I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
I've been sitting here watching college football live on ESPN and listening to the thoughts of everyone on the Ohio St/Miami and Penn St/Alabama games. Everyones seems to be picking Ohio State and Alabama to win their respective games. This led me into thoughts of who would I rather see win those games and I ask the MGoBlog community the same question. Do you root for the Big Ten regardless of who is playing or do you stick to your guns about who you truely dislike? Myself living in the south surrounded by SEC fans I hear all the time that "The Big Ten is garbage" which is mostly based on Ohio State's implosion on the national championship/BCS stage of recent years, especially against the SEC. Personally I pull for the Big Ten every chance I get but I won't lie by saying that I wouldn't be happy if Ohio State loses a big out of conference game. I'm pulling for Penn State to beat Alabama but my dislike for Ohio State has me wanting them to lose this game for my own personal sanity. What does the MGoBlog community have to say about this? Do you pull against your rivals no matter what or do you support your conference?
[Edit: Note that I was writing this when Brian posted a front-page reference to the same idea on Slow States. All I can say is either great minds think alike or this is freaking obvious.]
What happened to the biggest rivalry of the old BIg 8 conference, Nebraska-Oklahoma, when it was split across divisions when the Big XII was formed? I'll answer that for you -- it was eclipsed by Texas-Oklahoma, a divisional rivalry. The collapse of that game is a major reason why Nebraska is leaving that conference to join the Big Ten.
What would happen to the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry if it were split across divisions? Could it be eclipsed by Penn State-Ohio State, a divisional rivalry? This isn't as far-fetched as you might think. An occasional championship matchup will not make up for turning the regular-season game into a trophy game instead of a must-win game with the divisional title almost always on the line. In the long run, the loss of this dynamic could damage the Michigan program and ultimately the Big Ten brand.
This doesn't need to happen.
It is possible to create both geographic equity (i.e., what Penn State wants) and competitive intensity (i.e., what Michigan and Ohio State should want) in a divisional alignment that preserves or protects all major rivalries. The only real question here is how to split up the quadrangle of hate (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, formerly a triangle) -- no matter how you do it, you're going to lose part of that. Without further ado:
- Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern
- Michigan State, Penn State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois
Protected regular-season games: Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Penn State, Iowa-Nebraska, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Northwestern.
- Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern
- Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois
Protected regular-season games: Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Penn State, Iowa-Minnesota, Nebraska-Wisconsin, Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Northwestern.
I'm not sure which of these two are better in terms of the quadrangle, but you get the idea. This protects most border-war and all in-state rivalries while spreading out the divisions, thereby not screwing anyone in that regard (i.e., like Penn State would be if you put them in an otherwise western division).
Finally, lest you argue this is the ACC redux, let's take a look at their current alignment:
- Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami
- Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State
I don't know if there are protected rivalry games across the divisions, but regardless, this is not a consistent system. Like the quadrangle of hate, the main problem for the ACC is how to handle the four North Carolina schools and, actually, I think the current scheme has got that right. The main problem with it is they don't split up Virginia-Virginia Tech, resulting in Maryland being split from Virginia.
If the ACC were to follow my methodology with regard to the Big Ten, it would look like this:
- Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Florida State
- Boston College, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Miami
Protected regular-season games: Maryland-Boston College, Virginia-Virginia Tech, North Carolina-North Carolina State, Duke-Wake Forest, Georgia Tech-Clemson, Florida State-Miami.
There, fixed two conferences in one go!
The ACC has more than doubled their TV revenue with their new contract. They now make $155 million a year, as opposed to $67 million a year previously. Unlike their previous contract, they sold all their rights to ESPN, who (thankfully) won a bidding war with Fox.
Ed: I looked a long ways back and am at convinced this topic hasn’t been “diarized” recently. Many apologies if it has—may there be some original ideas in my writing. This is all for fun and to keep my mind occupied during the dark of the offseason.
