i am a very important person who should be listened to
Can you name all the Michigan players in this photo from the last Purdue-Michigan game in Ann Arbor? [photo: a much younger Eric Upchurch]
Since going to 14 teams the Big Ten schedule has been a mess. Some teams rarely face each other, other teams face each other twice a season. The divisions are historically and presently uneven. The last two years in a row this resulted in a Big Ten “champion” that had a demonstrably worse season than at least two other Big Ten teams. Congrats Penn State and Michigan State, but I think we can do better. In fact I have an idea how.
I’ll get into the details below but the idea isn’t for everyone to have to memorize the details. The simplest description is every year you play three locked-in rivalry games, three games of your choosing, and three games against schools near you in the standings. Your biggest rivalry is played at the end of the season, and its result (half) carries over to next season.
On FiveThirtyEight’s Solution: Nate Silver’s proposal and mine share a few concepts: locked in rivalries early in the year, a mini-playoff at the end of the year, and eradicating divisions (which is essential to any good schedule reform). But it has two big flaws I tried to avoid:
1) It puts The Game in September, which: no, or in Week 7, which again: no, and then you’re seeding with less information.
2) Teams at the top will rarely face those at the bottom. I don’t like that because it cuts down on variety and could easily lead to things like long droughts between Michigan-Purdue tilts which are one of the things we’re trying to fix. Also it’s not good for the long term health of the conference since it would redistribute more losses from the bottom of the conference to the middle and middle-high. In effect it would result in fewer and lower ranked teams at the top, and fewer bowl-eligible teams from the conference. A few more competitive games is good, but 538’s proposal takes that to an extreme to the detriment of other important considerations.
- Maintain the annual rivalries and maximize their importance, keeping the big rival games at the end of the season.
- Play 9 conference games.
- Split up rivalry games so every team has a compelling schedule every year to sell to season ticket holders.
- Produce a fair and least disputable conference champion by playing all or most of the relevant games during the season.
- Play as many competitive games between similarly ranked teams as possible.
- No rematches!
- See a variety of opponents over a 10-year period.
- Encourage Power 5 opponents in non-conference scheduling.
- Be relatively simple.
The system I came up with hit all of these benchmarks to varying degrees (#9 being measured in Kelvin). #5 conflicts with #7 so I left it up to the schools themselves to prioritize between them. As for #9 it’s actually complicated, but can have the appearance of simplicity.
The schedule has four components:
- Three locked-in games versus your annual rivals.
- Three games where the top teams draft their opponents.
- Three games where you play like competition, and the top four teams all play each other.
- A “Big Ten Showcase” invitational during conf championship week to play the best three games that weren’t played.
This is the easy part. The teams are all separated into four pods of three or four with rivals they ought to be playing every year.
|East Coast Cable Subscribers||Intercollegiate
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|C||Michigan State||Penn State||Indiana||Iowa|
The division names are not important but the order is—if you want a clue as to why, look at the A-B and C-D matchups. Teams in your pod are the two or three teams you play every year. There are two ways to handle the three-team pods and I haven’t decided which I like better—either works about the same:
- Option 1: Lock in rivals. Each team gets an annual rival from the opposite division, e.g. Michigan-Maryland is played the week of OSU-MSU, PSU-OSU always comes when Michigan plays State, and Rutgers-Michigan State is played annually on the last week of the season for bragging rights and the Situation Trophy.
- Option 2: Rotate every 2 years. So after two seasons of the above, Michigan plays Rutgers on week 1, Ohio State plays Maryland, and the Land Grant Trophy becomes the end-of-year rivalry for MSU. Then after two years it becomes M-PSU, OSU-Rutgers, MSU-Maryland.
I sorta prefer Option 1 but Option 2 seems more feasible.
[HIT THE JUMP to see how I worked it all out]
NOPE. / Please!
UPDATE: Kirk Herbstreit says it is a current college OC.
