The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
See if you can spot Upchurch in his bucket hat | my phone
There’s a Kryk article in the 2011 HTTV about how Nebraska and Notre Dame spent much of the first bit of the 20th century beating down the doors to the Big then-Nine (actually nine). In the days when everyone had to travel by train, Lincoln was WEST man. As for Notre Dame, they were well within the conference footprint, but far outside the preppy conference’s idea of a fit. Said Kryk:
“[Expanding beyond nine members] wasn’t the biggest reason for keeping Notre Dame out. Academic snobbery was, followed closely by religious prejudice. The Big Nine was run by academic elitists, and they viewed the education provided by religious institutions of higher learning such as Notre Dame as purely second-rate.”
If you know your University of Michigan history, you’ll remember James Burill Angell’s biggest battles with regents and the rest of the brass were around his hiring Catholic faculty and saying nice things about papists. It’s a little snapshot of the prevailing prejudices of the day, and the genesis of the Notre Dame psyche.
You’ll also know that from these early days we too were arrogant enough to go it independent for a time. But while Michigan evolved toward benchmarks of greatness that involve our in-conference rivalries, Notre Dame’s established themselves as a fearless lone wolf. It’s why we balk when our chief rival is moved to another division, while they see nothing untoward about canceling the Michigan series to guarantee one West Coast game per year.
Fast forward a century with plenty of independent glory and this is what we hath wrought: a group of exceptionalists who are in many ways truly exceptional. Like how a mountain range of new or recently renovated megaliths spring out of an industrial Northern Indiana town. Like how in this craven era they can play on dirt and grass in an 80,000 seat bowl with no jumbotrons, no bad seats, and overlooked by a great big mural of religious figure who may be praying, may be calling touchdown, or may be exclaiming “Oy vey.” And yet they will also exclaim six times, with Michigan in attendance, that their fight song is the greatest. They will mike their band and have them drown out the visitors’ whenever our guys strike up. They’ll blare pump-up music deep into the opponent’s snap count on 3rd downs. And they’ll scoff at our 100-years-late invitation to finally sign on as half-members of the Virginia and Duke conference, keep the extra home game of this now odd-numbered series, and then tell Yost’s team to go screw.
Calling them arrogant when we’re the school that shows up to other stadiums with a trailer painted all over with the message “mine’s bigger” is pot-kettle-ish. They are the hot chick, and we can’t have them anymore. Cue the diaries of Notre longing. Start with conference realignment at the end game as oakapple, rehashes the four axioms that drive college football relationships. Then DanRareEgg reminisces over the latest series that spanned, with a few two-year hiatuses, from Dan Devine to Denard’s derps. Big Will the Gazelle thinks canning the Michigan rivalry to keep MSU and Purdue is a departure from the “We’ll play anybody, any time” ethos that built the ND brand. And if you’re really not ready to let go, here’s k.o.k.Law with a present tense poetic retelling of his ‘06 experience.
Let’s do THE JUMP here, and rejoin for the weeklies and the best of the board.
Site notice: "Museday" (at times also known as "Musenesday" and other things), is now and hereafter "Hokepoints." Because football is about having more points. Get it?
So we noticed something when doing that pre-season draft-o-snark thing: The receivers in our conference kind of suck. More accurately I should say that there are precious few proven wideouts coming back this year. Here's what the receiver draft board looked like, not counting RBs, TEs, or moonlighting defensive backs and whatnot:
|Jared Abbrederis||WIS||6'2||188||JR*||66.6||17.0||8||20 (Brian)|
|Keenan Davis||IOWA||6'3||215||SR||59.4||14.3||4||26 (Ace)|
|Kofi Hughes||IND||6'2||210||JR||44.7||15.3||3||41 (Seth)|
|Kenny Bell||NEB||6'1||185||SO||35.5||14.4||3||57 (Seth)|
|Kain Colter||NW||6'0||190||JR||35.2||10.7||3||74 (Ace)|
|Jeremy Gallon||MICH||5'8||187||JR*||34.9||14.6||3||65 (Seth)|
|Roy Roundtree||MICH||6'0||180||SR*||27.3||18.7||2||97 (Seth)|
|Kevonte Martin-Manley||IOWA||6'0||205||SO||24.9||10.8||3||84 (Brian)|
|Devin Smith||OSU||6'1||196||SO||22.6||21.0||4||103 (Ace)|
|DeAnthony Arnett||MSU||5'11||170||SO||20.2||10.1||2||22 (Heiko)|
|Kyle Prater||NW||6'5||215||SO||0.6||6.0||0||11 (Heiko)|
|Devin Gardner||MICH||6'4||203||JR||-||-||-||19 (Heiko)|
|MarQueis Gray||MIN||6'4||250||SR||-||-||-||60 (Brian)|
They're listed here by yards per game, which Mathlete says is a better gauge for receivers than hype. But however you rank them, we took many transfers and QBs before even considering the myriad Keenan Davisii who played Avant to the Braylons of departed McNutts. And by the end of the draft most of the available options were assorted Boilermakers dudes with about 30 ypg.
