Some Big Ten supporters think the conference should stop scheduling Notre Dame, to "punish" the Irish for joining the ACC. They're making a fundamental error: thinking like a fan, rather than thinking like an athletic director.
Here are some basic facts:
Michigan and Notre Dame have played annually since 1978, aside from a couple of two-year hiatuses planned long in advance (1983-84, 1995-96, and another coming in 2018-19). Michigan has had seven athletic directors during that time, starting with Don Canham, who reinstated the series after a 35-year absence. You'd think that if playing Notre Dame were such a terrible idea, one of those ADs would have stopped it by now.
Even Bo Schembechler, who famously said "To hell with Notre Dame," didn't cancel the series during the three years that he was Athletic Director. Given his control over the program, it is hard to believe that Bo couldn't have put an end to it, if he'd really wanted to.
So, why does Michigan play Notre Dame?
The series has numerous benefits. It's a high-profile game that is always nationally televised. Travel costs are low. The game is competitive but winnable. Even in years that the Irish are terrible, the media always act like beating them is a Big Deal. The last three games, all won by Michigan, have created iconic moments that very few opponents could supply: Tate Forcier's coming-out party in 2009, Denard Robinson's in 2010, and Under-the-Lights last year. Since the series resumed, most of the games have been very entertaining, with 19 out of 28 contests decided by 8 points or less.
You might think that Michigan could easily replace Notre Dame with comparable opponents. You'd be wrong. A lot of those opponents don't want to come to Ann Arbor. (Dave Brandon recently tried to schedule Oklahoma, and was refused.) And outside of the Big Ten, most of the premier programs play in hot-weather climates, where a September game would put Michigan at a significant disadvantage. If you thought it was bad playing Alabama indoors, imagine what it would be like in Tuscaloosa.
In short: if Notre Dame fell off of the schedule, Michigan would be hard pressed to replace them annually with acceptable games against high-profile home & home opponents. Of course, somebody would come to play Michigan, but if you think the replacement game would regularly be as good as Notre Dame (in terms of prestige, TV viewership, excitement, or any way you measure it), you're kidding yourself.
The case for playing Notre Dame is even more compelling for Michigan State and Purdue. The Boilermakers have played Notre Dame every season since 1946. It is more important to them than any rivalry in the Big Ten, as it's the only game they play that is guaranteed to be televised nationally. No other Purdue game attracts so much interest. And there are probably no major football programs that would consider a trip to West Lafayette worthwhile. Cinncinati in 2016 is the most prestigious non-Big Ten, non-ND home game the Boilermakers currently have scheduled, supplementing a diet of directional schools, MAC programs, and the like.
The situation is quite similar for Michigan State. Remember their memorable overtime win vs. Notre Dame, which was the featured night game on ABC two years ago? They're doing it again tomorrow. Who else could the Spartans play, that would generate that kind of coverage? The Spartans have been elevating their schedule lately: they have future home & home series with Miami (YTM), Alabama, Oregon, and Boise State. But of that list, only Alabama matches Notre Dame in prestige.
I have no interest in helping Purdue and MSU recruit, but the fact is: to kids who might be considering playing football at those schools, an annual game with Notre Dame is a perk.
So I can only laugh when people suggest that the Big Ten ought to refuse to schedule Notre Dame, to "punish" the Irish for not joining the conference. It's a big like "punishing" Kate Upton for refusing to date you. Kate will do just fine, and so will Notre Dame. Oklahoma, Texas, Northwestern, and Arizona State, are among the teams that have scheduled the Irish in future years, in addition to their usual rivals (USC, Stanford, Brigham Young, Navy) and various ACC teams.
I'm not aware of any athletic director who resents the Irish for choosing to be independent. Athletic directors realize that games with Notre Dame are good business. Whether or not the Irish deserve their popularity, the fact is they are popular, because two large ethnic groups — Irish and Catholics — consider Notre Dame their de facto home team. This is why the major conference commissioners treat the Notre Dame athletic director like an equal; why they have their own network TV deal; and why they have their own entrée into the BCS, under conditions granted to no other school.
So to the extent that Big Ten schools for decades have found it useful to schedule Notre Dame, what exactly has changed? The answer is: nothing. Notre Dame always made clear that they intended to remain independent in football. All they've done is to leave the rotting Big East, as numerous other schools have done when the opportunity arose.
The match-up makes sense for both parties. As the weakest of the "Big Five" football conferences, the ACC wanted to make itself more attractive to television and the bowls. Notre Dame's strong academics are also an attraction, in the only available conference that is academically as strong as the Big Ten. Notre Dame gets access to the ACC's bowl tie-ins and a far better home for basketball and its olympic sports. It will play 5 ACC teams in football every year, but many of those teams have regularly played the Irish anyway.
