"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
In an effort to combine a playoff with the current BCS system and historical norms, I present you a format for a three week and eight team playoff that I believe will find a clear and relatively indisputable champion while maintaining the importance of regular season play both in and out of conference.
The part that will appease advocates for a +1 model:
The top four seeds according to the BCS rankings automatically qualify.
1. LSU (SEC)
2. Alabama (SEC)
3. Oklahoma State (Big 12)
4. Stanford (Pac-12)
The part that will appease fans of non automatic-qualifying/BCS conferences:
The four remaining spots will be filled by conference champions that are inside the top 14 of BCS rankings.
5. Oregon (Pac-12)
10. Wisconsin (Big Ten)
*If there are any remaining spots, the next highest team in the BCS ranking advances provided they are not from a conference already sporting two tournament teams. In this instance, it would be:
7. Boise St. (MCW)
8. Kansas State (Big 12).
Boise St., here is your chance. The Big East and ACC would not have a representative for their conference champions were not in the top 14 and nor did they have members in the top 4 otherwise.
The part that will appease fans of traditional BCS bowls:
The Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange bowls will remain with historical ties intact and will be the first round of the playoffs.
*As there isn't an ACC team available for the Orange Bowl, the highest seed available becomes the home team. That would be 2 Alabama.
The rest of the matchups are determined by first avoiding rematches and secondly by traditional tournament seeding with the highest ranked home team playing the lowest ranked at-large and so on. Two teams that are in the same conference that did not play in the regular season or conference championship are eligible to play each other immediately.
Rose Bowl (Big Ten v Pac-12): 10 Wisconsin v 5 Oregon
Sugar Bowl (SEC v ?): 1 LSU v 8 Kansas State
Fiesta Bowl (Big 12 v ?): 3. Oklahoma St v 4 Stanford
*Orange Bowl (ACC v ?): 2 Alabama v 7 Boise St
The ACC forfeits their right as an automatic qualifying conference by not producing a team that can reasonably be expected to compete for the national title. #10 Virginia Tech and #15 Clemson have 2 and 3 losses respectively.
The Big East similarly failed to produce a team ranked in the top 14 that could reasonably be expected to compete for the national title, as their highest ranked team was #23 West Virginia with 3 losses and the shared winner of the conference, Cincinatti, wasn't ranked. If West Virginia wanted in they should have taken out 1 LSU when they had a chance in out of conference play, or scheduled better teams in victory than 6-6 C-USA Marshall, FCS Norfolk State, or 2-10 ACC Maryland.
The second round, like the first, would again try to first avoid rematches and secondly reseed pairing up the highest ranked team with the lowest down the line. This means that if LSU were to play Alabama or Oregon again it'd have to be in the finals.
Assuming all favored teams win: 1 LSU v 3 Oklahoma St and 2 Alabama v 5 Oregon. In this scenario, the no rematches rule was invoked and LSU would neither face Alabama or Oregon.
Assuming all upsets: 7 Boise St v 8 Houston and 10 Wisconsin v 4 Stanford.
In the end, even the lowest-ranked team would have to secure three consecutive victories against highly ranked, BCS bowl eligible teams. This year, Wisconsin would have to take out 5 Oregon and at least 4 Stanford and 8 Houston. If they were to have done that in the regular season you can bet they'd have earned at least a top three ranking, even with two losses.
I believe that this format would please the most people. What are your thoughts? Who is left unhappy? Are there doomsday scenarios that I haven't envisioned? Any rules I should relax or implement?
Ten teams in the Big Ten are bowl eligible: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin. Only Indiana and Minnesota failed to make bowl games; Minnesota finished the season strong while Indiana – not so much.
It’s time to look at the fourth quarter of the season report card for Big Ten teams; the regular season is over, heading into the bowl season. The report card will factor in each team’s success (or lack thereof) offensively and defensively, while keeping their win-loss record in mind. In the event a team is playing in a bowl game, it will be noted.
Note: No predictions were done for the conference title.
Readers have suggested I reference the previous quarters’s report card; those grades will be duly noted. To see the first quarter report card, click here. To see the second quarter grades, click here. To see the third quarter grades, click here.
To see articles like this and more, visit my website at Before Visiting the Sportsbook (note the new web address; content is updated daily).
Illinois – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (6-6)
Total Offense: 358.17 yards/game; 86th.
Run Offense: 171.17 yards/game; 42nd. Pass Offense: 187.00 yards/game; 91st.
Total Defense: 291.75 yards/game; 7th.
Run Defense: 132.67 yards/game; 42nd. Pass Defense: 159.08 yards/game; 4th.
Notes: The Illini started off the season on fire, starting 6-0 with an average MOV of 16.8; since that time, Illinois was 0-6 with an average MOD of 11.3. The six game slide led to the Zooker being canned. The Illini’s potential candidates include Tim Beckman (Toledo), Dave Doeren (Northern Illinois), Ron English (Eastern Michigan), Hugh Freeze (Arkansas State), Butch Jones (Cincinnati), and Pat Narduzzi (D.C. Michigan State). Illinois will travel to San Francisco to play UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Illinois is led offensively by QB Nathan Scheelhaase (2485 total yards, 63.6% completion, 18 total TDs, but 7 INTs), RB Jason Ford (600 rushing yards, 3.9/carry, and 7 rushing TDs), and WR A.J. Jenkins (1196 receiving yards, 14.2/catch, and 7 receiving TDs). Illinois made it to a bowl game, mainly because the Big Ten has numerous bowl tie-ins, but also because Illinois draws more fans than other potential candidates, which isn’t saying much. The Illini have non-conference games against Western Michigan, at Arizona State, Charleston Southern, and Louisiana Tech. Winnable home games exist against Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue; unfortunately for Illinois, all of the road games could be losses, with trips to Wisconsin and Michigan on back-to-back weeks, then visits to Ohio and Northwestern later in the season. Don’t expect Illinois to be bowl eligible in 2012.
Wins: Arkansas State (33-15); South Dakota State (56-3); #22 Arizona State (17-14); Western Michigan (23-20); Northwestern* (38-35); @ Indiana* (41-20).
