Bubblin'. Last night wasn't of huge import on the bubble. Events of note:
- Nebraska and Notre Dame died.
- Providence flirted with disaster before pulling it out against DePaul.
- Texas A&M gacked it up against Texas Tech.
- Oklahoma State did not against Iowa State.
A&M was only vaguely on the bubble before and isn't in trouble; Bracketology 101 has them a ten seed, and Lunardi has them a nine. So don't get your hopes up there. Oklahoma State has also clinched a bid now.
Today, there is one vastly important game—Michigan versus Iowa—that will either render all of the who-wins-who-loses a sideshow or make it life and death. That's at 2:30 on ESPN2.
Then there is a horde of other stuff as all the big conferences swing into action. Your new favorite team in bold:
- Providence takes on Louisville at noon (ESPN). Providence needs a win over UL or they're done.
- Northwestern vs Minnesota, noon (BTN). Northwestern's at-large hopes are very, very faint and a Minnesota loss would stick them behind Michigan permanently.
- Xavier vs St Louis, noon. The A-10 is in serious danger of coughing up an autobid to a team that wouldn't otherwise be in the field, so you're rooting for Dayton and Xavier whenever they play.
- Arizona State vs Arizona, 3PM (FSN). Arizona's resume is almost identical to Michigan's; if they lose they're probably behind M no matter what.
- Texas vs Kansas State, 3PM (ESPN360). Kansas State has vague at-large hopes that must be put to the sword.
- Indiana vs Penn State, 5PM (ESPN2). Penn State's chances for a bid would evaporate if Indiana managed to beat them.
- Utah State vs Fresno State, 5:30 PM. Utah State might have an at-large case if they don't pick up the WAC autobid.
- Duquense vs Rhode Island, 6:30 PM. Rhode Island needs to get to the A-10 final for an at-large, probably.
- NC State vs Maryland, 7PM (ESPN2). Maryland has fringe hopes with a run in the ACC tourney.
- Virginia vs Boston College, 9PM (ESPN360). BC would put itself in danger with a loss to the awful Cavs.
Miami and Virginia Tech square off, too, but the outcome of that game doesn't matter, you just want whoever wins to lose to UNC in the next round. San Diego State and UNLV also play; I can't figure out which one is preferable. There are a variety of other games like Memphis-Tulane and Utah-TCU where you want tourney locks to win.
As to Iowa. Michigan, of course, blew a four-point last-minute lead thanks to a couple of questionable calls. In overtime Manny Harris sat and Iowa was unconscious and that was that. And they were missing their point guard. And most of their big post guy.
Since then Iowa hung in but lost to MSU, lost to Northwestern, came up two points short of killing Ohio State's tourney bid and mortally wounded Penn State's with a 75-67 victory in double overtime. They finished the conference season 5-13 with three of those wins in overtime. This is not a good opponent we're going up against, but that didn't help much last time.
This time around Michigan has one big advantage: it's on a neutral court. Cyrus Tate, who missed both of Michigan's games against Iowa this year*, is back; starting point guard Jeff Petersen "might get some floor time" but is doubtful. With the way Jake Kelly has been playing of late Petersen's absence doesn't seem that important.
*(Tate did play a few minutes at the end of the game in Iowa City.)
I doubt this is applicable generally since newspapers generally do some investigative journalism in the news department as opposed to the virtually none that happens in sports*, but, man, are web-based properties murdering, burying, and putting up "do not disturb" signs when it comes to the in-depth stuff. Yahoo's latest is a fantastic story on the intersection of agents, AAU coaches, and Kevin Love that has a ton of interesting quotes from both sides of the aisle—former Duke PG and spectacular motorcycle crash victim Jay Williams features, as does love—none of which top this blunt assessment from Love:
“If I was going with an agent,” said Kevin Love, “why would I ever go with a guy who, no offense, but he crashed a motorcycle into a tree. I’m not going to go with a guy that’s reckless.”
Oh, snap. The rest of the article his highly recommended, with Love and Williams calling out Love's AAU coach and the cool quarter-million he banked for his "nonprofit" by setting up a meeting.
