One conference. Sixty-one teams. All the football.
Is realignment done? The Big XII is bouncing around the idea of making their conference even more mid-major than it stands now. Meanwhile the Big Ten's TV deals are all up very soon, so there's a chance to lock in oodles and oodles of money that won't come again. Why not go on one last expansion binge now to really set the market and ensure our conference's survival and fan interest in an uncertain future?
Here's my suggestion:
1. Rename. We're not 10 schools anymore, and this is confusing. I suggest the Big Ten rebrand as THE BIG SIX. The six shall refer to the six divisions, many of which have "Big" in their titles. Also since anything more than 11 teams is really a league not a conference, we'll call this the BIG SIX LEAGUE and the divisions can be called "conferences."
2. Expand. Here are the teams I'd add to the
conference league, and how I'd break them up into divisions conferences of 10 or 11 teams based on shared geography, program culture, and history:
Midwest Conference ("The Big Ten"): Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota
Northeast Conference ("The Big East"): Penn State, Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Maryland
Atlantic Coast Conference ("The ACC"): Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, South Carolina, Miami (YTM), Louisville
Southeast Conference ("The SEC")*: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky
The Plains Conference ("The Big XII"): Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, Nebraska, Mizzou, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Colorado
- Pacific Conference ("The Pac Ten"): Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State
*The SEC is the only 11-team conference to start
These divisions can have nicknames like "Big Ten" or "Big East." To ensure no more crazy realignment, every team must affirm a six-year commitment at the beginning of every season (i.e. there's a six-year waiting period if you want to leave). No conference can expand past 11; any joining school must get a 2/3rds majority of votes from the league, and unanimous support from its conference.
3. The Schedule. Every school plays all of its division opponents plus three from the other five conferences (scheduled as two-year home and homes), for 12 games total (since the SEC has 11 teams they play just two non-conference opponents). Six must be at home and six away, and no more than five conference games can be home. Cross-conference schools may contract with each other to schedule these in advance, with any holes filled in by the league two years prior.
Every team is allowed to schedule one pre-season exhibition (the Rich Rod plan), but it will not count toward that team's record for determining final postseason ranking. Every league game (not just division record) however will count toward winning your division. League play begins the week after Labor Day, and must conclude by the last Saturday of November.
4. Conference Championship Playoff. I would replace the conference championship game with a six-team conference playoff between the division winners.
The first round is played at the home of the higher-ranked (determined by committee) school in early December, with the two top teams getting a bye.
The second round is played Christmas Day at the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl, with the two winners of the first round versus two teams that earned byes (highest overall seed selects its venue).
The championship is played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on January 1. The third place game is played at the Fiesta Bowl. Any school eliminated from the Final Four is free to play in any bowl game against any opponent (in or out of the league), regardless of final record.
5. Make Appropriate Hand Gestures Toward NCAA. The league shall declare its own rules superior to any made by the NCAA, and choose to ignore any NCAA rule. The league will make its own rules, specifically regarding appropriate compensation for its athletes (for example lifetime medical benefits, performance bonuses, league-approved player agents, and pay), and recruiting rules. Member schools will no longer be directly responsible to NCAA enforcement. The commissioner of this league shall be selected by the athletes, and will hold veto power.
6. What I did there. You see it. Good.
It started off so well.
Then they tried to lick our moisture:
…and things began to fall apart.
[After the jump: crimes against fashion, crimes against yellow, crimes against offense, crimes against eyes, crimes against humans]
While I was chatting with Brian last week he happened to pull up the top 7 composite recruits from the 2013 season. I followed and…
Woof. Green has obvious vision problems and hasn't emerged from a pile of guys among whom the most statistically effective last year was Drake Johnson. Dymonte Thomas and Shane Morris are already juniors and to date still seem to be at least a year's worth of good coaching away from ready.
That leaves us the offensive line class. Kugler seems to be on track to start when Glasgow surrenders his job—I've heard the same suite of nice things you have. Bosch transferred after performing about how you'd expect a true freshman thrust into a Borges-coached OL would. Fox hasn't been mentioned since a staff ago. Dawson we have only a little more data, much of that getting owned by Maurice Hurst in the spring game (if Hurst does that against Utah's OL I'll happily rescind that as a criticism).
On the other hand we caution all the time about giving up on OL when they're too young.
So when do you know about an offensive lineman?
This is a question I've been interested in a long time, going back to an article one of my Daily colleagues did on OL recruiting to highlight the injuries plaguing the classes Michigan took while I was there. I could never find the article but in January 2013 I tried to recreate some of that information, plus a 12-year update. I did a thing about a year ago on growth tracks to reset expectations for those 2012 and 2013 line classes. Let's check in again, this time with columns.
The towers shrink because players currently on the roster are included in the data, and obviously our information on them is incomplete. "Not available" is a catch-all for transfers, dismissals, guys playing defense, injuries and medicals and whatnot. "Excellent" is basically all-conference-ish, "Solid" is that, "Liability" are guys who were starting but the fan consensus was they shouldn't be or wouldn't but for things like the 2008 depth chart or gross Borges incompetence.