Losses: Ohio* (7-17); @ Purdue* (14-21); @ #19 Penn State (7-10); #24 Michigan* (14-31); #17 Wisconsin* (17-28); @ Minnesota* (7-27).
Current Grade: C-.
Indiana – Projected Record: (3-9); Actual Record: (1-11)
Total Offense: 360.42 yards/game; 85th.
Run Offense: 161.00 yards/game; 58th. Pass Offense: 199.40 yards/game; 80th.
Total Defense: 458.67 yards/game; 109th.
Run Defense: 243.67 yards/game; 118th. Pass Defense: 215.00 yards/game; 51st.
Notes: The Hoosiers had their worst year since 1984, when they were winless. Coach Kevin R. Wilson’s first year couldn’t have gone any worse, as their average MOD in Big Ten play was 24.4. Indiana’s three best conference games might have been against Penn State, Purdue, and Ohio. QB Tre Robinson (791 total yards, 59.7% completion, 4 total TDs, but 2 INTs) is the third quarterback for the Hoosiers this season. RB Stephen Houston (577 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 6 rushing TDs) and WR Duwyce Wilson (217 receiving yards, 12.8/catch, and 3 receiving TDs) lead the Hoosiers offensively. The Hoosiers have lost 29 of their last 32 conference games, dating back to the 2008 season (Hoosiers went to a bowl game in 2007, went 3-5 in the Big Ten that year). Indiana’s goal for next year? Winning a conference game? Winning two games total? You decide. (In case you were wondering, Indiana’s last winning record in conference play was in 1993 – 5-3 that year – under Coach Bill Mallory). The Hoosiers have non-conference games against Indiana State, at Massachusetts, Ball State, and at Navy. There are potential wins, in conference play, against Illinois and Purdue, both on the road. Indiana will exceed their 2011 win total, in 2012, though it may not be by much.
Wins: South Carolina State (38-21).
Losses: vs. Ball State (20-27); Virginia (31-34); @ North Texas (21-24); Penn State* (10-16); #19 Illinois* (20-41); @ #4 Wisconsin *(7-59); @ Iowa* (24-45); Northwestern* (38-59); @ Ohio* (20-34); @ #15 Michigan State* (3-55); Purdue* (25-33).
Current Grade: F.
Iowa – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (7-5)
Total Offense: 379.17 yards/game; 70th.
Run Offense: 142.83 yards/game; 77th. Pass Offense: 236.30 yards/game; 56th.
Total Defense: 387.58 yards/game; 68th.
Run Defense: 159.50 yards/game; 64th. Pass Defense: 228.08 yards/game; 66th.
Notes: Iowa will be in their fourth straight bowl game and 10th in the last 11 years. With that said, this year hasn’t been a good one for Iowa, they have posted their lowest win total since 2007, when they missed a bowl game. Iowa draws #14 Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl. The Hawkeyes have been led by Junior QB James Vandenberg (2806 passing yards, 59.4% completion, and 26 total TDs), RB Marcus Coker (1384 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 15 rushing TDs), and WR Marvin McNutt (1269 receiving yards, 16.3/catch, and 12 receiving TDs). Since missing the 2007 bowl game, Iowa’s recruiting rankings in the Big Ten have been 8th (2008), 10th (2009), 5th (2010), and 3rd (2011). Currently, Iowa has four-4 star verbal commits. After a soft non-conference schedule this year, Iowa plays Northern Illinois (@ Chicago, IL), Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Central Michigan. Nice to see Iowa picked up their rivalry with Northern Iowa again, right? Iowa faces tough home games against Penn State and Nebraska. Tough road games exist at Michigan State and Michigan. Iowa has a great shot at topping seven wins in 2012.
Wins: Tennessee Tech (34-7); Pittsburgh (31-27); Louisiana-Monroe (45-17); Northwestern* (41-31); Indiana* (45-24); #15 Michigan* (24-16); @ Purdue* (31-21).
Losses: @ Iowa State (41-44 OT); @ Penn State* (3-13); @ Minnesota* (21-22); #17 Michigan State* (21-37); @ #21 Nebraska* (7-20).
Current Grade: C.
Michigan – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (10-2)
Total Offense: 423.08 yards/game; 34th.
Run Offense: 235.67 yards/game; 12th. Pass Offense: 187.40 yards/game; 90th.
Total Defense: 317.58 yards/game; 18th.
Run Defense: 129.08 yards/game; 35th. Pass Defense: 188.50 yards/game; 16th.
Notes: Michigan has their highest win total in a season since 2006, when the Wolverines finished 11-2, starting 11-0 before losing to Ohio and USC in the Rose Bowl. Michigan also knocked off Ohio for the first time since 2003. Michigan also made their first BCS bowl since 2006, facing #11 Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. QB Denard Robinson (3219 total yards, 56.1% completion, and 34 total TDs, but 14 INTs), RBs Fitzgerald Toussaint (1011 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) and Vincent Smith (296 rushing yards, 6.0/carry, and 2 rushing TDs) led the Wolverine ground attack. WR Junior Hemingway (636 receiving yards, 19.9/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) and TE Kevin Koger (235 receiving yards, 11.2/catch, and 4 receiving TDs) led Michigan’s aerial attack. Michigan finished undefeated at home this season, the first time since 2006. The Wolverines were third in recruiting in the Big Ten in 2011, picking up six-4 stars, including DB Blake Countess, RB Justice Hayes, and DE Brennen Beyer. To date, Michigan has the top recruiting class for 2012 in the Big Ten (and one of the best in the country), with one-5 star (OL Kyle Kalis) and ten-4 star recruits (including OL Blake Bars, WR Amara Darboh, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, OL Erik Magnuson, and DE Tom Strobel), all verbals. Michigan’s non-conference schedule next season is among the toughest in the Big Ten, if not the entire country; games against Alabama (@ Arlington, TX), Air Force, Massachusetts, and at Notre Dame provide Michigan with three possible losses. Michigan State and Iowa at home could be tough, as well as road games against Nebraska and Ohio. If Michigan can come anywhere near their ten wins this season, next year, it would be shocking.
Wins: Western Michigan (34-10); Notre Dame (35-31); Eastern Michigan (31-3); San Diego State (28-7); Minnesota* (58-0); Northwestern* (42-24); Purdue* (36-14); @ Illinois* (31-14); #16 Nebraska* (45-17); Ohio* (40-34).
