[Ed-S: Probably going to bump this feature all year unless I forget to.]
Well, that’s one way to start a season.
Best: Roman Reign’d In
In my preseason preview, I cautioned that this column’s length is going to be much more dependent on the quality of the game compared to earlier seasons; life finds a way of limiting the number of hours you can dedicate matching animated gifs to a sporting event involving kids dangerously close to half your age or more.
While the acquitted themselves admirably against Cal to start the year, the Rainbow Warriors were basically what everyone thought they were. Hawaii has a senior QB with a career completion percentage a shade under 50%, a 19:24 TD:INT ratio, and no real mobility. They don’t really have much of a running game if the defense has any ability to hold up even momentarily at the point of attack, and if the guy throwing the ball doesn’t have good numbers, you gotta believe the guys trying to catch those balls aren’t particularly good either. Their defense last year was nestled between North Texas and Oregon St. in FEI, and that was with a couple of guys on the defensive line who were either injured or kicked off the team for this game. I balked at the 44-point spread for the sole reason that I assumed Hawaii would pick up a couple of meaningless points at the end of a blowout to “only” lose by 40.
That’s what would have happened under Carr. It’s what would have happened under Hoke. It wouldn’t have happened under RR simply because the defense would have given up some points along the way. It was about winning with “class”, about beating an inferior opponent soundly but not excessively. You showed up for the body bag games because you had to be part of the equation, the vengeful god smiting the peasants giving you tribute. That’s how Michigan did it for years, and it seemed to work out pretty well.
But Harbaugh ain’t wired like that. Now, he’s not a Steve Spurrier at Florida or an Urban Meyer at OSU, who took any opportunity to run the score up even if it meant going for 2 on your first two scores of the game. But as was his mantra at Stanford, he wants his teams with win with character, but also with cruelty. Harbaugh will put in his backups when appropriate and won’t necessarily “pick” on an opponent, but as we saw in the Citrus Bowl in which Jake Rudock was throwing bombs well into the 4th quarter of that game, he isn’t going to shrink his playbook or go on “cruise control”. He isn’t wired that way, to relent or show mercy in the patronizing way some other coaches do, and he (rightly) assumes that as long as there is time on the clock you play football.
[hit THE JUMP for complaining that a 98-yard touchdown drive should have gone better and stuff]
[MOD EDIT - Bumped to Diary Section for nice breakdown. Also because sometimes getting excited to face a team that was worse than Hawaii last year needs help sometimes.]
This has been mentioned numerous times in other posts, so it's probably worthy of its own thread. Many of you might be too young to know the story, and others may have forgotten it, so you're wondering: Why is there so much animosity among the Michigan fan base toward UCF head coach Scott Frost?
Here's the short version: Because he cost us a unanimous national championship in 1997, and he did it by denigrating Michigan.
Here's the longer story, and exactly what Frost said. The 1997 season was the last one before the BCS came in, so national champions were determined solely by the AP (media) and USA Today (coaches) polls. Michigan finished the season on Jan. 1, 1998, by beating Washington State in the Rose Bowl, 21-16, to finish 12-0.
Nebraska finished the season on Jan. 2, 1998, by beating Tennessee and Peyton Manning in the Orange Bowl, 42-17, to finish 13-0.
In both the AP and USA Today polls, Michigan was a clear No. 1 heading into the bowl games. This was primarily because Nebraska had to cheat to beat a very mediocre Missouri team late in the season. A Nebraska player admittedly kicked the ball in the end zone to keep it alive for a TD, and the refs didn't call him for it. (That's illegal.) The play became known as the "Flea Kicker," and it's very famous. Look it up.
In any case, Michigan's season-long body of work was better, which is why following the Missouri game, pollsters vaulted Michigan ahead of Nebraska. It should have stayed that way following the bowl games, but then Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost stepped in.
He knew that the AP was never going to sway from Michigan, but following the Orange Bowl, he made an impassioned plea to the coaches to give Tom Osborne (who was retiring) a national championship as a going-away present.
