this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Though I was disappointed with the decision to move Thanksgiving to the Thursday BEFORE the Michigan-Ohio game, it is now the way things are and I have made peace with the new normal. That being said, I wanted to bring up the three scenarios under which The Game could be played now that there is an actual B1G championship game, instead of The Game acting as proxy.
Dave Brandon had said, when it was announced that Michigan and Ohio would be in separate B1G divisions, something to the effect of “The only thing better than playing the Ohio game would be playing it twice.” For Brandon, this stems from the idea of increased brand proliferation. Though for fans this is supposed to stem from the idea of being able to beat Ohio twice in the same season. While this would seem to be incredibly gratifying, it ultimately breaks down functionally. If the same team wins both games then what was the point of the rematch? If the series is split, then what was proven on the field? See 2011-2012 Alabama/LSU and SEC ad absurdum.
Let us take a step back however and examine the three scenarios. They are:
- Michigan and Ohio enter The Game with each team having no chance of reaching the B1GCG. While this likely means more joy in Madison, Lincoln, or East Lansing than Ann Arbor, the effect on The Game is minimal. Though neither team controls its own destiny, the usual grudge match applies and the victor will revel in adulation while the loser suffers the humiliations of another year of failure. This is the scenario of the 2011 Game.
- Michigan and Ohio enter The Game with at least one team having a chance to secure a spot in the B1GCG. This scenario sees the grudge match in its more traditional role of having a great impact on trips to Pasadena and B1G championships. Again, the victor will enjoy spoils and the loser sees another season spoiled. If both teams need the win to secure a spot in the B1GCG, the intensity could be even more pronounced than usual. This is a scenario similar to the 2006 Game but with the immediate implications regarding the B1GCG rather than the BCSMNCG.
- Both Michigan and Ohio are already guaranteed their spot in the B1GCG. This is the scenario that Brandon supposedly thinks would be so great though I suggest it is sad and superfluous. The Game would not be The Game, next week's Game is the real Game. The rematch will determine the B1G champion while the first version will determine nothing. It is simply a qualifying heat and it isn’t even that since the qualifying has already been accomplished. Is there truly value in beating Ohio twice when once is all that would be needed? Why risk injury? Why risk spoiling a perhaps undefeated season for a game that is functionally meaningless? Think about that - The Game being functionally meaningless. Now perish the thought.
Ways around this sad situation include moving The Game to earlier in the season, and changing the conference alignment. In my next entry I will propose a new conference alignment. Thanks for reading.
I picked up a copy of Three and Out at lunch today and have been reading non stop since getting home from work. So far I am through 167 pages. The next chapter begins with the freep article.
I plan on writing a book report here. I will start by addressing my own questions from the 9/20 mgoblog request for crowd questions. These are my initial observations, I will update with details later. What I have learned so far:
1-Prior to being contacted by the UM AD, did Rich Rodriguez have any kind of opinions regarding the state of Michigan, the University of Michigan, or UofM football? What were those opinions?
Yes and no. The book does mention in general terms RR having some knowledge about Michigan football and some of the tradition associated with it. However, there isn’t any explicit mention of specifially Nehlen imparting to RR what exactly Michigan represented.
2-Did Bill Martin and RR have any kind of an agreement regarding on-field expectations in the first few years? What did RR expect? What did Martin expect? Did RR receive some kind of "ok" to lose in year one?
RR mentions Bobby Bowden’s timeline for building a program – first you lose by a lot, then you lose by a little, then you win by a little, then you win by a lot – implying a four year, or at least a four stage process. RR also meets with Mary Sue and Martin after being hired but before the first season starts and mentions the rebuilding project may take more time than originally thought, more than three years according to RR. Their response is that he may have to remind them again later, in case they forget. Obviously expectations and how reasonable they may have been was a fundamental theme in this saga.
3-When Brandon was hired did he give RR any kind of ultimatum regarding on field progress?
Not there yet.
4-When RR did the Groban thing, was he somehow trying to force the athletic department to terminate his employment? Would he have welcomed that result at that time?
Not there yet.
5-During the last few Carr years, there was much speculation that he was on the way out soon - his announcement should not have been a surprise. Yet the coaching search seemed haphazard. Did Martin have any kind of transition plan to speak of? Was it executed during the coaching search? Was there internal strife regarding the plan? Does Dave Brandon have a transition plan now?