Currently, the conventional wisdom among many college football fans and pundits is that the SEC is the sport’s premier conference with the Big 10, Pac 10, and Big 12 in some order behind the SEC and the ACC and Big East rounding out the six BCS automatic qualifiers in terms of overall strength. However, this was not always the case. In the early portion of this millennium, the Pac 10 was considered by many to be the weakest conference while the Big 10 and SEC dueled at the top for perceived supremacy. Back when Woody and Bo stalked the sidelines, many thought the Big 10 or the SWC was easily the best conference.
What I’d like to examine with this diary is which conference was the best conference at various periods since the modern era of Michigan football began, which I’ll use as Bo Schembechler’s arrival. If conference supremacy has changed, why has this occurred? I’m not a subscriber to the “fast athletes come from the south” school, and unless something IS found in the water, I’ll likely never be convinced. Unfortunately, neither of these items is easy to prove.
I’m going to begin with the prevailing notion of conference supremacy, and I plan to examine reasons things may have changed in a later diary. The best way to accomplish this analysis is to create a statistical model capturing the strength of each team based on their accomplishments, their opponents’ accomplishments, and their opponents’ opponents’ accomplishments to include margin of victory. My statistical prowess leads me to believe that Jeff Sagarin needs to create this model for me. My repeated visits to his house have only resulted in a restraining order, so until he creates or I can find a historical statistical model, I have to use another means to ascertain dominance.
Sagarin’s approach (statistical modeling) is clearly an excellent approach because it evaluates each team and provides some means to objectively analyze each team’s performance. Human polls are notoriously inaccurate because they are based on preconceived notions and have obvious inertia—humans tend to keep teams that are rated highly up high after losses and don’t move teams up quickly who are rated lower to start with. Furthermore, “name brand teams,” such as Michigan and Ohio State tend to start out rated more highly, which lends itself to a bias in final polling. In other words, teams who start high tend to stay high relative to teams with similar resumes who start lower. Unfortunately, I am not a mathematical genius, so an in-depth statistical analysis is out.
Using team records for the analysis does not provide useful data for two reasons. First, because conference opponents play an even number of games and each conference game must be a win, loss, or tie—each conference will have an overall .500 record in-conference. The Pac 10 plays a round robin schedule, so ten teams played nine games this year totaling ninety games, with ninety wins and ninety losses. The only win percentage variation between conferences would be out of conference games, but without a way to objectively evaluate those opponents, I cannot use those games to evaluate a conference’s strength. Second, records can be deceiving in conference. The ACC has tended to have many teams gravitate towards .500. However, those .500 records could indicate many excellent teams knocking each other off or a protracted cripple fight.
Long story, but I feel it necessary to point out that I understand the weaknesses of the analysis to follow. Records without extensive statistical analysis are not useful, so I’ve decided to use human polls, hoping that the relatively large sample size (forty plus years) and using end of season polls will limit (although not eliminate) the human bias. The major weakness of this analysis is that a Top 25 poll ignores mid and lower level teams. Conferences are made of top, mid, and low level teams, not just top teams present in annual rankings. I played with using bowl results to include mid level teams, but the bowl season was too small until recently, and I believe bowl matchups are not inherently even. A great example is 6-6 MSU facing 8-4 Texas Tech this year. Bowls are based on conference contracts and grabs at TV ratings and ticket sales, not facilitating equal matchups between conferences.
My methodology follows:
1. I’m using the AP Top 25 polls from 1969 through the final poll in 2009.
2. The #1 rated team in the poll receives 1 point, #2 gets 2 points, and so on. Prior to 1989, the AP ranked 20 teams, and has ranked 25 teams ever since. Because conferences have unranked teams, they must be counted in some way. I’ve decided to count each unranked team as five points below the lowest ranked team in the poll (25 points prior to 1989, 30 points thereafter). While this does inflate the rankings of conferences with several truly crappy teams, I have no way to objectively evaluate the quality of 1983 Northwestern versus 1983 Vanderbilt. I feel this method is relatively fair, because each conference receives the same treatment.
