It's my distinct pleasure to disclose that a brand new and very special MGoProfile, featuring a true Michigan legend, will go up this THURSDAY (Dec. 8). Sure to be epic, my friends...
Well, it's that time of year again, folks. The leaves have all shed themselves from the trees and the cold is starting to settle upon the midwest. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. If you flip on the six-o-clock Sportscenter during this evening you will, no doubt, be serenaded to the soothing sounds of SEC bias while the moon is peeking gently through the window.
The geese have taken flight to the warmer climes down south, and so too do our football teams. For it is bowl season again. Time for us all to regale upon bowl seasons past, and look forward to our annual unfavorable bowl matchups.
"What's that you say? Unfavorable bowl matchups? But Michigan is playing Va Tech! Purdue plays Western Michigan, those don't seem unreasonable. Why... when I was still a youth (circa 2007-08) I remember playing 5 of our 8 bowl games in the HOME STATE of our competition. Indiana actually played a bowl game that year. I remember Illinois being sacrificed on the alter of a pissed off USC. The game was in SoCal. OSU was embarrased by an LSU team that had to travel all of an hour to get to the game. Michigan miraculously pulled an upset on Florida that NOBODY predicted. Florida had to endure nearly two hours on a bus, after all. Now THAT was an unfavorable bowl season."
True, my crotchety and slightly older grandfather.
While this year is not quite as bad as we had it a few years ago, we are still playing five away games this bowl season compared to zero home games. The away games are all held within a few hours of our competition. We are also only favored in three games. The aforementioned Sugar Bowl and Little Caeser's Bowl; as well as Illinois over UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl*. Since Illinois has not won a game since they ended apartheid, let's just call that game a push.
Sick of my attempt at witty banter? Here are the hard facts. Lines provided by Yahoo because, why not? I'm at work anyway and can't get to any of the good sports sites.
Little Caesar's Bowl - Detroit, MI (away game)
Insight Bowl - Tempe, AZ
Texas Bowl - Houston, TX (away game)
Fight Hunger Bowl - San Francisco, CA (away game)
|Illinois||6-6||10||-3 (Uh, no?)|
Ticket City Bowl - Dallas, TX (away game)
Gator Bowl - Jacksonville, FL (away game)
Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL
Capital One Bowl - Orlando, FL
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, LA
We're screwed because...
- The average bowl team in the Big Ten placed at a rank of 5.5 in conference (this makes sense as the top 10 teams made it). Our average opponent is ranked at 3.9 in its respective conference. That means we are consistently playing nearly two positions above our head. If you compare the 8 teams we have that are playing against AQ schools, you come out with a rank of 5.5 as well. You would expect a big drop in the rank of the AQ schools, but they are ranked an average of 4.1 in conference, nearly a spot and a half ahead of the good guys.
- We have the better W/L record in exactly one bowl game, and only because UCLA was allowed to embarass themselves in the PAC-12 title game. Four of the games match teams with identical records. The other five games have us playing teams with better records. Since the B1G record against the other Big 6 conferences was above .500 this year, this difference doesn't reflect poor OOC play. Instead it reflects the disparity in conference rankings outlined above.
- The eye test. Penn State plays arguable the best non-qualifier in Houston. Oregon, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and TAMU are all teams with names that have cache. More cache than say... Northwestern, Illinois, or Purdue.
- Half of our bowl games are in the state of the opposing team.
But it's cool because...
- Michigan is favored in a BCS game. Run that one through your head again...
What does it all mean?
The Big Ten has an image problem, largely due to the SEC pandering that ESPN has been hocking. Couple this with OSU's 'performance' problem in big games and Michigan's temporary loss of luster, and there has been a stigma attached to the conference for the past 5-6 years.
I think a playoff system will aid the Big Ten in returning to the dominant force in college football, if a playoff system is ever implemented. Home games would be nice. Picture Alabama coming to Ann Arbor in December. Pipe dream, yes. But that would be an equalizer.
The Big Ten may well go anywhere from 2-8 to 6-4 this year. The ceiling is not high. Not because it is a bad conference, but because not unlike a drunk OSU coed, we can't make it through a bowl weekend without getting screwed.
*Ironic that the head coach of both schools lost their jobs right before the Fight Hunger Bowl.
**I ranked teams by conference W/L record and ignored the conference championships (looking at you UCLA). After conference W/L, I looked at overall W/L. After that, BCS rank. If those three were all identical, I used a super secret method to determine which team was to be ranked higher (my uneducated opinion, akin to random computer rankings). Kinda cool.
After reading wolfman81's diary about Conference Title Games, the BCS, and playoffs, I wanted to write a reply that focused on whether there was any suitable alternative to the Conference Title Game. I threw out an idea and saw how recent history would affect it, and was surprised that (a) I actually found it a plausible alternative, and (b) my response was uber-long. So I decided to make my own diary. This is my first diary, so if it's not diary worthy, please go easy on me and mods just bump it back down to the board.
I've often felt the same as wolfman81- that Conference Championship games are an unfair way to determine who the Conference Champion is. To me the perfect way is to have a complete round-robin in the league, where everybody plays everybody and a champ is determined by league record. This is obviously not possible in a 12 team league, or even the 11 team Big Ten of yesterday. And I do think a conference title game is a better solution than having teams in the conference not play each other and just having a hot mess at the end of the season (see: 2010 Big Ten standings). So what's the alternative?
You could say "let's limit conferences to ten teams, kick out Penn State and Nebraska AARGH!" Let's step into la-la land for a second. Even when the Big Ten had ten teams, we still only played 8 conference games, and only had a true round-robin for a few years in the '80s. But why couldn't they do it now? Obviously the cash from a title game, and the bonds from the CIC don't care too much about what's the best idea for us naive football fans. Yet if we are focused on the best way to pick a champion from a league, and a way where every game truly matters, this is it - true round robins in ten team leagues, with three additional regular season games.