This time I differentiated between "backups" and "two-deep" (an imperfect thing from memory and pouring through old Wolverine annuals). The former are guys buried on the depth chart and unlikely to play; the latter are only the top backups we are relatively certain would have played if they weren't behind an established starter. It's not about being technically on the two-deep, more like the first one or two guys in if an OL goes down—Erik Magnusson last year, or Leo Henige forever.
- Redshirting is overwhelmingly the normal thing to do as a freshman.
- Only a handful of players are capable of starting (shades of yellow) as redshirt freshmen. If you take the yellow chunk from there and size it against the 4th and 5th years you can see only about a third of the eventually useful players are demonstrably so at that age. Sing the praises of any 2014s already playing; don't give up on any who are not.
- By RS Soph there is a big yellow expansion. The mysterious "backups" region has shrunk considerably. You have a fairly good sense of who these guys are by the end of this year.
- There is very little difference—just a slight improvement—between RS Juniors and 5th year seniors. The backups disappear into unrenewed 5ths.
If you're using this imperfect data set of 82 players, many of whom didn't complete their careers for non-ability-related reasons, to get a feel for when to judge an offensive linemen, you could say it's a half-life. Don't judge a (redshirt) freshman unless he's already playing well, but after their third year in the program if he's not on the two-deep the chances of ever doing so decrease exponentially.
What this means for the 2012-'14 OL classes
Be excited for: Mason Cole.
Be extremely content with: Mags, Kalis and Braden if they seem to be playing well this year.
Keep an eye out for: Kugler, Logan Tuley-Tillman, and David Dawson. These are 2013 guys mentioned as probable two-deep contributors, though our current scouting has Kugler pretty much ready to play, LTT half-way there, and Dawson probably not ready yet. Further data received on them this year will speak volumes about their futures.
Be patient with: Juwann Bushell-Beatty. If he pops up this year he's probably going to be awesome; if he's buried there's plenty of time that this doesn't matter.
Getting late: Bars, Fox, Samuelson. With Bars at least we've heard past mentions of him competing, though he was always kind of the last guy in that 2012 class. He may be on the Huyge track; if he's not on the two-deep this (his redshirt junior) year it doesn't seem very likely he'll be a starter in 2016. Fox has been hurt so much in his career (just going off of game reports) if he's not medicaled he probably deserves some extra time to get caught up. Samuelson I've heard nothing about; even when I ask people with insider-y info I get nothing.
I knooowww you belooooong to soooooomebody neeeeww.
But toniiiiiight you belooooong to me.
Is the state of Michigan driving kids away from in-state schools? This year Tom Izzo rode an easy bracket to a Final Four appearance with a down-year team, then put together a very good recruiting class, even if his top target went to Purdue. Since he really has no need to make excuses at the moment, his friends are doing it for him. Before the tournament it was "Tom Izzo doesn't cheat but everyone else does." Which is generally true—on a scale of "Look at our shiny Tommy Amaker" to "Ridin' this Calipari" MSU is definitely near the Amaker extremity of programs that regulate that stuff as best they can (nobody, including Michigan, would stand up to scrutiny, nor should).
The latest non-excuse excuse is MHSAA's arcane rule drives top 150 talent out of the state of Michigan, and thus away from the in-state schools. An article by Graham Couch—
Hey where are you going? Stop. At least see where I'm going with this. Yes the Couch article was exactly the paragon of crappy slappy journalism you'd expect from one of the worst journalists of my generation. He interviewed a couple of Detroit high school basketball coaches about the "parasitic" effect of AAU and national prep powers—as if anyone but the in-state schools would be helped if Miles Bridges was forced to live in Flint rather than a prep school down the street from Marshall University.
But that doesn't preclude a possibly real effect of talent leaving the state (and not looking back) due to overly stringent rules put in place by the body that controls high school athletics.
Couch cares because Michigan State in basketball is like an SEC football school (minus the cheating), in that their historical success is tied to proximity to talent. If the state of Michigan is systemically exporting more talent than it's bringing in, that's bad for the in-state schools. However if one program is suffering from greater national vagrancy because it's built on recruiting in-state talent and doesn't know how to compete for regional and extra-regional players, that's just that program falling behind the times.
Are more basketball players playing elsewhere in general? Is this state different somehow? I realized I didn't have a study to link to show this, so I made one.
And found M and MSU are getting less in-statey:
Bentley has a list of all Michigan basketball players except for 2008 (I added). For Michigan State I could only find a list of letterwinners, so I compared just Michigan's varsity:
A lot of wiggle: This isn't like football where there's over 100 players on each roster; if three freshmen from a prep school decide to attend the same college you'll get a big jump on the graph above.
There are two major national events responsible for two huge dips: World War II (1942-1945), and the implementation of Title IX, which regulations were promulgated in 1974 and clarified in 1979. The "three-part test" comes from '79, and it's from then through '82 that the three-part standards, e.g. having as many girls on official athletic rosters as boys, truly went into effect.
That said, there's a historical mean of around 50% in-state for Michigan and about 60% for Michigan State—not enough difference on a squad of 16 players to make a difference. Both schools have recently gone more out-of-state, Michigan to a much greater degree.