I thought about rating 25% of unranked teams at 30, 50% at 50, and 25% at 75, but that seemed to complicated and error prone.
3. I only used current BCS conferences. It’s too difficult to try to measure the smaller conferences because so few teams were ranked over time. Each team counts against their current conference. The SWC doesn’t exist today, so they are not the best conference anymore.
4. The conference with the lowest average ranking wins that year. The lowest per decade wins decade, etc.
5. Thanks to http://homepages.cae.wisc.edu/~dwilson/rfsc/history/APpolls.txt for the historical polls.
The decade by decade encapsulation follows:
Overall, it’s clear that human voters prefer the accomplishments of the SEC to every other conference, particularly in the new millennium. The 22.5 average ranking has only been equaled seven times by every other conference COMBINED. They have also had the lowest average six out of the past nine years and 15 total years, which is the most of any conference (the Big 10 is second with 12).
I actually thought the Big 10 would come out stronger earlier and weaker later on. However, based on this analysis, the Big 10 is in a solid second place behind the SEC today, and would be second overall if it weren’t for the teams that would become the Big 12 having an excellent period from 1969-1978. The Big 10’s weakness was primarily due to the bottom portion of the conference. Indiana and Minnesota were only ranked twice, for example. The Big 10 rated highest from 1998-today five times, second only to the SEC, but ranked behind both the SEC and Big 12 for the first twenty years of my analysis.
The ACC is not a strong conference historically, but it benefits the most from my methodology. FSU and Miami (that Miami) were not part of the ACC for a large portion of their respective runs, but count towards the ACC’s point totals—which is why they are second place from 1989-1998. Two very strong teams move the ranking for a conference significantly.
The Big East is essentially a default. The conference didn’t even exist until the 1991 season, and two of their members, UConn and South Florida didn’t play D-1A until the 21st Century. I didn’t count them until they joined D-1A, for what it’s worth.
West Coast bias has a basis, regardless of whether it is valid or not. Despite USC’s strength the past decade, the conference only beat the Big East, and only beat the Big East over time as well.
I spent way too much time on this project, and plan to examine why there may have been any changes in a later diary. Please ask any questions in the comments and I’ll try to see if the analysis has any answers.
Who’s Who in College Football—or Which OOC Team is Most Like a Big 10 Team:
I’m interested by similarities between teams in different parts of the country. Some teams just should be good. Some teams just should suck. This goes beyond who is the current coach and the team’s record over the past five years, but extends into areas that include demographics, recruit density, tradition, and conference affiliation. Schools with everything going in their favor should be strong, even if they aren’t historically, and those who don’t shouldn’t be as good over the long run. For example, Boise State just shouldn’t be as good as Texas—even if Boise State decided to pour the same amount of money into football as Texas. They simply don’t have the necessary recruiting base, tradition, or exposure to draw the recruits required to compete with Texas—despite Boise’s relatively strong program. With the long dark offseason upon us, I’m thinking of some comparative projects to occupy my college football obsession over the next eight months.
With that in mind, I’ve identified a team to match with each team in the Big 10 from elsewhere in the country. This isn’t about who had the best and worst records this year or even in the last five. It’s about looking at the whole picture and determining who is most similar to schools in the Big 10. I’ll save Michigan for last, and I’m interested to see what everyone’s thoughts are. This isn’t meant to be a definitive list or an insult to any school, rather something to foster discussion and force me to learn more about the greater college football landscape.
Ohio State = Texas
To me, this is the
easiest comparison to make. Ohio and
Texas are two of the most populous states in the Union, with Ohio at number 7
and Texas at number 2. Each state has a
very large public university system, with Ohio State and Texas clearly standing
out as the flagship schools for both states (I know Miami, not that Miami, is a
solid school—but tOSU is vastly improved academically and is clearly Ohio’s
flagship school). Texas does produce
significantly more talent as a state than Ohio, but I think the top recruits
available per school are relatively similar because Texas supports so many more
BCS teams (4, 5 with TCU to 2 for Ohio).
