chance of bowl: 13.6%
At times, such as when I discuss music, sports or film with people, or at the gym, where I can still push some weight around, I feel pretty much the same as when I was in Ann Arbor. In short, youthful, in touch and somewhat current. Other times, not so much. Those other times, which increasingly are outpacing the former, I feel all of my 44 years. Like when my daughter informed me that my hair was uncool because it had a part. Or the extra half-minute I need at every goddamn urinal. Or reading someone on this blog discuss the new defensive coordinator and then add "I have to go to class."
Part of feeling your age often results in being crotchety. Though I never meant to sound like my Dad, I find inevitably that I am slipping into dad-speak without realizing it. Often I find myself opining on topics and having no patience for providing rationale for the opinion, it simply is true and that's that. Why? Because I'm your father. If you don't like it there's the door.
Some current pieces of wisdom follow. The TV show "Two and a Half Men" is not funny, it's never once been funny, and people that watch it cannot possibly claim to have a sense of humor. On the other hand, "The Office" is brilliant, and if you can't get that--there's the door. On film, "American Beauty" is over-rated (though quite funny). It's another in the long line of films (the latest is "Revolutionary Road") that purport to show the dark underbelly that lies under the placid surface of suburbia. Where all everyone is either blind to their ennui or a soulless drone. As a former resident of Manhattan I can tell you that there is at least as much unhappiness in the city (although it's so "alive" right?) as in the suburbs. The suburbs are pretty cool actually. Don't agree? Can you see the door over there?
On to sports. While I don't have the solution to the BCS, I do know a couple of things. First, that no MAC team should ever be allowed to play against Tulsa on January 6. In fact, there should be no bowls period after January 1 not named Orange, Rose, Sugar or Fiesta. How do I know this? Because I do. Second, the Bowl season was better when every major bowl was played January 1. Not only did that day become an unprecedented orgy of fried food and beer consumption, January 1 was special because the majors all played that day. When did the Orange Bowl get the right to play January 2? Ugh. Third, the major bowls were better in the traditional, non-BCS era. When that was your chance to prove yourself nationally, but the real thing was to win your conference. When the Fiesta Bowl wasn't a consolation to a team that just missed the "real" championship game.
Lastly, in college football, as opposed to pro, I prefer the established order. If I could wave my hand and rule over the college landscape, the same ten teams would dominate every year, and simply fight over who won the title that year. Who are those teams? Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, USC, Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, and Nebraska. Upsets are fine, as long as the elite stay elite. Did I like Utah beating Alabama? Need I answer that?
So you don't agree? Have a better idea? Think I don't know what I'm talking about? Don't let the door hit you on your way out.
As you may be aware, the last few days have gone quite well. Quite well indeed. Lemme get right to it (I'm only commenting on games that I'm somehow surprised by the result. Everything else just gets listed):
The Week Thus Far
Dayton over Miami (NTM)
#25/#22 West Virginia LOSS #5 Connecticut: This one went the way I wanted it to, but not surprisingly. West Virginia may fall out, leaving a spot open for us.
Illinois State LOSS Bradley: Probably a minor upset. Most importantly, it will prevent ISU from taking over a spot that could open in the polls.
MICHIGAN over Indiana:WOOOOOOOOHOOOOO! This game was awesome! Well, the last few minutes of it anyways. Last year, we lose this game. I'm certain. Under Amaker, we lose this game, I'm certain. The win gives us some momentum going into the first game at Crisler where there will actually be students. This, combined with some losses that have been good for us, will hopefully put us right back in the polls come Monday. But, we can't let ourselves get down like that, it just won't work.
#17/#24 Boston College LOSS Harvard: Wow. Just a couple days removed from knocking off #1, they lose to an Ivy. That's probably depressing for them. Good for us, hopefully it'll make them fall out of the coaches' poll, opening a spot for us.
#23/#21 Louisville over South Florida
#15/#25 Tennessee LOSS Gonzaga: So, yeah, it was a good early week for us. Tennessee should fall out of the coaches' poll. Which is good. I want into both polls for as much of the season as humanly possible.
#21/#20 Butler over Wright State
#22/#19 Minnesota over Iowa
Planning Your Weekend
No games Friday that I care about (go watch Michigan hockey!), so here's how you're spending Saturday and Sunday (mostly Saturday):
#15/#25 Tennessee @ Georgia, 12:00, ESPN Full Court, ESPN360: Georgia's 9-6 with no wins over ranked teams, but, as its in Georgia, I can see an upset, which would certainly help us get into the Coaches' poll.
