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.
Michigan is now his tenth offer along with Duke, Ball State, Wisconsin, Boston College, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Air Force, West Virginia, and Ohio. It seems like Sean's recruitment is starting to pick up heavily, as he's also hearing from Notre Dame.
Since he's from Cincinnati, he's obviously a hometown favorite. There's a lot of talk about him within that area, and I think it's a really good find early on for these coaches. Looking at some of the other linebackers that have been offered, it looks like Duggan might be one of the better options to land, at this point.
I would have to assume Michigan would want him on campus for the Big House BBQ, though. I will try to get more as soon as i can.
**EDIT: Update from his coach, Steve Specht:**
I spoke with Sean's coach, and he had some really great things to say about him. Most kids say that academics are important to them, but it seems like that really holds true for Sean. "He's a 4.0 student, and just a tremendous kid. His top 5 consists of Michigan, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Duke, and Boston College. Academics is really a priority for him. His parents have done a great job raising him, and he just so happens to be a hell of a football player," said coach Specht.
Duggan's recruitment has recently started to take off, which has surprised both him and his coach. "As far as visits go this summer, I don't even think Sean knows what he's going to be doing after his lacrosse game tonight. We didn't think recruiting would blow up for him this soon. We figured it would be during the season. He's still trying to digest this, and wants to finish strong with school and lacrosse," Specht told me.
As far as Duggan on the field, his coach thinks that his best football is still ahead of him. "He's a huge effort guy, he's a worker, and he always wants to get better. He practices hard, he's smart, and likes to study the game. His upside is huge. He's pushing 6'5" and already has over 215 pounds on him. He played all three linebacker spots for us, and is just learning the positions. He really could play a 5 tech on the line, or even tight end. He's very athletic, and is capable of putting on a lot of weight. The opportunities are endless for him, and his best football is yet to come. I really believe that," said Specht.
Here's a look at his highlight video:
CCLA Conference Tournament
Michigan will participate in its conference tournament this weekend, trying to take home their fourth consecutive championship. The field is as follows:
Michigan and Buffalo are the top two seeds, by virtue of winning the North and South Divisions, respectively. Michigan State and
Eastern Central Michigan also make the field from the North Division, and Miami (That Hockey Miami) joins Pitt from the South Division. Eastern Michigan earned the third North Division slot, but was disqualified because they be cheatin', yo. Central Michigan takes the spot instead.
In the first round, Michigan State and Miami are the favorites to advance. In the semi-finals, the Spartans should probably take down Buffalo, but that was the case last year as well, and it didn't turn out that way. Michigan should win the whole thing, regardless of which teams they face.
The CCLA auto-bid is up for grabs, but there are also MCLA At-Large implications. Michigan State has the chance to add two wins, and wash the taste of a three-game losing streak out of their mouths. That would help their bid to the national field. No other team (outside of Michigan, who is in regardless of outcome) will crack the MCLA field without winning the conference.
After Friday's first-round games, I'll keep updated review/previews going in the Diary section. For now, I'll briefly preview Miami, Michigan's likely semifinal opponent (see a brief preview of Central and a Recap of their game against Michigan for more on the Chippewas.
The RedHawks have gone 8-3 on the year, 3-1 in the CCLA South. Their losses have come to Missouri (7-9), Indiana (5-8), and Buffalo (5-7). They played a non-divisional game against Eastern Michigan earlier this spring, beating their Round 1 opponent by a comfortable 15-9 Margin.
Their All-Conference performers include Joe McLaughlin (2nd Team Midfield), Alex Manners (2nd Team Faceoff Specialist), Tyler Wallace (3rd Team Midfield), Brooke Slowinski (3rd Team Defense), Josh Ebel (Honorable Mention Short Stick Defensive Midfield), and Daniel Culp (Honorable Mention Goalie). McLaughlin, only a freshman, has done the majority of the team's scoring, with 22 goals and 10 assists.
Michigan's first game, against Miami or Eastern, will take place Saturday at 4PM at Saline High School's main (East) field. Full preview of Michigan's opponent after it is determined.
All-Conference Teams, MCLA Bracketology, and more after the jump!
The CCLA released their all-conference lists on Monday, and they're full of Wolverines:
- Attack Trevor Yealy
- Attack Kevin Zorovich
- Midfield Anthony Hrusovsky
- Defense Harry Freid
- Faceoff Specialist David Reinhard
- Long-Stick Midfield Matt Asperheim
- Short Stick Defensive Midfield Jordan Kirshner
- Attack Thomas Paras
- Midfield David Rogers
- Midfield Svet Tintchev
- Defense Austin Swaney
- Goalie Mark Stone
- Defense Justin Burgin
- Attack Josh Ein
- Attack Clark McIntyre
- Midfield Jamison Goldberg
- Short Stick Defensive Midfield Michael Bartomioli
Michigan composes seven of the thirteen first-team honorees (Michigan State has four, and Buffalo has two. Those are the only teams represented), and 17 of the 59 total players honored. Making this more impressive is the fact that a number of Michigan players were injured for significant portions of the year (David Rogers, Clark McIntyre, and Michael Bartomioli all missed multiple games), and several more were suspended for one game.
The players who made the first team are likely to gain consideration for All-American honors. Among them, Trevor Yealy is a lock for the First Team, and is in the running for Player of the Year honors.
A couple conference tournaments took place last weekend, which helped settle the MCLA Tournament field a bit. We now know the Automatic Qualifiers from the SELC (Florida, previously a bubble team) and LSA (Texas State, the only team from their conference who will make it).
Last 2 In: Florida State, Michigan State
First 2 Out: UC-Santa Barbara, Loyola Marymount
Out From Last Time: Texas, UC Santa Barbara, Virginia Tech.
I'm waffling on whether Florida State or Virginia Tech (or both, or neither) should be in the field. They were similarly-ranked heading into the SELC Tournament, and Florida State lost in the first round, whereas the Hokies made it to the final. I still like Florida State's overall schedule a bit more.
Other than that, nothing was too tough. Michigan State probably needs to paste Pitt and Buffalo to feel really safe in the tournament. There's still quite a bit of variability with all the auto-bids (except two) still up in the air. If I can get around to it before the official bracket comes out, I'll hopefully have another Bracketology post early next week.
Inside Lacrosse gives their take on a bubble watch.