Whence all the receivers in our once receiver-rich league? A few theories to test:
- Higher than normal attrition: Graduations being a relative constant, were there more juniors departing of the NFL, transfers, etc. than usual?
- Comedown from riches of 2011: Maybe the best receivers last year were inordinately productive, leaving little opportunity for the rest. Test by % of production not returning vs. previous years.
- Cascade effect from recruiting shortfalls: Perhaps there was a league-wide lull in receiver recruiting in '09-'10 that we're not feeling the effects from.
- Quarterbacks: the more they run the less they pass: This one's obvious but the conference has gone more spread-to-run, even at the top programs, meaning there's a lot fewer opportunities for WRs to show what they've got.
We dig in after THE JUMP.
PREVIOUSLY ON "MGOBLOG WRITERS DRAFT BIG TEN TEAMS SO YOU CAN NOW, FINALLY, VOTE FOR THE TEAM THAT HAS DENARD ON IT"…
Rounds 1-3: At Jim Leyland's lakeside mansion in Somerset, quarterbacks are divided.
Rounds 4-7: In the War Room of the Toledo Ramada Inn, Heiko is replaced by a mysterious stocky middle-aged man with a mustache.
Rounds 8-12: In the Presidential Suite of of the Ishpeming Red Roof Inn, a 1970 Fiat 500 assumes the commissioner's chair, rules all picks must get 30 mpg.
Rounds 13-17: In a Secret Submarine Headquarters Underneath the North Atlantic, iPhones apparently get zero bars.
Rounds 18-something whatever: Onboard the Voyager II Spacecraft at the Edge of the Solar System, quarterbacks are put through a series of zero-grav tests to determine if there is anything they can't do.
Weary and ignoring the complaints of abused livers, SETH, HEIKO, ACE, and something that looks like a lanky sheep dog emerge from a secret lair in the PHOSPHATE MINES of the PACIFIC ISLAND OF NAURU. They ask for your ballot…
Seth "Progress" Fisher/Heiko "Progress" Yang/Ace "Progress" Anbender/Brian "Progress" Cook
POLLS ARE NOW OPEN. Go vote!
The Final Snarkdown
BRIAN COOK AND THE FLYIN' ZOOKS:
OFFENSE: Nathan Scheelhaase (QB, ILL), Fitzgerald Toussaint (RB, M), LeVeon Bell (HB/FB, MSU), Jared Abbrederis (WR, UW), MarQuies Gray (QB/WR, Minn), Kevonte Martin-Manley (WR, Iowa), CJ Fieodorwicz (TE, Iowa), Taylor Lewan (LT, M), Ryan Groy (LG, UW), Matt Stankiewitch (C, PSU), Chris McDonald (RG, MSU), Jack Mewhort (RT, OSU).