What about the Wolverines?
[Hit the jump]
I've written in various places, and Brian said again just yesterday, that Blake Countess is a very good zone cornerback who was exposed last year by being asked to do things outside of his comfort zone. Or outside his natural abilities. Or outside the capabilities of a guy his size.
The tape is the best evidence that he's not a fit for the aggressive man-to-man stuff Michigan switched to early last season, and will almost certainly try again this year. The best evidence against it was produced by Countess this spring, when he generated above the usual level of comments for controllable things like his work ethic, his knowledge of the defense, his toughness, etc.
But his size is a thing Blake can't change, and that plus the inability to shut down Tyler Lockett or William Fuller downgraded our hopes for a next-Woodson (leave him on an island) ceiling even before we discovered he's no MC5:
(you forgot to kick out the jams.)
That kind of thing can be mitigated by not lining him up so close—you give up that lock-down mentality for either soft coverage that lets the QB complete short stuff, or puts a safety over the top so Countess can break on that stuff.
Is Countess too small?
His size is below average for a guy who registered a play on a Power 5 roster, though not debilitatingly so. Here's how the CB depth chart stacks up against cornerbacks on all Power 5 rosters from 2010-2013 (#6 is Lyons):
Bubble size is more guys with that listed ht/wt. Avg height was 5'11", and weight was 183. Year-to-year differences were negligible.
If you need a roster refresher I put the tentative depth chart below-right. Our guys are generally on the line of distribution, with Richardson a wee little dude and Stribling and Dawson (and Keith Washington) on the edges of lankiness. I included Peppers to show just how different he is from most cornerbacks on this level of football, even as a redshirt freshman whose conditioning was hurt by a year of injury.
There were also quite a few teams who list all safeties and cornerbacks as "DBs"; indeed the cornerback sample we did get seems like it wouldn't change much. If you care here's Michigan's expected 2015 backfield rotation against the distribution of one year's Power 5 cornerbacks.
Interesting side-note: Florida's cornerbacks last year under Durkin were the smallest of any school in the Power 5. Using the formula from the chart above, Auburn and Minnesota were by far the biggest defensive backfields—both teams were about 6'0/200 with their cornerbacks. I know Minnesota at least is a man-all-day-long team. Nebraska and Ohio State were top five biggest, Iowa and Notre Dame around there and Stanford relatively big. Michigan was smallish—right around FSU and LSU. TCU was the second-smallest at CB.
Anyway Countess isn't the little guy according to the rosters; Lewis is. Jourdan's game is based on his recovery speed. He is just okay at jamming a guy at the line, but is so fast on a dead run and so quick to change direction that he doesn't have to stonewall his guy.
[Jump for what we've got in Lyons]
This was boss by James Ross. Read on to find out why it was pretty cool of Mattison too.
In football everything old tends to become new again. In last week's article on the Saban pattern-matching defense I alluded to how Alabama tried to use the same strategy Virginia Tech had against Ohio State, and got "85 Yards Through the Heart of the Southland" in their face. However Michigan had some success last year defending this same stuff from a base alignment. So I thought I'd explain how.
A quick refresher on what "3T" and "2i" etc. mean: A "technique" is the place a defensive lineman lines up relative to the offensive linemen:
When we say Willie Henry is a perfect 3-tech, it means he's good at doing things that you would do if you're usually lining up on the guard's outside shoulder.
They are numbered more or less from the inside out, but it gets confusing from having amalgamated many different coaches' terms for where a defender's hat starts. Like how a baseball diamond can comfortably accommodate all four sexual acts you knew of in 3rd grade, but once you're deep into high school extending the analogy leads to a lot of weirdness and disagreement.
Notice that there aren't names for lining up directly in a gap; you want your lineman to be "covering" (lined up in front of) someone to some goodly degree because in any scheme delaying an offensive lineman from getting downfield is a win for the defense. This will be important in a bit, but first let's talk about what OSU does.
By now I figure you know what the zone read looks like. Meyer does zone—and did so a lot more with zone guy Tom Herman at the helm than the heavy power stuff he ran at Florida—but at his heart he's still a Manballer. He manballs with the read-option…
…and he Manballs with regular old Power O from his spread sets. Here's what that looks like:
This was the same running game they used to pound defenses to death with Carlos Hyde, using the constant threat of Braxton Miller loping around the backside if you attacked that by crashing the middle, and dangerous vertical threats running downfield if you activate your safeties against it.
If Brian had UFR'd this I imagine he'd ding Glasgow –2 for getting blown five yards downfield by the double (and the refs for Mone getting held but that rarely gets called). Bolden had to watch for a backside cut but his path to the ball was blocked by Glasgow. The hold meant Mone couldn't fight off his block to stop the puller from getting into the lane, and Ryan can only pop that guy to restrict the hole.
But back up; why did such a good running offense need a hold and a good NT getting blown off the ball to gain its yards? Michigan made this hard by having two defensive tackles lined up over the guards. If Mone and Glasgow could hold their ground, Ryan and Bolden have a chance to stop this for a minimal gain. Two plays later they would, and it goes back to what Virginia Tech is doing with the old Bear.
[After the jump]