#25/#22 West Virginia @ #18/#15 Marquette, 12:00, ESPN Full Court, ESPN360: Go Marquette! It's that simple. WV loses, they fall out of one if not both polls, opening up a spot for us. It'd be great. It's in Marquette. I'll totally watch this one.
#23/#21 Louisville v. #18/#17 Villanova, 12:00 ESPN, ESPN360: Another game that could kick a team we need to lose out of the rankings. We just need to win a couple of these to get ranked.
Dayton @ UMass, 1:00, Local TV: I know little about either team. If we play well, and with some luck, hopefully, Dayton winning two this week won't matter as far as getting us into the polls goes.
#23 Baylor v. Texas Tech, 1:45, ESPN Full Court, ESPN360: Tech's 10-5, so, not unreasonable for them to win, but, it'll probably go to Tech.
#21/#20 Butler v. Detroit, 2:00, HLN: Sadly, the Titans won't win. They've only won 4 games. HLN is the Horizon League Network, the conference's free, online channel.
Illinois State @ Indiana State, 7:00, Local TV: Indiana State has only won 3 games this season. Easy win for Illinois State.
#17/#24 Boston College v. Miami (FL), 7:00, ESPNU: Miami's always a potential victor, and BC's coming off a loss to Harvard, so, we'll see. I predict a BC win though. They'll be playing angry.
MICHIGAN vs. Iowa, 11:30, BTN: Don't underestimate Iowa. That's all I have to say about that. They only scored 49 in their last game though. The Crisler crowd should be good with students back. Gotta prove we can easily put away the teams we should be able to beat.
#22/#19 Minnesota v. Penn State, 3:30, BTN: Penn State's not bad, only lost three, but, Minnesota's at home, and, I sort of want to keep them ranked anyways. I'll actually be rooting for Minnesota. I want to get them when they come to Crisler.
So, that's that. Watch hockey this weekend too, Michigan plays an important series against Miami. Go Blue!
After reading this in Rivals today...
"At this point, Michigan is going to take a pass on Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville cornerback Mike Edwards … and we don’t expect them to offer Youngstown (Ohio) Ursuline cornerback Dale Peterman, either..."
...I became confused. We have these cornerbacks available next year, as reported to my surprise by Wolverinekeith:
A junior, three sophs and a freshman. And that is if we pray the Turner doesn't get a growth spurt. If, for example, Warren and Cissoko were to get hurt, what in God's name would we have on the field?
Now, the confusion is not linked to these recruits specifically. I watch a lot of football and my eyes see other teams with recruits rated vastly lower than our typical CBs that look just fine to me, at least on par with our horribleness in recent months. Sometimes I hear of a stud CB on a middle-tier team and I run to the computer and discover he was a 2 star. Or a converted 2 star WR. WVU, for example, fielded a no star and a three star starters on that team that destroyed Oklahoma.
Maybe some of these guys were seniors, maybe they were outliers, but my point is that RR needs raw material here and we are being awful scary-choosy with our numbers so thin. Pacman Jones was a two star that he did good things with (skill-wise, not brain-wise). Many of our four stars have not been good. It would seem to me that we need about 5 more CBs on our roster in the day and age of the spread and we are working it like we have 10 upperclassman in hand. Perhaps this points to confidence that he can get some of these southern studs he is wooing, but this to me seems to be a numbers game and I am thinking someone like Peterman might look good in a couple weeks.
Disclaimer: I am not criticizing RR's recruiting. He has done stunningly well in his short time here with a difficult season working against him. I am just wondering what I am missing as it relates to the numbers here.
Here's an updated scholarship count. Players are listed at positions I project they will play at. Additionally, this is NOT a depth chart.
