it's a major award
It's over. Hooray?
And lo, it ended. It ended for us before the new year, and now it's all over, all of it: the season, the BCS, the goofy bowl scheduling. Next year, there are three large games on New Year's Eve and three large games on New Year's Day, two of which are national semifinals leading to a final the next week.
The BCS itself was sent off with a grander finale than it deserved, a taut back-and-forth affair between Florida State and pretty-much-arbitrarily-chosen Auburn that worked out, unlike near-arbitrary matchups that ended up in one sided blowouts with another team with a near-identical resume looked on in disgust. With the playoff these outrages have been reduced in intensity and spread over a greater number of teams, which seems like progress.
How long this holds before expansion and realignment kicks in, I don't know. I tend to think we'll end up with an eight-team playoff sooner rather than later, and from there who knows what happens. Someone will say "but we can get more money," probably, and then things spiral on and on.
At the very least, a bunch of bad ideas have ceased to impact college football, like
- Coaches voting on teams they haven't seen and have a huge conflict of interest about
- Retired coaches voting based on what Oklahoma was like in 1975
- Computer polls that can't take margin of victory or anything else into account
- Richard Billingsley
Whether the new ideas are better is yet to be seen; they almost can't be worse.
OH GOOD. Penn State may have been an incestuous mockery of an athletic department for years, but by God did they turn that around quickly. Bill O'Brien goes so well that an NFL team scoops him up after two years and their sanction-riddled mess of a program heading for a crater is about hire away…
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 7, 2014
...the guy who turned Vanderbilt from a 2-10 type outfit into a consistent bowl participant and all-around thorn in the side of the SEC. Ace and I are trying to come up with the last Big Ten coach to have 1) a job at the time of his hire and 2) a resume better than Franklin's, and, well…
[12:22 PM] Ace: is it bad that kevin wilson was the first name that came to mind?
[12:22 PM] Brian Cook: #ImitateAdam_Jacobi
…we're having some difficulty. Ace throws out Dantonio, but Dantonio's record in three years at Cincinnati was 18-17. Best we've got is Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, who implemented a hugely impressive build at Utah State. But I dunno man, Vandy is coming off back to back 9-4 years. Vandy. Which is in the SEC.
Not sure how good of a cultural fit the fiery, weird Franklin (remember that thing about how he only hires guys with hot wives?) will be at Penn State, but for a team in their situation to poach the hot up and coming SEC guy is impressive.
Unless this is all agents getting their dude a raise, but there's a lot of smoke here indicating he's the guy. Which will mean Michigan is in a division with Urban, Dantonio, and Franklin. Plus Randy Edsall. It's not all bad, I guess.
That was awesome, do it more. Twitter was agog about the ESPN News section of ESPN's BCS overkill broadcast, as it featured coaches (and Chris Spielman and Matt Millen) with instant off the cuff reactions to what was going on. I was with Twitter. Spielman's fervor for assignments came through clearly as he steamed about Auburn's screen touchdown, and then Kevin Sumlin jumped in to say that is what Auburn does, they put the eye candy in front of you for just those reasons, and everything was just terrific.
A few suggestions:
- Everyone do this all the time. Seriously, I would watch Glen Mason in a room just dying in disgust as he tries to watch Michigan run the ball. This may qualify as torture under the Geneva Convention; if it doesn't, do it.
- The game is the most important bit, so make it the whole screen, with the coaches popping in with small PIP boxes. The All-22 camera angle combined with the smaller box for the actual game was problematic, and I have a huge TV. Maximize the game size; no need to cut to visuals of Spielman, et al., when I can hear them talking.
- Cut two guys. One guy to run things, one D guy, one O guy, and Spielman.
- Send small electric shocks to anyone who talks in platitudes, like Paul Chryst did much of the night.
