Mike Lantry, 1972
You may be aware that the Big Ten has not been too good at football of late. You are probably also aware that Ohio State and Michigan are locked in a titanic struggle for the sexiest recruiting class, one featuring players like Jabrill Peppers, Vonn Bell, Derrick Green, and Jalin Marshall. The opposing sides in The Game had top five recruiting classes last year according to the 247 composite rankings, with OSU second and Michigan fifth. So far this year Michigan is first and Ohio State ninth.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is flailing. The next Big Ten team on the list was #22 Nebraska; #30 Penn State—NCAA-crippled Penn State—followed. That concludes our list of Big Ten teams with better-than average recruiting classes amongst the 60 or so BCS teams.
Here is a team that finished higher than all but the mentioned Big Ten teams.
Kentucky. A team that stopped releasing attendance numbers. Mississippi State, Vandy, Baylor, and Virginia beat all these teams plus Penn State out. It was not so good out there last year.
Surely that's a flu…
Kentucky has six OH commits. Non-MI/OSU B10 combined: 7.
…mother of God. Everyone on that list has a Big Ten offer from a school that has been something other than a depressing blight on the idea of sport during the last ten years. (Ok, it depends on how you classify Illinois. They went to a Rose Bowl, but also: Illinois.) What's more, Tennessee has gotten in on the raiding, snatching three kids out of the Midwest.
What follows is a brief survey of the Big Ten's footprint recruiting areas. Prepare for carnage. Before we start, I should mention that despite being under extraordinarily punitive NCAA sanctions, Penn State has four-star recruits from Delaware and North Carolina and is currently holding on to a top 20 spot in the rankings. They'll slide back down to where they were last year before things are said and done because they will have a tiny class, but Penn State is retaining its recruiting cachet as well as—probably better than—they could have hoped. Once they're out from under the yoke they should quickly excise themselves from Little X talk.
Nebraska, too, consistently recruits at a level above most of the rest of the league even if they're off to a poor start this year. This is more about the conference's traditional middle class.
DeShone Kizer's top three is Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee. He has an offer from only the latter.
Ohio State is going for half of the 16 consensus four-stars, with six already in the boat and the probable acquisition of the two main Glenville kids this year. Michigan has one, Michael Ferns. Northwestern has one, Dariean Watkins. The four other guys are probably headed to Alabama or OSU (Derek Kief), ND or Kentucky (Darius West), Louisville (Daniel Cage), and somewhere in the SEC (DeShone Kizer).
Yes. There is one four-star in Ohio who will head to a Big Ten program not named Michigan or Ohio State.
It gets worse. One of the next nine guys (QB Chris Durkin, MSU) is committed to a Big Ten school. Three are headed to Kentucky or Tennessee. None of the other five have publicly stated a leader but Kentucky and Louisville are involved with three and two more are up in the air.
It is likely that only two or three of the top 25 guys in Ohio end up in the rest of the league.
TOP 25, APPROX. NUMBER OF RECRUITS HEADING TO VARIOUS PLACES:
- OSU/M: 10
- L12: 3
- GTFO: 12
top 100 linebacker Nyles Morgan favors… Vanderbilt
Illinois is going to be chaos and depression for the middle class of the Big Ten. The top ten kids are either headed to the Big Two (Bunting, Westphal, and Jamarco Jones), committed to another conference (Watson, Helm, Wilbon), or headed that direction (Clifton Garrett, Nyles Morgan, and Dewayne Hendrix are all headed south). Northwestern is the only L12 team to pick off a four-star kid from Illinois.
It's a little less grim as you head down to 25. Northwestern and MSU have five of those guys, OSU has one, and it looks like a few more will end up in the league. The top is just a disaster, though.
- OSU/M: 3
- L12: 10, 1 of them in the top ten
- GTFO: 12
Three of the four consensus four stars are off the board to M/OSU with Malik McDowell strongly expected to join the club. Michigan also has #10 Moe Ways. The Big Ten held on to most of the other guys in State except Chance Stewart, who bizarrely decommitted from Wisconsin and chose WMU shortly thereafter.
- M/OSU: 5
- L12: 4
- GTFO: 1
Michigan remains loyal, if a little talent-sparse.