Losses: @ #23 Michigan State* (14-28); @ Iowa* (16-24).
Current Grade: A-.
Michigan State – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (10-3)
Total Offense: 390.38 yards/game 60th.
Run Offense: 142.92 yards/game; 76th. Pass Offense: 247.50 yards/game; 44th.
Total Defense: 272.69 yards/game; 5th.
Run Defense: 104.31 yards/game; 12th. Pass Defense: 168.38 yards/game; 11th.
Notes: Michigan State has their first back-to-back nine or more win seasons for the first time since 1965-1966. The Spartans have been a different team at home than on the road, though. MSU is 7-0 at home with an average MOV of 26.1, but 3-2 on the road with an average MOD of 1. Outside of last season, when Michigan State also was 7-1 in conference, the last time Michigan State was as strong on conference play was 1999, when Michigan State was 6-2, under Coach Nick Saban. 1999 was the last year Michigan State beat Ohio, Michigan, and Notre Dame all in the same season. Michigan State’s 42-39 loss in Indianapolis to Wisconsin knocked the Spartans out of the BCS. Michigan State will face Georgia in the Outback Bowl, in a battle of conference runner-ups. Senior QB Kirk Cousins (2735 passing yards, 64.3% completion, 21 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) RBs Edwin Baker (624 rushing yards, 4.0/carry, and 4 rushing TDs) and Le’Veon Bell (794 receiving yards, 5.4/carry, and 10 rushing TDs), and WR B.J. Cunningham (1125 receiving yards, 16.8/catch, and 9 receiving TDs) led the Spartans offensively. After a mediocre non-conference schedule this year, Michigan State opens up with Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame, and Eastern Michigan. The Spartans welcome in the Buckeyes and the Cornhuskers, while visiting the Wolverines and Badgers, on back-to-back weeks, nonetheless. Expecting ten wins with a new quarterback and #1 wide receiver will be extremely tough.
Wins: Youngstown State (28-6); Florida Atlantic (44-0); Central Michigan (45-7); @ Ohio* (10-7); #11 Michigan* (28-14); #6 Wisconsin* (37-31); Minnesota* (31-24); @ Iowa* (37-21); Indiana* (55-3); @ Northwestern* (31-17).
Losses: @ Notre Dame (13-31); @ #14 Nebraska* (3-24); vs. #15 Wisconsin* (39-42).
Current Grade: A-.
Minnesota – Projected Record: (3-9); Actual Record: (3-9)
Total Offense: 310.33 yards/game; 109th.
Run Offense: 160.00 yards/game; 59th. Pass Offense: 150.30 yards/game; 108th.
Total Defense: 403.08 yards/game; 77th.
Run Defense: 186.42 yards/game; 93rd. Pass Defense: 216.67 yards/game; 52nd.
Notes: When we last checked in, Minnesota had just beaten Iowa. Excluding the win over Iowa, Minnesota was 0-3 in conference with an average MOD of 39; they had been double-digit underdogs in five of their eight games this season, through that point. Since that time, Minnesota went 1-3, being outscored an average of 27-19.25. QB Marqueis Gray (2461 total yards, 50.7% completion, 14 total TDs, but 8 INTs) and RBs Duane Bennett (639 rushing yards, 3.8/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) and Donnell Kirkwood (229 rushing yards, 3.6/carry, and 3 rushing TDs) led the Golden Gopher offense. Minnesota was ninth in recruiting in the Big Ten last year; as it stands right now, Minnesota is at the bottom of the Big Ten for recruiting heading into next season. Coach Jerry Kill will need to bring in more help if he wants to turn the Golden Gophers into a bowl eligible team, and eventually and Legends Division contender. The non-conference schedule for next year is very favorable, as the Gophers travel to UNLV to open the season, then host New Hampshire, Western Michigan, and Syracuse. Minnesota hosts Northwestern and Purdue, both of which are winnable games. Minnesota also has potential winnable games on the road against Iowa and Illinois. Don’t be surprised if the Gophers are bowl eligible next season; if they aren’t, they should be very close.
Wins: Miami (Ohio) (29-23); Iowa* (22-21); Illinois* (27-7).
Losses: @ USC (17-19); New Mexico State (21-28); North Dakota State (24-37); @ #19 Michigan* (0-58); @ Purdue* (17-45); #13 Nebraska* (14-41); @ #17 Michigan State (24-31); #18 Wisconsin* (13-42); @ Northwestern* (13-28).
Current Grade: D.
Nebraska – Projected Record: (11-1); Actual Record: (9-3)
Total Offense: 390.50 yards/game; 59th.
Run Offense: 223.92 yards/game; 13th. Pass Offense: 166.60 yards/game; 103rd.
Total Defense: 350.67 yards/game; 36th.
Run Defense: 161.58 yards/game; 66th. Pass Defense: 189.08 yards/game; 17th.
Notes: Nebraska entered the season as favorites to win the Legends Division. Nebraska laid an egg in their opener, got thrashed at Michigan, and, in between, lost at home to Northwestern. The Northwestern loss snapped an eight game home win streak. Nebraska accepted an invite to the Capital One Bowl and will face #9 South Carolina. QB Taylor Martinez (2810 total yards, 55.9% completion, 21 total TDs, but 7 INTs), RB Rex Burkhead (1268 rushing yards, 4.9/carry, and 15 rushing TDs), and WR Kenny Bell (408 receiving yards, 14.1/catch, and 2 receiving TDs) led the Cornhuskers offensively. Nebraska was second in recruiting in the Big Ten last year, netting 11-4 star players, including RB Aaron Green and QB Jamal Turner. The ‘Huskers play Southern Miss, at UCLA, and Arkansas State in non-conference play, with one game left to be decided. Nebraska does have tough games against Ohio, Michigan State, and Iowa on the road; Nebraska has tough home games against Wisconsin, Michigan, and Penn State. Nebraska has a good chance to at least equal, if not exceed, nine wins in 2012.