*(Except, of course, for the Ann Arbor News and their academics investigation. Of all the programs to get raked over the coals by their local paper, eh? Not, like, you know, Memphis or USC. Michigan. I would freakin' love for every program in the country to have their books gone over so minutely.)
BGSU goodbye? BGSU is facing a massive university-wide budget shortfall of between 6 to 10 million dollars, about $750,000 of which is the athletic department's fault. As a result, BGSU hockey has an uncertain future. The school president already killed Kent State's program at her last job and hockey is an expensive thing to run.
But the hockey team is BGSU's most prominent sport, and the only one in which they can claim a national title. Killing it because it's marginally more expensive would be a shame even if it was responsible for spawning Ron Mason's boring death hockey. It would also eliminate the easiest road trip in the CCHA for Michigan fans, and losing a school with a national title would be terribly embarrassing for the sport in general. About the only entity that might be happy with BGSU's demise is Alabama-Huntsville.
Actually. I may be excessively paranoid about Michigan's chances to make the tournament. Joe Sheehan of Basketball Prospects may be a whinging prat about the Big Ten, but I like his ordering of the bubble:
San Diego State
Temple …(and so on and so forth)
Leaving aside the idea that it's preposterous to put Auburn, which has done nothing in the nonconference except lose to Mercer and plays in an almost literally unbelievably bad SEC, ahead of Minnesota and its neutral court win over Louisville: Michigan in front of all those teams bodes well. That is lock-even-with-Iowa-loss right there.
But we have to return to the whinging. This is an incredibly stupid argument:
The middle of this conference is larded with mediocrity, not parity, with records inflated by the 1-17 team at the bottom (of the muddled middle, only Michigan was denied two free wins over the marginally Division I team)
…when combined with this argument:
I can't put excessive weight on the head-to-head matchup because of the lack of a return game. Hey, Big 11, here's an idea: instead of everyone playing two Horizon/MAC teams, play a full round-robin.
Every conference has a bottom feeder or three and the Big Ten's records aren't "inflated" any more than the Pac-10 records are by teams in Oregon or Big East records are by St Johns and Depaul and so forth and so on. Also, how can you bitch about the Big Ten's lack of a full round robin every power conference save the Pac-10 lacks one? The SEC and Big 12 don't even play 18 games! If you want to argue against the conference, fine, but please bring at least one non-idiotic reason. So suffice it to say I'm not putting a huge amount of stock into that ordering.
File under "duh": Cornell, ETSU, UNI, Radford, Morehead St., Siena, VCU, UT-Chattanooga, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida St., Boston College, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma St., Michigan St., Illinois, Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona St., UConn, Pitt, Louisville, 'Nova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia, LSU, Tennessee, Xavier, Dayton, Memphis, Gonzaga, Butler, Utah, BYU.
That's 46 teams. A couple of these teams could conceivably miss (the Ohio St./Wisconsin loser, Michigan, maaaaaaaybe Dayton) but regardless I don't see any way Auburn "passes" any of them.
So that's good. Also, Western Kentucky did secure the Sun Belt autobid and remove their remote at-large hopes from relevance. Bad: Cleveland State took out Butler last night and secured themselves what appears to be a 13 seed. The bubble has shrunk by one team; from the sounds of it right now that's St Mary's spot. The spot of St Mary's. Attempting to turn a possessive into a possessive argh.
On the (slightly relieving) side of things, both Cincinnati and Georgetown saw their tourney aspirations die with thudding losses against Big East doormats. Notre Dame scraped by Rutgers, keeping their remote hopes alive.
Tonight's games of relevance, with your new favorite team bolded:
- DePaul vs Providence, noon. DePaul sucks and went 0-18 in the league this year, but they took out Cinci yesterday and would put a stake through the heart of any Providence at-large hopes if they could pull another upset.
- Baylor vs Nebraska, 12:30 PM. Epke Udoh will enjoy a view from the bench of a 5-11 Big 12 team; M would like Nebraska's faint at-large hopes to flatline.