DEFENSE: Ra'Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota), John Simon (DE, OSU), Beau Allen (NT, UW), Akeem Spence (DT, ILL), Jake Ryan (LB, M), Desmond Morgan (LB, M), Denicos Allen (LB, MSU), Terry Hawthorne (CB, ILL), Bradley Roby (CB, OSU), Blake Countess (CB, M), Daimion Stafford (SS, UNL), Christian Bryant (FS, OSU)
I didn't mean to do this but I ended up with a Rodriguez spread'n'shred circa 2007 with a running quarterback, a damn fast outside back, and a fullback type who can rip off runaway beer truck touchdowns. The offensive line is a lot more POWER based but I figure that's fine since Auburn and others have made the inverted veer and related plays major spread drivers. Then you've got an array of excellent WRs with big catching radius: the deep threat (Abbrederis), the unstoppable guy on intermediate routes (Gray), and a promising TE.
The defense is Greg Mattison.
FINAL SNARKDOWN (by Heiko): Dear Brian: You know that red and gray plaid shirt you wear all the time? You should wear it less. Oh, something mean about his team? Ummmm... None of your QBs have a winning record. I've seen Desmond Morgan in person, and he's still really small and liable to get crushed by offensive linemen. And you drafted two LOLphers.
[The drafters still got some splainin' to do. For the rest of the roundtable, and which school had the most picks, and stuff, HIT THE JUMP.]
[NOTE: Heiko will be bringing you a report from the presser soon. Due to unexpected Hello post for Norfleet and Alex Kozan's vision quest extending the liveblog, a couple promised posts are pushed off until tomorrow.]
You are aware of Michigan, and you're likely aware that a combination of Urban Meyer apotheosis and the total implosion of the Penn State program has rescued what was looking like a very shaky Ohio State class in spectacular fashion. Those two classes are neck and neck for the top in the league. OSU class fear factor is 10.
Moving on, there's… well… there's… er.
The Huskers have a couple of four-star JUCOs at LB and DB plus a few low four-stars out of high school: OH DE Greg McMullen, CO OL Paul Thurston, and IL WR Jordan Westerkamp were all vaguely on Michigan's radar early in the year without much else developing. They grabbed a four-star ATH out of LA on signing day as well. The rest of their small class (14) is composed of three stars with decent but not great offer lists.
Guy Michigan could use: Thurston. He's probably a guard but he's a highly-rated one.
All-name teamer: UT LB Jared Afalava.
Fear factor: 5. Cycling through those jucos on a yearly basis gives Nebraska a leg up on most Big Ten teams, and they managed to squeeze into the top 25 classes on Rivals as of publication. But where are the people?
Yes, Purdue. The Boilers grabbed a couple of four stars, most intriguingly 6'7", 215 athlete and spectacular name-bearer Carlos Carvajal. Carvajal is a prep kid from Milford and the "best tight end [they've] ever had" there. Prepare to be annoyed by third down conversions, except Michigan probably won't play him much after Purdue rotates of the schedule next year.
Purdue also grabbed a four-star Good Counsel (Blake Countess's alma mater) DE, Ryan Watson. They filled out the rest of their large class with three star guys.
Guy Michigan could use: Carvajal. Mmmmm 6'7" tight end.
All-name teamer: Also Carvajal.
Fear factor: 3. This qualifies as good for Purdue.
State watched as Michigan pillaged the state (with the Norfleet switch M took 7 of the state top ten with one of the escapees not likely to qualify) and a listing Ohio State snatched up a bunch of sleeper-type Ohio dudes who would have been prime Dantonio targets most years.
Their consolation was big-time DE Se'Von Pittman, who made the world's least-inspiring commitment. He told Rivals "I am making sure I have a place," essentially, and took about six seconds to decommit for OSU once Meyer was hired. This, has started a hilarious recruiting "rivalry" in which MSU will offer Ohio players and OSU will take whichever ones they want.
In the aftermath, their four star haul is WR Aaron Burbridge, the guy with the dodgy grades, Southfield DE Jamal Lyles, and recent addition Demetrius Cox, a safety out of Pennsylvania. Their three star guys are relatively high end as three-stars go, FWIW. They also grabbed DeAnthony Arnett as a transfer.
Guy Michigan could use: OH WR Monty Madaris. Michigan's on-again, off-again pursuit of Madaris seemed to turn him off and he never ended up visiting. Madaris is a three/four star tweener sort who would slightly calm fears about Michigan's post-Stonum WR corps.
All-name teamer: FL WR Macgarret Kings Jr.