And this is the important part - and why we hate Scott Frost: He did it by denigrating Michigan. This is exactly what he said on the night of Jan. 2, 1998 (emphasis mine):
"So, it's up to the coaches. I'm so proud of this team and Coach Osborne, I don't want to see him go out without a championship. I basically have two points for the coaches:
"One, if you can look yourself in the mirror and say if your job depended on playing either Michigan or Nebraska to keep your job, who would you rather play? You watched the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Michigan won with a controversial play at the end. We took apart the third-ranked team in the country.
"The second point I have is: I can't see how any coach outside the Big Ten or the Pac-10 would vote for Michigan. Because if somebody from North Carolina, Florida State, West Virginia, Notre Dame--wherever it might--if they were undefeated and won the Alliance bowl game, they would expect to share the national title.
"I don't know who would win the game if we played Michigan. I think I know. I think all you guys know. The thing I'd like to say is: Who would be favored?
"I'd like to see the line on that game, because I think it would be seven, 10, 14 points (in Nebraska's favor). Any time that it's that way and you vote the other way, you've got to be crazy."
So, that's why we don't like Scott Frost, and that's why we want to see Harbaugh hang 70 on him on Saturday. Scott Frost whizzed a fastball at our head 19 years ago, and now he's finally coming up to the plate. It's time for payback.
Elephants and Wolverines never forget.
Finally, football is here!! Who's ready for an amazing start to the season?! Weather-wise, we can't ask for much better, and no doubt we'll be saying that about our team after the game too! Expect a little fog early on before plenty of sun - all thanks to high pressure right over the Great Lakes region. If you traveled for the weekend, the weather will be great through the holiday.
We'll have patchy fog across the area in the morning, so if you'll be out and about early you may want to give yourself a couple of extra minutes on the road. It will also be chilly! If you're starting early expect it to be around 50 degrees with a light NE wind. Woot grab that hot coffee! It won't take long for the sun to burn off the fog, and by mid-morning we'll be up around 60. Maybe just take a light layer into the game since you'll have the sun to help warm you up!
A picture perfect open to the game! Lots of sunshine with temps at 74 degrees. Winds will be on the lighter side at around 5-7mph, so just a light breeze. They'll have shifted a bit to come out of the east.
Still lots of blue sky by the time we're halfway done with the game. UV levels can still reach the mid and upper levels on days like today, so hopefully you slapped on some sunscreen before heading through the gates! The temperature will have gone up a couple degrees by now, so if you haven't been already, you'll be using that extra layer you wore in as something to sit on. Winds will still be easterly around 7mph.
Great night to head out on the town and celebrate a win! Sunshine to end the game with light easterly winds and temps hitting 78. We'll stay mild into the evening, so if you're headed back to the tailgate you can grill out all over again! Temps will remain in the 70s through the dinner-time hours, then drop into the 60s. Winds will turn very light and we'll keep clear skies around. If you're pulling an all-day celebration and going to be out until last call, that's when you'll really want that extra layer you sat on at the game - temps will fall into the mid 50s by then. It'll be a beautiful day for football, let's go blue!!
Christina Burkhart is the morning meteorologist for ABC in Flint, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
a little rushed this week, so expecting a bunch of errors to be found
It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you / Without a strong rhyme to step to / Think of how many weak shows you slept through / Time's up, I'm sorry I kept you
-Eric B. & Rakim
feat. Cptn. Comeback, I Know You Got Soul
I’ve been doing these for a while now and have written many diaries on the subject of quarterback play data. Its hard to summarize everything I consider but one of the comments to last year’s version of this diary prompted this response from me which I will repeat here because it covers the situation thoroughly and reasonably efficiently:
The goal of this exercise is to categorize players into expected tiers based on what I think history has shown given what I think I know about the player today. I don't want to bag these guys, I just want to size up their skill and their context. Indeed, I'm generally expecting guys to be better than they were last year because that what I think happens when a player gets more experience and development time.
Known Unknowns: Future events
Unknown Unknowns: I don't know
Predicting worse than 130 is just mean and that's not a goal of mine. A performance at or below level requires an unskilled player or a lot of bad things to stack on each other. Either way I don't expect the guy to be a significant threat. I simply reference those things in the thesis about my expectation. Likewise predicting over 145 takes a really good situation. Precision beyond this is just asking to be wrong.
