he grew a beard
Michigan beat Ohio State on Friday and Sunday to secure one of the more exciting series wins in Ann Arbor in quite some times. This series saw surprises abound: a first round draft pick get scratched from the starting lineup with an injury, nearly every pitcher in this series pitched to or beyond their potential, great defense, and most importantly, the good guys coming out on top.
For full recap, follow the jump:
Apologies for the lack of updates over the weekend, the general festivities of graduation got in the way (which also resulted in my not making it to yesterday's game... grumble grumble). An update on the first couple rounds of the CCLA conference tournament, and a brief preview of the final this afternoon (2PM at Saline High School ).
Round 1 Recap
After Eastern Michigan was disqualified from the conference tournament, Central Michigan stepped in to fill their spot against Miami (Not That Miami) on Friday. The Chippewas were outmatched, however, falling to the South Division's #2 seed 18-6. I wonder how Eastern would have fared against the RedHawks, considering they lost to Miami on the road in the middle of the season. Regardless, Miami advanced to face Michigan in the semifinals.
On the other side of the bracket, Michigan State showed that they're still interested in making the national tournament by pasting Pittsburgh 15-6. It was the Spartans' first win since April 10, and helped them inch closer to making the MCLA finals.
Miami (Not That Miami)
In their first taste of the conference tournament, Michigan got off to a fast start. They led 7-0 after the first quarter, but the offense became stagnant through the second and third, with the teams matching output at five goals each. Michigan came alive in the final frame, however, scoring 11 goals and holding Miami scoreless to reach the 23-5 final margin.
The Wolverines dominated statistically, nearly doubling up Miami in shots and groundballs, winning more than 75% of faceoffs, and riding the RedHawks to an abysmal 42% on clears. Freshman Thomas Paras scored four goals and four assists, while Trevor Yealy, a leading contender for MCLA Player of the Year honors (and recently-named team MVP) put four in the back of the net himself. Junior defenseman Harry Freid notched the first goal of his Michigan career in the fourth quarter.
David Reinhard (18/25) and Edward Ernst (6/6) dominated on faceoffs, and both Mark Stone (who got the start and allowed one goal) and Andrew Fowler (who played the second half and allowed four goals) played in the cage for Michigan.
The Spartans took down the South's #1 seed, Buffalo, 12-9 yesterday. That victory sets up a rematch of last week's Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic in the CCLA Tournament final, as Michigan looks to capture their fourth consecutive conference crown, and Michigan State looks to upset big brother.
The Spartans may also be looking to seal their place in the MCLA Tournament, as their slide at the end of the regular season put their at-large bid in question. I had them pegged as one of the last two teams in the field coming into the weekend. A win over Michigan would lock up an automatic qualifier (while not keeping MIchigan out of the tournament), but I think the two games on Friday and Saturday may be enough to seal their spot in the tournament. I haven't had a chance to give the tournaments of the other conferences a close look yet, but I think Michigan State is probably in, win or lose. I'll try to have a brief Bracketology segment in tomorrow's weekend recap post.
Since these teams just played last week, I won't preview the Spartans once again, but check out my preview of Michigan State (including an interview with their coach, Duane Hicks), and the recap of last Saturday's game.
It's everybody's favorite non-pollutionary, anti-institutionary, pro-confectionary conference conundrum...
I've got a real good question for you:
If money is the driving force behind Big Ten expansion, and academics are the official sticking point, and the Big Ten Network makes this conference so attractive that almost any team would be in for joining, who is really a potential expansion candidate now?
This Has All Been Chewed Before
Gum chewing's fine when it's once in a while
It stops you from smoking and brightens your smile
But it's repulsive, revolting, and wrong
Chewing and chewing all day long
I realize I'm not exactly the first person to start talking about Big Ten Expansion. But this isn't just any old stick of gum: this gum has an entire meal in it. You probably won't learn anything new here, but you'll get some information to back up what we already know.
This diary is a look at current FBS (formerly Division I-A) teams that might be considered for Big Ten Expansion, and others that might fit the academic profile, even if there's no way they would join the Big Ten.
When expansion to 12 or 14 teams was the modus operandi, this blog reviewed the leading candidates. However, with even 24 teams having been mentioned by NCAA people (by which I mean "Just Tom Osborne"), the field has grown.