There were 13 Rivals 100 recruits in Texas to four in Ohio last year.
The football teams are obviously similar today and over time. Ohio State is number 5 all-time in winning percentage and Texas is number 3. Both teams have been elite over time and there is no reason to think that either school will falter soon. The programs are also considered to be among the most valuable, according to Forbes, with Texas ranked number 1 and OSU at number 8. You could even drill down further with the comparison. They have had iconic coaches, Hayes and Royal, iconic players, Griffin and Young, along with numerous titles and conference dominance. Ohio State may be coming out of a long period of struggling against elite competition, just like Texas when Big Game Bob Stoops was in his prime. Finally, each team has a historically elite level rival from a smaller state that poaches many of its best players from Texas/Ohio—Oklahoma and Michigan.
Ohio State and Texas
are elite football schools from football crazy states that should, based on
demographics, own their conferences and regions.
Other schools considered: Florida, USC
Penn State = Florida
Forget the obvious comparison between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. Seriously, forget it. Despite each of those coaches building their program completely in their image and serving as the single most recognizable person affiliated with either school, the comparison still sticks when the coaches are ignored or marginalized in the analysis.
Pennsylvania is the 6th
most populous state while Florida is 4th. Florida is obviously one of the great
recruiting hotbeds for football talent, with 7 Rivals 100 recruits last
year. However, Pennsylvania holds its
own with 3. Neither school is the
strongest academic school in the state.
Pennsylvania has several top schools, such as Penn and Carnegie Mellon,
while Florida and Miami are both easily stronger academically than FSU.
Beyond the coaches, both teams are historically similar. Both were long-time independents, and joined the Big Ten and ACC soon after Arkansas agreed to join the SEC in 1990—signaling the death knell for the Southwest Conference and putting the writing on the wall for independents everywhere. By 1990, both programs were very strong, and were expected to dominate their conference upon entry. This definitely happened in FSU’s case, but not so much for Penn State.
As I previously stated,
I believe that FSU and Penn State are very similar without the coaches. When the coaches are incorporated, they
become extremely similar. I won’t bore
anyone with the details, but they are both great, all-time win list, etc and
the schools are both bracing for life after the program icon—with FSU having
Other schools considered:
Michigan State = Auburn
This was a tough
comparison in many ways. MSU is its own
special character, and finding it a partner wasn’t easy. Obviously, you can’t define MSU without
incorporating Michigan. MSU, perhaps
more than any team in the Big Ten is defined by its rival. While there were periods where MSU was
unquestionably better than Michigan, over time it isn’t even close. There are several schools that are
historically similar in addition to Auburn, such as Texas A&M and UCLA, but
I chose Auburn because of Michigan’s and Alabama’s (state not school)
Alabama is a much less populous state than Michigan, at number 23 to Michigan’s 8. However, it is surrounded by (and is) very fertile recruiting territory and is surrounded by some very populous states, such as Florida and Georgia. This enables Alabama to house two big time programs despite its relatively small size. While both schools have had periods of great success, Auburn for much of this decade and MSU in the 1960s, both have generally been overshadowed by their in-state rival.
Both schools are
considered to be relatively strong academically, but not at the level of their
in-state big brother—although the University of Alabama appears to fluctuate
quite a bit in the rankings I looked at.
They are both public institutions and long time members of their
Auburn and MSU are also both interesting because of their contrasting histories during the 1960s. Duffy Daugherty at MSU famously took many black recruits that schools like Auburn and Alabama couldn’t admit, and built a national power in the 1960s.
considered: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, UCLA
Illinois = Virginia
Illinois and Virginia are
two of the schools whose lack of success in football is difficult to
fathom. Both are unquestionably old
money, high quality schools. The states
are relatively populous, with Virginia coming in at number 12 and Illinois at
number 5. Also, I lived in Northern
Virginia for about 18 months, and felt like Washington D.C. was almost a part
of the state. Assuming about half of the
population thinks the same thing, with the other half leaning towards Maryland;
the effective population expands to number 11 in the US. Both are long-time members of their
respective conferences, and have a solid recruiting base. Each has won two conference titles in the
last 25 years.