2015 Post Mortem
|Nate Sudfeld, Indiana||Thesis: ...Kevin Wilson's offense can put up numbers … schemes might be more pass oriented. Schedule looks favorable.
Post Mortem: Discounted supporting talent too much
|135 - 140||151.0||ok|
|Jake Rudock, Michigan||Thesis: His presence ensures that we will have a competent QB at the helm … tough B1G East schedule…
Post Mortem: Late season surge was nuts. Also, Harbaugh.
|C.J Beathard, Iowa||Thesis: A good schedule should help Beathard put up decent numbers.
Post Mortem: hit
|JT Barrett, OSU||Thesis: For me, JT Barrett should be the guy for the Buckeyes this year.
Post Mortem: Should have started from jump street. Regardless, I put the number at a point where he needed to be a monster for me to be right and missed. Sue me.
|Connor Cook, MSU||Thesis: Connor is conundrum to me.
Post Mortem: hit
|Dude, Rutgers||Thesis: "Rutgers' new starter has good skill position players around but the OL needs to rebuild a bit."
Post Mortem: hit
|Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska||Thesis: Massive losses around him … regime change … tough to see Tommy doing much
Post Mortem: hit
|Joel Stave, Wisconsin||Thesis: Feels like I'm falling into a trap again … drop off and regime change give me pause but I'm going to go ahead and just push play.
Post Mortem: Failed to heed instincts.
|135 - 140||125.7||off|
|Christian Hackenberg, PSU||Thesis: I expect significant mean reversion here ... he has everyone around him coming back--for better or for worse. I'm doubling down on Hack …
Post Mortem: Just plain wrong, here.
|Mitch Leidner, Minnesota||Thesis: Didn’t see it happening in 2015.
Post Mortem: hit
|Austin Appleby, Purdue||Thesis: tried to be nice but expected him to struggle at best.
Post Mortem: hit
|Wes Lunt, Illinois||Thesis: The OL needs to fill some holes … schedule is fairly easy
Post Mortem: Support problem plus impromptu regime change.
|Dude, NW||Thesis: "… that schedule is a nightmare and dude might struggle …"
Post Mortem: hit
|Dude, Maryland||Thesis: schedule looks QB friendly
Post Mortem: Oddly over valued schedule though facing B1G East.
Out of the 14 QBs in the league I got 7 right, 5 wrong, Rudock was pretty close to the allowed tolerance, and Sudfled exceeded a pretty optimistic outlook. I’ll take it.
Michigan’s 2016 OOC Opponents
|Ikaika Woolsey, Hawaii||Woolsey wasn’t very good last year and Hawaii is in year 1 of a regime change. ON the plus side their OL returns 4 starters and their skill position players come back intact. Still, regime change and is Hawaii. I hope the guy loves football.
|Justin Holman, UCF||Basically, ditto from Hawaii but at least they have Scott Frost. It looks like the whole offense will be coming back but they have a lot of things to learn. When they do, Frost will leave. If they don’t, Frost will leave.
|Sefo Liufau, Colorado||Liufau is legit. He added improved decision making to good accuracy last year and ended up with Single Factor Ratings for both categories approaching 140. Alas he plays for the Buffaloes who have had a tough time gaining traction under MacIntyre. They have experience coming back but Mac's running out of time. I think I'll make the Buffs one of my side pieces this year.
Projection: 135 - 140
Perry Hills, Maryland, SR, 3 Stars
|2015 Rating: 96.9||CMP%||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||106.5||95.0||118.8||102.2|
Hills got the nod but this has to be pretty tenuous. Durkin’s choices were INT machine1, INT machine 2, or a NOOB (ie. INT machine 3). What’s there to say here? MD’s QB were God awful last year. They should have run more than they did especially when the QBs are tossing INTs like candy at a parade. WTF. The new OC should be able to figure out that throwing the ball isn't the most awesome idea with this team but coaches can be stubborn mofos sometimes. Maryland’s OL is pretty green, and there’s regime change, so this could be a tough deal to watch.
