If you are placing a bet on who you will think will win the Big Ten, you might want to avoid betting on Northwestern or Minnesota. If someone offers you the under-over on wins, take the under. Is it because of who they lose off of the 2-deep? Is it because of coaching or talent? No.
Why then? It is because they don't play Michigan this year. Now, you might think that not playing Michigan is usually good for your record, but for some reason, history demonstrates the opposite. Michigan has an uncanny knack for playing Big Ten teams when they are good, and avoiding them when they are really really bad. It's almost as if the schedule is made up by somebody who has magical foresight and then purposely rotates the bad teams off of Michigan's schedule. Michigan already has a tough draw by facing Ohio State every year. In addition, our game with Penn State is like a de facto protected rivalry. Because of all of these factors, we have one of the toughest intra-conference schedules on a yearly basis.
Since the Big Ten expanded in 1993, there have been 16 seasons, and 2 teams rotate off of the schedule each season. Do the math, and that means that there have been 32 Big 10 teams that have rotated off of our schedule. Want to take a guess as to how many of those teams have ever won or shared a conference title? The answer -- none. 16 years, and not once has a team won or shared a title in a year where they did not play Michigan. Even though we frequently rotate off the doormats of the league like Indiana, wouldn't you think that just once out of all those times, somebody would have stepped up and won or shared a championship? Nobody has ever won 7 conference games, and only four times has somebody won 6 conference games (1996 Iowa, 1997&1998 Purdue, and 2004 Wisconsin). Since 1993, we are sporting an impressive .727 Big 10 winning percentage, but nobody has ever take advantage of not playing us to go to a BCS Bowl. Nobody has ever even made it to the Citrus Bowl! Only two teams have made it as high as the Outback Bowl (Wisconsin '04, Iowa '08).
Let's compare winning percentages for various programs when they play Michigan against their winning percentages when they don't play Michigan. For this analysis, I am only using Big 10 winning percentage, since non-conference scheduling has so much variation that it can distort the results. For the "did play Michigan" years, the head-to-head game against Michigan is removed from the analysis so that these years can be validly compared to the "did not play Michigan" years.
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .500
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .643
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .354
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .214
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .094
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .440
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .188
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .745
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .458
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .586
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .563
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .316
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .625
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .429
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .156
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .536
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .371
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .494
There are a few teams that slightly buck the trend, but that trend is overwhelming. Now I'm not an expert statistician, but a difference in winning percentages of .123 with a huge sample of 8 teams over 16 seasons has to be very significant. Remember in 2003 when we thought we were finally getting a break by having Penn State rotate off of our schedule for 2 years? They went 3-13 in those two years. Ouch. Joe Paterno has never had a losing conference record except for when he has avoided playing Michigan. The differences for Illinois and Northwestern are drastic too. Illinois' conference record when they avoid us is a futile 3-29. Northwestern's is 5-27. We have played all of Kirk Frerentz's great teams from 2002-2004, and other than 2004, we played all of Barry Alvarez's best teams too.
What's the point of all this? None, I guess, except that for some reason, Michigan usually misses teams when they are down and plays them when they are up. Since we don't play Northwestern and Minnesota this year, look for those teams to inexplicably suck.
Time to update the plausibility of the opponent for the 2010 opener. From Angelique Chengelis:
There is one change, however. The prevailing thought among the media was that the team would be among these four that have an open date next fall -- Virginia, Duke, Pitt and Oregon State. A Michigan official told me today those schools are not candidates and suggested it's very likely the team involved will be making changes to its already existing schedule to make room for Michigan.
OK, so that means just about any team with an open date is possible now. And removes everyone from Brian's list this morning except UConn.
So I saw this article: http://collegefootball.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=957359&PT=4&PR=2, on yahoo sports the other day. I noticed a nice picture of Charlie the Hutt there, and Mr. Buchanan was praising the domers for not scheduling a 1-AA (yeah I'm old-fashioned) team. So at once I thought, Notre Dame might not play a 1-AA team, but with the exception of a few games, their schedule is pretty soft. So I did some research, and typed the following response to Mr. Buchanan:
"Ah yes, stalwart Notre Dame, never scheduling a 1-AA team. They only play such powerhouses as Purdue, San Diego State, Washington, Syracuse, and Stanford. Those teams were a combined 14-46. And true, they did play a couple of decent teams and regular power programs, the overall W-L of their opponents was 79-86. Number of wins against teams with a +.500 record: 1, at Navy. Had it not been for the patsies on their schedule, Notre Dame wouldn't have come close to making a bowl game. Just remember that the domers don't need to schedule 1-AA opponents because their schedule is already chock full of cupcakes."