Fear factor: 4. If you want to count Arnett (and you probably should somewhere) this is a receiver corps that's the best in the conference. But the lines are a blowout. Michigan State's one DL is a two-star out of Oregon; none of their linemen are even high three-stars on Rivals. Much hinges on Burbridge's ability to show up.
There's some quality at the top as Iowa did its usual mining of the Chicago areeas for a scattering of four-stars: DE Faith Ekakitie, RB Greg Garmon, DT Jaleel Johnson, and OL Ryan Ward. Then it's a blizzard of okay guys before the bottom drops out and you get eight-man football dudes.
It's a typical Iowa class, basically.
Guy Michigan could use: Garmon. Michigan showed some interest but things never got serious.
All-name teamer: IL DE Faith Ekakitie.
Fear factor: 6. Iowa has lived on classes like these forever. They use their superior knowledge of farm boys in and around their state to defy rankings like this on the regular, and this time around their top end guys don't seem like flakes. Unfortunately, Greg Garmon is about to be kidnapped by Colombian drug cartels.
The desolation here is amazing. OSU alone poached Armani Reeves, Camren Williams, Noah Spence (not a commit but widely projected to be PSU-bound), Joey O'Connor, and Tommy Schutt. Other schools sniped a prospect or two along the way and what's left looks more like a Purdue class than… uh… Purdue's class.
There are a couple of four-stars left over in PA WR Eugene Lewis and NJ DT Jamil Pollard. There's a further base of six or so quality three star types. Then it gets desperate. PSU essentially replaced each decommit with a two-star plucked from a non-BCS conference. There are six of them.
Guy Michigan could use: Lewis is a consensus four star who would help Michigan's WR depth in the aftermath of Stonum's departure.
All-name teamer: PA LB Nyeem Wartman.
Fear factor: 0. They'll get some players out of the depths here but there is going to be a major talent deficit bubbling up just as Penn State comes back on the schedule. QB Skyler Mornhinweg's (yes that Mornhinweg) decommitment to Florida is especially painful given the dearth of quarterback options on the Penn State roster. Their only hope is a kid out of Georgia they snatched from Rice. The next Penn State QB to even make an NFL camp is still in high school.
Wisconsin probably has the third-best class in the league in terms of bang for your scholarship slot, but the Badgers don't have anyone in it. They signed just twelve players. Losing OH OL Kyle Dodson on Signing Day was a major blow, and while they acquired a few four-star types signing twelve guys is not good.
I count 16 scholarship seniors on the roster, and it's unlikely Wisconsin has held on to every player they had at last year's signing day. They could have added anywhere from 4 to 8 more players. Instead it's going to be a scholarship festival for walk-ons. Given the Badgers' on-field success, this has to be the most disappointing class in the conference.
Guy Michigan could use: M was a finalist for LB Vince Biegel and wanted him as much or more than any of the guys they actually got.
All-name teamer: FL DB Hugs Etienne, winner of the B10 name of the year by a landslide.
All-name teamer II: QB Bart Houston, who will be called a gunslinger as frequently as Brock Osweiler was noted to be tall.
Fear factor: 3. The next time Michigan plays Wisconsin this class will be their seniors/redshirt juniors. IE: they're going to be really young.
The eternal mystery will always be why WDE Ifeadi Odenigbo had an academics-focused final five including Stanford, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt but never even gave Michigan a sniff. And then the kid picked Northwestern, which… just… man. That kid is serious about academics.
Northwestern's other big catch is DT and Kyle Kalis teammate Greg Kuhar, who probably had a Michigan offer at one point. From there it's Northwestern dudes for Northwestern's offense.
UPDATE: Oh right, and five-star USC transfer Kyle Prater. The transfer takes a some of the shine off that fifth star because Prater couldn't find his way on the field at USC (Arnett did not have that problem)… but not nearly all of it.
Guy Michigan could use: Odenigbo would look pretty sweet on Michigan's commit list as a WDE.
All-name teamer: Odenigbo.
5. 6. Northwestern with a solid to excellent defensive line… alarming. The secondary still seems reliably Northwestern-y, though.
Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois
Guy Michigan could use: MN WR Andre McDonald is a rangy 6'3" and claimed an OSU offer; even if he didn't have that he seems like the guy who you'll think "hey, that guy is pretty good" in the midst of a 58-0 beatdown.
All-name teamer, Minnesota: FL DT Yoshoub Timms and TX DE Lincoln Plsek. Oh, and MN WR Isaac Fruechte.
All-name teamer, Illinois: FL RB Dami Ayoola.
All-name teamer, Indiana: JUCO CB Tregg Waters.
Fear factor: 0.
I like me some stats, boy howdy, but there's a few things I'm not sure about. One is applying Pythagorean wins to football. For those of you who don't know the name of Data's brother, some smart baseball types realized that baseball teams pretty much try to score runs all the time. This means you can predict future performance better with run differential than record.
It works in basketball, too, because basketball teams pretty much try to score baskets all the time. A team leading may try to suck a possession or two out of the game by stalling late, but that effect is extremely minor. It works in hockey because hockey teams pretty much try to score goals all the time. A team leading late will take fewer risks but that effect is minor, too. Futz with the exponents and it's cool.
You can do this for football as well, but Lloyd/Tresselball observers can tell you that football teams do not try to score points all the time. This is because football has more state—primarily the line of scrimmage—than the other sports, and that state is simultaneously applicable to offense and defense. There is never any reason to not score in baseball or basketball. In football trying to score is riskier than running three isos up the middle and punting in a way that missing a jumper is not. Because of this, lots of personnel turnover, and wildly varying schedules, I don't think raw Pythagorean wins is a particularly useful predictive device. It does correlate some. I just don't like it. I acknowledge this is a Murray Chass sort of criticism.
I bring it up because BHGP has a long post featuring Pythagorean wins that eventually kind of discards the concept by way of praising Northwestern for consistently exceeding expectations. There's a table I'll post a bit later showing eight years of Big Ten performance versus expectations followed up by this:
The fact that most teams have such consistent "luck," when coupled with the fact that close wins and losses appear to be the strongest factor in where a team appears on the list, means this list may not be a measure of "luck," per se, but rather the simple ability to win close games. Since such ability is presumably based in large part on things like on-field experience, efficient playcalling, and clock management, the list could be considered a measure of a coach's in-game ability. Is it any wonder that the conference's biggest late-game buffoon and a geriatric who doesn't even wear a headset sit at the bottom of the list? …
It's also a credit to Pat Fitzgerald and the late Randy Walker at Northwestern. Even in its worst years, jNWU has outperformed its pythagorean expectations. In every year included in this study, Northwestern had a positive overall pythagorean margin, and in all but one the LOLcats had a positive margin in conference play.
There is an objection to this based on stock-picking monkeys.
Seriously. In 1999, a six-year-old female monkey named Raven threw darts at a selection of tech stocks that subsequently returned 213 percent. This was a bubble environment but even in that context her performance was impressive—22nd amongst thousands of funds. If you had 64 monkeys do that every year half of them would be discovered to be frauds by not beating the market, but you would expect at the end of that eight year period there would be one very lucky monkey who beat the market for eight consecutive years.
Any normally distributed set of data is going to have a lucky monkey and Ron Zook. I present a lucky monkey and Ron Zook:
Wins – Pythagorean expectation, 2002-2010
|Rank||Team||Ov +/-||Conf +/-|
Except… that is not a normally distributed lucky monkey. In conference (which is a more interesting number to me because nonconference schedules are so unbalanced), Northwestern accounts for nearly 70% of the deviation from perfectly Pythagorean records by itself. Lloydball advocates Michigan, OSU, and Wisconsin follow in order, and BHGP points out that Michigan State would be the second luckiest monkey if only the Dantonio era—more MANBALL—was considered. There seems to be something non-monkey there.
But I'm uncertain if that's good or bad if you're a fan. Does this mean manball is good at closing out games, as BHGP suggests the chart shows? It's a possibility. The other possibility (24-21 vs SDSU, 10-7 vs Utah, falling behind by 14 in the Orange Bowl before suddenly remembering David Terrell exists, etc.) is that Lloydball-type play shuts off the offense once it gets a narrow lead or until it falls behind significantly, thus leading to a lot of tight games generally slanted towards wins.