Wins: Chattanooga (40-7); Fresno State (42-29); Washington (51-38); @ Wyoming (38-14); Ohio* (34-27); @ Minnesota* (41-14); #11 Michigan State* (24-3); @ #12 Penn State* (17-14); Iowa* (20-7).
Losses: @ #7 Wisconsin* (17-48); Northwestern* (25-28); @ #18 Michigan* (17-45).
Current Grade: B.
Northwestern – Projected Record: (7-5); Actual Record: (6-6)
Total Offense: 432.75 yards/game; 31st.
Run Offense: 176.17 yards/game; 36th. Pass Offense: 256.60 yards/game; 35th.
Total Defense: 407.58 yards/game; 80th.
Run Defense: 185.42 yards/game; 90th. Pass Defense: 222.17 yards/game; 58th.
Notes: Northwestern has one game left in the Dan Persa era, before, presumably, anointing Kain Colter as the starter. Persa’s tenure has been a successful one. He made a bowl game in each of his four years behind center. Northwestern had never made a bowl game in four straight years, and has only been to a bowl game ten times. Northwestern draws Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. QB Dan Persa (2163 passing yards, 74.2% completion, and 17 passing TDs), all-purpose player/QB Kain Colter (1703 total yards, 67.1% completion, and 16 total TDs) and WR Jeremy Ebert (1025 receiving yards, 14.4/catch, and 11 receiving TDs) led Northwestern. Now Persa has one record left to shatter – Northwestern’s bowl winless streak. Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1948 Rose Bowl! Only Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been a part of more of Northwestern’s bowl games (played in the 1995 and 1996 bowl games; coached in 2003 and 2005; head coach in 2008, 2009, 2010, and this year’s bowl game). In Fitzgerald’s tenure at Northwestern, the ‘Cats have finished in the bottom third in terms of recruiting in the Big Ten every year; simply put, Fitzgerald has found a way to do more with less. Northwestern’s non-conference schedule next year is forgiving, with a visit to Syracuse, and hosting Vanderbilt, Boston College, and South Dakota. The ‘Cats have winnable home games against Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois; there are winnable road games against Penn State and Minnesota. Northwestern has a great shot to improve on six wins, provided the defense improves. Six wins seems a good starting point for 2012, for now.
Wins: @ Boston College (24-17); Eastern Illinois (42-21); @ Indiana* (59-38); @ #10 Nebraska* (28-25); Rice (28-6); Minnesota* (28-13).
Losses: @ Army (14-21); @ #24 Illinois* (35-38); #12 Michigan* (24-42); @ Iowa* (31-41); #21 Penn State* (24-34); #14 Michigan State* (17-31).
Current Grade: C.
Ohio – Projected Record: (9-3); Actual Record: (6-6)
Total Offense: 319.75 yards/game; 107th.
Run Offense: 195.67 yards/game; 27th. Pass Offense: 124.10 yards/game; 116th.
Total Defense: 328.58 yards/game; 24th.
Run Defense: 142.42 yards/game; 52nd. Pass Defense: 186.17 yards/game; 15th.
Notes: Entering the season, Ohio, Penn State, and Wisconsin were virtually equal favorites to win the Leaders Division. Coming down the stretch, all three teams were alive; then Ohio lost to Purdue. In fact, Ohio lost their last three games, by an average of 29-24. Ohio is in the midst of their worst season since 1999, 6-6, then-Coach John Cooper’s second to last season. You have to go back to 1988, when Ohio last had a losing record, 4-6. Ohio faces Florida in the Gator Bowl. Freshman QB Braxton Miller (1692 total yards, 50.0% completion, 18 total TDs, but 4 INTs), RB Carlos Hyde (549 rushing yards, 5.4/carry, and 6 rushing TDs) and TE Jake Stoneburner (193 receiving yards, 13.8/catch, and 7 receiving TDs) led Ohio offensively. Ohio has now made 12 straight bowl games, last missing a bowl game in 1999. Urban Meyer takes over in Columbus; he will have recruits from the 2011 class at his disposal, including 5-star LB Curtis Grant. Meyer currently have verbal commits, for 2012, from 4-star players RB Warren Ball, RB Bri’onte Dunn, LB Josh Perry, DB De’Van Bogard, WR Michael Thomas, and DE Adolphus Washington. The Buckeyes have made some scheduling changes for the 2012 season. The non-conference schedule is Miami (OH), UCF, California, and UAB, all at home. The Buckeyes open Big Ten play at Michigan State and travel to Penn State and Wisconsin later in the season. Ohio does have tough home games against Nebraska and Michigan. Ohio should be able to exceed six wins, easily, next season; the Buckeyes should open as the favorite to win the Leaders Division in 2012.
Wins: Akron (42-0); Toledo (27-22); Colorado (37-17); @ #16 Illinois* (17-7); #15 Wisconsin* (33-29); Indiana* (34-20).
Losses: @ Miami (Florida) (6-24); Michigan State* (7-10); @ #14 Nebraska* (27-34); @ Purdue* (23-26 OT); #21 Penn State* (14-20); @ #15 Michigan* (34-40).
Current Grade: C-.
Penn State – Projected Record: (7-5); Actual Record: (9-3)
Total Offense: 345.42 yards/game; 94th.
Run Offense: 165.08 yards/game; 54th. Pass Offense: 180.30 yards/game; 96th.
Total Defense: 300.92 yards/game; 10th.
Run Defense: 138.75 yards/game; 48th. Pass Defense: 162.17 yards/game; 5th.
Notes: Despite all of the off the field problems that unfolded for Penn State in the last month, the Nittany Lions put together a rather nice season. Penn State entered the Nebraska game 8-1, but without their long time coach; they finished the schedule 1-2, being outscored an average of 25-14. Now, Penn State Coach Tim Bradley will presumably have one more chance to prove he should be the head-man in State College. Penn State draws #19 Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. The Nittany Lion offense is led by QB Matt McGloin (1571 passing TDs, 54.1% completion, 8 passing TDs, but 5 INTs), RB Silas Redd (1188 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 7 rushing TDs), and WR Derek Moye (654 receiving yards, 16.4/catch, and 3 receiving TDs). Penn State has made their seventh straight bowl game, but the more important concern is the future of the program. Some candidates have been mentioned, with Dan Mullen (Mississippi State) being presumably at the top. The Nittany Lions will have to shore up their recruiting class for 2012, as some recruits have elected to go elsewhere. Penn State opens with Ohio University, at Virginia, Navy, and Temple, a non-conference schedule that is tougher than this year’s. With road trips to Iowa City and Lincoln, coupled with home games against Ohio and Wisconsin, don’t expect Penn State to match, let alone exceed, this year’s win total, in 2012.
