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.
I caught up with Pickerington (OH) Central DE Taco Charlton, an OLB/DE on the 2013 ESPNU 150 Watch List who's already ranked as the #118 overall player in the junior class by 247Sports, over the phone last night. It's been a busy fall for Charlton, as Central made it all the way to last weekend's Division 1 state title game before falling to St. Ignatius, while Taco has picked up offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Syracuse, and UCLA as well as interest from several big-name schools. Here's the latest on Charlton's recruitment:
ACE: How are things going with your recruitment?
TACO: It's been going well. We just had our state championship game Saturday, so it's just been a long road from that, and then looking past that.
ACE: You mentioned being in the state title game—you guys had a big run at the end of the season. How did the season go for you?
TACO: It was good, I definitely had a chance to impact my team more than I did last year. I don't know my statistics right now, but in the next couple weeks we'll get our stats from the start of the season to the championship game. But it was a successful season—I'm just working on getting better, being more dominating in my senior year.
ACE: How do you feel you improved your game over the course of the season?
TACO: Each game I started to do more and more to help my team out and make more plays to help our team in games. So if there's anything I could improve, you know, rush moves, rushing the passer, getting off the ball, stuff like that—anything to help my team out to win games and get us to a championship game.
ACE: Were you playing more outside linebacker or defensive end during the season?
TACO: At the beginning of the season I was playing outside linebacker, then towards the end of the year I started playing more defensive end.
ACE: Where do you like playing more?
TACO: It really doesn't matter. Wherever I go, wherever they like me at, you know, I'm athletic, so I can play either one. When I look at the college I want to go to and wherever they'd like to put me at, I'll play.
ACE: Now, back to recruiting, I see you're on Twitter (@thekidTC33) posting a lot of Michigan stuff and a lot of Notre Dame stuff. Are those the two schools that are sticking out for you right now?
TACO: I haven't been able to declare any favorites yet, but those are definitely schools I have good relationships with and I talk to their coaches a lot. Now there are more offers coming in and I have more options but those are definitely the two schools I have a lot of contact with. But no favorites, yet.
ACE: Who are you talking to from Michigan? Which coaches and which recruits?
TACO: Coach Smith, Coach Montgomery—I talk to Coach Montgomery a lot, almost every week at least. I talk a lot to [2013 DL] Billy Price, he's from Austintown Fitch, and he's a Michigan recruit, he got offered. Also [2013 Columbus Bishop Hartley TE] Jake Matuska, he's a recruit but he hasn't been offered yet, but he's interested in the University of Michigan. Just those guys right now.
ACE: Did you get a chance to watch Michigan at all after the Notre Dame game, and if so, what did you think of them?
TACO: Yeah, I watched them a lot, you know, to see how their defense is. They had a really good defense. Coach Mattison, he's a real great coach, he coached at Florida when Urban Meyer was there and he coached the Ravens too. So he's a real good coach, it'd be wonderful just to get a chance to play for him, and I know he could definitely improve my game.
This week The Ugly Game of the week hands out our very own post season awards. I may call these the Schnellys, since 1. he almost ended his career with a winless season, 2. karma is a bitch after all those years at Miami, and 3. just look at the guy:
No, wait, that's Captain Kangaroo. My mistake. Here we go:
Here clearly is the most interesting man in the world.
The "Viagra" award for inability to score is a tie between New Mexico and Florida Atlantic. New Mexico is last in red-zone efficiency, scoring at a 61% rate (Stanford leads with 63 for 64 attempts), while FlaAtl is last in total offense. Both teams are 119th and 120th in scoring offense. That's a toss-up to me. Congratulations, you both win. No, I'm not going to GIS for anything related to Viagra, at work or ever.
The "Turnstyle" award for worst defense goes to Kansas. Dead last in total and scoring defense, they've given up 50+ 4 times, and 40+ 8 times (including one in a win). Turner Gill, we hardly knew ya. Well Kansas, there's always basketball.