- West Virginia vs Notre Dame, 7 PM ESPN. The Nonconference Teams Who Hate Michigan Bowl tips at 7; Notre Dame's tourney hopes would go from flatline to vaguely-possible-with-one-more if they pull the upset.
- Iowa State vs Oklahoma State, 7 PM. Eh… Oklahoma State is likely in but if they blow it here they could be in trouble.
Most of your mojo thoughts should be dedicated to a Notre Dame loss. I guess Providence imploding versus DePaul would be the most helpful, but your weird juju rituals are more likely* to swing the result of the ND game.
Tomorrow all this becomes almost totally irrelevant or very, very relevant indeed; if it stays relevant 1) want a blankie and possibly a gun and 2) there are a ton of relevant games.
*(and by this I mean, of course, "not more likely," or at least I did until Sri Lanka happened. Now I believe in everything. Aaargh! What's that! I don't know, but I'm terrified of it!)
Presserizing. Michigan's about to start spring practice and there have been a few injuries and roster adjustments:
Rodriguez confirmed the injuries reported recently — Jonas Mouton (shoulder) and Michael Shaw (sports hernia) — will miss the spring. Offensive lineman Ricky Barnum will play through a wrist problem. … Rodriguez said tight end Steve Watson is switching to defensive end.
No offense to Watson, but that sounds like the death knell for his future as a potential contributor. He's a longshot to ever see meaningful playing time, a la Quintin Patilla, fullback.
Rodriguez said he’s thinking about trying to break the national attendance record for a spring game. Alabama reportedly had about 92,000 two years ago.
That would require… I don't know what. An actual game, for one. And good weather. And pretty much a 180 degree flip from the way the Spring Game was promoted and marketed under Carr, and by "promoted and marketed" I mean "detested and ignored."
Other news from the press conference concerned medical redshirts: Junior Hemingway has his, which we knew, and they applied for redshirts for Kenny Demens and Adam Patterson but haven't heard back yet. Those things are mostly a formality, AFAIK; that would make Demens a freshman and Patterson a junior. There have been rumors Patterson will move inside given the lack of depth at DT, but there's a similar lack of depth at DE. Also:
Vince Helmuth could move from DT to DE if he gets in shape — playing DT gave him “the free reign to eat,” and he “went overboard.”
Also, there is a "noticeable difference" in the size and strength of the guys on the OL according to Barwis. Eeee. Liveblogging at the Daily for more details.
Bubblin'. Both results last night went Michigan's way, with Gonzaga stomping St Mary's and Siena beating Niagara; St Mary's is now a bubble compatriot of Michigan's and the MAAC is a one-bid league. Diverse alarums. Lundardi, for one, has the Gaels as the second team out—Creighton is first. Did I dismiss their chances too quickly? Eh… even with an M loss to Iowa Creighton can make up no ground and you'd think would get slotted in after M. Probably. Who knows?
Back to St Mary's. Bracketology 101 on the Gaels:
We are sticking with the Gaels for at least one more day. We still like their OOC wins against fellow bubble teams Providence and San Diego State and their Bracketbuster win over Utah State. We also think there's a slight chance the committee takes a flier on them based on how they played early in the year before Mills got hurt and, potentially, based on how Mills looks against Eastern Washington on Friday. We bumped the Gaels down to a 13 seed in today's bracket, which means they are very, very thin ice. If there are any other mid-major bid stealers (Cleveland State tonight?) or if there are any other upsets in the big conference tournies, St. Mary's will be the first team to go.
Is Michigan ahead of St Mary's with an Iowa loss? Eh… probably, but the Mills thing makes them hugely variable.
As for today's viewing schedule, ESPN is so down on the Big East trio that it lists no relevant games even though Georgetown, ND and Cincinnati are in action. Aaaand Cinci just lost to Depaul, so maybe they're right to be skeptical.
There is one game with obviously huge implications: Butler and Cleveland State face off in the Horizon* League final at 9:00 PM. Butler is in either way and Cleveland State is looking to steal a second bid for the Horizon; you're very heavily in favor of the Bulldogs. Oakland also takes on North Dakota State with a Summit League bid on the line, if you want to get your granfalloon action on.