1. S. Threet
2. D. Cone
3. T. Forcier
4. N. Sheridan
5. M. Cox
6. T. Jones
7. F. Toussaint
8. V. Smith
9. M. Shaw
10. K. Grady
11. B. Minor
12. C. Brown
13. M. Moundros
14. C. Gordon
15. R. Roundtree
16. D. Stonum
17. J. Hemingway
18. J. Rogers
19. G. Mathews
20. L. Savoy
21. T. Robinson
22. J. Gallon
23. M. Odoms
24. J. Feagin
25. T. Clemons
26. B. Moore
27. K. Koger
28. S. Watson
29. M. Webb
30. D. O'Neill
31. K. Wermers
32. P. Omameh
33. R. Barnum
34. E. Mealer
35. R. Khoury
36. M. Schofield
37. D. Molk
38. M. Huyge
39. S. Schilling
40. P. Dorrestein
41. J. Ferrara
42. M. Ortmann
43. T. McAvoy
44. D. Moosman
45. T. Lewan
46. P. Graves
47. D. Jones
48. V. Helmuth
49. R. Sagesse
50. M. Martin
51. W. Campbell
52. A. LaLota
53. C. Roh
54. R. VanBergen
55. G. Banks
56. B. Graham
57. A. Patterson
58. A. Criswell
59. I. Bell
60. B. Hawthorne
61. M. Jones
62. K. Demens
63. B. Herron
64. J. Fitzgerald
65. O. Ezeh
66. J. Mouton
67. M. Evans
68. B. Smith
69. T. Gordon
70. V. Emilien
71. M. Williams
72. S. Brown
73. J. Turner
74. B. Cissoko
75. J. Floyd
76. D. Warren
77. T. Woolfolk
78. B. Gibbons
79. B. Wright
80. Z. Mesko
5 more open spots, now that Peace has decommitted.
Figure one spot will (hopefully) go to an outside WR like Stokes or Haulstead.
Another spot - hopefully an offensive lineman.
Another spot - hopefully a cornerback.
That should leave two more spots to give to the best available kids.
There's also the chance we open up another spot by not inviting Criswell back for a 5th year.
Aside from the usual "well forget him if he doesn't want to be here"/"I didn't like him anyway"/"he's only three stars" typical responses, I think this story sheds some light on a large problem area for the team - at least in the opnion of the coaches.
Peace has, largely, been a WR in his HS career. During summer camps, he impressed lots of people - Michigan included - with his receiving ability but also his play as a defensive back. Michigan offered him thinking he could do either - play WR OR CB. Throughout the process, Peace made his desire to play WR pretty clear, and Michigan went along with it.
Now, we hear that the primary reason for his decommitment was because Michigan now really wanted him to play CB, not WR. Clearly, if Michigan was still recruiting Je'Ron Stokes and Travante Stallworth at WR, they were not overly enamored with his ability to play WR. So, as a WR, losing him is likely not a tremendous blow.
However, lets look and see what's happening elsewhere:
-*****Dre Kirkpatrick isn't coming.
-****Jayron Hosley has publicly stated that he really doesn't want to live in the cold-weather.
-***Demontre Hurst doesn't want to visit as long as we don't have a DC.
-***Mike Edwards goes to Glenville, who hates us.
-***Mywan Jackson, pretty much committing to UNC today.
-**Adrian Witty is a two star (yeah, I know Pat White, David Harris, blahblahblah - most 2-stars don't become anything), and seems like he's largely contingent on us getting Denard Robinson, anyway.
So, that's EVERYONE we have offers out on (per Rivals). So it seems like Michigan's desire to have Peace play CB in an act of desperation - he was the last line of defense (barring snake-oil) between us and a two-star/unrated guy. Clearly, given the number of CB's we've pursued, the staff sees CB as a need, and their attempt to convert Peace speaks further of that need.
So, I don't see this as losing a WR, which doesn't matter, because we have plenty. I see this as losing a CB - a position of need, no matter how you slice it.
This was originally going to be a response to a post on the Big 10 vs. other conferences in bowl games, but it got long
enough that I figure it should be its own diary submission. If you are tired about hearing justifications for why the
Big 10 is not as bad as it appears, by all means skip to something else.
Because I'm bored, here are the bowl match-ups for each conference. I also decided to rank the relative match-ups in
terms of conference ranking. For example, if the #4 team for Conference A plays the #3 team from Conference B, then
Conference A played "up" (+) in that bowl and Conference B played "down" (-). Equal rankings meant they were "even"
(=). In situations where non-BCS bowl teams were included, I tried to use my judgment as to how the Conference tie-in
fared. One other caveat - any bowl in the BCS was an automatic "=", no matter how that may play out over a given year.