The most haunting stat from the Carr era is this: Carr was actually more likely to win a game if he entered the fourth quarter with a narrow deficit than a narrow lead. Since the point of football is to win more games, period, not more games than you were expected to based on the final score, the excellence of your coaching is bound up with your record. Exceeding expectations as Ohio State means your manball is working (until you get into a championship game). Doing so as Michigan, but never beating Ohio State, means something different.
There's too much weird stuff tied up in scoring points in football to draw many conclusions from a look at just margins. Primarily this comes down to wanting to score, which is a complicated decision based largely on your faith in the defense. This is hard when your defense is good-ish (Michigan) but not when it's terrible (Northwestern) or awesome (Ohio State). OSU and Northwestern rarely make the wrong decisions because theirs are obvious. Michigan (and Iowa, and Penn State) fans are haunted by the the decisions that turned out wrong.
BONUS GUESS ON NORTHWESTERN: Why would the Wildcats consistently exceed expectations? Guess: they feature in games with lots of points. Their spread has been as consistently effective as their secondary has been flailing, so a lot of Northwestern games feature large scores. If NW is consistently winning 42-35 that will look different to the formula than OSU grinding out 17-10 wins.
BONUS LOCALLY RELEVANT SECTION: FWIW, only one Michigan team shows up at the margins. If you think about it you'll probably figure it out:
Of course, using the full schedule allows for statistical variance based on strength of non-conference scheduling. If we look solely at Big Ten play, as close to a level playing field as we can get, Sparty still wins. It's just not 2010 Sparty:
Rank Team Py +/- 1 2008 Michigan State +2.16 2 2004 Northwestern +1.77 3 2010 Michigan State +1.69 4 2004 Michigan +1.63 5 2009 Northwestern +1.53
That 2008 Spartan squad went 9-4 (6-2) despite a total margin of victory of +28 and an in-conference margin of -7. In fact, 2008 Michigan State was one of just five teams since 2002 to post a winning record in the Big Ten despite being outscored in conference play.
The 2004 team that went to the Rose Bowl despite deploying a freshman quarterback thanks to things like nailcoeds.exe outperformed Pythagorean expectation significantly. You might be all like "a HA!" because the next year Michigan slumped to 7-5 in 2005, but they went 11-2 the year after that—there's just so much noise.
Now that Michigan has a solid number of early commitments, this won't be a depressing exercise. Since most recruiting sites don't have full rankings out yet, this will be a bit... incomplete.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
As I said, it looks pretty incomplete. I'm considering switching all rankings to 5-star scale, instead of using the RR ratings for rivals, and the numeric ratings for ESPN (which I did last year). I also might add 24/7 Sports' rankings to the chart.
|#1 Ohio State - 5 Commits|
The greatest number of commits, and the only team with multiple 5-stars.
|#2 Notre Dame - 5 Commits|
Irish had a pretty big weekend with a couple commits.
|#3 Penn State - 6 Commits|
Nittany Lions start strong after having a poor beginning to the 2011 recruiting class. Jarron Jones is listed as a soft commit.
|#4 Michigan - 4 Commits|
A pair of linemen and a pair of linebackers for Brady Hoke's first full class.
|#5 Wisconsin - 2 Commits|
Badgers have an excellent offensive lineman and a nondescript runner to start the class of 2012.
|#6 Northwestern - 2 Commits|
A couple commits for Northwestern.
|#7 Minnesota - 4 Commits|
I'll be the first to admit I may be underrating the Gophers' class to date. We'll see what happens when some of the other sites have rated their prospects.
|#8 Nebraska - 1 Commit|
Ho-hum to start the class for the Huskers.
|#9 Iowa - 1 Commit|
An offensive lineman kicks off Iowa's class.
|#9 Illinois - 1 Commit|
Unrated WR starts Illinois's class.
|#9 Purdue - 1 Commit|
In-state commit for the Boilers.
Indiana and Michigan State are tied for last with 0 commits.