Given their population,
history, and status as the flagship public school in a populous state, both
schools should be much better at football.
Unfortunately for them, each has failed to keep up with their more
powerful conference members. In
Illinois’ case, Notre Dame has also made life difficult for the football
program. Virginia has always been
overshadowed by their more powerful southern cousins in the SEC.
Other schools considered: California, Arizona
Wisconsin = Colorado
Before I started this research project, I would not have placed these two schools together. I started with the idea that Texas was very similar to Ohio State and how similar MSU was to teams like Auburn and Texas A&M, but I had very little to go on for the rest of the conference. First, Colorado and Wisconsin are similar in population, ranking 22 and 20 respectively. Neither is a hotbed of top recruiting talent, producing one Rival’s 100 recruit each in 2008. Both are good, quality schools in pretty fun college towns.
They are pretty similar football wise, although Wisconsin has had much more success the past 15 years. Wisconsin has six Rose Bowl berths, two since 1998 and has emerged as a solid 3rd or 4th team most years in the Big Ten. Colorado was one of the stronger Big 8 teams right before the Big 12 was created, including a national title in 1990, but has fallen on hard times recently under Gary Barnett and Dan Hawkins.
These schools are examples of schools that shouldn’t be very good. Both are a long way relative to their opposition from the population centers that produce their conference’s best recruits, Texas in the Big 12 and Ohio/Pennsylvania in the Big 10 and they don’t have elite tradition on their side. Wisconsin has built its niche in the Big 10 by being the only Big 10 team that still plays classic Big 10 meat grinder football, and Colorado likely needs to find a similar formula to build its success.
Other schools considered: Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska
Iowa is really
hard. It is the least populous state in
the Big 10 footprint, yet it is a top 30 public school. They have solid football history, including
eleven Big 10 titles. It is difficult to
find a school that matches it demographically, is strong academically, and has
a solid football background. I picked
Arkansas for several reasons, delineated below.
Arkansas is behind Iowa academically by about forty spots according to US News. However, it is still a solid school and has an underrated football history, like Iowa. Arkansas has 13 conference titles to its credit, and both schools claim one national title. Demographically, they are similar. Iowa is the 31st most populous state, while Arkansas is number 33. Each is the smallest state by population in their conference and produces similar top talent. Iowa had one top 100 player last year while Arkansas had two. Both are traditionally behind their more powerful rivals, but have been able to remain competitive.
Minnesota = Syracuse
Did you know both schools didn’t always suck at football? Both schools are northern programs far, far away from the recruiting hotbeds in the South and West. Both recently played in really crappy dome stadiums despite the potentially massive advantage of playing outdoors in a northern stadium. Minnesota moved out of the Humpty Dome last year, but the Carrier Dome still lives.
Minnesota was actually
Michigan’s first real rival, having excellent teams in the 30s, 40s, and 60s,
with the Little Brown Jug going back to 1903.
Both Syracuse and Minnesota were early beneficiaries of integration,
especially Syracuse with Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. Each have solid academic programs in very
Other schools considered: Oregon
Northwestern = Stanford
Obvious, right? The only other good options were Duke and
Vanderbilt, but they’ve shown very little inclination to be serious about
football in the last long time, even though Duke has had success in the distant past.
Other schools considered: Duke, Vanderbilt
Purdue = Maryland
Both schools are solid schools in similarly sized states. Each is easily overshadowed by their more powerful neighbors. Each claims one national title and several conference titles. Both schools have had recent success, but show no signs of breaking through and competing year in and year out for titles.
Other schools considered: Pitt
Indiana = Washington State
Both historically suck,
can you tell I have nothing to say about Indiana? The states are similarly sized, with
Washington at 13 and Indiana at number 16.