I'm going to try to keep this realistic, which means Oregon OC Scott Frost is out, RichRod OC Calvin Magee is out, and the two guys who have been in Manhattan, Kansas for 16 and 17 years as co-OCs are out. This puts me one step ahead of Coaching Scoop, which throws out Lane Kiffin as a name to watch.
The question is: how much control will Hoke cede and how married is he to manball? His coaching history suggests he's a "whatever works" guy, running a MAC-standard passing spread during his breakout year with Nate Davis and hiring Rocky Long to run the dreaded 3-3-5 at San Diego State. The fact that This Is Michigan seems to have given him the impression that he has to run Carr's mid-nineties offense. Has this season disabused him of that notion? Is he willing to hand the keys over to a proven offensive mind and say "go get it," even if it looks funky and does not abide by the Queensbury rules?
I don't know.
The problem with assuming that Hoke will look for a "pro style" coordinator is that they are increasingly hard to find. Looking at the top teams in yards per play this year is futile since they consist of guys Michigan cannot get to make a lateral move (OCs at Alabama, LSU, FSU, and Georgia aren't moving) or run offenses that would require a major philosophical shift(Oregon, Baylor, A&M, Auburn, Indiana) even if Michigan could hypothetically grab their OC. If we are sticking to manball, the field quickly narrows, leaving Michigan looking at candidates who are… uh… well, they're not slam dunks.
Current D-I coordinators who seem like they might fit are limited. Two that seem plausible:
Jim Chaney, OC, Arkansas. Chaney's been around the block, operating both Purdue's passing spread under Drew Brees and Tennessee's pro-style attack with Tyler "The" Bray. He just got hired at Arkansas by Bret Bielema and while Arkansas was in no way good, it is impressive that the Razorbacks had two 900 yard rushers and finished in the top 20 in YPC despite having a QB who completed fewer than half his passes for a Sheridan-like 6.0 YPC. Tennessee's offenses with Chaney were up and down; he did finish 2012 with the #19 YPP offense despite the turbulence at the end of the Dooley era.
Chaney's been around the block and has coordinated both spread and pro-style attacks; he knows the Big Ten from nine years as Purdue's OC.
Matt Canada, OC, NC State. Was Indiana's OC from 2007 to 2010, when Bill Lynch was swept out. Then started a Loeffler-like odyssey, visiting Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and NC State for one year stints. None of his stops have been that successful save the one year at Northern Illinois, but did blow up at Bielema prior to last year's Big Ten Championship game, a 70-31 explosion against Nebraska. Likes futzin' and hoodaddery, in a Fritz Crisler sort of way.
Neither of these guys do much for me, and often the smart answer is to dip down to lower levels and pick off the guys killing it down there. Oklahoma State keeps losing offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator to head coaching jobs, and the last time Mike Gundy had to pick a guy he went over to the NCAA's website and picked off the guy at the head of D-II stats. That worked out fairly well.
With the kind of money Michigan was throwing at Borges they might not have to look at lower-level OCs, they can take a shot at…
Rob Ambrose, HC, Towson. You may remember Towson as the team that had an easier time against UConn than Michigan did, or from that time their basketball team played Michigan and was just unbelievably bad. Towson ended up in the FCS national title game against North Dakota State, and that is an amazing accomplishment for a program that almost ended in 1990. Ambrose was Towson's OC for a while before moving into the head job; he is a former quarterback who coaches that position but has flexibility:
Combs said many former quarterbacks who become offensive coordinators or head coaches often stick with pass-heavy offenses regardless of personnel.
Not Ambrose, Combs said.
With Ambrose as offensive coordinator in 1999, the Tigers thrived behind quarterback Joe Lee’s school-record 4,168 passing yards. The following season, Towson built its offense around running back Noah Reed, who rushed for a Patriot League-record 1,422 yards.
After a rough start, Towson's gone 9-3, 7-4, and 13-3, and Ambrose has heard of Michigan:
For Towson, winning a national championship means making history, and that’s something Rob Ambrose plays up when he talks to recruits.
“You can go to Michigan and be on Page 7,000 of their history book or you can come here and write it,’’ he said.