Worst Coach Still Employed goes to Robb Akey of the Idaho Vandals. The Vandals are 19-43 since 2007, and 2-10 this year. It's cold and lonely in Idaho, so maybe they could get Dennis Erickson back a la Billy Martin. Honorable mention goes to Rick Stockstill, coach of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, for having the best MST3K "Big McLargeHuge" name on a 2-10 team. Because I can:
Worst Combined Record in a Bowl Game goes to Florida versus Ohio State in the TaxSlayer.com (sic) bowl. Both teams are 6-6 and 3-5 in conference. Both teams are about +5 Points For/Points Against, and neither team is very good on offense. Honorable mention goes to Illinois versus UCLA for playing without coaches. I expect someone on the sidelines spinning a Twister spinner thing calling plays "Run Left! Pass Right!" Not quite what I had in mind, but it'll do:
And the award for The Worst Team in the Country goes to New Mexico, who combines their bad defense with an equally bad offense, making one wonder if they could beat themselves, and if so, how? Honorable mention goes to UNLV, who managed to lose to New Mexico by a TD. New Mexico started off the season with a 4 point loss to CSU, then got clobbered by Arkansas and Texas Tech. They took Sam Houston State to OT, scoring a game-tying TD as time expired, but had to settle for a FG in OT and couldn't stop the Bearkats (sic). The bright spot on the season was against UNLV, scoring on their first play and second drive, then missed two FG attempts, finally scoring a TD in the last minute to seal it. New Mexico does have the spectacularly named Crusoe Gongbay at running back.
Congratulations, your award is Bob Davie. Good luck with that. Footbaw!
So - we have a lot of speculation around how a 'fair system should work'
Here is a formula suggested for a playoff system. It is inspired by the continental European club soccer championship.
EDIT - Changing number of games played to account for revenue, tradition et all.
STEP 1 - CONFERENCE PLAY
Each team plays a 10/ 11 game regular season
7 conference games against opponents in its division.
STEP 2 - CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
At the end of the 10/11 games - the winners of each division play for the conference title. Nothin much has changed so far
STEP 3 - PLAYOFF QUALIFICATION
In the national playoff system (16 teams) - each conference champion gets an automatic in. This means 11 automatic bids of the 16 teams (Independents will get slotted into the playoffs). The number of bids for a single conference shall not exceed 3. If a conference is consistently performing weakly in the playoffs - it may have to play an additional game instead of an auto bid, The slot thus vacated becomes an auto-bid for another conference or an additional at-large slot.
Example - If the C-USA last never won any playoff game in the past 5 seasons and the B12 runner up has consistently sent teams to the at -large for the past 5 seasons - B12 may earn a second auto-bid. Or if no clear conference winner emerges then the C-USA autobid now becomes at at-large bid. C-USA will still be able to qualify using the at-large qualification route.
Based on strength of conference, better conferences may get an automatic second bid for the runner up. So, B1G, PAC12, SEC would likely get 2 auto bids. Smaller conference runner ups may play for an at-large bid along with independents.
So - now we have 11 autobid - first placed teams, 3 auto bid - second place teams, and 2 at large bids for independents and other second placed conference teams at initiation.
At large eligibility
1) Conference Champion of no autobid conference
2) Runner up of eligible conference
The highest ranked teams of eligible teams in the BCS poll will get the right to play for at-large playoff places.
Example - If 2 at-large bids are available - the top 4 ranked teams such that they are not in the playoffs through an autobid and champion/ runner up of a conference. In single matched, top ranked team plays lowest ranked team for booking a place in the playoff.
Higher ranked team plays the game at home
STEP 4 - PLAYOFF SEEDINGS/ PAIRINGS
Teams will be seeded according to their BCS rankings at the end of the regular season.
Pairings - Pairings are made such that the top 8 ranked teams in the playoffs do not play each other in the initial round.
The top 8 ranked teams get selected from a pool (called Champions) and bottom teams get selected from a pool (called Contenders).
Same conference teams do not play each other in the initial round even if a matchup is possible. This ensures no Championship game rematch is possible in the first round. Subsequent rounds may however force this. Example - Michigan is ranked 4 and Iowa is ranked 15 - they may not draw each other even though they may be eligible to play each other
Teams in Champions pool play their games at home.
STEP 5 - THE PLAYOFF
At this stage all teams should have played 8 or 9 games. In rare cases it may be 10 games if a team lost the Championship game, played in a qualifying round and became eligible for an at-large bid.
The winning 8 teams participate in 4 bowl games at their historic locations. Bowl games are now decided through a draw, where a each bowl pickss teams in a pre-determined order in a draft system. They may/ may not agree to keep the traditional conference tie-ins.
STEP 6 - ROAD TO NCG
The winners of the four bowl games will proceed to the Winner's Circle. Here the four will be randomly paired to play in two Grand Bowls for a chance to compete in the NCG. Grand Bowl locations can be either rotating around the country in an NFL stadium or one of the existing bowl locations.
