it's a major award
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.
I was impressed with the sportsmanship that Michigan and Indiana displayed on Saturday. Three displays caught my attention immediatly:
-Denard gets tackled by IU player, IU player gives Denard his hand and helps him up, helmet slaps exchanged.
-Stevie Brown gets pressure on IU QB, hits him while throwing, both players get up and pat eachother on the back.
-The RR/Lynch embrace at the end of the game was both classy and showed the amount of respect that these two teams have for eachother. Well done Michigan/Indiana....Well Done.
Run Offense vs Indiana
Win for Indiana here as Michigan scored a +2 (two points better than the average team against Indiana) while Indiana scored a +8 (eight points better than the average team would allow to Michigan)
Carlos Brown +9 (includes receptions) #2 RB performance of the week
Brandon Minor +1
Michael Shaw -1
Pass Offense vs Indiana
This one was a win for M. Michigan posted a +7 while Indiana posted a middle of the road -1.
Tate Forcier +7 #22 QB performance of the week
Denard Robinson +2
Martavious Odoms +6
Run Defense vs Indiana
Another win for Indiana here, obviously. Despite Michigan poor job in previous games against the run, the Hoosiers still "beat the spread" going +2 against the Wolverine rush D while the D was 3 points worse against Indiana than the average team.
Darius Willis +4
Trea Burgess -3
Pass Defense vs Indiana
Indiana was actually below average passing against Michigan, with a -1 while Michigan was +4 vs the Indiana passing game.
Ben Chappell -1
Tandon Doss: +11 #6 WR performance of the week
T Turner +2
Based solely on drive starts, Michigan should have lost the game 30-27, indicating that the offense overachieved by 9 points and the defense underachieved by 3.
Brian pointed this out right away but the ST were huge for Michigan this weekend. My punting stats are based on a net average with adjustments made for shorter punts that are downed deep in opponent territory. Zoltan's day was worth 2.5 points, a huge number for a punter and the 5th best tally for any punter in an FBS game this year. Overall, Michigan special teams had the 22nd best performance of the year, which is tough to do without returning a kick for a touchdown.
When Michigan was on offense, the effect of the penalties netted out to zero, despite Michigan getting hit with more yards.
Michigan picked up a single point of benefit when Indiana had the ball.
This was a bad game. Really bad. Really really bad. Did I say how bad? Quite bad. The defense, you realize, has basically gotten shredded every week since the opener. Can't stop the run, not good against the pass. If they invent some new third thing (e.g., skipping, rolling the ball forward to someone, etc.), this defense would be bad against that too, probably.
GERG, where are you? You and your white-haired glory somehow are not getting our boys into the mindset of a good big-ten defense. It has been SO LONG since we had a good defense! OK OK, 2006 was good, but then somehow that all went to shit in those last two games. I still wake up with nightmares of Crable flying headfirst into Troy Smith to gift them what would become the winning TD. After waking up, I vomit. My wife is getting tired of this, especially now that the kids are grown and don't throw up so much anymore.
The offense didn't look too great either. Tate F., who may become the goddamn clutchiest clutch QB we've ever had (he is that clutchy), didn't look super sharp. Lots of missed targets and lots of scrambling that wasn't super effective. By "wasn't super effective" I mean "sucked because he ran around instead of just throwing the damn ball." Is he hurt, you might ask? Probably. But get used to it. You think this kid is EVER going to get through a season of BIG TEN FOOTBALL without getting hurt, at least somewhat? I'm sorry, when you are 6'1" and weigh 170 lbs, you get hurt when you go to the bathroom, much less on the field of play.
Speaking of which, are those classic urinal troughs all gone now? Who doesn't enjoy taking a leak next to a bunch of old MICHIGAN MEN whose aim has deteriorated to the point where basically they are peeing on your feet? Admit it, you miss it. It was a piece of the charm that is now gone, forever lost to the annals of the time. I am keeping all the old shoes I have worn to games over the years, just so I can remember.
I didn't understand much of the player substitution pattern over this game either. Carlos Brown's hair was on fire and basically scored every time he touched the ball early in the game. The response: put other guys in. It was confusing. Here was CARLOS, ready to have the monster 400-yard GAME OF HIS LIFE and we kept going with other guys. I don't know about you guys, but I think: you go with what works. For me, what was working was that Hungry Howie's pizza they have at the game. So I kept going with it (4 or 5 pieces). For Michigan, it was CARLOS F'IN BROWN. But they didn't go with him, much. After-game stomach cramps tell me there may be another story here: don't go with Hungry Howie's, even if it is "working".
So where are we now, four games into this miracle of a rebirth? Hard to say after that one. Let's recap:
- Western: Clearly kind of sucks more than people thought. However, they did beat Hofstra.
- Notre Dame: Squeaks by both Purdue and MSU. Problem is: Purdue and MSU stink. Thus, ND, much like their coach, is not looking too pretty right now.
- Eastern: Clearly sucks.
- Indiana: Probably will not win a lot of games in the Big Ten.
But the overall feeling I got at the game yesterday is that we still have a long ways to go. Until some defensive talent finds its way onto this team, winning the BIG TEN and hopes of relevance on the national stage are pretty far away.
Just thought I'd tell ya'all that the band is mic'ed up today. I'm in section 26 row 26 and can clearly see a single mic reaching up about 12 feet above the brick wall facing the band. There appears to be a black plastic trash bag under the mic. I'd assume that it's there to protect the equipment under the mic from rain but it could be there to dampen ambient sound. I don't know what under the mic that needs protection but that's my guess. Any other more informed ideas out there?
I'd take a picture with my phone and post it but I don't think I can upload images to anywhere on the internet with my phone, but I'll try to remember to do so later tonight at a computer.
I guess this just adds more fuel to the "band, please be louder" fire. We'll have to see how much they use it today (if at all). Of course, I apologize if this had already been announced and discussed but I don't remember seeing anything about it all week.
Edit: I'm posting this because I'm 99% sure that the band isn't normally mic'ed. If I'm wrong in that I apologize and feel free to ignore this thread.