Big 12 - +3
Fiesta Bowl Big 12 No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large =
Cotton Bowl Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3/4/5 -
Holiday Bowl Big 12 No. 3 vs Pac-10 No. 2 +
Gator Bowl* Big 12 No. 4 vs. ACC No. 3 +
Alamo Bowl Big 12 No. 4/5 vs Big Ten No. 4/5 =
Sun Bowl** Big 12 No. 5 vs. Pac-10 No. 3 +
Insight Bowl Big 12 No. 6 vs Big Ten No. 6 =
Independence Bowl Big 12 No. 7 vs SEC No. 6/7/8 =
Texas Bowl Big 12 No. 8 vs. Big East No.3 (2008)/vs.C-USA No. 3/4 (2009) +
Big East - -5
Gator Bowl Big East #2 vs ACC #3 -
Sun Bowl Big East #2 vs Pac-10 #3 -
Meineke Car Care Bowl Big East #3 vs ACC #5/6 -
International Bowl Big East #4 vs MAC #3 -
PapaJohns.com Bowl Big East #5 vs SEC #9 -
St. Petersburg Bowl Big East #6 vs C-USA =
Pac-10 - -3
Rose Bowl USC-err Pac-10 No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 1 =
Holiday Bowl Pac-10 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3 -
Sun Bowl Pac-10 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 4 -
Las Vegas Bowl Pac-10 No. 4/5 vs. Mountain West No. 1 =
Emerald Bowl Pac-10 No. 4/5 vs. ACC No. 7 -
Poinsettia Bowl Pac-10 No. 6 vs Mountain West No. 2 =
Armed Forces Bowl Pac-10 No. 7 vs Mountain West No. 3/4 =
ACC - +1
FedEx Orange Bowl ACC No. 1 vs. BCS =
Chick-fil-A Bowl ACC No. 2 vs. SEC 3/4/5 -
Gator Bowl ACC No. 3 vs. Big 12 3/Big East 2/Notre Dame =
Champs Sports Bowl ACC No. 4 vs. Big Ten 4/5 =
Music City Bowl ACC No. 5 vs. SEC 6/7/8/Navy -
Meineke Car Care Bowl ACC No. 6 vs. Big East 3 +
Emerald Bowl ACC No. 7 vs. Pac-10 4/5 +
Humanitarian Bowl ACC No. 8 vs. WAC 1 +
EagleBank Bowl ACC no. 9 vs. Navy =
SEC - +4
Sugar Bowl SEC No. 1 vs. BCS =
Capital one Bowl SEC No. 2 vs. Big 10 No. 2 =
Cotton Bowl SEC No. 3/4/5 vs. Big 12 No. 2 +
Outback Bowl SEC No. 3/4 pick vs. Big Ten No. 3 =
Chick-fil-A Bowl SEC No. 3/4/5 vs. ACC No. 2 +
Liberty Bowl SEC No. 6/7/8 vs. C-USA No. 2/3 =
Music City Bowl SEC No. 6/7/8 vs. ACC no. 5 +
Independence Bowl SEC No. 6/7/8 vs. Big 12 No. 7 +
PapaJohns.com Bowl SEC No. 9 vs. Big East No. 5 +
Big 10 - +1
Rose Bowl Big 10 No. 1 vs. USC-err Pac-10 No. 1 =
Capital One Bowl Big 10 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2 =
Outback Bowl Big 10 No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3/4 =
Alamo Bowl Big 10 No. 4/5 vs. Big 12 No. 4/5 pick* =
Champs Sports Bowl Big 10 No. 4/5 vs. ACC No. 4* +
*The Alamo Bowl has the 4th pick in 2007 and 2008, while the Champs Sports Bowl has the 4th pick in 2009. Since at
least 1/2 the time the Big 10 is likely playing up, I give the +
Insight Bowl Big 10 No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 6 =
Motor City Bowl Big Ten No. 7 vs. MAC No. 1 =
So what do we have
So by my (reasonably) objective rankings, we have a bowl SOS as follows:
1. SEC = +4
2. Big 12 = +3
3. Big 10 = +1
3. Acc = +1
5. Pac 10 = -3
6. Big East = -5
Empirically, this kind of makes sense. The SEC and Big 12 have generally been considered the strongest conferences the
past few years, and what makes this dominance even more impressive come bowl time is that the conference plays a
"tough" schedule against mostly equal or higher-ranked teams from other conferences.
The next tier is occupied by the Big 10 and the ACC, which again makes sense considering the recent bowl performances of both conferences. What surprised me the most, though, was how "equal" the Big 10 matched up in its bowl games - wherever you wound up in the Big 10 hierarchy, a similarly-position team was who you met in December/January. The ACC had a bit more stratification, but the Big 10 is clearly the outlier in terms of bowl tie-ins.