Wins: Indiana State (41-7); @ Temple (14-10); Eastern Michigan (34-6); @ Indiana* (16-10); Iowa* (13-3); Purdue* (23-18); @ Northwestern* (34-24); Illinois* (10-7); @ Ohio* (20-14).
Losses: #3 Alabama (27-11); #19 Nebraska* (14-17); @ #16 Wisconsin* (7-45).
Current Grade: B.
Purdue – Projected Record: (8-4); Actual Record: (6-6)
Total Offense: 371.42 yards/game; 79th.
Run Offense: 174.67 yards/game; 39th. Pass Offense: 196.8 yards/game; 82nd.
Total Defense: 388.50 yards/game; 69th.
Run Defense: 185.67 yards/game; 91st. Pass Defense: 202.83 yards/game; 38th.
Notes: Purdue is in their first bowl game since 2007. This will be Coach Danny Hope’s first bowl game as head coach of Purdue. Purdue will travel to Detroit to take on Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl. Purdue has played QB Caleb TerBush (1804 passing yards, 61.7% completion, 12 passing TDs, but 6 INTs) as compared with QB Robert Marve (557 passing yards, 53.9% completion, 3 passing TDs, but 5 INTs). The ground game has paced the Boilermakers, led by RBs Ralph Bolden (674 rushing yards, 4.6/carry, and 6 rushing TDs) and Akeem Shavers (370 rushing yards, 4.2/carry, and 6 rushing TDs). Purdue has been in the bottom third of the Big Ten in recruiting, with their highest ranking being 7th in the Big Ten. Purdue will need to get better recruits if they hope to compete with Ohio and Wisconsin in the Leaders Division. Purdue’s non-conference schedule next year is relatively soft, with games against Eastern Kentucky, at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, and Marshall. Purdue also has winnable games at home against Indiana and Penn State, and potential road wins at Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Assuming Purdue stays healthy, they are capable of at least matching their win total from this year, but they are an injury or two away from not being bowl eligible. Right now, I think Purdue will likely fail to be bowl eligible in 2012.
Wins: Middle Tennessee (27-24); SE Missouri State (59-0); Minnesota* (45-17); #23 Illinois* (21-14); Ohio* (26-23 OT); @ Indiana* (33-25).
Losses: @ Rice (22-24); Notre Dame (10-38); @ Penn State* (18-23); @ #18 Michigan* (14-36); @ #20 Wisconsin* (17-62); Iowa* (21-31).
Current Grade: C-.
Wisconsin – Projected Record: (10-2); Actual Record: (11-2)
Total Offense: 466.92 yards/game; 15th.
Run Offense: 237.38 yards/game; 10th. Pass Offense: 229.50 yards/game; 63rd.
Total Defense: 293.00 yards/game; 8th.
Run Defense: 138.00 yards/game; 47th. Pass Defense: 155.00 yards/game; 3rd.
Notes: Wisconsin has never had back-to-back-to-back 10+ win seasons. Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema has led the Badgers to their best seasons in their program history. Wisconsin won the inaugural Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis over #13 Michigan State, 42-39. Wisconsin, by virtue of being Big Ten Champions, earning a spot in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers will Oregon. Wisconsin is led by QB Russell Wilson (2033 passing yards, 71.3% completion, and 22 total TDs), RB Montee Ball (853 rushing yards, 6.0/carry, and 18 rushing TDs), and WR Jared Abbrederis (595 receiving yards, 16.5/catch, and 4 receiving TDs). Wisconsin has generally been right around the middle in recruiting in the Big Ten, but no higher than 6th. Bielema has found a way to due more with less in Madison; home field advantage certainly doesn’t hurt, as the Badgers have not lost at home since October 17, 2009. Wisconsin is 39-3 at home under Bielema. Wisconsin’s schedule isn’t exactly tough next year: Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, and UTEP. Wisconsin does travel to Nebraska and Penn State, but hosts Ohio and Michigan State. Wisconsin is poised for another run at a double-digit win season in 2012, despite losing players at key positions.
Wins: UNLV (51-17); Oregon State (49-7); vs. Northern Illinois (49-7); South Dakota (59-10); #8 Nebraska* (48-17); Indiana* (59-7); Purdue* (62-17); @ Minnesota* (42-13);@ Illinois* (28-17); #19 Penn State* (45-7); vs. #13 Michigan State* (42-39).
Losses: @ #16 Michigan State* (31-37); @ Ohio* (29-33).
Current Grade: A.
Turn on ESPN, or look at basically any media outlet that covers college football, and you'll find someone railing against the current BCS system. And with good reason. Brian has his well-reasoned alternative here. Today, Andy Staples informed us that the athletic directors of the Big 12 conference, fresh off Oklahoma State's BCS snub in favor of a regional contest between teams that already played each other, have tentatively backed the idea of a seeded 4-team tournament:
Monday, Big 12 athletic directors voted in a straw poll to get behind the idea of a plus-one format that would allow four teams to compete for the national title. Such a format would have allowed USC to play for the national title in 2003, Auburn to play for it in 2004, Texas to play for it in 2008 and Oklahoma State -- which finished behind No. 2 Alabama by the slimmest of margins in the BCS standings -- to play for the title this season. If the league's presidents choose to agree with their athletic directors, the Big 12's support would be a huge step forward. The Big 12 was one of several leagues that blocked SEC commissioner Mike Slive's 2008 proposal for a four-team, seeded tournament. The ACC was the only conference that supported the plan.
Then he goes on to say that the Big 10 is the lone holdout:
From their standpoint, that is the sensible position. That's why the Big Ten will likely offer the most resistance to any plus-one plan if it gets proposed prior to the next BCS annual meeting in April. Commissioner Jim Delany is a master at getting his colleagues to agree to do what is best for the Big Ten, and the Big Ten is better off without a playoff. Because the league contains huge schools with passionate fan bases, the old bowl system actually is the most advantageous for the Big Ten.