On the submission form, it has one list their name, city, email, and, most importantly, favorite college football team. Even though I had a gut feeling that it might look bad and corrupt the message, I decided to be honest and type in Michigan.
I checked my email today, and this is what I saw:
"Didn’t Michigan play Miami, Ohio (2-10), Toledo (3-9), Purdue (4-8) and Illinois (5-7)? Those teams were a combined 14-34. And by the way, didn’t Notre Dame destroy Michigan? Just because the cupcakes are in conference play doesn’t mean they’re not cupcakes."
Strange! Not a word about Notre Dame's weak schedule! Nothing but him trying to distract me from my original argument. Never once did I say that Michigan played a strong schedule last year (though they did - SOS was top 30 by most metrics I believe, definitely all greater than ND). Yet all he talks about is Michigan. Yes, Michigan had a tough year last year, yes we lost to ND, and yes we played those teams. But how come he didn't list the rest of Michigan's schedule (like I did with ND). Let's see, there's Utah (13-0), ND (7-6), Wisconsin (7-6), Penn State (11-2), MSU (9-4), Minnesota(7-6), Northwestern (9-4), and OSU (10-3). That's 8 bowl teams combining for 73-31. Including the weaker third of Michigan's schedule, you have a total of 87-65 (ND's opponents played more games because ND played Hawaii in their bowl game). All in all, it's a cowardly and bitter response from someone who's original argument has had a hole poked in it.
I sent him back an email stating such:
"While you've stated true facts in your email, it doesnt change the fact that you've been lauding Notre Dame for scheduling "tough, non 1-AA" opponents. All you've done is point out weaknesses of my team over the past year, not address the faultiness of your own arguments. Instead of trying to come with clever ways to protect your own arguments, how about you address the facts?"
At this point in time, I'm not sure what to expect from him. Maybe he'll send a gracious apology back, realizing that he got caught in the act. Maybe he'll send more diversionary emails. Maybe he'll resort to ad hominem attacks. He probably won't respond at all (it's the easiest way to duck out of a difficult situation).
I'll be honest, I'm a Michigan homer. Previous diary posts will show that. However, I also present facts to back up what I say. And while I may have a conflict of interest when I criticize schools like ND and USC (see my last diary post), it doesn't mean that I am wrong.
What do you all think? Thoughts? Comments? Rebuttals?
Update! As of 12:40 PM (CST). A new email for Buchanan
New email is as follows:
"I did not just laud ND. I applaud any team – Tennessee, USC, UCLA, etc. that did not schedule schedule FCS opponents.
I just thought it was ironic that you were ripping ND for its weak schedule, while your team’s schedule wasn’t much different. And I think pointing that out is rather clever."
Notice in my original emails, I didn't say anything about the other teams. There's a reason for that - because for the most part he was right about those other teams. While I really dislike USC, I respect them for playing a tough non-conference schedule. Also notice that he still hasn't addressed the original point about Notre Dame.
Thus, my response:
It might be ironic, but it doesn't change the fact that your original argument was wrong. It was a clever distraction, but it was nothing more than that - a distraction. I never mentioned the other teams, because there was no need to criticize you on them - you were right about them. However, Notre Dame doesn't deserve the same veneration. You still have not addressed the original point that I brought up, and at this point. The only reason I can think of for that behavior is that you know that your original point (about ND) was weak, and you're trying to throw up a smokescreen to distract me. It won't work.
I wonder how differently that email would have been received if I'd said that I was a Utah or a Tennessee fan. While I am a Michigan fan, I am making these observations as a college football enthusiast. I wonder if he realizes this.
Also, for reference, link to comment on the article linked above: http://collegefootball.rivals.com/drawform.asp?form=943
Olin Buchanan's email address: email@example.com.
Also (way OT), what the heck are mgopoints for?
Georgia Tech would be sweet.