Culturally, the ACC is a better fit for Notre Dame than any conference, including the Big Ten. The ACC already has five other private schools (if you count Syracuse, joining next year), including the only other Catholic school that plays FBS football (Boston College). The ACC footprint includes large Catholic and Irish populations, and Notre Dame alumni historically have tended to migrate east. Outside of the midwest, the East is Notre Dame's most fertile territory for recruiting. That's a big reason why the Irish chose the ACC over the Big 12, which was the only other major conference willing to admit the Irish on similar terms.
Numerous news stories have mentioned that the Irish will probably be re-evaluating their future schedules, now that they're committed to play five ACC teams per season, starting in 2014. If you add Navy, USC, Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue every year, that would leave the Irish with just one "flex" game, or none in the years Brigham Young is on the schedule.
So which rivals might Notre Dame play less often? The Irish consider USC and Stanford their most valuable rivalry games, because it ensures they play in Califorina every year, an important selling point for West Coast recruits. The Navy game has been contested every season since 1914, making it the oldest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football. It's also practically an automatic win for Notre Dame. There's no way they're giving that up.
The three Big Ten rivalries have different costs and benefits for Notre Dame. They've played Purdue every year since 1946, and it's another game they usually win. However, very few people other than Notre Dame fans and Indiana residents care about the game, so it doesn't really help them with recruiting. Of all Notre Dame's rivals, Purdue really needs the game. Canceling it or playing it less often would really screw Purdue.
Michigan is the best known of Notre Dame's Big Ten rivalries, and the one that's the best media draw, but it's also the toughest for them. Michigan is one of the few schools (and the only one the Irish play regularly) that has a winning record vs. Notre Dame.
The Michigan State rivalry goes back to 1897, and since 1948 the two schools have missed each other just four times (1953, 1958, 1995-6). Historically, Notre Dame dominated the series (other than the 1950-63 period, when MSU was good), but since 1997 the Spartans have given Notre Dame fits, winning 10 out of 15. If Notre Dame decides that it doesn't need to play two state-of-Michigan schools, you'd think Michigan State would be seen as the dispensable game.
There is very little doubt in my mind that if the Irish want to keep playing, the Big Ten will continue to welcome them with open arms. In an interview with CBS Sports, Purdue's athletic director almost seemed to be pleading: "You have two schools in the state of Indiana with shared values -- their close proximity is a mutual benefit when it comes to travel and potential missed class time by the student-athletes -- so it only makes sense that we will continue to compete against them."
Dave Brandon told the Associated Press that Michigan wants to keep the series going, but that it would be up to the Irish. MSU AD Mark Hollis said that the school has a contract with Notre Dame out to 2031 that calls for four years on, two years off. So that ought to dispel the idea that Big Ten teams have any notion of kicking Notre Dame off their schedules.
Perhaps one scenario is that the Irish will continue to play Purdue every year, while alternating the Michigan and Michigan State series (2 years on, 2 years off). That's just one way it could play out. Because of the continuous tradition, the in-state proximity, and the fact that the Irish usually win, it's harder to imagine them playing Purdue less often.
For Michigan fans, the question isn't whether we want to play Notre Dame, but whether Notre Dame wants to play us. If the Irish are available, David Brandon will schedule them, just as the last six athletic directors that preceded him have done, over and over again.
Certainly it's always much more fun watching Michigan eke out a tight, fourth-quarter victory over a difficult conference foe, or take some highly ranked opponent behind the proverbial woodshed ala '97 Penn State or '06 ND (or ’93 Ohio!!). But sometimes it's nice to relax and just enjoy watching a tomato can get kicked in, beaten, and squashed--especially after a tough couple of games to start the season. So, I've been thinking back to some of Michigan's more enjoyable baby seal clubbings of the past: games in which the opposing team never had a chance going in, and things played out that way on the field. Here are some of my personal favorites from the past 20 years, with links to Wolverine Historian’s videos:
1) Michigan 52, Minnesota 17 (1995): Scott Dreisbach injured himself earlier in the week by getting his fingers caught in a lineman's jersey during a practice rep, so Brian Griese made his first start at Michigan. I couldn't find anything on the web with stats or a game recap or anything, but I remember Griese connecting on several long passes (to whom I don't recall, but our receivers at the time included Toomer, Hayes, a young Tai Streets, and tight ends Jay Riemersma and Jerame Tuman). However, I did find WH's video.