Dominique Booth's top four: Tennessee, FSU, Vandy, Alabama.
The top player in the state has no Big Ten teams in his top four; OSU is the only one on the list of #2. ND and OSU have 3 and 5 committed, respectively. Louisville and Kentucky are heavily involved with #4. The next five guys are still fuzzy, with Purdue favored for a couple, if only because they seem interested while others are not.
- OSU/M: 2
- L12: 2
- GTFO: 6
if Dravon Henry stays in the B10 it will be at OSU or PSU
Pennsylvania has always been more up for grabs because anyone from the Eastern part of the state doesn't think of the Big Ten as local, so it's less of a surprise when things have a more national feel. Even so, only Penn State has made any headway in PA. They have 3 of the top 20. Michigan has one, and then Temple, BC, WVU and FSU also have one. The rest of the Big Ten? Zero. 247 projects that number will stay at zero, with Pitt, OSU, and Michigan cleaning up.
- OSU/M: 4
- L12: 8, almost all of them to Penn State
- GTFO: 8
WISCONSIN AND SMALL STATES
The top five players in Wisconsin are committed to the Badgers. Good job, Wisconsin. Here are some cheese curds for you.
Iowa is doing similarly well in Iowa, with three of the six guys 247 rates committed, and a fourth probably on the way.
Nebraska has a commit from one of the two guys they've offered in-state and should get the second.
Minnesota has a soft verbal from the top kid in the state and may lose the second; everyone else is not the kind of recruit that would make Minnesota anything other than Minnesota.
THE NEW FOOTPRINT
Big Ten schools not named Michigan and Rutgers have zero of the top 20 in NJ. Penn State has the #5 kid in Maryland, and that's the only B10 commit in that State. Maryland is supposed to get a couple, and PSU may get a couple more.
This is where I mention that recruiting is not destiny. Wisconsin has never been particularly good at it in the eyes of the gurus but has turned themselves into a major program by keeping everyone they have for five years—Bielema just had a class of 13 guys, because Wisconsin only had room for 13 guys—and hewing to a system that works for the kind of players they can access. It remains to be seen whether they can keep that going without a hand-picked transition like Alvarez-to-Bielema. Similarly, Michigan State's classes have been almost devoid of attrition and they have locked into a stable defensive style that has produced.
Recruiting is kind of destiny, though: Wisconsin has reached the last three Rose Bowls. It has lost all of them. Witness any Big Ten program against Alabama. Football is random and rankings are not perfect, but if you're at the bottom any success you have is pushing uphill.
The slope of that hill is about to become alarming. It bodes unwell for the Big Ten's middle class that the gap between themselves and the heavyweights is growing, especially when it comes not only from the two at the top improving on historically good classes but from the meat-and-potatoes kids they've relied on for so long opting to leave the conference. Every kid in Ohio who opts for Kentucky or Tennessee or Louisville is virtually irreplaceable for programs whose recruiting reach outside the Midwest is limited to scrabbling for guys without Vandy offers.
Northwestern is the exception. With their committed niche offense and recent success they'll be a thorn in the side of anyone whose defense can't handle the spread. If they can just get their defense to middling, it's on in the West.
[ED: flight limits available time today but this is probably the best thing ever so yeah.]
Some time ago, Catlab released… well… this.
I have watched it dozens of times, and now I will render judgment on which Big Ten coaches could hypothetically scrape out a living as a call-walrus (callrus?) in a dystopian future like Planet of the Apes, except with walruses.
This is important. I will brook no dissent, commenters.
1. JERRY KILL, MINNESOTA
Already the species' best bet at seducing an intergalactic gopher bent on enslaving earth, Jerry Kill doubles as Walrus Olivia Wilde. Missed his calling as black ops animal kingdom Al Qaeda infiltrator. Ooooh la la.
2. BRET BIELEMA,
I LIKE BIG FACE AND I CANNOT LIE
YOU OTHER WALRII CAN'T DENY
WHEN A BRET WALKS IN WITH AN ITTY BITTY EYE AND THAT ROUND CHIN IN YOUR FACE
I DON'T KNOW
YOU GARRUMP AND ROLL AROUND AND MAYBE TUSK SOMETHING
WHATEVER WALRUSES DO
AND THEN YOU SAY YOU WERE GREAT BABY AND LEAVE TO GO SEDUCE SOME PIGS
I DON'T GET IT EITHER
3. BILL O'BRIEN, PENN STATE
Soulful blue walrus eyes, and a chin-dimple for days.