Bart Houston, Wisconsin, SR, 3 Stars
Regime change sucks. I think Joel Stave is a guy that had a lot of potential but got wrapped up in the churn of regime change and could never get back to the form he showed in inaugural season behind center. With his exit, Wisconsin unwraps a new QB, a red shirt senior with little playing experience. Breaking in a new guy is takes time, so it helps that Wisconsin has a lot of support players around Houston with plenty of experience returning at both the skill positions and the OL. If it were me, I’d go with the other guy so I didn’t have to break in another QB next year but what do I know, I’m just a nerd.
David Blough, Purdue, SO, 3 Stars
|2015 Rating: 108.6||CMP%||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||126.8||91.9||110.7||130.0|
If you’ve kept up with these diaries over the years you’ll remember that I largely attribute completion percentage and interception rates to the QB’s skill and YPA and TD rate to support and scheme. Bearing that in mind, Blough’s freshman campaign wasn’t that bad a starting point. The team around him was not very good though and there’s just no way one player can make up for those many problems. Looking forward, Purdue’s OL has some upperclassmen but isn't very deep. Markell Jones is a decent back, so if Purdue can find some pass catchers on the outside, their offense could be OK.
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern, SO, 4 Stars
|2015 Rating: 95.9||CMP%||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||108.8||88.4||102.5||128.0|
True freshman, OL decimated by injuries, tough schedule. And they won 10 games anyway. Give it up for Pat FItzgerald y’all. The OL now returns a bunch of upperclassmen with starting experience plowing the way for RB Justin Jackson. The receiving corps needs to find some guys so a run first offense is probably the way to go here. Baby steps…
Trace McSorley, Penn State, SO, 3 Stars
It appears I may have set my expectations for Christian Hackenberg juuust a bit high but these things happen from time to time. This year Penn State will be breaking in a new QB as well as unpacking a new scheme (spread, no huddle, sometime with tempo) which I don’t think is a terrible idea; might as well get all the growing pains in the passing game over with at the same time. Besides, Saquon Barkley is a beast at running back so the coaches can protect their passing game with their running game. McSorley will have experience receivers to throw to and the OL is also bringing back a lot of starting experience for the first time in a while. Both of these things help stabilize the situation. McSorley should be fine.
Mitch Leidner, Minnesota, SR, 2 Stars
|2015 Rating: 121.2||CMP%||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||131.5||112.7||110.9||130.1|
I’m not ready to go full McShay—‘cause you never go full McShay—but, the fine grain numbers do seem to support an upward sloping trend in Leidner’s play from 2014 to 2015. Furthermore Bill Connolly shows an inflection point during last season during his preview of the Golden Gophers over at SB Nation. Now, his overall passer rating stayed flat year over year but the whole point of this exercise is to look past the top line numbers and try to figure out where a dude stands on his own and where he needs some help. Leidner’s completion percentage and interception rates both improved last season; it was the scheme/support components (YPA, TD rate) that pulled his rating down. That said, 130 isn’t setting the world on fire but what can you expect from a guy who’s as much a fullback as he is a quarterback. This year Minnesota brings back a lot of production at the skill positions but lost a lot on the OL though they do return 3 players with starting experience there. There’s a but of regime change too (new OC) but it doesn’t sound like the offensive philosophy will be drastically different. If the line holds up, I can see Leidner being a candidate for this year’s Stanzi leap.
Tyler O'Connor, Michigan State, SR, 3 Stars
I’m of the opinion the Kirk Cousins is the best QB Mark Dantonio has had at Michigan State but Connor Cook enjoyed the best teams (specifically the defenses) Dantonio’s had. Cook also had way better receivers than Cousins had. This is not to say that Cook was bad, just that the support systems around him were peaking as he came into the job. He did his job well by avoiding mistakes and getting the ball to the likes of Tony Lippet and Aaron Burbridge. Having NFL Offensive Tackles is also nice. So the question is clear: is this year’s MSU offensive squad capable of supporting a new starter at QB?
The OL gets the benefit of the doubt from me. They have two returning starters and a bunch of others guys with game time experience due to injuries to players ahead of them on last year’s depth chart. They also have plenty of upperclassmen to plug in. The unit might not be an asset per se but I find it very unlikely that it will be a liability. They’ll be fine.