*Note! Not only does the "MidCon" conference not even exist anymore, Butler was never in it and is currently in the Horizon League. Mea culpa to the two annoyed emailers.
In the long annals of sports opinion, this might be the worst idea ever recorded:
If the goal is to have the very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament, and to have an eye on providing a chance to the very best mid-major teams, expanding the field is not the answer. The answer lies in shifting the automatic bids to the best teams in the country.
That's Jay Bilas, and let's just leave aside all the Manny Harris elbow stuff and Tommy Amaker stuff as we attempt to wrap our heads around this fantastic idea: get rid of automatic bids. Bilas spends 1151 words on this idea, beginning with the premise that "more good teams play in Division I than ever before"—what does that even mean?—and arriving at the conclusion that the problem with Creighton or Penn State is the SWAC.
No, a thousand times no. One: the goal is not to have the "very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament." If that was really the goal the tournament would be about eight teams and would have a round-robin format, or something. The NCAA tournament is a chaotic single-elimination mess and an obviously unfair system for determining a champion. But it is so damn fun that people reasonably overlook its flaws.
More than that, the autobids help lessen the flaws. A national championship tournament that includes this many teams is kind of a dumb idea. It will be apparent from the moment that the bracket is selected that 40 or 50 teams in it are obviously not the best teams in the country. A number of no- or little- hope bids actually makes it less of a dumb idea. One way to make a singe elimination tournament less unfair and stupid is to bias it in favor of the teams who did very well during the regular season. Including a bunch of conference champions who would otherwise not be in the field otherwise provides greater motivation to get a protected seed.
I mean, never ever has a 1 gone down to a 16, and a 15 over a 2 is really rare. But once you get into the 3, 4, 5 range you know some of those teams are getting lead pipes to the head. In the Bilas system you'd be replacing those no-hopers at the end of the field with, like, Penn State, and significantly reducing the reward for having a kickin' regular season.
So even if you are a heartless lawyer robot like Bilas—who says the argument against his position is a "sentimental one," which is another way of saying "I hate puppies and fun and sunshine"—the straggling autobids at the end of the field help make the bracket less of a mockery of the regular season and should be kept even if, you know…
…you'd watch Bucknell versus Kansas and think to yourself "goddammit why isn't a below .500 major conference team in this game?"
Bilas does frame his post by arguing that dumping autobids would get the best mid-majors in more—St Mary's and Creighton wouldn't be biting their fingernails to the nub if there were no autobids—but really, that's not the point. Really, really not the point.
Everything you ever didn't want to know about the pairwise. Western College Hockey has an overview of college hockey's rigid and kind of crappy selection system, and I winced when I read this sentence:
Proponents of this system argue there is no cliff because the system is designed to only be looked at once, at the end of the season, and thus, there are no fluctuations, but regardless, teams still gain a disproportionate benefit if a team they beat ends up 25th rather than 26th.
Only one person argues something that stupid: a poster on USCHO named "ScoobyDoo" who has some five-digit-and-rising post count and who descends on any thread about how the pairwise is deeply flawed—which it is—and expounds dumbly like that.
By the way: Michigan returns to action this weekend against Western Michigan. Outside of that series you are rooting against Notre Dame and Alaska. Here's the TUC cliff in action: Alaska is currently the 25th and last team to be counted as a TUC. If Alaska loses its series against Ohio State, they're extremely likely to drop out of consideration; with them will go ND's 2-0 and M's 1-1 record against the Nanooks. Both of those are very good for Michigan, as if that happens ND will be vulnerable at the Joe.
Wheat, wheat, chaff. The last couple days have been very good for Michigan's tourney chances:
South Florida 70, Cinci 59
St. John's 59, Georgetown 56
Wake Forest 65, Maryland 63
North Carolina 86, Va Tech 78
Georgia 90, Kentucky 85
Mississippi State 80, Florida 71
Georgia Tech 78, Miami 68
The only bubble results to have gone against Michigan were in their own conference, with Ohio State narrowly escaping a late barrage of Iowa three attempts, Northwestern getting back on the bubble by winning at Purdue, and Minnesota possibly solidifying a bid by taking down Wisconsin. (New Mexico beating Utah is also Not Good, I guess.)