Then there's a bunch of "well we don't really know how it would work" stuff that demonstrates how far off this idea still is from becoming reality.
The problems at hand:
The sticking points are, according to Staples:
1. Resistance from the Big 10 ADs and from school presidents generally, who don't want to extend the season further into January and who like the bowl-system
2. Resistance from TV networks, who like the bowl-system
This is only part of the problem. Other issues he doesn't bring up include:
3. A tendency in American sports to keep expanding and expanding tournament brackets. Look at the NBA, NFL, MLB and even NCAAB. Anyone who thinks that this would end at 4, or even at 6, is kidding themselves. Once the cat's out of the bag, it's only a matter of time before it becomes 8, then 16, then 32.
4. NCAA football is unique in the sense that every single game matters absolutely. The more postseason play you have, the more watered down this becomes. This, in turn, could reduce interest in regular-season play, a la March Madness.*
These are, in my opinion, the underlying reasons why school presidents and ADs are opposed to a playoff. Unlike basketball or baseball, football is extremely physically taxing, and requires massive hours of practice, conditioning and preparation. It causes lots of injuries, and takes a lot of time away from schooling just to get ready for a single game. But the ADs and presidents were all okay with adding a 12th game, you say? Yes that's true, and it's a bit hypocritical. But that's where we are with the people pulling the trigger on this thing.
What an alternative to the BCS would have to look like:
Any viable alternative to the BCS, and by viable I mean palatable to ADs and school presidents, needs to do the following things:
1. Preserve the bowl system
2. Not extend the season far beyond its already extended point
3. Not threaten to engulf the regular season by morphing into an actual tournament
So what are the alternatives?
1. A "+1"
Go back to the old way of picking bowl participants (thus satisfying the Big 10 and Pac 12), and then have a game at the end pitting #1 against #2.
LIKELIHOOD: Low. This appeals to me, as someone who's always liked the ideosyncracies and old traditions of college football. But there's a lot of path dependency going on here, and I don't know if the NCAA would ditch the BCS selection process entirely at this point.
2. A pseudo "+1"
Keep the BCS, but instead of having a #1 vs. #2 game, have the BCS bowls all pick by lots, then schedule #1 vs. #2
LIKELIHOOD: High. I don't think this completely solves the selection issue, but it does sidestep the potential tournament problems that seem to be a sticking point. This would, at least, give the NCAA a decade of breathing space before the pitchforks and torches get too numerous to ignore...just like the BCS did.
3. A 4-team tournament
Have two bowls choose the top 4 teams, seeded, and then have the +1
LIKELIHOOD: Fair. This does solve the selection problem, but opens the door to more expansion, which I believe to be the ultimate fear of the ADs and school presidents who are backing the BCS. Still, it's not impossible given this year's BCS catastrophe.
4. A 6+ team tournament.
At least 6 seeded teams playing each other.
LIKEIHOOD: Low. Brian's suggestion is sensible and would make for good drama, but it potentially suggests 2+ games to the end of the season. The only way this becomes reality in the short-term is if ADs and school presidents agree to shorten the regular season, which ain't gonna happen.
5. Keep the current crappy system with some new window dressing to make it look, to its architects if to no one else, as if something has changed.
All Hail the BCS and its Opaque and Frustrating Selection Process.
LIKELIHOOD: Very High. Institutions are incredibly conservative things, and college football is, at base, a collection of autonomous institutions bound together by a host of decentralized institutions (conferences) loosely bound under an umbrella association with only limited authority and decision-making power (the NCAA). The NFL it ain't. This makes the most conservative solution the most likely, and keeping things mostly as they are = the most conservative solution. Don't believe me? Just wait and see...
As per previous diaries, I've just outlined some scenarios and argued why I think they are likely or unlikely. I'd like to ask all of you the following questions in your comments:
1. Which scenarios do you think are the most and least likely? Why or why not? Are there any I missed?
2. What system would actually be best for the sport, and for the student athletes who play it while enrolled full-time in college?
*March Madness has its own uniquely endearing qualities to it: IMO it's the best tournament in American sports. Not a diss here, but just because it works in one sport doesn't mean it's appropriate or feasible for another.
When I heard the cry of BCS injustice from QB Kirk Cousins. I was so concerned about his emotional distress that I sought to understand why MSU deserved a BCS Bowl game.
Maybe MSU was deserving because of all of its success in recent bowl games.
I checked it out. In their last 5 Bowl games under Dantonio, they are 0-5; in their last 6 bowl games, they are 0-6; essentally, they are zero-for-the-decade, when you consider their absence from any bowl for the other 4 years.
Unable to understand why MSU deserved a BCS bowl, I asked: what explained the MSU failures over the past decade?
Certainly, the failures could not be their fault…
Their failures must just be all bad luck. Remember 2010, when they lost out the Rose Bowl to Wisc—who they beat—and lost the other BCS bid to Ohio---which took MSUs possible spot in the Sugar Bowl with ineligible players, then vacated the game. Then. recall from 2011, the last-minute, game-deciding running into the kicker penalty in the B1G title game vs Wisc. Certainly, that penalty could not have been their fault. MSU players were incapable even of personal fouls. How could they possibly mount an assault on a helpless kicker? Maybe an MSU player was blocked into the Wisc kicker by an unseen, evil spirit.
And what could explain MSU’s absence from the BCS over its entire 13 years, in which no less than 8 B1G teams have gone to a BCS bowl?
Again, I checked it out. This seemingly interminable drought in MSU’s history corresponds with the departure of Nick Saban, who left MSU for LSU and now ALA. Since Saban left, the latter two teams have won multiple national titles—even playing each other for the title now-- yet MSU has not even been able to get to any BCS game at all.
So, is MSU haunted by the ghost of Nick Saban—or since he is alive—is Saban himself the devil? (note that his name is only one letter removed from “Satan”).