2) Michigan 65, Bowling Green 21 (2010): Say what you want about RichRod, but you have to admit that watching his offense tear apart weaker competition was football crack. UM racked up 721 total yards in that game; Denard had 129 yards on just 5 carries, and just about everyone on the roster got into the game (unfortunately, that included Devin Gardner, whose UM career may wind up being a year shorter because of it). If you want to relive the magic, here’s Wolverine Historian’s video.
3) Michigan 58, Indiana 0 (2000): One of the most flawless performances I've ever personally seen by a Michigan team; UM scored 45 points in the first half, punted only once all game (and for 67 yards!), and shut-out Antwaan Randle El (who had torched us for massive yardage the previous two seasons, almost beating Tom Brady in a 34-31 shootout in 1999). As always, Wolverine Historian is on it.
4) Michigan 49, Michigan State 3 (2002): If you are thinking, “What? MSU can never qualify as a baby seal!” then you probably don’t remember their 2002 team, which was a trainwreck smashing into the mother of all tire fires. But Michigan, angered (and rightly so) by the Spartan Bob/Clockgate heist from the previous year, showed no mercy to the hapless Spartans—beating them so badly that, when it was over, MSU finally put Bobby Williams out of his misery. This demolition was so incredibly epic that WH had to break up his video into two parts. Here’s uno, here’s dos.
5) Michigan 56, Illinois 14 (2003): Arguably the worst Big Ten team of the ‘00s, Ron Turner brought his Fighting Illini (who would finish the season 1-11) to the Big House for what would be its most lopsided thumping of the season. There wouldn’t have really been anything memorable about this game,except for the amazing Steve Breaston reverse-field 74-yard punt return TD (begins at 9:30 of this punt return compilation by WH, which is much more interesting than the rest of the actual game).
Obviously, this diary wouldn’t have been possible (and by “possible,” I mean “any good”) without Wolverine Historian’s videos. So, thanks be to him. And as always, Go Blue!
i could not muster the energy to get UMass' depth chart together here, sorry for that. adjusted the roster with Ryan at 47. depth chart removed countess (sigh) and bumped up Taylor, switched Barnum and Mealer, bumped Gardner up on the WR list. the depth chart does not really reflect game to game injury issues, just season long injuries.
also, the scribd site is down for maintenance right now, so no embed.
Preseason Prediction: Michigan will end the year with a +8 Turnover Margin (TOM) or better (2011 was +7). The prediction for TOM for M for this year is based on the prediction that M will be a very good team again this year and is not based on the actual TOM of last year. (Very good teams will have a TOM of +5 or better.)
Synopsis for Turnovers: M ended the game with a TOM of –1. That is 2 games in a row with a negative TOM while last year there were only 4 games with negative TOMs (SDSU, NW, Purdue, Iowa). Michigan has a TOM of –4 for the year (ranked #94). Denard was charged with another interception but it was clearly Vincent Smith's poor play that resulted in the tipped ball and subsequent interception. Even with the charged interception, Denard dramatically reduced his interception ratio from 11% in the first game to just 4% in this game. Air Force defied all odds for a triple option offense and ended the game with no lost fumbles (last year AFA was #107 nationally with 15 lost fumbles).
After 2 games, M has not fumbled once (ranked #1) but also has no interception takeaways (ranked #76).
Synopsis for Expected Point (EP) Analysis: M lost the TO battle but won the game (approximately 17% of all college football games are won by the team that loses the TO battle). Without TOs, M would have won by approximately 6.84 points instead of 6 points.
Since Air Force scored a touchdown on the drive after the TO, why is the EP so small? This is where any analysis that relies on "what if" suppositions (as many analyzes do) may provide a less than satisfying result. It was 3-3 on the M44. If the pass had been incomplete, M would have punted on 4-3 at their own 44. Thus, M did not lose any EP because they would have still given up the ball on the next play. AFA took over on their own 44 instead of at their own 20 (assuming a net punt of 36 yards). Therefore AFA only gained the advantage of 24 yards of field position which results in just 0.84 EP. If the assumption is that Smith would have caught the pass for a first down then M would have lost an additional 2.35 EP for a total of 3.19 lost EP.
(See the Section on Gory Details below for how the adjustment for Expected Points (EP) is calculated.)
National Rankings: There is almost unanimous consensus that games against non-FBS opponents distort the statistics and muck up the analysis of data. Therefore, all rankings include games between two FBS teams ONLY and are from TeamRankings except for forced fumbles which is from CFBStats. The four columns with *** show the best correlation to offense and defense (per Advanced NFL stats).