Next comes the Pac-10. This is the point I've seen made on these boards before (I've made it too) - the Pac-10 does so
well during bowl season, at least in part, because they tend to play weaker opponents on a consistent basis. Even
giving the MWC a whole lot of credit - which I do - the Pac-10 tended to play teams that they should beat. Yes, USC is a bear and can beat anyone, but after that it looks like the deck is stacked in the Pac-10's favor come December and
Finally, the Big East. Ugh, but an ugh people have known for years. I'll leave it at that.
One final note - there is no metric that I can think of to account for the fact that most bowl games are played in the South and/or West Coast, which clearly benefits those teams located in those regions. How much it benefits, of course, is open for debate, but it certainly helps teams in the ACC, SEC, and Pac-10 that many of these bowl games happen in or near their own backyards.
But what about OOC (Out of Conference) record?
Before jumping to my conclusions, though, I would be remiss not to discuss the other key factor in determining relative
conference strength - OOC against BCS teams. Thought there are relatively few meetings every year, I figured I might
as well look at the conferences' marks against each other in the fall. Unfortunately, there really isn't an
easily-accessible database for determining how conferences match up against each other OOC. I was able to find a page
on ESPN http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=3569645&type=story) that tracked all the BCS teams from 1998-2007, with OOC-against-BCS teams records (sans bowl games), which worked well enough. For the record, this is a great way to make a subway ride fly by.
** Caveat - there is obviously a huge difference between pre- and post-2005 Big East (when Miami, VT, and BC left, and USF, Louisville, Connecticut, and Cincinnati joined). I split out Miami's, VT's, and BC's records with the switch, and only counted the four new member's records since 2005.
Conference Wins Losses Winning %
ACC 89 81 52.35
SEC 53 61 46.49
Big 12 56 58 49.12
Pac 10 69 63 52.27
Big 10 81 73 52.6
Big East 65 76 46.1
Now, take these results with a grain of salt. In some of these conferences, there are teams with absolutely atrocious OOC records (e.g. Syracuse [5-18] and Duke [2-15]) and truly stunning ones (e.g. USC [18-6] and Nebraska [13-3]) that skew the numbers a bit. Plus, remember that these records have been accumulated over about a decade, during which time dynasties such as Nebraska, FSU, and Miami have come and gone, while new ones have emerged. Finally, I couldn't find the relative SOS of these records, meaning someone had to crush Syracuse, Indiana, and Duke, and certain conferences obviously benefited more from scheduling them than others. Similarly, elite teams such as Florida, Oklahoma, and Michigan didn't necessarily schedule a large number of tough OOC games, meaning that these numbers skewed mostly to middle-of-the-pack teams in each conference. This certainly helps to qualify the relative depth of each conference, but it doesn't really show the strength at the top.
All of that said, the data are telling that over the past decade, the Big 10 has been one of the top 2 BCS conferences in inter-conference winning percentage. This doesn't mean the Big 10 is living up to that record right now, but I hope it brings certain people back off the cliff a bit about the demise of the Big 10. Where some people may see a pattern of demise, I see a strong conference that has hit a recent rough patch, but one that it should overcome based on historical data.
If you've made it this far, then rest assured I am almost done. What I hoped to show with this data is that while the Big 10 has struggled recently during bowl season, that is not necessarily a harbinger of doom for the conference overall. There are a myriad of factors at play come bowl season, from the long layoffs, the traveling, the match-ups, etc., and to simply go by wins and losses doesn't provide you with a complete barometer of the conference as a whole. Same goes with OOC records - the Big 10 looks pretty strong against other conferences, but there were far more Northwestern vs. Duke match-ups than Florida vs. Michigan.
Overall, I thought going in that the SEC and the Big 12 have been the two strongest conferences over the past decade, with the Big 10 and the ACC next, followed closely by the Pac-10 and the Big East gasping to the finish. Looking at the numbers, that seems to bear out. The SEC and Big 12 play the toughest bowl slates, while the Big 10, ACC, and Pac-10 have played better in the inter-conference match-ups. About the only consistency across the board is just how bad the Big East was, is, and probably will be in the future. Looking to the future with the Big 10, I see it going more the way of the ACC than, say, the Big 12 or Pac-10, where the stratification between the top and bottom teams is quite pronounced. Like the ACC, I see OSU, Penn St., and (hopefully) UM staying at the top, with the second tier a constant shift of Iowa, MSU, Illinois, Northwestern, and Wisconsin, with Minny and Indiana trying to become consistently relevant. That may mean a whole lot for more losses to USC in the Rose Bowl, but it will likely also mean a more competitive conference that will occasionally birth a real MNC contender.