this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Sorry if this has already been pointed out before
So watching the UConn game this weekend, I noticed that the student section did the block M in the crowd again. That makes this (I believe) the 3rd time that we've done this since we started it against Wisconsin in '08.
Now think back to the 3 best home wins of the richrod era: Wisconsin '08, Notre Dame '09 and UConn '10. Those were also the only 3 times that we've done the student section block M. 2 awesome comebacks, and one Denard-unleashing victory. Pretty strong correlation, no? Maybe we should bring the block M out for every home game
This story has no bearing on anything in particular on this blog. There are only minor connections to Michigan, being that this story is from someone who played in the Big Ten, and the fact that his head coach previously played and coached football at Michigan (and played basketball). I got the pleasure of hearing this story the very first day I became a coach by another coach I was working with several years back, and while the reasons for sharing it here are probably minimal, and for many of you it may not bring any parallels to mind, I think it is a cool/great story to tell kids, especially as a coach.
This story comes to mind sometimes for me, and today I was watching Big Ten Network old time games (it chronicled the 1954 Ohio State Buckeyes who went undefeated and beat Michigan 21-7 after Michigan gained a 7-0 lead, for a little background). At one point they mentioned a Wisconsin fullback by the name of Alan Ameche. For those who don’t know the name, Alan Ameche was the first Wisconsin player to win the Heisman trophy. He was a highly decorated player who went on to have a 6 year professional career in which he would score the winning touchdown in “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” By the time he left Wisconsin he had the most career rushing yards of any player in NCAA history.
Alan Ameche was the son of Augusto Amici, a hard headed Italian-American immigrant who refused to change his name. He took up football in high school when his family moved to Wisconsin because his dad thought he seemed “too weak.” By the time he attended college he was a very imposing figure, standing 6’ tall and weighing 210 pounds. He soon earned the nickname “The Horse.”
He actually has a fairly interesting background that I won’t go further into depth with. However, my purpose for posting with something Ameche did on the field, and what he said after the game, which gives some credence to the meaning of sports in our society. Perhaps there are parallels for kids that come from impoverished situations, those who don’t have much else to show to the world, and those they love, other than this gift they have for sports. Times like when Chris Paul missed a free throw, on purpose, after scoring 61 points in a high school game in memory of his grandfather. Well this story is less known.
It was 4thand goal from the three yard line when Wisconsin called a timeout. When Wisconsin came back onto the field it became obvious they had no intention of kicking a field goal. And as soon as this became clear the crowd realized, and starting cheering on their All-American fullback. Softly, starting from the student section, came a chant, “A-me-che… A-me-che…” Others in the crowd quickly began picking up on the chant and joined in. The crowd knew who was getting the ball, and so did the opposing defense. An opposing all-big-ten linebacker began screaming at Ameche, telling him he knew he was going to get the ball, and as Wisconsin lined up Ameche pointed toward this linebacker and declared “I’m coming for you.” Now, let’s be honest, this seems stupid. But let’s remember, this is football in the 1950s, and from my recollection (I was born in the 1980s) this sort of thing happened all the time.
The crowd continued to yell “A-me-che” as the ball was snapped, and sure enough handed to Ameche who what seemed to be a broken trap play. Their play side guard apparently missed his block on the middle linebacker, leaving Ameche one on one with the linebacker he declared he was coming for. The All-Conference linebacker, quickly recognizing the play, bolted up into the hole soon after the guard whiffed his block, meeting head on with the 210 pound fullback. As they collided however, it quickly became apparent that one threat was more sincere than the other, and as the linebacker desperately tried to stall the ferocious attack in time for his teammates to assist him, Ameche’s feet refused to stall as the violently drove the linebacker into the end zone for a touchdown.
This turned out to be the game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, though Wisconsin went on the score after that to seal the victory before time expired. After the game a reporter came up to Alan Ameche and asked him, “How did you have so much resolve to score that touchdown late in the fourth quarter?”
Ameche responded, “My dad died earlier this week. He was blind. See, this was the first time he ever got to see me play.”
Pain goes here.
I know it's not exactly a new flash to people, but the officiating of the Wisconsin game was horrendous. This is not MarioKart on N64, officiating should not handicap a team for being ahead. Michigan can't get a call all game, especially in the first half where time after time Michigan players got fouled without call and Wiscy gets the benefit because they're behind. But once there's a minute and a half left, Manny gets the call he hasn't gotten all game and Gibson (who played terrible) gets away with an egregious foul.
You might say this is sour grapes and you'ld pry be right considering this game coupled with the UConn win would give new life to the season. As such, we go right back to having to go probably 8-4 the rest of the way against a brutal schedule.