The question: are there that many schools out there that fit the conference's academic profile, or at least close enough the Big Ten can continue to claim itself the most academic FBS conference?
In reality, there is a clear cutoff: does the school match the criteria to join the American Association of Universities?* and the Big Ten's own little version of that, the CIC. There are currently 63 members, but I would imagine a Big Ten addition not already part of the AAU would be able to join, if it matches the academic criteria. Therefore, the lower bound of AAU membership is the functional lower bound of Big Ten expansion consideration.
To find out who has a golden ticket, follow me, overjoyed, enraptured, entranced. Are we ready? Yes, good. In we go.
* If not, MaizeAndBlueWahoo is going to neg me.
Since we're getting close to a consensus on what the board generally wants to see in a 12-team Big Ten schedule, I went ahead and made one up:
- North/South Division (a brilliant idea from Seth 9)
- 9 Conference Games
- Each team plays in-division opponents once per year
- Each team has one cross-divisional rival they play once per year
- Every team plays three more games against a rotation of the five remaining cross-divisional opponents
- The cross-divisional opponents rotate by 2 teams every 2 years (never more than 2 seasons without playing an opponent, and it evens out over a 10-year cycle)
- Michigan/Ohio St
- Mich St/Indiana
- Minnesota/Penn St
That leaves some combination of Iowa and Wisconsin with Purdue and Pitt. I figure if Pitt's joining the conference, let them pick which one they want.
One thing I like about this division is the competitive balance, e.g., Northwestern and Indiana are split up. The North is a bit deeper but the South has two monsters.
It has symmetry of rivalries. It has relatively balanced schedules.
And we all play each other often enough to still think of ourselves as a close-knit group. The key is the 9th conference game. In case you're wondering, here's a table of the teams left off Michigan's schedule from 2011 through 2020:
I'm sick of sterile divisional names. I guess it comes from being an old NHL fan, but I'm a big believer in cool names for conferences.
Lakes Division: Michigan, MSU, Iowa, Wis, Minn, NW
River Division: Ohio St, Penn St, Indiana, Purdue, Pitt, Illinois
Get it? Great Lakes/Ohio River. But it's purposely left ambiguous since, like, Iowa doesn't really touch a Great Lake (but it has lots of lakes -- we'll just tell Iowa it's 'cause we all have lots of lakes, deal?)
Ambiguous or not, it's at least feint toward our footprint's geography other than cardinal directions (lame!), and pretty easy to remember.
These are not my dream names. My dream names would be Schembechler and Hayes Divisions. Or Algonquin and Iroquois. Or if you really wanna be clever, then howabout:
Vowel Shift Six and the Barn-Burning Division
Because most of Lower Michigan, Chicagoland, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin have all picked up the Northern Cities Vowel Shift:
(Put two fingers in the corners of your mouth and say a short-a, as in "accent." Did your corners move away from each other horizontally? If so, you have the accent. If your lips moved vertically, you don't).
And it just so happens that the footprint for this dialect includes Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern, but no other Big Ten Schools (it's in St. Louis and vicinity too, but not Champaign). The isogloss (i.e. border) for our short-a is roughly the same line that separates our divisions. Surely something can be done with this?
As for "Barn Burner" (meaning a great game) -- it's an old Hoosier term that has made its way through the Ohio River valley. Again, it's something that, among Big Ten teams, the southern half could call its own.
As for the conference itself, the problem with changing the name isn't just branding: it has to do with the conference's non-profit status. Yes, it's possible to put the forms back in, but from my limited understand, having gone through the process on a much smaller scale, you end up triggering a bunch of post-1990 grandfather clauses that I'm guessing the Big Ten currently enjoys.
Also, if we go to 12, there's already a 12-team conference.
Of course, it's branding too, especially for the Big Ten Network. But let's say we finally decide that the most academically prestigious BCS conference shouldn't itself be a misnomer, what should we call this collection? Ideas:
- The Big Athletic Conference
- The Big Midwest (The "Midwest Conference" is already taken
- The Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives (its official name until 1987)
- The Odawa Conference
- The Big Ten and Then Some
- The Lakers' Dozen
- The Bigger 12
- The Big1T2EN
Michigan (25-14, 7-5)
Ohio State(23-13, 7-5)
|Friday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Alex Wimmers (9-0, 1.61 ERA)|
|Notes: Michigan is 157-89-1 all time, Last year: 1-2 series loss.|
|Saturday, 6pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Drew Rucinski (3-2, 4.34 ERA)|
|Notes: Barry Larkin jersey retirement starts at 5:45p|
|Sunday 1:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Dean Wolosiansky (3-5, 5.95 ERA)|
The Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor this weekend with the rivals tied for first place in the Big Ten. The stakes are huge. The winner is in the driver's seat for the regular season championship and a number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The loser could conceivably fall as far back as a tie for 7th place if the cards fall the wrong way.