4. BRADY HOKE, MICHIGAN
Finishes second to Kill in luxurious goiter, but lacks the crazy beady eyes of Bielema. Starting every sentence with "well" a downside in super slo-mo walrusland because it takes him forever to ask for a sandwich, or tell you your tusks are pearlescent in the surf.
5. DANNY HOPE,
The tusky mustache of course, but Hope's rather blocky appearance hurts him when we're talking about a species that is way into bulging curves, I mean I guess it's not like I have a machine I made that allows me to type in any species and get a detailed profile of their proclivities.
Seriously, I don't have one. Who would make something like that.
6. KEVIN WILSON, INDIANA
If such a machine existed—it does not—it would probably say that what Kevin Wilson brings in the curvy department he does not bring in the naughty bad boy department. I mean, a walrus wants a thrill and Kevin Wilson is all hanging out being stable with his two years of service in Bloomington. Eyes naturally wander to the drifters populating the rest of whatever that division is called.
Seriously the machine does not exist.
ACTUAL WALRUS DIVIDING LINE
MARK DANTONIO, MICHIGAN STATE
Would have better luck with marmosets, lemurs, and bible-thumping hypocrites. The machine is just a figment of your imagination.
PAT FITZGERALD, NORTHWESTERN
You're just trying too hard, Fitzgerald.
9. KIRK FERENTZ, IOWA
Not even trying, and it shows, on the field, in commercials, and at the walrus brothel.
10. TIM BECKMAN, ILLINOIS (FOR NOW)
Gives off too much of a skeevy serial killer vibe for any species. Forehead is a phrenology nightmare indicating several extreme proclivities that cannot be repeated lest they summon the Great Old Ones.
11. URBAN MEYER, OHIO STATE
Fact: Urban Meyer is impervious to video transform filters, and has no reflection.
12. BO PELINI, NEBRASKA
The transformation actually increased Bo Pelini's attractiveness to humans, but that doesn't mean either species is chasing that.
Members of the younger generation find this appealing.
Over the weekend BTN released an online survey (still alive) that let the fans opine on the divisions and their stupid names and how they ought to be reorganized and stuff. Online poll is online poll but I was ready to leap the second DIABEETUS posted it on the board because a.) Who Michigan plays and what is at stake for those games is important to me, and b.) There's been a growing sense since "Leaders and Legends," that sense emphatically underlined with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, that general fan-think matters diddly to Delany and co.; opportunities to put an opinion where they might see it don't come along every day.
One of the questions in the survey asked us to rate the importance of three divisional considerations: geography, parity, and keeping traditional rivals together. They're all kinda important, and if there's any silver lining to adding two broke schools from the east coast it's that 7-team divisions are a better fit than 6-teams for an alignment that doesn't sacrifice any of those ideals.
The reason is because our conference is clustered in groups of three or four. Minnesota-Iowa-Wisconsin always had their circle of hate that has just enough room to add Nebraska. Illinois-Northwestern and Purdue-Indiana are an intermingled Chicagoland group that shouldn't be separated. Our block is the Michigan schools and Ohio State. Penn State could attach to that except it throws parity off, their awful thing be damned. Maryland and Rutgers turn the eastern part of the conference into two groups of three to match the west's groups of four:
The thick dark blue lines are the rivalries that ought to be protected within divisions and played every year. The light blue are old trophies and close non-trophy rivalries you keep if you can. The little green ones are those with the recent derived trophies or a proximity thing that isn't yet a full thing. Divisions then ought to pair one of the threesomes with one of the foursomes. Since one of the foursomes has Nebraska and Wisconsin in it and the other doesn't, the divisions ought to be obvious:
|In the Weight Room Division||In the Community Division|
|Ohio State||Penn State|
Don't care about the division names just yet. Let's check this against the three considerations.