Finally, I want to say it's still not the reason we lost IMO, as we missed layups and couldn't manufacture offense down the stretch, but it still kills me to have games influenced so strongly by the officials.
OK, we've all heard of the recruiting tactic that teams from "down South" and/or southern California (supposedly) use against teams from "up North": "You don't want to attend School X because it gets really cold up there!"
Well, I watched the Champs Sports Bowl (Wiscy v. [that] Miami) and the Orange Bowl (Iowa v. Georgia Tech). The Champs Sports Bowl broadcast crew mentioned (several times) that after warm-ups, the Hurricanes went back to the locker room and put on more base layers. It seems every Hurricane had a long sleeved base layer on under their pads. Meanwhile, the Badgers were in short sleeves (according to the broadcasters, the game time temp was the same as the temps in Sept. in Madison - not likely). The 'Canes played poorly and weather supposedly had a lot to do with it.
Last night's Orange Bowl set a record for coldest temperature at game time. I didn't hear anything about the temps affecting the Yellow Jackets but they sure played poorly (awesome Hawkeye D).
Any college football recruit worth his salt wants to play in the NFL. And, you're gonna play in cold weather if you play in the NFL. You might as well get used to it.
The Question: After watching at least two warm weather teams get beat in cool temps, will the "you don't want to play in cold weather!" rhetoric die down? Or could it be used as a recruiting tool in the "opposite" direction?
Who’s Who in College Football—or Which OOC Team is Most Like a Big 10 Team:
I’m interested by similarities between teams in different parts of the country. Some teams just should be good. Some teams just should suck. This goes beyond who is the current coach and the team’s record over the past five years, but extends into areas that include demographics, recruit density, tradition, and conference affiliation. Schools with everything going in their favor should be strong, even if they aren’t historically, and those who don’t shouldn’t be as good over the long run. For example, Boise State just shouldn’t be as good as Texas—even if Boise State decided to pour the same amount of money into football as Texas. They simply don’t have the necessary recruiting base, tradition, or exposure to draw the recruits required to compete with Texas—despite Boise’s relatively strong program. With the long dark offseason upon us, I’m thinking of some comparative projects to occupy my college football obsession over the next eight months.
With that in mind, I’ve identified a team to match with each team in the Big 10 from elsewhere in the country. This isn’t about who had the best and worst records this year or even in the last five. It’s about looking at the whole picture and determining who is most similar to schools in the Big 10. I’ll save Michigan for last, and I’m interested to see what everyone’s thoughts are. This isn’t meant to be a definitive list or an insult to any school, rather something to foster discussion and force me to learn more about the greater college football landscape.
Ohio State = Texas
To me, this is the
easiest comparison to make. Ohio and
Texas are two of the most populous states in the Union, with Ohio at number 7
and Texas at number 2. Each state has a
very large public university system, with Ohio State and Texas clearly standing
out as the flagship schools for both states (I know Miami, not that Miami, is a
solid school—but tOSU is vastly improved academically and is clearly Ohio’s
flagship school). Texas does produce
significantly more talent as a state than Ohio, but I think the top recruits
available per school are relatively similar because Texas supports so many more
BCS teams (4, 5 with TCU to 2 for Ohio).
There were 13 Rivals 100 recruits in Texas to four in Ohio last year.
The football teams are obviously similar today and over time. Ohio State is number 5 all-time in winning percentage and Texas is number 3. Both teams have been elite over time and there is no reason to think that either school will falter soon. The programs are also considered to be among the most valuable, according to Forbes, with Texas ranked number 1 and OSU at number 8. You could even drill down further with the comparison. They have had iconic coaches, Hayes and Royal, iconic players, Griffin and Young, along with numerous titles and conference dominance. Ohio State may be coming out of a long period of struggling against elite competition, just like Texas when Big Game Bob Stoops was in his prime. Finally, each team has a historically elite level rival from a smaller state that poaches many of its best players from Texas/Ohio—Oklahoma and Michigan.
Ohio State and Texas
are elite football schools from football crazy states that should, based on
demographics, own their conferences and regions.
Other schools considered: Florida, USC
Penn State = Florida
Forget the obvious comparison between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. Seriously, forget it. Despite each of those coaches building their program completely in their image and serving as the single most recognizable person affiliated with either school, the comparison still sticks when the coaches are ignored or marginalized in the analysis.
Pennsylvania is the 6th
most populous state while Florida is 4th. Florida is obviously one of the great
recruiting hotbeds for football talent, with 7 Rivals 100 recruits last
year. However, Pennsylvania holds its
own with 3. Neither school is the
strongest academic school in the state.