Which means that the running game should also be fine against normal teams, which means the staff should be able to take the pressure off O’Connor unless he or the situation warrants otherwise. His season will be schedule dependent. I don’t see O’Connor having a better first year that Connor Cook did.
Wes Lunt, Illinois, SR, 4 Stars
|2015 Rating: 111.5||CMP%||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||122.7||98.0||106.7||139.1|
On paper Lunt should be a decent QB. His Interception rate is really good and his completion percentage is better than you’d expect given the passer rating. Illinois was a daggum tire fire all year and that’s a tough position to be successful in. RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn has the potential to be pretty good but Illinois’ OL is kind of thin even though they have 3 experienced upper classmen returning. Regime Change is typically not a good thing but compared to last season’s drama this is relative stability. I’m giving Wes the benefit of the doubt because doing so never ever bites me in the ass.
Chris Laviano, Rutgers, JR, 3 Stars
|2015 Rating: 131.8||CMP%||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||135.3||124.0||124.9||122.7|
Last year was a good starting point for Laviano who showed decent accuracy (CMP%) though he had the typical poor decision making (INT%) of a first year starter. Losing Leonte Carroo would be tough on for any QB but Rutgers brings back some good options at WR and most of their RB carries. Their OL should be reasonable too. Their OC is an Urban Meyer, Tom Herman guy so it’ll be interesting to see how Laviano’s skillset gets folded into that mix. I can see him taking a good step toward good here but think he’s still a year out from being a major threat. Famous last words.
Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska, SR, 3 stars
2015 Rating: 128.6
Single Factor Rating
How in the hell does Tommy Armstrong have any eligibility left? Anyway, Armstrong’s passer rating regressed a bit in 2015 from where it was in 2014 but this is another situation where the top level number is a bit deceiving. Tommy’s completion percentage has steadily improved since his first year at starter and his interception rate has at least stabilized. Now, he still has a long way to go in those areas but the point is that he is in fact getting incrementally better. So, the slide in passer rating can most likely be attributed to the overhaul to the offensive scheme the Huskers underwent when Bo Pelini got the boot.
A year later, that transition should be mostly complete. Moreover, the receiving corps returns intact and they have talented players in the backfield. The problem will be that they have to rebuild their OL. Tommy’s athleticism will be an asset in that scenario and I can see him. After doing this for so long I’ve seen many players I thought were maxed out go into eff it mode their senior seasons and put together a season that defies their own gravity. Ricky Stanzi, Tommy Reese, Gary Nova, Nathan Scheelhasse, Kain Colter. Hell, you could the case that Jake Rudock is another one.
Richard Lagow, Indiana, JR, 3 Stars
…if you want wins then bring the ruckus ‘cause Indiana’s offense aint nothin’ to [mess] with /wutang clan.
Uh, yeah. They have great receivers returning and running backs with potential. They lose some great talent off the OL so that could be somewhat problematic. I boil all that down to thinking that Kevin Wilson will throw the ball even more than he usually does. So, Lagow could put up some big numbers. #chaosteam
C.J. Beathard, Iowa, SR, 3 Stars
|2015 Rating: 139.5||CMP%||YPA||TD%||INT%|
|Single Factor Rating||137.2||131.2||120.8||138.3|
Without the benefit of hindsight or Harbaugh, rolling with Beathard was probably a good move for Ferentz to make. Beathard turned in a legitimately good performance last year. But the support stuff around him needs to improve for him to break through to great. Even though they bring quite a few people back, it’s hard for me to see Beathard jump up to Drew Tate level. I think he’ll be good but I cant bring myself to fade the odds too hard here.
JT Barrett, Ohio State, JR 4 Stars
2015 Rating: 139.2
Single Factor Rating
JT Barrett’s 2015 season is a very good example of how a player’ performance can be derailed if just one of the prism factors gets jacked up—in this case I think it was scheme. Passer rating can be thought of a signal comprised of component signals. If all of those component signals peak together, the QB has a monster season. In most cases however, come of the components decline as others rise and their effects offset each other. In still other cases, the signals decline together and their effects compound into a nightmare (see: Michigan 2008). The charts at left are cartoons I drew to illustrate this theory but I bet Connolly’s database could be analyzed to synthesize real versions if these signals.