Some of those losses are horrible and those teams have basically eliminated themselves. Kentucky now has the #78 RPI and the #68 SOS; Miami is 6-9 in the ACC and 17-11 overall. This probably doesn't change the do-or-die nature of the Minnesota game, but it does significantly smooth the rails should Michigan pull off the mild upset.
Pendulum reverse. I don't know what's with Jay Bilas. Maybe he's been bludgeoned into saying nice things about Michigan by ESPN higher-ups. Maybe he values a win over Duke more than everyone else in the universe. Or maybe he's on a manic swing right now, because now whenever you get him on TV talking about the bubble he brings up Michigan as obviously in no matter what happens against Minnesota.
The only problem with this: it is almost certainly wrong.
Allow myself to introduce myself. Leon Hall, now of the Cincinnati Bengals, got a painting commissioned. Naturally, it's dedicated to how awesome Leon Hall is. The painter put up a time-lapse video of its construction and decided to set it to the least appropriate music ever (it's SFW, just all about how awesome Ohio is*):
Whilst fast forwarding I couldn't help but think of Bill Simmons' column on NBA finances and how broke-ass all these NBA stars are. Leon, my man, couldn't you think of more socially productive uses for that money?
Um, well, okay. Varsity Blue's odd new series profiling each of the Michigan commits who didn't end up signing provides a jumping-off point for a final review of how Michigan's class was impacted.
|Kevin Newsome||Tate Forcier|
|Shavodrick Beaver||Denard Robinson|
|Bryce McNeal||Je'Ron Stokes|
|DeWayne Peace||Adrian Witty?|
|Will Campbell||Will Campbell|
|Anthony Fera||Brendan Gibbons|
The dastardly defectors are at right. There is one obvious push: Will Campbell's quasi-defection. McNeal and Stokes are also about equal in the eyes of the recruiting services. At quarterback, Newsome, Beaver, Forcier, and Robinson all exist outside of top 100 lists but in that 100-250 range; pick your preferences there. Some people don't think Robinson is a quarterback, but that goes for Newsome, too. That's basically a push.
Then you have the strange cases of DeWayne Peace and Jordan Barnes. Neither is anything more than a replacement-level recruit for Michigan, so the loss there is not so much in the talent of the player lost but the scholarship that will go to waste this year. That's a small cost, but one that it appeared Michigan was willing to take when it dropped out of contact with Barnes, who eventually ended up at Oklahoma State, and told Peace they wanted him to play corner—something Peace had told the coaches he didn't want to do. That VB article highlights one of the blunter quotes I've heard from a coach on signing day: "sometimes a kid does you a favor when he decommits." Barnes and Peace would fit into that category.
Kicker Anthony Fera was replaced by Brendan Gibbons, and that's likely to be a small downgrade. Fera was rated higher by the recruiting services and was Michigan's first choice. Gibbons is a few slots lower. Given how erratic kicker rankings are—which says more about kickers than the rankings—it's not a big deal.
So we've dismissed or replaced everyone on the list until we get to the last two: defensive tackles DeQuinta Jones and Pearlie Graves, signing-day decommits Michigan did not have time to replace. Signing just one defensive tackle this year is a major bummer, and there had been rumors swirling around the two for months before they finally pulled the trigger. Michigan was caught with its pants down there. (Larry Harrison jokes in the comments will be downgraded for low SOS.)
Hockey at the Big House: Michigan State is in; the Wings are out.
Etc.: Mike Valenti could be joining Rob Parker in the soup kitchen line soon. He should have MADE PLAYS instead of RUNNING HIS MOUTH IN HURRICANE KATRINA. The Big House Blog recaps and rates Michigan's nine announced preferred walk-ons.