Pennsylvania has several top schools, such as Penn and Carnegie Mellon,
while Florida and Miami are both easily stronger academically than FSU.
Beyond the coaches, both teams are historically similar. Both were long-time independents, and joined the Big Ten and ACC soon after Arkansas agreed to join the SEC in 1990—signaling the death knell for the Southwest Conference and putting the writing on the wall for independents everywhere. By 1990, both programs were very strong, and were expected to dominate their conference upon entry. This definitely happened in FSU’s case, but not so much for Penn State.
As I previously stated,
I believe that FSU and Penn State are very similar without the coaches. When the coaches are incorporated, they
become extremely similar. I won’t bore
anyone with the details, but they are both great, all-time win list, etc and
the schools are both bracing for life after the program icon—with FSU having
Other schools considered:
Michigan State = Auburn
This was a tough
comparison in many ways. MSU is its own
special character, and finding it a partner wasn’t easy. Obviously, you can’t define MSU without
incorporating Michigan. MSU, perhaps
more than any team in the Big Ten is defined by its rival. While there were periods where MSU was
unquestionably better than Michigan, over time it isn’t even close. There are several schools that are
historically similar in addition to Auburn, such as Texas A&M and UCLA, but
I chose Auburn because of Michigan’s and Alabama’s (state not school)
Alabama is a much less populous state than Michigan, at number 23 to Michigan’s 8. However, it is surrounded by (and is) very fertile recruiting territory and is surrounded by some very populous states, such as Florida and Georgia. This enables Alabama to house two big time programs despite its relatively small size. While both schools have had periods of great success, Auburn for much of this decade and MSU in the 1960s, both have generally been overshadowed by their in-state rival.
Both schools are
considered to be relatively strong academically, but not at the level of their
in-state big brother—although the University of Alabama appears to fluctuate
quite a bit in the rankings I looked at.
They are both public institutions and long time members of their
Auburn and MSU are also both interesting because of their contrasting histories during the 1960s. Duffy Daugherty at MSU famously took many black recruits that schools like Auburn and Alabama couldn’t admit, and built a national power in the 1960s.
considered: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, UCLA
Illinois = Virginia
Illinois and Virginia are
two of the schools whose lack of success in football is difficult to
fathom. Both are unquestionably old
money, high quality schools. The states
are relatively populous, with Virginia coming in at number 12 and Illinois at
number 5. Also, I lived in Northern
Virginia for about 18 months, and felt like Washington D.C. was almost a part
of the state. Assuming about half of the
population thinks the same thing, with the other half leaning towards Maryland;
the effective population expands to number 11 in the US. Both are long-time members of their
respective conferences, and have a solid recruiting base. Each has won two conference titles in the
last 25 years.
Given their population,
history, and status as the flagship public school in a populous state, both
schools should be much better at football.
Unfortunately for them, each has failed to keep up with their more
powerful conference members. In
Illinois’ case, Notre Dame has also made life difficult for the football
program. Virginia has always been
overshadowed by their more powerful southern cousins in the SEC.
Other schools considered: California, Arizona
Wisconsin = Colorado
Before I started this research project, I would not have placed these two schools together. I started with the idea that Texas was very similar to Ohio State and how similar MSU was to teams like Auburn and Texas A&M, but I had very little to go on for the rest of the conference. First, Colorado and Wisconsin are similar in population, ranking 22 and 20 respectively. Neither is a hotbed of top recruiting talent, producing one Rival’s 100 recruit each in 2008. Both are good, quality schools in pretty fun college towns.
They are pretty similar football wise, although Wisconsin has had much more success the past 15 years. Wisconsin has six Rose Bowl berths, two since 1998 and has emerged as a solid 3rd or 4th team most years in the Big Ten. Colorado was one of the stronger Big 8 teams right before the Big 12 was created, including a national title in 1990, but has fallen on hard times recently under Gary Barnett and Dan Hawkins.
These schools are examples of schools that shouldn’t be very good. Both are a long way relative to their opposition from the population centers that produce their conference’s best recruits, Texas in the Big 12 and Ohio/Pennsylvania in the Big 10 and they don’t have elite tradition on their side. Wisconsin has built its niche in the Big 10 by being the only Big 10 team that still plays classic Big 10 meat grinder football, and Colorado likely needs to find a similar formula to build its success.
Other schools considered: Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska
Iowa is really
hard. It is the least populous state in
the Big 10 footprint, yet it is a top 30 public school. They have solid football history, including
eleven Big 10 titles. It is difficult to
find a school that matches it demographically, is strong academically, and has
a solid football background. I picked
Arkansas for several reasons, delineated below.