Anyway, After OSU took home the 2014 title, then OC Tom Herman cashed in and went to run his own show in Houston. I thought his departure would be absorbed because Urban Meyer is an aiight offensive guy himself. However, the numbers show some things here. While JT’s interception rate could improve, the only contributing factor that is way off kilter is his YPA; that’s a scheme thing. Then the drama with the QB battle made matters worse by limiting both players ability to learn whatever wrinkles they needed to learn in transitioning to the new OC however minor those were. Also, the lack of top shelf weaponry on the outside made the whole thing sketchy. Then they try to pass, not run, to beat MSU in bad weather. I mean, ha ha and all that, but this whole shebang smacks of a case where the coaches got to cute for their own good.
This year the scheme issues should recede and Barrett should be expected to remain a dangerous passer. However, OSU’s roster turned over like whoa and they now find themselves in a reload situation. The little experience OSU returns on offense is concentrated in the interior of the OL which is probably the best place to have it considering Meyer’s offense. No doubt the Buckeyes have plenty of talent, but even great recruits have a break in period and player development is never instantaneous.
Dude, Michigan, Chosen and Crafted by Jim M.F. Harbaugh
Last year, I spilled coffee over the whole deal by getting the spelling of Rudock’s name wrong and also getting his flippin’ visage wrong. Way to ruin any semblance of your own fake credibility, yo. While those mistakes were embarrassing, they were also honest. Ultimatelty, all I know is data. I start with that, sprankle in some logic and creativity, then hope real hard. Sometimes it turns to gold. This shit is alchemy, man. And I love it.
Jim Harbaugh loves his shit too. Except with him, its science. Maybe not science the way Newton or Darwin knew it but his results are too consistent. Too predictable.
Check this chart out:
That is the average Passer Rating by Year since 1969. I mean, I cant explain it but I’m not about to question it either. I don’t need to understand and I don’t need to agree. I just need to believe. The data knows things I cannot. Maybe if something changes I can nerd it out, but the formula was created in the early ‘70’s and ain't a damned thing changed. I bet Harbaugh could explain it. He’d lose me after 20 minutes but I’d still hang out just because.
Let me show you something else:
Those are all the QB seasons any Michigan fan has seen since 1980; that’s about when they started changing the rules. That’s when it became the passing game we know now. On an era adjusted basis, Harbaugh has two of the top five seasons under center and that’s before you start discounting for smaller sample sizes (below 200 attempts) and precision errors. Harbaugh is top 10 in average era adjusted passer rating for QBs with at least two seasons above 200 attempts since 1980; out of all of them.
Harbaugh also knows things we cannot. Then he knows competition, he knows quaterbacking, and he knows Meeechigan. What the hell is there on a football field on a Saturday?
Projection: Over 9000
My annual retreat from retirement to leverage 15 years of play by play and recruiting data to predict the coming season. All predictions are based off of data. Looking at returning rosters, recruiting rankings and prior year’s performance to feed thousands of simulations to answer your most pressing needs on how things will go this coming season (but never for gambling purposes).
Can’t claim to be an expert about 2016 without exposing the folly of 2015:
Best 2015 picks:
One last time for this pic [single tear emoji]
Pitt - easily cleared their 6 win bar.
Virginia Tech - came two games short of their 8 win over/under and Frank Beamer is playing Headbanz with the grandkids now.
Illinois - no Beckman, no problem. Successfully called Illinois’ over two straight years
Wisconsin - stalled out a win short of hitting the target
West Virginia - Underachieved by a game
Arkansas – ended up winning 6 of last 7 including crazy win against Ole Miss, but the early hole was too much to dig out of.
Worst 2015 picks:
The Pac-12-Called Utah as a fraud and Oregon State as a sleeper. One was in NC contention at one point and the other won two games on the season.
Auburn – Predicted over 8.5 and landed at 6 wins. The Malzahn magic wasn’t there in 2015.