The Gory Details
Details for Turnovers: Here is overall summary for all games by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
Expected Point (EP) Analysis: Basically, the probability of scoring depends on the line of scrimmage for the offense. Therefore, the impact of a TO also depends on the yard line where the TO is lost and the yard line where the TO is gained. Each turnover may result in an immediate lost opportunity for the team committing the TO and a potential gain in field position by the opponent. Both of these components can vary dramatically based upon the down when the TO occurred, the yards the TO is returned, and whether the TO was a fumble or an interception.
Here are the details for the game.
The analysis is a bit tricky because: (A) the TO may directly result in lost EP for the offense but (B) only modifies the EP for the team gaining the TO because the team gaining the TO would have gotten another possession even without the TO (due to a punt, KO after a TD, KO after a field goal, etc.). The Net EP Gain must take into account the potential EP gain without the TO. The EP gain without the turnover is based on where the field position would have been for the next possession if the TO had not occurred.
The expected point calculations are based on data from Brian Fremeau at BCFToys (he also posts at Football Outsiders). Fremeau's data reflects all offensive possessions played in 2007-2011 FBS vs. FBS games. I "smoothed" the actual data.
Here is a summary of the smoothed expected points.
(Click the image to view full size)
Today, on September 11, it's appropriate to celebrate some of the many of the things America does right. Fast food. Trucks. Big budget Hollywood epics full of explosions and ridiculous violence. God Bless the USA.
One of the things we're also great at is raising up heroes... and tearing them down. At least since the rise of Elvis, our nation, and particularly the national media, has had a knack for elevating our heroes to impossible standards, and then lambasting them when then they fail to live up to those expectations. But it's not just the media. We, the public, buy into the hype. It's dangerously easy to feel entitled to the type of expectations that arise from public perception. We defend the frantic need to be more entertained than we had been by the previous outing. Think Iron Man 2. Nucky Thompson. The Green Album.
Team 133 did not vote themselves #8 in the country. They did not write the team preview and send it to Athlon Sports. And they most certainly can't be faulted for trying their best yet not performing the way we wanted them too. For not picking up where a somewhat lucky and over-achieving team left off. We're AAAAAWWWLLL guilty of it, myself included-- but maybe that's a positive thing to emerge this week, the idea that whatever we expect from this team this year may very well not be what we receive.
I'm currently working on several strips right now, so on Thursday we'll either see how Tom likes to rant about the team's perceived shortcomings or Desmond will meet a famous singer/songwriter.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog,
and at least every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to
check out Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
This diary is an attempt to answer the following question:
Can the results of the Michigan/Notre Dame and Michigan State/Notre Dame football games be used to predict the results of the Michigan/Michigan State game?
State plays Notre Dame before we do this year. I thought that was unusual, but I wanted to see just how unusual it was. From there, I thought it would be interesting to compare the results of the games between the three teams on any given year, and see how closely related UM's and MSU's performances against Notre Dame can be matched to their performances against each other.
I decided to look back at the last 20 years in which Michigan, Michigan State, and Notre Dame all played each other. In 2000 and 2001 MSU played ND but Michigan did not. In 1995 and 1996 neither MSU nor UM played ND. Therefore the data spans from 1988 from 2011 with a few gaps in between.
|Year||First||ND-UM Result||ND-MSU Result||MOV Diff||UM-MSU result||MOV|
|2011||UM||UM-35 nd-31||ND-31 msu-13||22||MSU-28 um-14||-14|
|2010||UM||um-28 ND-24||MSU-34 nd-31 (OT)||1||msu-34 UM-17||-17|
|2009||UM||UM-38 nd-34||ND-33 msu-30||7||MSU-26 um-20 (OT)||-6|
|2008||UM||ND-35 um-17||MSU-23 nd-7||-34||msu-35 UM-21||-13|
|2007||UM||UM-38 nd-0||msu-31 ND-14||21||um-28 MSU-24||4|
|2006||UM||um-47 ND-21||nd-40 MSU-37||29||UM-31 msu-13||18|
|2005||UM||nd-17 UM-10||msu-44 ND-41 (OT)||-10||um-34 MSU-31 (OT)||3|
|2004||UM||ND-28 um-20||nd-31 MSU-24||-1||UM-45 msu-37 (OT)||8|
|2003||UM||UM-38 nd-0||msu-22 ND-16||32||um-27 MSU-20||7|
|2002||UM||ND-25 um-23||nd-21 MSU-17||2||UM-49 msu-3||46|
|2001||n/a||DNP||msu-17 ND-10||MSU-26 um-24*||-2|
|2000||n/a||DNP||MSU-27 nd-21||UM-14 msu-0||14|
|1999||UM||UM-26 nd-22||msu-20 ND-13||-3||MSU-34 um-31||-3|
|1998||UM||ND-36 um-20||MSU-45 nd-23||-38||UM-29 msu-17||12|
|1997||MSU||UM-21 nd-14||msu-23 ND-7||-9||um-23 MSU-7||16|
|1994||UM||um-26 ND-24||nd-21 MSU-20||3||UM-40 msu-20||20|
|1993||UM||nd-27 UM-23||ND-36 msu-14||8||MSU-17 um-7||-10|
|1992||UM||ND-17 um-17||nd-52 msu-31||21||UM-35 msu-10||25|
|1991||UM||UM-24 nd-14||ND-49 msu-10||49||um-45 MSU-28||17|
|1990||UM||ND-28 um-24||nd-20 MSU-19||-3||msu-28 UM-27||-1|
|1989||UM||nd-24 UM-19||ND-21 msu-13||3||um-10 MSU-7||3|
|1988||UM||ND-19 um-17||nd-20 MSU-3||15||UM-17 msu-3||14|
First notes which team (MSU or UM) played Notre Dame first that year.