Witness the well-known curse, caused by the departure of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. When Babe Ruth left the Red Sox for the Yankees just before 1920, the Sox had 5 World Series wins, the Yankees had none. But after that, the Yankees won 26 titles and the Red Sox failed to win a single title for almost 90 years. The Boston fans then ascribed their failure to a demon—the ghost of the Bambino. So, was MSU now suffering from the curse of Satan---I mean, Saban? MSU has not won a bowl game for 10 years, since they played in the seldom-attended and now-defunct Silicon Valley Classic.
But sadly, the Saban/Satan jinx could not alone explain the MSU’s sorry history. Looking back much further, we find that MSU actually has not played in or won a Rose Bowl in nearly a quarter of a century.
On the surface, that particular failure seems to be a clear-cut case of another curse: the SI cover jinx. Indeed, MichiganState has not appeared in a single Rose Bowl since their 1988 star, Tony Mandarich was featured on the cover of SI. On that cover, he was called the "best offensive line prospect ever." Mandarich weighed 304, ran the 40 in 4.65 sec, and bench pressed 225 pounds an unheard-of 39 times. Before the NFL Draft, he was called the “Incredible Bulk.” Yet, after being cut, he was called the “Incredible Bust." Having been drafted ahead of Barry Sanders, Andre Rison, and Neon Deon Sanders, MSU’s Mandarich became regarded as one of the 5 biggest busts in NFL history. And since then, MSU still has not appeared in a single Rose Bowl.
But were these failures a simple case of the SI jinx?
No. As I looked deeper into history, the story began to sound more like Faustian bargain: a deal made with a drug-peddling devil. Mandarich eventually revealed his longstanding abuse of drugs and steroids since his MSU days—in fact, faking a drug test before that fateful, last MSU Rose Bowl back in 1988. Moreover, he substantiated prior allegations that “steroid use was rampant among his teammates at Michigan State on that Rose Bowl team.”
Therefore, if we believe Mandarich, the last real, non-steroid-inspired Rose Bowl for MSU was over a half century ago--in fact, 54 years ago, in the days of Duffy Daugherty. That dought would be equalled by only one other B1G team (Minn).
But certainly, we can't tell Kirk Cousins that the fault for this epic failure lies with MSU. Should we then blame the failures on MSU players, who made a Faustian bargain and sold their souls to a drug-peddling Devil? Should we blame the SI jinx? Should we blame the departed coach, whose name sounds a lot like Satan?
I don’t know. I am ordinarily not a superstitious man. But we can tell Kirk Cousins that he is lucky he graduates. Pity those who must remain in East Lansing. What good can possibly come to them or to MSU, when the name of the current coach, Dantonio, sounds a lot like the author of Dante’s Inferno.
THE BATTLE FOR BRIONTE
Disclaimer: I am a die-hard Michigan fan. I am also a J-School graduate. I try to work both sides of the coin. If you cannot read something that doesn’t widely slant towards Michigan, I wouldn’t suggest reading this. My diaries will always have a news feel to them because, dammit, it’s all I know. Furthermore, I'm not a recruiting expert and all the information I've delineated has been from info talked about on this blog. So, thanks to everyone. I hope you enjoy.
P.S. The lede is buried. DEAL WITH IT.
The Beauty of the Beast
He was a freak and a rare combination of speed and size. We all watched as he sprinted gracefully down the sidelines, enamored with his every move, gasping at the highlight reel level jukes, spins and stiff arms. He was an athlete unparalleled, and he was going to help turn the program around. When he ran, it seemed like he was gliding rather than sprinting. Everyone wanted him, but only two truly contended.
Of course, the player referred to here is Terrelle Pryor, the disgraced Ohio State quarterback who, during his tenure as starting quarterback, went 31-4 and helped Ohio State to three wins over Michigan.
For all of his exploits on and off the field, his recruitment was equally bizarre. A consensus 5-star athlete with offers from all of the major programs. Ultimately, the battle for Pryor came down to the bitterest rivals in all of college sports.
This month, the battle for a top-prospect torn between Michigan and Ohio State may not grab the same headlines as the Terrelle Pryor saga, but it is just as important, if not more important, for the Wolverines to score a victory.
Current Buckeye commit Brionte Dunn also has that rare combination of speed and size. He is the type of prospect that can help propel a program to years of success. In Al Borges’ offense, Dunn can be the type of powerful downhill runner that Michigan currently lacks. And since the day Tressel stepped down as head coach, Dunn has slowly been wavering towards the Wolverines. Before we dive deep into the recruitment of Brionte Dunn, let’s take a walk down memory lane.
In 2007, Michigan was going through and identity and culture change with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez as its new head coach. Rodriguez and his staff hit the recruiting trail hard, attempting to mold graduating a wealth of NFL talent in Jake Long, Chad Henne and Mario Manningham. The cupboard was empty, primed for restocking with talent that could run the spread offense Rodriguez had helped master at West Virginia. There was one glaring problem; Michigan lacked a quarterback to run the system. Urged by many, including those within the school, traditional drop-back passer Ryan Mallett transferred to Arkansas. Rodriguez had three quarterbacks on the roster, and none with the skill set necessary to run the spread. So Rodriguez bet the house, and pushed all in on the quarterback prospect being hailed as “The Next Vince Young”.
Torn between Michigan and Ohio State, Pryor prolonged his recruitment turning it into media frenzy with its fair share of Internet stalking and mass speculation as to where the top prospect would decide.
What ensued was another loss to its arch nemesis, this time on the recruiting trail with Ohio State receiving a commitment from Pryor weeks after National Signing Day had come and gone.
The bitter pill most Wolverines fans had to swallow the day Pryor signed with the Buckeyes seems perfect today considering the person Pryor became on and off the field. In the long run, and of course with gleeful hindsight, Pryor selecting the Buckeyes was the best thing to happen to Michigan. He is one of the main focal points in the Buckeyes ongoing NCAA investigation, having accepted inappropriate gifts and allegedly trading school equipment for goods and services.
Had Pryor chosen Michigan over Ohio State, Rodriguez possibly would still be the coach and potential NCAA sanctions could be looming for Michigan. For his talents, his on-the-field prima donna behavior and off-the-field arrogance ultimately brought down the most successful coach in Columbus since Woody Hayes.
Rodriguez was not the right coach for Michigan. From the start, Rodriguez brought a ton of baggage with him to Ann Arbor. His divorce from West Virginia was tabloid worthy, he allowed “Stretchgate”, and led Michigan to three of its worst seasons in the programs history.