The article describes battles won to get coaches' cell phones paid for by the school, so I don't think the demotion in rank is going to bother Ambrose, hypothetically.
Bob Stitt, HC, Colorado School Of Mines. Stitt got on everyone's radar after Dana Holgorsen shredded Clemson with a play Stitt gave him, and his work at CSM has been impressive over a long duration. Hoke would have to give him the keys entirely…
Stitt says he'd be willing to move up as an offensive coordinator, but only if the head coach would give him total offensive control. It's not difficult to see why he's so well-regarded in coaching circles, especially by those who run wide-open offenses. At 6-3, Stitt is closing in on his 11th winning season in 13 years. In all but a few of those years, the Orediggers, who play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, have ranked among the top-10 in Div. II in passing offense.
…but this is a guy widely known for not wearing a headset for most of the game, so… yeah. That's implied. In terms of consistent, long-term resume and success at a school with zero recruiting advantages(Mines consists of 5200 engineers), Stitt is tough to beat.
Troy Rothenbuhler, OC, Findlay. Three year record as OC with D-II Oilers is impressive. First year featured a bounce up from under 250 yards a game to nearly 400; year two was 437 yards a game, and year three saw Findlay crack 500. They do run a spread, but their plays per game of 75 is not super fast. Rushed for almost 2900 yards this year at 5.5 a pop. Is an OSU grad, with whom Michigan has done well with in the past.
Phil Longo, OC, Slippery Rock. Yeah, seriously. The main issue here is that he's a no-huddle Air Raid guy, but hear me out: He's in his third year at Slippery Rock, finding plenty of success, and spent two years at SIU in which the Salukies went 20-5. One year he lost his QB midyear and went from passing-oriented to spread 'n' shred. Kind of looks like Brock Lesnar, too.
The other option is to look up at NFL types. When not mentioning Lane Kiffin, Football Scoop throws out three NFL position coaches that induce varying levels of depression in the author:
Mike Groh, WR, Chicago Bears. The Jay Paterno of Virginia football under Al Groh. Was OC for three years at end of Groh tenure. In 2008, Virginia was 102nd in YPP, in 2007 they were 105th. CFB Stats does not have 2006, but I think the point is made. Groh's resume is terrible. DEPRESSION LEVEL: immense.
John McNulty, QB, Arizona Cardinals. A grad assistant at Michigan in the early 90s and has one year as an OC to his name, that in 2008 at Rutgers. Rutgers was good that year (20th in YPP) and he is a QB coach in the NFL. Track record very thin. DEPRESSION LEVEL: moderate.
Randy Fitchner, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Another guy who started as a grad assistant at Michigan, Fitchner in the mid-80s. He was a college OC for a decade at Arkansas State and Memphis, where he ran spread offenses rather effectively. This was the DeAngelo Williams era at Memphis, not the incredibly depressing stuff since. DEPRESSION LEVEL: minimal.
…and now Sam Webb's hinting strongly($) that the announcement will come tomorrow and crosses off Kiffin, Mazzone, and a few other possibilities that no one thought were particularly serious, so we won't have to wait long. To me this means none of these guys are particularly likely unless Hoke's been doing groundwork completely out of the public eye since AFAIK none of them have Hoke ties. I figured Michigan would vet and interview candidates at the big AFCA coaching hoo-haw this week; apparently not.
FORMATION NOTES: Northwestern stuck to a 4-3 virtually the entire game, with pretty predictable rules as to how they would line up.
When Michigan aligned its strength to the short side of the field and had twins, NW would slide the LBs and play an even front. They would slide the LBs to the twins and shift their line to the strength of the formation when M aligned with their strength to the field.
When Michigan presented Ace, they would play a 4-3 under.
The primary exception to this was the redzone, where Northwestern played their safeties as extra LBs.
Five yards off the LOS and coming on the snap is why those two Derrick Green carries from around the ten ended up losing yards. The first one was actually blocked quite well.