HOME TEAMS are in bold. Each series alternates sites yearly, and the three series are synced up such that each team has one home and one away game. Rather well done on the part of whoever made that work.
MOV Diff is the difference in margin of victory of the two Michigan schools over Notre Dame, with MSU's MOV subtracted from Michigan's MOV. A higher number means Michigan did better against Notre Dame than State did. A negative number indicates State did better against ND. Example:
1997: UM defeats ND 21-14: MOV 7. MSU defeats ND 23-7: MOV 16. MOV Diff = 7-16 = -9.
MOV is Michigan's margin of victory over Michigan State in the UM-MSU game. A negative number indicates Michigan lost
DNP means the teams in question did not play each other that year.
* This game gets an asterisk because it was BULLSHIT. That is all.
I PROCESS INFORMATION BETTER GRAPHICALLY THAN I DO TEXTUALLY DO YOU THINK MAYBE WE COULD HAVE A SCATTER PLOT?
HEY THAT'S TRENDING UPWARD
Just barely. It's more like a shotgun blast than a linear trend.
- When Michigan outperforms State in MOV Diff, Michigan beats State 69.2% of the time. When Michigan does NOT outperform state in MOV Diff, Michigan beats State 57.1% of the time. That's a slight correlation.
- When Notre Dame splits its series against Michigan and State, the team that beat Notre Dame is the team that wins the UM/MSU game exactly 50% of the time. That's zero correlation.
- When Michigan comes out on top of the split it goes on to beat State 60% of the time. When State comes out on top it beats Michigan 33.3% of the time. Overall Michigan has beaten State 62.% of the time.
- When Notre Dame beats both Michigan schools, Michigan beats State 77.8% of the time, and when Notre Dame loses to both, Michigan beats State 60% of the time.
- MOV Diff and MOV are within two touchdowns of each other 9 times out of 20. The other 11 times they are further apart. The most extreme disagreement was in 1998 when Notre Dame beat Michigan by 16, then fell to MSU by 22... but then Michigan beat State 29-17.
BULLET POINTS THAT ARE SORT OF FUN BUT NOT DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE ORIGIONAL QUESTION
- Michigan's Head-to-Head record against Notre Dame since 1988: 10-9-1
- Michigan State's Head-to-Head record against Notre Dame since 1988: 10-12. State's actually 10-5 against ND since their 1995-1996 break; before that MSU hasn't beaten Notre Dame since 1986.
- Michigan's Head-to-Head record against Michigan State since 1988: 15-9**
- State playing ND before Michigan does is indeed highly unusual: it's only happened once in the last 24 years - in 1997. That's right: Every time MSU plays Notre Dame before Michigan does, Michigan wins a National Championship.
- Since Overtime began in 1996, the UM/MSU game has gone to overtime three times, the MSU/ND game has gone to overtime twice, and the UM/ND game never has.
**but one of those losses was BULLSHIT.
YOUR STATISTICS ARE BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD
Pretty much, but I spent all this time making the graph and there hasn't been a new diary in two days so I'm posting it anyhow.
SUPPOSING FOR A MOMENT THAT I TOOK THESE STATS SERIOUSLY WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
Well, first of all since we're playing Notre Dame after State does: National Championship. I mean, it's right there in the data. Apart from that, if State beats Notre Dame and then Notre Dame beats us don't panic - of the 3 times that's happened in the past 20 years we've gone on to beat State twice anyhow. Likewise don't get too confident if Notre Dame beats State but loses to us. Don't put a lot of stock into the Michigan schools' respective margins of victories in the two games against Notre Dame - more often than not, it turns out to be meaningless when Michigan and State take the field against each other.