The shortcomings of both Rodriguez and the university itself are well documented in John U. Bacon’s Three and Out. There was failure from the top down and in order to right the ship, a great cleansing had to take place.
'A New Hoke'
Since Tressels departure, Michigan has seen a rapid resurgence. Brady Hoke has helped turn Michigan into a potential national title contender in one season. He has a Top-5 recruiting class this season after closing last season’s recruiting season with a bang. He is every bit deserving of his Big 10 Coach of the Year honors and should be the front-runner for National Coach of the Year. He led the Wolverines to a 10-2 record and its first BCS bowl since 2006, but most importantly, he beat Ohio State.
One of Hokes greatest attributes, and something frequented on this blog, is that Hoke “Gets It”. He understands the rivalry and how it’s a year round battle. Every action, every plan, every move from here on out should be with the intent to “Beat Ohio”. Hoke is out in front early and continues to win battles off the field. He snuck into Ohio and pulled 5-star offensive lineman Kyle Kalis from Ohio State. Nine of Hokes current commitments hail from the State of Ohio, and they’re not done.
The Cold War
Recruiting can be akin to The Cold War. The lies, secrecy and blatant piracy that take place around the country to secure the top recruits. Rodriguez was called a “Snake-Oil Salesman” after pilfering recruits from Purdue. Coaches are continuously dishonest with recruits about their potential roles with the team.
Ohio State fans are crying foul regarding the recruitment of Kalis stating Hoke and his staff lied about the severity of Ohio State’s potential sanctions. Kalis himself was quoted as saying "I can't go to (Ohio State) and take penalties for something I never did. I'm just not sure how long it will take them to recover."
The current recruiting pitch to Dunn by new Buckeye coach Urban Meyer is that he’s never had a 1,000 yard rusher because he never had a running back with his size and speed. While its not true, it apparently has given Dunn enough pause to consider sticking with the Buckeyes despite his lack of desire to play in the spread offense.
Hoke and company had two thousand yard rushers this season, a likely pitch being thrown at Dunn by Hoke and company. Whatever they’ve done up to this point as worked as well, as many on this blog and in other media outlets are reporting that Hoke will be in-house with Dunn Thursday. If they can convince Dunn to bring his family with him for a official visit on top of that, Hoke will have accomplished both on the field and off the field what Rodriquez and his staff could never do: Beat the Buckeyes.
Follow me, @MarkinBoston, for general jackassery and failed snark.
What A Difference A Year Makes: Michigan went from a turnover margin of –10 in 2010 (ranked #109) to a +6 in 2011 (ranked #26) – with the bowl game left to play. But, what you might not know, the improvement in turnover margin is entirely due to fumbles and not interceptions. M lost 54% fewer fumbles this year and gained 193% more fumbles. Interceptions, uh, not so good. Based on the number of pass attempts, M threw 50% more interceptions this year and intercepted the opponent 21% less. (Based on just the per game stats, M threw 8% more interceptions and intercepted the opponent 28% less.)
The interception numbers need a little more explanation. For the first 12 games, M has thrown 15 interceptions this year versus 14 last year. But, M has attempted 262 passes this year versus 344 pass attempts in 2010 – a decrease of 24% in the number of passes thrown. As you can see in the chart, this results in an interception rate per pass attempt of 5.7% this year and 3.8% in 2010. There can be little doubt that the interception rates are a better metric for analyzing passing performance.
Some New Data: In the never-ending quest to better understand turnovers and their impact on football games, I have JFGI more than a few times. According to the folks at Advanced NFL Stats in a post on Defensive Fumbles Forced , the turnover measures with the best correlation for offense and defense performance are:
Plays in this metric include all plays where a fumble could occur (i.e. rushing, passing, kickoffs, punts, and kick after a safety). I have not been able to find a site that provides this data for college football but I have added the fumbles per game and forced fumbles per game. These four metrics are indicated by the ** in the chart.
Fumble Recovery Rates: Michigan is ranked #9 for Takeaway Fumble Recovery Rate at 77% and is #10 for the Giveaway Fumble Recovery Rate at 65%. Both of these are unusually high and have resulted in a net of 9 turnovers in advantage to Michigan versus the typical rates of around 50%.
We should expect the fumble recovery rates to return to around to 50% and this will negatively impact the turnover margin for next year. However, the interceptions thrown as well as the passes intercepted are very poor this year and that should be good news for the turnover margin next year. Overall, I expect the turnover margin to remain very good next year and into the future. Very good teams have good turnover margins. Here are the M turnover margins since 2000 and the national ranking for scoring defense and offense.
Expected Point (EP) Analysis: This year, expected point calculations were added to better evaluate the impact of each turnover. The chart shows the breakdown of turnovers this year. Some of the major benefits of the EP analysis are:
(1) Turnovers that occur on 3rd or 4th down have significantly less impact because the team that turns over the ball would have lost possession on the ensuing punt or loss on downs even without the turnover.
(2) The impact of each turnover is based on the spot the turnover was lost and the spot the turnover was gained.
The overall impact of the turnovers was a net advantage to Michigan of 34 EP or nearly 5.7 EP per TOM. The reasons for this high EP value are: (1) M returned three TOs for a TD and the opponents returned only one for a TD and (2) M had 15 interceptions thrown and lost 6 fumbles whereas the opponents had just 8 interceptions thrown but 19 fumbles lost – interceptions thrown are less costly than fumbles lost.
Eliminating the meaningless turnovers, M finished the year with a positive TOM in 7 games (WMU, ND, EMU, Minn, MSU, ILL, Neb) and a negative TOM in 5 games (SDSU, NW Purdue, Iowa, ohio). If you are wondering about that silly statistic of "X games were won by the team with the better TOM", here it is: "58% of all games played by Michigan this year were won by the team with the better TOM". In most of these games, turnovers had absolutely nothing to do with determining which team won the game. In reality, only 25% of the games were "decided" by turnovers. Here is the meaningful analysis.
Player Statistics: Michigan had a total of 19 players that either forced a fumble, recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass. Gordon led all players with 2 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries and 1 interception.