STEP 7 - NCG Game
The winner of the 2 Grand Bowls will have the right to play in the NCG.
Long but fair I suppose.
Well, it's that time of year again, folks. The leaves have all shed themselves from the trees and the cold is starting to settle upon the midwest. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. If you flip on the six-o-clock Sportscenter during this evening you will, no doubt, be serenaded to the soothing sounds of SEC bias while the moon is peeking gently through the window.
The geese have taken flight to the warmer climes down south, and so too do our football teams. For it is bowl season again. Time for us all to regale upon bowl seasons past, and look forward to our annual unfavorable bowl matchups.
"What's that you say? Unfavorable bowl matchups? But Michigan is playing Va Tech! Purdue plays Western Michigan, those don't seem unreasonable. Why... when I was still a youth (circa 2007-08) I remember playing 5 of our 8 bowl games in the HOME STATE of our competition. Indiana actually played a bowl game that year. I remember Illinois being sacrificed on the alter of a pissed off USC. The game was in SoCal. OSU was embarrased by an LSU team that had to travel all of an hour to get to the game. Michigan miraculously pulled an upset on Florida that NOBODY predicted. Florida had to endure nearly two hours on a bus, after all. Now THAT was an unfavorable bowl season."
True, my crotchety and slightly older grandfather.
While this year is not quite as bad as we had it a few years ago, we are still playing five away games this bowl season compared to zero home games. The away games are all held within a few hours of our competition. We are also only favored in three games. The aforementioned Sugar Bowl and Little Caeser's Bowl; as well as Illinois over UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl*. Since Illinois has not won a game since they ended apartheid, let's just call that game a push.
Sick of my attempt at witty banter? Here are the hard facts. Lines provided by Yahoo because, why not? I'm at work anyway and can't get to any of the good sports sites.
Little Caesar's Bowl - Detroit, MI (away game)
Insight Bowl - Tempe, AZ
Texas Bowl - Houston, TX (away game)
Fight Hunger Bowl - San Francisco, CA (away game)
|Illinois||6-6||10||-3 (Uh, no?)|
Ticket City Bowl - Dallas, TX (away game)
Gator Bowl - Jacksonville, FL (away game)
Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL
Capital One Bowl - Orlando, FL
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, LA
We're screwed because...
- The average bowl team in the Big Ten placed at a rank of 5.5 in conference (this makes sense as the top 10 teams made it). Our average opponent is ranked at 3.9 in its respective conference. That means we are consistently playing nearly two positions above our head. If you compare the 8 teams we have that are playing against AQ schools, you come out with a rank of 5.5 as well. You would expect a big drop in the rank of the AQ schools, but they are ranked an average of 4.1 in conference, nearly a spot and a half ahead of the good guys.
- We have the better W/L record in exactly one bowl game, and only because UCLA was allowed to embarass themselves in the PAC-12 title game. Four of the games match teams with identical records. The other five games have us playing teams with better records. Since the B1G record against the other Big 6 conferences was above .500 this year, this difference doesn't reflect poor OOC play. Instead it reflects the disparity in conference rankings outlined above.
- The eye test. Penn State plays arguable the best non-qualifier in Houston. Oregon, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and TAMU are all teams with names that have cache. More cache than say... Northwestern, Illinois, or Purdue.
- Half of our bowl games are in the state of the opposing team.
But it's cool because...
- Michigan is favored in a BCS game. Run that one through your head again...
What does it all mean?
The Big Ten has an image problem, largely due to the SEC pandering that ESPN has been hocking. Couple this with OSU's 'performance' problem in big games and Michigan's temporary loss of luster, and there has been a stigma attached to the conference for the past 5-6 years.
I think a playoff system will aid the Big Ten in returning to the dominant force in college football, if a playoff system is ever implemented. Home games would be nice. Picture Alabama coming to Ann Arbor in December. Pipe dream, yes. But that would be an equalizer.
The Big Ten may well go anywhere from 2-8 to 6-4 this year. The ceiling is not high. Not because it is a bad conference, but because not unlike a drunk OSU coed, we can't make it through a bowl weekend without getting screwed.
*Ironic that the head coach of both schools lost their jobs right before the Fight Hunger Bowl.
**I ranked teams by conference W/L record and ignored the conference championships (looking at you UCLA). After conference W/L, I looked at overall W/L. After that, BCS rank. If those three were all identical, I used a super secret method to determine which team was to be ranked higher (my uneducated opinion, akin to random computer rankings). Kinda cool.