So now accepting that we can't do that, what's the best way within the current paramaters? How do you pick a champion from a 12 team league, where you're allowed to play a title game at the end of the season, and you want an "every game matters" mentality?
Well, what if we had no divisions? Teams played their schedules, missed a few opponents, and then at the end of the year you'd set up a title game based on the two best teams - except with two extra provisions. To limit rematches, if you lost to the #1 team in the conference, you don't get to play them again. If you beat them, and you're next in line, you've got a chance to prove you're the league's best - and they've got a chance to prove that it was all just a fluke. And of course, in a tie, the head-to-head winner has a tiebreaker. So for this year's SEC, your standings would look like this:
(1) LSU 8-0 (2) Alabama/UGA 7-1 (4) Arkansas 6-2 (5) USC 6-2...
And lo and behold! A tie at #2 - but since Bama LOST AT HOME to LSU (note: yes, I'm bitter), UGA would get to play in the Georgia Dome. And so we get the same thing as this year. Well that's one instance where it works. Let's look at the B1G, 2011:
(1) Sparty 7-1 (2) Penn State, Wiscy, Michigan 6-2...
So we've got a three-way knot of doom at #2, where M didn't play either of the other two guys. Except since Sparty beat Wiscy and Michigan, it's not so bad - they play Penn State in Indy. The same Penn State who lost handily to Wiscy - not exactly ideal, but then, is it fair for Sparty to have to beat Wiscy twice? Maybe so, maybe not. Let's look at this year's Pac 12 and then ACC. Pac 12:
(1) Oregon 8-1 (2) Stanford 8-1 (3) USC 7-2 (4) Washington, UCLA 5-4...
So by my rules, since Oregon beat #2 Stanford, and USC is ineligible, and Washington lost to #1 Oregon...we're left with UCLA. Wow. Same as this year. ACC:
(1) VT 7-1 (2) Clemson 6-2 (3) 4 teams at 5-3...
So VT would get a chance for revenge at Clemson. Really, the only title game that would change this year is the B1G, where Penn State would get a shot at the title. And while I do feel for Sparty, I don't think anybody believes Penn State is more deserving than Wisconsin this year for the B1G title. But that is just my opinion, and this system doesn't look too bad yet. So let's look at recent history, to find some examples that might blow up my system completely. Your 2010 Big Ten:
(1) Sparty 7-1 (2) Wiscy 7-1 (3) Ohio 7-1 (4) Iowa, Illinois 4-4 (6) Penn State 4-4
So (if Nebraska had missed all of these guys hypothetically in a 12-team 2010 Big Ten) Sparty would play Ohio for the title, since Sparty beat Wiscy head-to-head. But if Ohio beats Sparty and wins the title, theny you've got a situation where Wiscy > B1G Champ Ohio > Sparty. And Sparty did get blown up by middle-class Iowa. But really this isn't any more unfair than what actually happened, and we'd avoid a rematch, and Wiscy's defeat at Sparty clearly matters. But apparently it matters more than their defeat of Ohio? Clearly my plan isn't ideal - but then, neither is the current system. One last example, the 2008 Big 12:
(1) Texas, OU, Texas Tech (4) OK St 5-3 (5) Mizzou 5-3 (6) Nebraska 5-3...
Oh, right. That whole triangle of doom scenario. Which would be broken by the BCS probably, giving Oklahoma the #1 spot. At least they'd get to play Texas again, for revenge. Hmm, come to think of it, that's better than playing Mizzou, isn't it? And it's a better solution to the triangle of doom than the current system has.
I started off thinking my idea was completely ridiculous and would be proven so with just this season's standings alone. I was certain it'd have a tougher time dealing with the most ridiculous issues of recent memory. I now actually think I might prefer my way a little bit - it mostly follows the current system pretty closely, and actually avoids rematches where the #1 team has to prove it's better again - but instead gives them a chance to avenge a loss and prove they are truly the conference's #1. Two negative side effects are that it gives some pretty unworthy teams a shot at the title - but mostly not any moreso than today's system - and that it screws with the BCS a bit more. For example if in 2008, UT had been ranked higher than OU, Tech and UT would have played the title game. If Tech upset UT a second time, OU would have gone to the BCS Title game while not playing for their conference title. Wait a sec...where have I heard that before?
Actually, it has no more negative side effects than the traditional "division" system used today. I started off a skeptic of my own plan, to try to prove the validity of the conventional thinking. I've convinced myself that this is better. Its negatives are the same as the current system, and its positives are that the regular season matters more. What are your guys' thoughts? Is this better than the present system? Is there a better alternative? If it's worse, why and how?
EDIT: I just thought of a pretty big time negative - it's conceivable that a team goes 9-0 in conference, and the only teams they didn't play have losing conference records. I guess one additional provision would be this: if the only teams who haven't been beat by #1 have losing conference records, then #1 will just play #2. I mean this is totally bats and la-la land anyway, right?
EDIT II: I had originally gotten my 2008 Big 12 tie-breaker wrong. I incorrectly said UT won the tie-breaker that year. It was OU. It's been fixed.
Don't know if this has been posted, but if Michigan wins the Sugar Bowl the program will have completed the "Bowl Grand Slam", with wins in the Rose Bowl (many times), Fiesta Bowl ('86), and Orange Bowl ('00). Has any program ever done this before? Or will this be yet another reason why Michigan Football is the greatest thing in the universe?
David Molk has been named a finalist for the Rimington Trophy given out to the nation's best Center.
I don't think Molk was a finalist last year, but he stands as good a shot as anyone at winning the thing from what I can gather. Nice to see OSU's Brewster excluded, too.