Geography: Well Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana make a nice little Great Lakes grouping. Here's a table of distances written in driving hours (HT Google). The upper left quadrant is our division; lower-right is the other one:
You'll note the other division has some very long drives. Minnesota to anywhere starts at four hours and goes to 18 (to Rutgers). Lincoln and New Brunswick are literally half the country away. How can Rutgers be in a division with Nebraska that's a 20-hour drive away? Well…
Depending on what hour you are reading this, Brian is somewhere on the Kübler-Ross chain between coming up with 20-team divisions sans Purdue, and emulating an otter. Since this thing is happening despite the sentiment expressed in our totally scientific internet poll, I thought maybe being, like, informative…?
Tell 'em what they've won, Jim:
+'s: Lacrosse power, soccer power, unique mascot, fits academic profile, unlikely to upset anyone's national title hopes.
-'s: Not a power in anything but sports nobody cares about. Almost Indiana in football. Were on their way to mid-majordom.
The School: Founded in 1856. Those who know their Morrill Act history could guess one sentence before you did that it's a land-grant school (Michigan State, Penn State). Original name: Maryland Agricultural College, later Maryland State College. They're AAU members, and about the same size as Michigan or Purdue. Academically they're solidly in the Purdue/Ohio State midpoint of the conference, although they only got super serious about being a research institution since the '60s so their endowment—$791 million—is easily last among the current conference, and only a tenth of Michigan's. They're also a system school—sharing a degree with UMD-Baltimore and an affiliation with a bunch of other in-state schools—so I don't know if the CIC plans on sharing dollars with just the flagship campus, College Park and Baltimore, or the whole system.
Important alumni: Jim Henson and Larry David. Sugar daddy: Kevin Plank of Under Amour.
Colors: Red and white or yellow and black are good enough color schemes for most corn-fed Midwesterners, but marshaling of arms in English heraldry has no concept of clashing, thus the Terps are liable to favor any of those from George Calvert in any combination. They've been known to take the field looking like an unholy abomination of leftover Iowa running back parts and Rex Burkhead, or in maroon and chrome, or lattice bodices and cloaks of animal skins.
Mascot: A terrapin, or "terp" for short. It means turtle.
Athletics: Here's a guy answering my query on their SBNation blog:
Basketball school (right now like 80-20, but when we rebound in fball it’s more like 60-40). We hate Duke as much as you hate anything in your life. If something big happens we riot. A great deal of our fanbase already hates PSU, so yea, we can hate them for ya.
Really good at Msoccer (good womens), great at lax and field hockey. Womens basketball too
We don’t dress funny, you just dress like some 80 year old man with a hideous fashion sense and call it tradition.
Our college Bball atmosphere is way better than fball, but we do have Stefon Diggs who is likely god himself
Emphasis on the hating Duke. In re lacrosse: the ACC's deal
was similar to the Big East's, where they belonged to other conferences but the few schools who had programs played each other [EDIT: they had a conference, but didn't send a champion]. They're immediately the best lacrosse school in the conference. Women's lacrosse is probably the best in the country.
[JUMP: Meet Maryland athletics, and Rutgers]
Michigan's best DL, DB, LB / Upchurch
The point of our "draft-o-snark" this summer was to be cute while previewing the great players in our conference and trying to show where the Michigan Men™ fit among them. Now mid-way through the season we look back on those picks to see how smart your MGoBloggers were, and more importantly who are really the best players in the conference. Offense lives here (and comments are now turned on—oops about that). Googledoc spreadsheet of the draft is here. Part II is here:
Tackles (Bolding my selections for All-B1G)
Who's Winning: The defensive line was weirdly easy to predict. Short and Hankins have indeed been the best two tackles in the conference, and both are still mentioned among first round NFL picks for 2013 (Hankins is considered among the best in the draft). We got a nice comparison between Short and Akeem Spence (caveat: conditions) over the last two games and got to see the difference between the two-gapping Short who needs to be planned around, and the active Spence who doesn't often blow something up alone. Beau Allen has been a problem for Wisconsin, but Heiko's guys have been playing well. Roh's contributions, as mentioned yesterday, have been the kind that don't show up in the stats. He has been Michigan's best lineman.