Note that the way NW aligned consistently invited the bubble fake run game, as their corners played off and the slot LB had to respect the bubble. With a safety over the top those two guys removed three players from the box and left Michigan with seven on seven blocking opportunities without having to use the threat of Gardner's legs. It will still work if teams play Michigan like this; if they don't Michigan will have to find something else.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: QB, WR, and the OL were all as you would expect. Dileo seemed to return full strength in this one and this meant Jackson was removed. Paskorz got some early PT but it was Williams most of the way as inline blocky guy. The line remained Lewan/Bosch/Glasgow/Magnuson/Schofield save for some goal line plays on which Kalis game in at RG and weird stuff happened otherwise, like wing TE Taylor Lewan.
Running back was of course an overhaul, with Derrick Green getting the bulk of the work, De'Veon Smith becoming a 30% second, and Justice Hayes acting as a third down back sometimes. Joe Kerridge also got a few snaps as a running back in the shotgun on passes.
[After THE JUMP: wherein we seem relatively happy with nine points in regulation.]
ACCIDENTALLY APROPOS ERROR NOTES: Since the NCAA decided to replace their stat pages with much worse stat pages I've been using ESPN's items—still worse than the thing the NCAA just replaced but better. Their drive pages have been consistently erroneous all year, but my irritation just evaporated thanks to this magically accurate error in re: Michigan's drive immediately following Taylor's interception:
CORRECT, intern or robot or whoever. Correct. Except that drive started at the MSU 41, but we forgive all transgressions for spiritual correctness. The best kind of correctness.
FORMATION NOTES: So I just called MSU's stuff 4-3 over but I should point out that everyone is within ten yards of the LOS on damn near every snap. This is M's opener.
This was completely typical. For the most part, MSU did not try to match corners, they just ran their D. They would occasionally move guys down and whatnot, but mostly this was like watching magic. MSU has acquired a variety of guys big time programs didn't want and plays them more aggressively than the most athletic defense in the country, whoever that might be, and apparently no one can do anything about it. It is boggling.
MSU did on occasion flip to man press on the corners; this is designated with "press."
While it was the same personnel, when MSU shaded a guy outside the hash I called this a nickel. As always, with opponent formations I'm not trying to describe personnel.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Gardner until last three plays, Toussaint almost the whole way save one, maybe two snaps on which Derrick Green didn't seem any better at pass blocking.
Line was Lewan/Bosch/Glasgow/Magnuson/Schofield with some limited exceptions featuing Kalis entering as a sixth OL. Paskorz got some snaps at TE; Butt got most of the inline snaps. When Funchess was inline it is noted below; he was inline for every play on Michigan's final drive but mostly split out. No Dileo; WRs were Gallon, Chesson, and a little bit of Jackson.
[After THE JUMP: otters, so many otters]
also Panic Kornheiser Google Image Search
Dammit, dammit, dammit. You have probably heard that Amara Darboh has blown up something in his foot and is out for the year. This calls for the little panic guy.
Michigan is not going to replace Darboh's combination of size and blocking and receiver expectations should be downgraded a notch. Judging from scrimmage highlights and practice buzz, Jehu Chesson or Joe Reynolds is the next man in. Hopefully it's Chesson, who has excellent upside; realistically both guys are going to split Darboh snaps.
Michigan may also turn to more plays on which Devin Funchess splits out. While Funchess doesn't have the same speed Darboh does he can duplicate some of the leapy-catchy Hemingway business Michigan just lost.
At least Darboh gets a redshirt.
Elsewhere in PANIC. Bad sign:
Hoke says Jarrod Wilson has to have more production to become a starter at safety.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 20, 2013
"More production" in this case probably means "fewer blown tackles/coverages." That's bad. What's more, the seemingly odd move of Courtney Avery back there signals that Michigan is scrambling at that spot. If it was a safety coming through another safety, fine. A 175-pound corner whose health is constantly in question triggers my alarm bells.
That's a death knell for Josh Furman, for one. While it's less of a negative sign for Jeremy Clark since he's just a year into the program, it would have been nice if he was able to play once Wilson faltered.
