not good. We should win by double digits.
Nebraska – They are still building something that may one day be called a basketball team. They had one player, Gallegos, who reminded me of Rip Hamilton with a lot of curls and shooting from the elbow, and making some of them. I choose to believe this was an aberration against a bad Wake Forest Team. Nebraska has no one and nothing we should at all be worried about. Should be a double digit win.
Penn Sate – Really Sucks. They were already bad with Tim Frazier, with him out for the year, there is no hope here.
[Edit: Corrected some minor spelling errors that were bothering me, "Robbie Hummer" was a mistake, but now I like it and it stays. Appreciate the feedback and added analysis from the commenters]
One player on Michigan’s team may have had this Saturday’s matchup with the Bradley Braves circled on their calendar for a little while. That player is Trey Burke. Last year against Bradley, Burke had one of the worst games of his career.
He watched Walt Lemon go off for 16 points. Lemon shot 5-11 that night, and a scorching 3-5 from downtown. Burke himself shot an uncharacteristic 5/13 and 1-7 from downtown, salvaging his stat line with 8 assists. Bradley held Michigan to 35% shooting in the first half, and actually tied the score at 45 in the second. (Returning players) Jordan Prosser, Dyricus Simms-Edwards, and Shayock Shayock each pitched in 10 points and 7-8 rebounds. Michigan, led by Evan Smotrycz’s 20 points and 10 rebounds would eventually pull away and coast to a 77-66 victory.
A lot has changed since then. I have to assume that this trip to Peoria Illinois(about 3 hours from Chicago) wouldn’t have been scheduled if Patrick Beilein (Coach’s son) was not at that time Bradley’s Director of Basketball Operations.
Well, back in May Patrick Beilein was hired to coach the West Virginia Weslyan Bobcats(not hard to see an early season matchup there…we played Concordia, right?) and this trip became a little…well…it’s a road game against the Missouri Valley Conference. Evan Smotrycz is gone. 6-8 Sophomore Shayok Shayok is now a little used bench player. Michigan has welcomed the best recruiting class since Chris and Juwan. Both teams are a lot better.
Carver Arena is actually pretty nice, all things considered.
This game will probably welcome around 11,000 people…as you might have guessed this is the biggest game there. Pretty much ever. As for the team…Stealing coach Geno Ford from Kent State is finally starting to pay off for the Braves. And the team that went 7 and 25 last year comes into Saturday’s game with only one loss, that to a relatively decent South Florida team.
Tyshon Pickett and Will Egolf have made all the difference.
6-9 Sixth year senior PF Will Egolf missed last year with a torn ACL. This year he is putting up 11 points and 5 rebounds, and of the 5 Bradley players who each take 2-3 three pointers per game, Egolf is hitting the most by far(50%). 6-6 Junior Forward Tyshawn Pickett transferred from the junior college ranks and has bolstered the Brave’s attack with 12 points and 7 rebounds per game.
Our old buddy 6-3 Junior PG Walt Lemon
is back averaging 13 points and 4 assists…He’s still taking 2-3 from downtown, but he’s hitting on only 23%. 6-3 Senior Shooting Guard Dyricus Simms Edwards has the all-around game with 9 points, 5 boards, and 4 assists. He is taking 2-3 from downtown, and hitting a blistering 14%. 6-5 Senior Guard Jake “Beastman” Eastman
was known for diving for balls and taking charges, but these days he is contributing with 11 points and 4 boards, shooting 33% from downtown. 6-2 Guard Jalen Crawford(of Detroit) is the other “perimeter threat”, but he is also only shooting 20% from the deep.
Unless Egolf catches fire from downtown, I dare say a zone defense might be pretty effective here. Bradley’s lone semi-heralded recruit (3* Center with Iowa and ND offers) 6-9 Junior Jordan Prosser
chips in with 7 points and 6 rebounds. Everyone else was unranked or 2*, for what its worth. This is the type of team that might have given last year’s team a hard time. Hell, they’d probably beat State.
But even on the road…I don’t see them hanging with Michigan’s talent and athleticism. The motivation to play nice just went out the window...And I can think of one person who just might have a bone to pick with these Braves...
Michigan wins 85-67.
as THE KNOWLEDGE had correctly revealed on these very pages last week, Michigan easily defeated NCSU and great fun was had by all at Crisler
THE KNOWLEDGE has soared again
while THE KNOWLEDGE is the greatest expert on foretelling the outcome of games, THE KNOWLEDGE made his reputation on these very pages while revealing coaching hiring and firing in college football
and there are a number of coaching change events happened/about to happen this season
THE KNOWLEDGE shall now discuss some of these occurrences
the coaching change most people on this blog would like is not going to happen
Borges will continue to be Michigan's OC next year
even though Chip Kelly is out at Oregon at the end of the season, the general expectation that he will become Michigan's OC are unfounded
elsewhere in the B1G, PSU's coach wants out but it will happen later
and Hope will be replaced by another fool
in the SEC, Saban is out as Alabama's coach. similar to another great weasel of our times, Pete Carroll, he will try his luck again in the NFL, this time in Dallas
and fail again
and come back to coach at MSU
and fail again
as already revealed by others, Jon Gruden is headed to Knoxville, and that program will continue to suck
and nobody will care
OSU has already begun the process of getting Tressel back to the school (last Saturday's absurdities in Columbus were part of this)
Tressel will initially sign on as the recruiting coordinator responsible for distributing sign-up bonuses to recruits (Meyer will continue to take care of the base salaries)
and will work his way up to Asst. Head Coach responsible for stalling all NCAA investigations
and finally become co-Head Coach
all those that don't believe THE KNOWLEDGE now will be left in a trail of dust
as THE KNOWLEDGE soars again and basks in glory