At rush end, Simon should have better numbers but teams are isolating him or picking on OSU's secondary before he can disrupt much; he's seen as a 3rd or 4th round pick, behind Gholston and Buchanan. Gholston hasn't been the cheap trick Brian made him out to be, as he and Marcus Rush have been about evenly productive for State, however Michael Buchanan has notably passed Gholston in stats and in the eyes of the draft gurus. From here there's kind of a precipice. Ra'shede Hageman, Brian's late sleeper pick, got some press and made some draft boards, but production-wise there were plenty better sleepers left on the board. LT2 is now a tight end; I'm not at all unhappy about this.
Guys we should have drafted: I had Indiana's 3T/5T Adam Replogle higher on my draft chart, then stupidly went for flash with Lawrence Thomas. Stupid stupid 40 tackles, 7 TFLs, 5 sacks, Indiana's entire defense stupid. Iowa's defense has been sneaky good since they entered Big Ten play, in large part thanks to the play of DE Joe Gaglione (above), a 5th year senior who had just 7 tackles before 2012; this year he has 35, among them 9 TFLs and 4 sacks. Northwestern's Tyler Scott, a 3T/5T tweener, is making an All Big Ten bid with 6 sacks (28 tackles) plus a winning smile and all the right words to make the conference elders say "what a nice young man." Scott is tied for the sack lead with Nebraska's Eric Martin, who has been somewhat less grandpa-friendly.
DL Standings: 1. (Sigh) Heiko, whom I have to give credit for getting better than expected out of all for guys, 2. Seth, 3. Brian, 4. Northwestern, 5. Indiana, 6. Nebraska, 7. Indiana State, 8. Ace
[LBs, DBs, and special teams after the jump]
It's almost mid-season, so it's time to check in on the Draft-o-Snark teams and see how this whole Big Ten(nnnnnnnN!) thing is shaping up so far. Spoiler: euh.
Who we drafted:
The sacks have been removed, and I've combined the rushing and passing totals.
*Heiko took Martinez as a running back, and Braxton Miller was turned into a fullback when he drafted Danny O'Brien. Andrew Maxwell was a backup option chosen in lieu of having a punter. Gray and Colter were taken strictly as wide receivers.
Who's winning: Heiko's running back, followed by Heiko's fullback. He is better off with either of those guys than his designated passer Danny O'Brien, who lost his job to Joel Stave (stah-VAY) after Week 2. The competition matters, but Taylor Martinez has been the conference's best quarterback so far, and Braxton Miller holds a strong second.
Denard looks really good in most stats but already has 8(!) interceptions. He's faced the hardest schedule so far (Alabama and Notre Dame) though nobody else threw 4 picks against Notre Dame, and guys like Miller have already faced MSU's DBs. Also Michigan has had a bye week, while most of the competition has played 6 games, so some of his totals are not quite comparable.
Of Brian's two guys, Scheelhaase has been barely productive. Weirdly he hasn't rushed much, just 160 yards on 34 carries for 4.7 YPC with sacks removed. So much for the new coach being a perfect fit. If you don't believe me when I say Denard's interceptions haven't all been that bad, watch a few of Scheelhaase's. His O-line isn't doing him any favors, FWIW. Maxwell has been a bit better than his worse-than-Vandenberg stats might tell you; those stats have been suppressed by awful receiver play, though he's sent his share and some to Tacopants and Nachoshorts as his offensive line deteriorated. I'm all this is Threet if Threet was in the right offense for his abilities.
Vandenberg isn't helping the Ace cause very much, failing to throw a touchdown the first three weeks against not-good secondaries; Iowa currently ranks 95th in pass offense nationally and last in the Big Ten. He had a decent game last week against the toughest defensive backfield he's faced yet, unfortunately that was Minnesota's.
Guy we should have drafted (?): Nobody, really. Joel Stave's YPA will come down when a 62-yard screen to James White isn't 1/10th of his yardage, but he's still been impressive since taking over for O'Brien. That pass which ended with (Illini CB) Terry Hawthorne in the hospital was floated directly into the palms of his tight end along the sideline, in stride, and between two defensive backs. OTOH he has had the new-guy struggles.
QB Standings: 1. Heiko, 2. Seth, 3. Brian, 4. Ace. Should I penalize Heiko for turning the best two QBs in the conference (thus far) into RBs?
[Bad receivers, terrible offensive linemen, and an exclusive, dramatic reenactment of AIRBHG being foiled by Jewish Vin Diesel, after THE JUMP]