2016 Buy Picks
A lot of low expectations for new USC head coach [surely not Clay Helton]
Maryland, over 4.5 wins – I actually have their mid point at about 6.5 wins. The offense can’t be much worse and Durkin may have struggled with a game plan against Ohio State but was very strong for most of the season. I have a feeling Terps would take quality games against the middle pack of teams on their schedule right now.
USC, over 7.5 wins – I get that their coaching hire was a head scratcher, but this team could be a monster. A massively talented offense with a deep o-line makes over 7.5 wins an easy call for me. Rare for me to see a team project to 9 wins and get them at 7.5.
North Carolina, over 8.5 wins - Nowhere near the easy call that USC was, but still a team that my numbers really like the potential of.
Mississippi St, over 6.5 wins – No one in the SEC took a bigger relative loss than the Bulldogs and Dak Prescott, but a pretty easy non-conference slate and enough other pieces remaining make this MSU a buy.
Texas A&M, over 6.5 wins – Yes the QB situation is a mess, but I think the defense alone can them to 7 wins.
2016 Sell Picks
Boston College, under 7 wins – you don’t lose this
and win 4-5 more games than the prior year.
Utah, under 7.5 wins – Gonna keep predicting this one until it hits!
Cal, under 5 wins – Gave up 31 points to a team projected in the triple digits to open the season. Won 7 games last year with first round QB who is now gone along with the top 6 WRs.
Michigan State, under 8.5 wins – I really don’t take this one every year, just most years. Betting against #disrespekt has had a low payout the last several years but picking MSU this year is purely a pick for Dantonio this year because there isn’t much other data to make them attractive.
Washington State, under 7.5 wins – As much as I would love to be right about the above I’d gladly take being wrong on this one.
Wake Forest, under 5.5 wins –Jim Grobe ain’t walking through that door…
Florida, under 8 wins – Think the defense will be worse, the offense will still be bad and the lucky escapes can’t last forever.
Pitt, under 7.5 wins – Last year I took the over but think this team will reverse course. Two tough non-conference games and a team that doesn’t look to be great on either side of the ball doesn’t seem like an 8 win team to my numbers.
Iowa, under 8.5 wins – Bring it Hawkeye fans!
My heuristic prediction is that the National Champion will be a team that has Top Ten roster talent. Roster talent is the recruiting rankings of players on your roster with upperclassmen significantly weighted in value. I have measured this for 12 years and every year the National Champion is on the list and usually has at least one side of the ball in the top 4. Last year, both finalists were in the top 10 and eventual champion Alabama was 3rd overall and in the top 4 on the defensive side of the ball. This year’s top 10 are:
1. LSU (#1 D)
2. Ohio St (#2 O, #3 D)
3. Michigan (#3 O)
4. USC (#1 O)
5. Florida St (#4 O)
6. Notre Dame
7. Texas A&M (#4 D)
Those teams have a whole range of expectations heading into the season and there are teams outside this list (Clemson) that absolutely have a great shot, but this list is a great place to start.
A side note, somehow South Carolina has 2nd most roster talent on defense this year. It’s going to be the most Muschamp of all seasons in South Carolina.
OK, let’s go. This team is going to be good. It feels like there are a lot of fail safes to protect this team. The linebackers are a huge gap, but there may only be 2-3 games that they are relevant. The two biggest games are on the road, but both teams are facing more question marks than usual this year. Quarterback is still unproven, but Harbaugh. This is a remarkably high floor team.
A lot of the floor is dictated by the schedule Michigan faces. I have Michigan projected as the 8th best team but 44% of my simulations had 10+ wins and Michigan trailed only Florida St and Clemson by making the playoffs in 27% of simulations. I am projecting a weak middle class in the Big Ten this year. Only Nebraska is projected near the level of Michigan and Ohio State and they are off of the schedule in 2016. On the non-conference side, all three opponents are projected in the bottom third of the FBS. The floor, high it is.
This team may or may not be a National Title contender when it’s all said and done, but the opportunity is surely in front of them and the odds of competing aren’t going to get much higher in “Year 3” or some other defined horizon point.