Feel better? George
Campbell Whitfield, broom-wielding quarterback guru, on Devin Gardner:
“I was shocked,” Whitfield said. “I had only seen him in a couple cameos at Michigan. I was shocked at all the talent, how strong he was, how athletic, how fast.
“We worked on a lot of footwork ... weight transition, the ability to drop, put your foot in the ground, stop and work back into a play. That’s not always easy. ... We spent quite a bit of time on chaos training — what happens if two linemen got beat, halfway through drop, and I don’t have to pull rip cord or I’m getting chased to left sideline, I’m a right-handed quarterback, how do I make this throw?”
Gardner's main issue is accuracy—too many times last year he missed on simple throws because of erratic mechanics. Hopefully an offseason of ownership sees him make serious progress there.
[after THE JUMP: pudding pops, Bartlestein on the shot, and advice for freshmen.]
This season's proliferation of Bo Ryan bug basketball combined with the electric NCAA final and how that final was marred by the gibbering incompetents in stripes to create an environment where you can't throw a rock without hitting someone suggesting changes intended to make basketball more watchable. Most of these are at least indirectly aimed at Bo Ryan.
Here are some ideas which I do not necessarily endorse, except in the case of removing timeouts. I have watched basketball at least once and therefore am passionately in favor of this.
[UPDATE: Andy Glockner just posted on this, too.]
Shorten the shot clock
Eamonn Brennan caught the normally shy and reticent Tom Izzo making an appearance on the radio in which he said this:
“We have the slowest game in the world,’” Izzo said. “As you say, the international [game] is less [slow]. The pro is less. The women’s is less. And here we are with 35 [seconds].
He went on to say that chopping the shot clock was discussed at the rules committee meetings in Atlanta. Brennan suggests a drop to 24 but if they did change this I'd guess they go with 30, an intermediate between the current clock and the same as the international game.
I'm not sure a drop does much to make basketball nicer to look at. If you go all the way to 24 you've got less good basketball players operating in an unrestricted zoning environment, which is a recipe for a lot of ugly no-look heaves at the basket with the buzzer going up. Is watching Wisconsin play in a 24-second shot clock world even grimmer? Maybe. I shudder to think about middling college teams trying to scrape together a shot in 14 seconds after barely busting a VCU or Louisville press. College players probing the Syracuse zone in 24 seconds… I mean. Yergh.
If it's 30 you have marginally increased the speed of the game and made it more difficult for bug people to squat on your enjoyment… at least when they're on offense. They'll squat all the fiercer on defense.
One positive development from a shorter shot clock is the increased attractiveness of running. It still seems like a minefield of unintended consequences.
Get rid of timeouts, the more the better
The only interesting thing that has ever happened during a timeout.
No one has specifically been suggesting this because they haven't been forced to watch a basketball game that's just gone under two minutes with both coaches in possession of four timeouts, but check twitter the next time this goes down. Basketball teams should get one time out, end story. If networks want to slightly bulge commercial breaks in compensation, fine. Anything is better than the end of a tight basketball game feeling like rush hour in Chicago.
For a quick check on what happens when you don't have timeouts, let's go to the end of the Michigan-Indiana game. Michigan is down one with twelve seconds left and no timeouts:
While the outcome was displeasing to Michigan fans, hey guess what it's still basketball, and for neutrals it was much better than the same thing after yet another 30 second break.
Severely reducing available timeouts has the added benefit of making games more chaotic at the end. You can't save a possession by calling TO on the floor; you have to inbound even if that seems like a bad idea; you can't bail yourself out when trapped in a corner. All those near-turnovers that end in an anti-climatic timeout are suddenly 50/50 balls, which favors the trailing team.
Unfortunately, an unholy conspiracy of control freak coaches and revenue-craving TV execs means this will never, ever happen.
Call those foul things
At right: possibly a foul. Possibly not. But it definitely wasn't called one. Probably.
The referees weren't perfect, but for the most part, Beilein felt the officials allowed players freedom of movement -- which, in his opinion, is the way the game should always be played.