What I have been trying to express all year. Smart Football profiles Gus Malzahn for Grantland. This is the core of the offensive philosophy that brought Auburn from 0-8 in the SEC to the precipice of the national title in one year with a converted cornerback at QB:
Malzahn had never been in charge of an offense before. Searching for help, he turned to a book famous in coaching circles, The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football, by Harold "Tubby" Raymond, and followed it "word-for-word."
The genius of Raymond's book is that it's not merely a collection of football plays, though there's still plenty of that. Instead, it's primarily a treatise on how to think about offensive football. "The Wing-T is more than a formation," Raymond wrote. "It is sequence football." The animating idea behind Raymond's "Delaware" wing-T was his belief that the best offenses were built around a tightly wound collection of plays that fit together so that defenses effectively dictated the next play; each time a team tries to stop one thing, it opens itself up to something else. Beginning in the 1950s and lasting into the early 2000s — first as an assistant under wing-T innovator David Nelson, then as head coach from the mid-1960s on — Raymond fielded teams that devastated defenses. If the opposition tried to stop his base plays, Raymond had counters to his counters, counters to his counters to his counters, and so on. He amplified this "sequential" approach by "utilizing the misdirection theme to its fullest." With a dizzying array of motions, backfield actions, and fakes, Raymond correctly determined that defenses wouldn't be able to stop his offense if they couldn't find the ball.
Auburn's offense is a modernized version of that. It's like Fritz Crisler, basically, except not as wacky. Michigan does not have a tightly wound collection of plays, partially because they can't execute basic runs and partially because that's just not how Al Borges rolls. Borges does have sets of plays that are interrelated, but instead of piling wrinkle on wrinkle like Malzahn does—his thing this year was double arc blocks…
…Borges goes to a different package once his previous stuff has been figured out. And they dispense with the frippery. To me that's a philosophical thing on par with huddling.
How do you run the ball in college football? The top 25 teams in yards per carry this year, with offense type appended (note: distinction between spread to run teams and passing spread teams largely based on how many yards the QB had. Generally spread to run teams had 500+ QB rushing yards, and usually 700+).
|1||Ohio State||6.8||Spread to run|
|3||Northern Illinois||6.35||Spread to run|
|4||Auburn||6.3||Spread to run|
|5||Oregon||6.26||Spread to run|
|6||New Mexico||6.14||Spread to run|
|9||Missouri||5.66||Spread to run|
|10||Florida State||5.63||Passing spread|
|15||Arizona||5.32||Spread to run|
|19||BYU||5.23||Spread to run|
|20||Oklahoma||5.21||Spread to run|
|21||Texas A&M||5.17||Spread to run|
|22||Wyoming||5.1||Spread to run|
Yeah, it's possible to have a good running game by going under center and grinding it out, but is it likely? Four of the top 25 teams are pro-style outfits, one of which is Alabama and their overwhelming talent. Is Michigan going to be Wisconsin? I hope so, because that's the only way we get on this list.
Dolla dolla bill. We have money. Some of it comes from the only incompetent Germans.
According to a study done by the Portland Business Journal, Michigan's contract with Adidas (which is currently set to expire in 2016) is the most lucrative apparel deal in the country. Yes, more than Oregon's flashy contractual arrangement with Nike.
Per the study, Michigan currently receives a total of $8.2 million annually from Adidas stemming from the contract signed in 2007 between the two parties.
Michigan receives $4.4 million in equipment and apparel, and $3.8 million in cash. That's more than twice as much as the next-highest school in the Big Ten, Nebraska, which makes a total of $4 million from Adidas.
Part of that is the fact that Michigan has so many sports, which drives up the equipment and apparel bit. I wonder what will happen in 2016; that Most Favored Nation status Martin acquired has long driven ND crazy and Michigan's national appeal has… uh… suffered in recent years. The brand, if you will. Maybe we'll run an ad campaign about how we know our football is terrible so we changed our football sauce.
Rivals ranks Five-Star Challenge camper Steven Parker 123 spots higher than any other service.