As an added bonus, Michigan will be celebrating the career of Barry Larkin. His #16 jersey will be added to the walls of the Fish, where it shall remain forever retired into Michigan lore.
Final notes and thoughts after the jump:
[Ed: meant to bump this sooner but there was a lot of stuff yesterday.]
After the disastrous offensive performance of 2008, the 2009 Wolverine offense really had nowhere to go but up. Using my offensive ratings, the 2008 Michigan offense was 7.4 points per game below average, 107th out of 120 FBS teams. 2009 brought another year in the system and real quarterbacks and huge improvements. While far from consistently excellent, Michigan moved up to a modest 1.2 points per game above average, 50th nationally. No one outside of the eternal optimists like Fred Jackson could see another 57 place ranking improvement, but what has happened to teams that have shown big offensive improvements in year in the following year.
Presently my database has the 2007-2009 years completed, just enough for a 3 year case study. From 2007 to 2008 there were 28 teams that improved offensively by at least 5 points per game. I broke those team into three categories, teams that saw a second major (+5) increase in the third year, teams that saw a major (-5) regression back in the third year and teams that were in the middle and didn’t necessarily continue gaining, but didn’t fall back much either.
*Only BCS teams shown
With 14 of the 28 teams in this group, half of the teams that show big gains can expect a return to the mean the next season. In fact, these teams were worse offensively in 2009 than they were in 2007, let alone the beacon season of 2008. The average team in this group was 2.5 points per game worse in 2009 than they were in 2007 before they peaked.
The closest thing to a consistent thread is the quarterback possession as five of the eight, Oklahoma, Baylor, USC, Arizona and Utah, spent most or all of the season with a new quarterback.
In general, the regressers look like a group that is just regressing to the mean and that replacing a quarterback is damaging when your success has not been sustained for longer than a single season.
With the exception of Alabama, these teams were pretty average in returning starts and had no major position group gaps to fill. Alabama had a new quarterback and was 97th in returning offensive starts nationally, the ability to sustain the offensive success is likely attributable to the influx of talent Saban brought into Alabama since he arrived.
*Michigan 2007 results omitted (-1.1)
With a relatively new coach and a total offensive system overhaul, Georgia Tech is clearly the most similar situation to Michigan and their path is one that Michigan would be thrilled to follow. Tech went from –1.1 ppg in 2007 to 7.6 in 2008 to 14.5 and my top rated offense in the country in 2009. Even though Johnson and Rodriguez were hired the same year, the Michigan offense is about 2 years behind Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech went from average to very good to best in the country. Michigan went from average, to very bad and back to average. Even with the offset timeline, Michigan seems comparable to Georgia Tech’s situation and therefore a second year of offensive gain seems very possible under this comparison.
All five of these teams either returned 20+ starts at the quarterback position (except GT who had the same quarterback from the start of the system), although Stanford’s returning quarterback was replaced. The other major similarity between these schools in neither of the last two years did they have stratospheric gains, there is less flukiness to these teams success.
When looking at the progression from very bad to roughly average, there are four BCS level schools who showed that same progression. Three of those (TCU, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh went on to see big gains in year 3 as well, and NC St still saw modest improvement. Teams fitting this profile for a potential second year of strong offensive progress in 2010 along with Michigan include Kentucky, UConn, Wake Forest and Mississippi St.
Although teams that show a big jump like Michigan last year are more likely to fall back than continue the progress, the recruiting profile, experience at quarterback (even if the returner loses his job), progressions comps and system change all point to Michigan as being a good candidate to at least sustain and probably show more improvement next year. Every 3 point gain is worth about one additional win on the season and based on this look I would say that from the offense alone, a 3 point gain seems likely and a 6 point gain entirely possible.