"I like the way the NBA is played," Beilein told WWLS 98.1-FM on Monday. "If you put your hand on a guy, it's a foul.
"We actually teach it, and it hurts us sometimes when we're not as physical as other teams."
The national title game was poorly officiated all around. One of the ways in which it was is symptomatic of a larger trend and not just an OOOAAAWWWWHHHH outrage with no redeeming qualities: all those phantom fouls on Louisville once they'd stolen the ball. UL would foul Michigan up and down the court; refs wouldn't call it until Michigan was in a terrible position because of it and turned it over. There's a tendency to look at foul, see if it affects the play, and then call it. You know and hate those whistles that occur after the shot.
A foul should be a foul. No more talk about Deciding The Game. The refs are deciding the game either way. "Letting the players play" is in fact letting nobody play because it's hard to play basketball when people are bumping and grinding you. Letting people play leads to ugly rugby-scrum games. All year Michigan opponents would hand-check Burke; all year everyone would shuffle their chest into the shooter without consequence; all year you could plow into a three-point shooter on a closeout without getting a whistle except in the most extreme circumstances.
At this point there has to be a terrible period where a foul is redefined as a consistent thing not dependent on the game situation, which will lead to scads of ugly games with lots of free throws. It'll be like that period in the NHL when the powers that be decided that all that stuff in the rulebook was there for a reason. That was a half-season of misery, but the game came out better for it.
Also, for pants sake can we get an advantage call? If a foul does nothing to prevent a one-on-zero fast break, fling your arms out dramatically and give the foul at the next opportunity*, which will almost invariably be after the fast-break bucket. When it's not just whistle it when the opposing team gets the ball back. They can't complain, they committed a foul.
You'll like this a lot, basketball referees. It's very dramatic. You can pretend you're a matador, or super into right angles, and you can do it for seconds at a time when the play is still going on.
*[no shots, just the personal and the team foul.]
The usual NBA business
The NCAA has no power to change the NBA's one-and-done rule. If they did, they would have already done it. That doesn't stop people from coming up with better systems than the current one—all of them. Beilein advocates for a baseball model where you either go straight out of high school or hang around for three years:
"(My preference would) probably be very much like baseball," Beilein said earlier this week. "I think that would be a great thing. If there's a Kobe (Bryant) or LeBron (James) out of high school, he can get that big contract and go.
"If not, go (to college) for three years and make an educated decision. Then guys can redshirt and do all these things. That's ideal in my mind."
The NBA is unlikely to go for that since one of the main goals of one-and-done was to put their future stars in a year-long free marketing internship, and to prevent a bunch of high schoolers with no business declaring from doing so.
Actually, there are some things the NCAA can do to help out here. For one, they can change their archaic rules. If you opt into a draft, you're done. If you just get drafted, you can maintain your eligibility. The "you just get drafted" rule is in place in hockey, and while it has its flaws the end result is a lot more sensible. A couple years ago I made an extremely useful and no doubt soon-to-be-accepted proposed change to the draft that boils down to these points:
- Everyone gets drafted out of high school; they retain their eligibility. The draft expands a round or two.
- An NBA team signing a draft pick has to provide a guaranteed contract that lasts until the player is five years out of high school. They cannot reclaim this roster spot even if the player is cut.
- Drafted, unsigned players can participate in summer league.
As a bonus the NCAA could allow drafted players to retain agents, get some money, and go to NBA team activities on the team's dime. The NBA could execute the bulleted sections all on their own now, though.
This would move the "should I leave school" decision to the player and the team instead of an advisory board that's guessing. NBA teams would have to think hard about guaranteeing a high school kid money and a roster spot for five years, less hard about guaranteeing a junior two. The NCAA would enjoy an influx of attention from fans of pro teams tracking their draftees and could use that as a useful jumping off point from their archaic notions of amateurism.
Fire anyone who turns the act of calling a charge into a play in one act
Also never happening but as long as I'm getting this out of my system I figure I should mention this. God bless the guy who called the Morgan/Triche charge like he was Marvin the Paranoid Android.