…the big boys and their ESPN propagandists got the results they needed from the land of mid-majors this weekend. Neither Siena nor Utah St. could handle their road trips to angry league rivals who have probably had the date circled on their proverbial calendars for weeks. Creighton didn't get the help they needed from Evansville to declare an outright title in the MoVal. Butler sealed up homecourt throughout the Horizon tourney, making it more likely the HL will stay a one-bid league. More than ever, it looks like it really is the "down year" for mid-major at-larges we've been hearing about since December.
Tentative woo. While it's the rare major-conference result that definitively reduces the number of bids a league will get—thanks, Notre Dame—every failed attempt at a mid-major at-large increases the pool of available slots for Michigan.
They're still not getting in without a win over Minnesota on Saturday, but there was always a chance that an unpleasant assemblage of results outside of Michigan's control could see the "9-9 w/ first round BTT win" scenario fail to yield a bid. That chance is slimming.
Skatin'. Defenseman and member of Michigan's sick 2010 hockey recruiting class Mac Bennett was recently profiled by his local news:
So, good news and bad news in there. Good news: Bennett seems like the kind of kid who will go high-ish in this year's NHL draft—he was rated a third-round pick (-ish) by the CSB. Bad news: his quotes on Michigan don't indicate the sort of kid who's likely to stick around all four years. Eh, that's life as a Michigan hockey fan.
Berenson back. We may be nearing the end of Red Berenson's tenure as Michigan's coach, but it's not quite over. Berenson just agreed to a one-year extension of his contract.
Berenson gives a typically blunt quote about the situation:
"I know that my time is coming," Berenson said. "...I just didn't want to make a five-year commitment and say, 'Geez, I'm gonna be here until I'm 75 or something.' I don't think that's fair to the team, to the program. And recruits might come in and say, '... this guy is gonna be our coach?'
"Right now I'm fine, and I'm good for a year. So we'll go from there."
Oh, no reason. (via Black Heart, Gold Pants)
Berenson did state he wasn't planning on retiring this year even if Michigan wins the national title. As for what happens when Berenson steps down: the chance of an internal promotion is very high. Billy Powers and Mel Pearson already do all of the recruiting and plenty of the coaching; Michigan will promote one and hope to hang on to the other.
Bashin'. An erratic weekend for Michigan baseball saw them lose to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a game featuring 30 runs, split a doubleheader with Jacksonville by the improbable scores of 21-3 (W) and 10-2 (L), and finally pull another late-innings rabbit out of their hat against Akron. Formerly Anonymous has your recap. Michigan stands at 7-2 on the year and is looking a little wobbly.
A three-game series against Siena is up next, followed by the annual Mets exhibition and then then what's probably the most critical series of the year if Michigan's going to get any at-large consideration at the end of the year: three games at Arizona.
Sign there is something deeply wrong with me #4,540. So I read the epically long Wright Thompson thing about Ole Miss's 1962 integration riots and so on and so forth. As I was doing this, I kept thinking about Derek Pegues and Dennis Thames and Josh Boyd: how the hell can it be hard to get kids out of Mississippi? Argh!
Also, a there is a Michigan tangent. The week after James Meredith enrolls and Oxford turns into Beruit, Ole Miss plays Houston:
Vaught almost never gives pregame speeches, thinks they are silly. But this ... well, he needs to say something. Vaught feels like the entire university is riding on the backs of his team. Vanity? Sure. True? Probably. He needs them to understand, these young guys. He needs them to see. "It is very important that we play this game, boys," Vaught says, "and we have to win it."
The team roars in response and rushes out of the locker room onto the field. Vaught gets chills watching them. The Rebels dominate undefeated Houston 40-7, with Griffing throwing three touchdown passes to Guy. But the most emotional two ovations of the day have nothing to do with the game.
One comes at the beginning, when Barnett enters his box. The other comes when the public address man announces other scores from around the country. Michigan, he tells them, has beaten Army, hated invader of Ole Miss 17-0.
This is so tangential that I don't have anything to say about it other than "funny old world," so: funny old world.
Do or die. So, good news about the game tonight: MGoBlog will not be hosting a liveblog. Therefore, Michigan has a chance. Bad news: gimpy Purdue star Robbie Hummel is a go.