Arkansas is behind Iowa academically by about forty spots according to US News. However, it is still a solid school and has an underrated football history, like Iowa. Arkansas has 13 conference titles to its credit, and both schools claim one national title. Demographically, they are similar. Iowa is the 31st most populous state, while Arkansas is number 33. Each is the smallest state by population in their conference and produces similar top talent. Iowa had one top 100 player last year while Arkansas had two. Both are traditionally behind their more powerful rivals, but have been able to remain competitive.
Minnesota = Syracuse
Did you know both schools didn’t always suck at football? Both schools are northern programs far, far away from the recruiting hotbeds in the South and West. Both recently played in really crappy dome stadiums despite the potentially massive advantage of playing outdoors in a northern stadium. Minnesota moved out of the Humpty Dome last year, but the Carrier Dome still lives.
Minnesota was actually
Michigan’s first real rival, having excellent teams in the 30s, 40s, and 60s,
with the Little Brown Jug going back to 1903.
Both Syracuse and Minnesota were early beneficiaries of integration,
especially Syracuse with Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. Each have solid academic programs in very
Other schools considered: Oregon
Northwestern = Stanford
Obvious, right? The only other good options were Duke and
Vanderbilt, but they’ve shown very little inclination to be serious about
football in the last long time, even though Duke has had success in the distant past.
Other schools considered: Duke, Vanderbilt
Purdue = Maryland
Both schools are solid schools in similarly sized states. Each is easily overshadowed by their more powerful neighbors. Each claims one national title and several conference titles. Both schools have had recent success, but show no signs of breaking through and competing year in and year out for titles.
Other schools considered: Pitt
Indiana = Washington State
Both historically suck,
can you tell I have nothing to say about Indiana? The states are similarly sized, with
Washington at 13 and Indiana at number 16.
Washington produced zero top 100 players last year, while Indiana had
one. Indiana has played in nine bowl
games, while Wazzu has played in 10.
Both have losing records to Michigan (and just about everyone else) and lay claim to
fountains of unintentional comedy—Lee Corso and Ryan Leaf.
Other schools considered: Kansas, Iowa State
Michigan = Oklahoma
I really think this is a great comparison for many reasons. However, I want to get the glaring weakness out of the way first. The University of Oklahoma may be the best school in the state and the best school for many, many country miles, but it is not even close to Michigan. Enough said, right?
I chose Oklahoma for
Michigan over everyone else for the reasons below. However, because this is a Michigan blog, I
want to explain how I eliminated everyone else. Michigan, like every other
team, is defined partly by the demographics and history of its conference. If we accept the Big 2 (tOSU and Michigan)
premise that most years those should be the best teams in the Big Ten based on
historical success, then no one in the PAC 10, Big East, or ACC closely matches
Michigan’s situation. Each has its historical
strong school, but not two or more historical juggernauts. I could place FSU and Virginia Tech here with the ACC, but
I don’t believe they match Michigan and Ohio State’s situation because there isn’t a historical rivalry and neither has the same amount of
history. The SEC has two teams that are
close to Michigan's situation, Tennessee and Alabama.
I discounted Tennessee because their monster rival from a bigger state
(Florida) hasn’t been as good for as long as tOSU and they have only played 39
times to 106 for Michigan-Ohio State and 99 for Texas-OU. Alabama was discounted because they don’t
have a great out of state rivalry that has mattered nationally like Michigan-Ohio
Football-wise, these schools are very similar. Both are very old money. Each claims 42 conference titles and many national titles. Both schools have had some of the best coaches out there, and continue to be relevant today. Despite their astonishing success, neither is a recruiting hotbed. Each school must poach most of its top players from elsewhere in their conference footprint and nationally.
I find the most
intriguing similarity to be the comparison between Oklahoma and the members of the
Big 12 to Michigan and the members of the Big 10. Both schools are either the best or second
best school in just about each meaningful modern statistic in their respective
conference: conference titles, All-Americans, wins, etc. Both schools have a much larger school to the
south that is its traditional rival, Texas and tOSU. Both schools down south hold just about every
advantage over Michigan and Oklahoma.
They are in top recruiting states and should be consistently better
based on demographics. Yet Michigan and
Oklahoma claim more conference titles and national championships than their
bigger rival. Each even has an upstart
little brother in-state that claims to be their most important rival!
Michigan and Oklahoma defy the odds to remain relevant. Assuming most recruits like to stay near home and a similar commitment to football excellence by all D-1 programs, neither would be as strong as they are. However, tradition and commitment to excellence have kept both relevant and powerful.
considered: Alabama, Tennessee
Again, this is meant for fun, and not as a definitive list. There is no perfect comparison, and each school is very different. I’m interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.