Washington produced zero top 100 players last year, while Indiana had
one. Indiana has played in nine bowl
games, while Wazzu has played in 10.
Both have losing records to Michigan (and just about everyone else) and lay claim to
fountains of unintentional comedy—Lee Corso and Ryan Leaf.
Other schools considered: Kansas, Iowa State
Michigan = Oklahoma
I really think this is a great comparison for many reasons. However, I want to get the glaring weakness out of the way first. The University of Oklahoma may be the best school in the state and the best school for many, many country miles, but it is not even close to Michigan. Enough said, right?
I chose Oklahoma for
Michigan over everyone else for the reasons below. However, because this is a Michigan blog, I
want to explain how I eliminated everyone else. Michigan, like every other
team, is defined partly by the demographics and history of its conference. If we accept the Big 2 (tOSU and Michigan)
premise that most years those should be the best teams in the Big Ten based on
historical success, then no one in the PAC 10, Big East, or ACC closely matches
Michigan’s situation. Each has its historical
strong school, but not two or more historical juggernauts. I could place FSU and Virginia Tech here with the ACC, but
I don’t believe they match Michigan and Ohio State’s situation because there isn’t a historical rivalry and neither has the same amount of
history. The SEC has two teams that are
close to Michigan's situation, Tennessee and Alabama.
I discounted Tennessee because their monster rival from a bigger state
(Florida) hasn’t been as good for as long as tOSU and they have only played 39
times to 106 for Michigan-Ohio State and 99 for Texas-OU. Alabama was discounted because they don’t
have a great out of state rivalry that has mattered nationally like Michigan-Ohio
Football-wise, these schools are very similar. Both are very old money. Each claims 42 conference titles and many national titles. Both schools have had some of the best coaches out there, and continue to be relevant today. Despite their astonishing success, neither is a recruiting hotbed. Each school must poach most of its top players from elsewhere in their conference footprint and nationally.
I find the most
intriguing similarity to be the comparison between Oklahoma and the members of the
Big 12 to Michigan and the members of the Big 10. Both schools are either the best or second
best school in just about each meaningful modern statistic in their respective
conference: conference titles, All-Americans, wins, etc. Both schools have a much larger school to the
south that is its traditional rival, Texas and tOSU. Both schools down south hold just about every
advantage over Michigan and Oklahoma.
They are in top recruiting states and should be consistently better
based on demographics. Yet Michigan and
Oklahoma claim more conference titles and national championships than their
bigger rival. Each even has an upstart
little brother in-state that claims to be their most important rival!
Michigan and Oklahoma defy the odds to remain relevant. Assuming most recruits like to stay near home and a similar commitment to football excellence by all D-1 programs, neither would be as strong as they are. However, tradition and commitment to excellence have kept both relevant and powerful.
considered: Alabama, Tennessee
Again, this is meant for fun, and not as a definitive list. There is no perfect comparison, and each school is very different. I’m interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.
FYI, current bowl records for the auto qualifiers and the Mountain West:
ACC -- 3-3
Big 12 -- 3-2
Big 10 -- 3-2
Big East -- 3-2
Pac 10 -- 2-5
SEC -- 3-3
MWC -- 4-0
The Pac 10 is the big loser this year. Their season is finished and they didn't do too well. The irony is that the Pac 10 seemed to be regarded by most pundits as on par with the SEC as the best conference this season. Maybe we'll get to hear about what's wrong with the PAC 10 all off season.
The Mountain West has had great success against the big boys again this year, and can round out a perfect 5-0 season if TCU can handle Boise St. The MWC may be weak on the bottom, but any conference would take an 80% winning percentage.
I'm pretty pleased with the Big 10 so far--despite the Big 10 consistently being stuck with poor match ups. If Sparty or Iowa can pull out a win, the Big 10 should be able to get the monkey off its back with a very strong bowl season.