I've laid it out before and I believe the equation still holds: Michigan needs two of its final three games and then one win in the Big Ten Tournament to feel pretty good about getting in. Gacking it up against Iowa has cut their margin of error down greatly, and I'm expecting the NIT. But if homoerotic hobbits on a trek into Mordor teach us anything, it's that short pasty white guys with curly hair can do anything. So rock on.
One of Cook’s insiders revealed that Rodriguez met with Steve Threet and basically told him he’s decided frosh Tate Forcier is getting all the snaps this spring. Thus Threet bolted. If this was posted on mgoblog I missed it (and maybe the info wasn’t solid enough to post).
Some clarification: I've heard this from a few different people, all of them on the Threet side of things. I didn't post anything on it because it didn't seem quite strong enough, but when I was LIVE it just sort of came out and there it is. The details are still fuzzy but Threet clearly felt he was not going to have a full opportunity to win the job and, not wanting to be David Cone, decided to go elsewhere.
It's a risk on Rodriguez's part to be sure; the upside is that Forcier gets all the snaps and will be as ready as he possibly can be when Western Michigan rolls into town. Which may not be particularly ready, but he's all we've got.
Risk and expectation and so forth and so on. Braves and Birds notes a Smart Football post on the appropriate amount of risk to take in a football game. This has long been a topic of interest here, too, as it was my longstanding opinion that Lloyd Carr's answer to that ("almost none unless we're playing Ohio State") was way too conservative. However, conservative strategy has its place. Smart Football:
Is it always "optimal" to set your strategy to maximize points scored?
In the NFL -- which is what Brian [not me, this Brian –ed] focuses on -- this is likely true and the assumption holds. NFL teams are almost all competitive with each other, and even the worst teams can beat the best in a given game. So any reduction in expected points is likely to hurt a team's chances of winning because they need to maximize that out to get wins.
But is that true in college? Or in high school? Think about when Florida plays the Citadel. The Gators have a massive talent advantage compared with the Bulldogs. As a result, what is the only way they can lose? You guessed it: by blowing it. They can really only lose if they go out and throw lots of interceptions, gamble on defense and give up unnecessary big plays, or just stink it up.
My theory as to why Michigan got so stagnant under Carr was an extension of the Florida-vs-Citadel mindset. Bo Schembechler pretty much believed everyone was the Citadel—or, more likely, never gave a whole lot of thought about the appropriate level of risk in a football game past the Woody Hayes maxim that "only three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad." This worked out fine for him because everyone in the Big Ten other than Ohio State pretty much was the Citadel: it would take some seriously freak occurrences for Michigan to lose to them.
Carr's mindset was formed in this era, but he coached in an era of greatly increased parity. This was bad. When you give away expectation against the Citadel, you just win by less. When you give it away against a competitive but slightly inferior team you are going to find yourself in a lot of late-game dogfights and some of those are going to slip away. Carr started moving away from this philosophy, but it was a halting process, and I could write about this sort of thing forever. It's a digression.
Not a digression: no, it's not always optimal to maximize your points scored. It's pretty easy to set up a situation where it's not (you have the ball on the opponent's five yard line with thirty seconds left and you're down two, etc etc). While a lot of these things are specific situations they illuminate a larger issue: most of the measures, even the advanced measures we have at Football Outsiders and places like that, don't take variance into account.
Smart Football's got a theory that teams should strive for run-pass equilibrium in a different fashion than you hear about it on TV. Instead of running half the time or getting half of your yards on the ground, you should seek to have your passing plays and running plays gain the same number of yards. Just about no one does this except real weirdo offenses like Texas Tech. One possibility is coaches are just doing it wrong. The other possibility is that there's an institutional wisdom there.
What would that wisdom be? Well, gaining big hunks of yards a portion of the time and getting zero a lot is a different way of doing things than gaining small hunks of yards a lot and not getting zero very often. Is second and seven better than second and two half the time and second and ten the other half? That's an unanswered question.
[okay, /extremedorkmode, returning to standarddorkmode]