Rivals released their updated 2014 Rivals100 today, and this would've gone without more than a passing mention if not for this tweet that accompanied the release:
— Rivals.com (@Rivals) August 19, 2013
Fans of recruiting often throw out unsubstantiated claims about bias in the player rankings; this "fun fact" from Rivals, though, is just begging for some investigation into potential issues with their rankings. Does Rivals favor recruits who show up to their camps?*
I decided to take a look at the players in the Rivals100 who are listed as participants in the Rivals Five-Star Challenge; they represent 51 of the top 100 prospects on Rivals. My rather unscientific method of looking for potential bias was to look at each Five-Star Challenge participant's ranking on Rivals and compare it to their highest ranking on any of the other three services; if there's consistent bias in the rankings, Rivals should be the high outlier for this specific set of prospects. You can pore over the full (chart?) chart here; below is a summary of what I found:
- 26 of the 51 Five-Star Challenge participants (50.9%) were ranked higher on Rivals than any of the other three recruiting services.
- 11 players from the group were ranked at least 20 spots higher on Rivals than elsewhere, compared to eight whose highest ranking was 20 or more spots above their placement on Rivals.
- Five FSC participants in the Rivals100 were ranked 50+ spots above their next-highest ranking, including significant outliers OK S Steven Parker (#46, 123 spots higher than Scout) and TX OL Demetriux Knox (#35, 92 higher than Scout). Only two such players — AZ OL Casey Tucker (#79 on Rivals, #27 on Scout) and FL LB Kain Daub (#86 Rivals, #24 Scout) — fit the opposite criteria.
- On average, the 51 FSC participants were ranked 5.3 spots higher on Rivals than they were anywhere else; that number would obviously be even higher if we were looking at the industry average instead of the next-highest rank.
Where the numbers get really interesting, however, is when we look at the relationship between Rivals, ESPN, and Under Armour. As of this year, Rivals's recruiting rankings are "presented by Under Armour." Meanwhile, ESPN and Under Armour are still partnered for the Under Armour All-American Game. When I mentioned this potential conflict on Twitter earlier today, our friend TomVH noted that both Rivals and ESPN have input into the Under Armour AA selections:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) August 19, 2013
Since Rivals and ESPN both have potential conflicts of interest regarding Under Armour All-American prospects, I revisited my chart and looked for prospects whose highest non-Rivals ranking came from ESPN. Of those prospects, six are committed to the UA game. These are those six players:
|Name||Rivals100 Rank||ESPN Rank||Delta||Highest Non-ESPN Rank||Non-ESPN Delta|
This is, to be sure, a limited sample, but I can't say I'm surprised to see that each player's highest ranking drops — significantly, in the case of the top three players on the chart — when the two services with ties to the Under Armour Game are removed. When running the numbers for the full set of 51 Five-Star Challenge participants and using the highest non-ESPN rank for Under Armour All-Americans, the gap between Rivals and the other services widens significantly — the prospects are ranked an average of 11.1 spots higher on Rivals than the other services.
Rivals received some immediate backlash when they published the tweet at the top of this post; they repeatedly replied to commenters with this explanation when pressed about potential bias in their rankings:
@travatrave It shows how many of the kids we were able to evaluate first hand and in person, no bias at all.
— Rivals.com (@Rivals) August 19, 2013
This isn't an illegitimate explanation; Rivals got the chance to see a large group of top prospects in a setting that no other recruiting outlet was allowed to attend, and that should rightfully lead to some disparity in player rankings — both to the positive and negative. The fact that the Five-Star Challenge participants skew to the positive, however, along with the trend of major outliers among Under Armour All-Americans, suggests that some bias is present when it comes to recruits who participate in a Rivals-sponsored event.
Recruiting rankings, as we well know, are by no means an exact science, and my methodology here is far from ideal. That said, the role of sponsors in recruiting rankings is worth watching with a critical eye.
*Notably, the Rivals Five-Star Challenge is only open to Rivals reporters. No other outlet is allowed to cover it.