Martin insists Carr’s retirement was basically a surprise. Martin did not have any kind of pre-existing transition plan to speak of.
6-The relationship between RR and John Beilein, both coming from WVU and then at UM together, never seemed anything but strained or even non-existent - what was that relationship really like? Did Beilein ever "go to bat" for RR?
No mention of Beilein, other than in passing, so far
In a previous UV, Brian called out one of Brandon’s chief marketers for saying that the players were the customers. In the UV of Oct 4, I commented that maybe the players ARE the customers. This got a few positive responses and a few negative responses. I want to expand on this idea a bit.
I work in marketing. I just returned from an internal marketing meeting. One of the ideas that our Chief Marketing Officer drove home was “there is always competition - know your competition and you will know your market.” Let’s see how this fits into the college football space.
Let’s define the customer as the end user of a product or service. Fans fit this definition. A fan can be a warm body in the stands, a warm body watching the game on TV, a warm body buying merchandise, or some combination. These are the ways that fans are customers. Let’s assume that you are a fan and you are starting to get very stingy with your entertainment dollars. You will begin to look at the competition. What does that mean in terms of college football? Does it mean you will start going to Eastern games because they’re cheaper? No. Perhaps it means you will not renew your season tickets, or you will buy fewer t-shirts, or maybe you will cancel cable TV. If you do anything, you will trim your spending. You will not forego your love of Wolverine football. Realistically, then, very little competition exists for customers as end users. This is due to extreme brand loyalty.
If you were to define a customer as the end user of a product or service, then the fans are the customers and there is no competition. But there is always competition. I define a customer as somebody who will react to changing conditions/competition. Here, the fans are not customers because their brand loyalty is basically certain. Let me give you an example. When UM hired Brady Hoke, Brian (seemingly) was pretty upset. He was a supporter of Rich Rodriguez and the idea of the RR experiment. He had previously denounced Hoke as a crony. Yet when Hoke was announced as the hire, Brian didn’t vote with his feet. He didn’t become a fan of Purdue. His loyalty is certain. He is a fan from his youth and an alumnus. He is not going to start supporting the Buckeyes.
So the question becomes who CAN vote with their feet and respond to changing conditions? The answer is student athletes. When RR was hired there may have been much dissent among the fanbase, but I doubt too many began rooting for Ohio. Yet when RR was hired Justin Boren went to Ohio. I do not know of one Michigan fan who suddenly switched their allegiance to Arkansas upon the RR hire, but I do know of one player who did.
In the business model of college football, the revenue does ultimately come from the fans as paying customers. Because of bowls and merchandising, and demand for seats, that revenue is directly dependant on the competitiveness of the product on the field. Dave Brandon knows the athletic department can count on the brand loyalty of Michigan fans. The athletic department is competing with other schools for the talents of the student athletes.
Brady Hoke has coached five games at Michigan. Let’s see where Hoke’s games stand in relation to the last few years. I want to use the idea of score dominance to group these last few seasons together and get an idea of dominant performances. I am defining score dominance as the percent of final score, or margin of victory in shutouts. Rodriguez finished three seasons here, and in the interest of historical perspective I will also include Carr’s last three seasons. Counting Hoke’s five games there have been exactly 80 games played since the start of the 2005 season.
UM’s record in that span is 47-33, where Rodriguez is responsible for two thirds of the losses. The worst five games were the 2011 Gator Bowl, 2007 Ohio, 2010 Ohio, 2007 Oregon, and the ultra-horrible 2008 Ohio game where UM managed to gain just .143 of the total score - going down 42-7 in Columbus. The five best games in terms of score dominance are Eastern in 2005 and Notre Dame in 2007 (both shutouts,) the 2006 Indiana game, 2009 Delaware State, and the third shutout in 80 games, 2011 Minnesota. Brady Hoke is responsible for only 6.25% of the last 80 games, yet contributed one third of the shutouts and the most lopsided win. Can that possibly mean anything?
I think so. I do not think it would be reasonable to use Hoke’s record at UM and extrapolate that he will never lose a game. Yet the fact is four of his five games make up four of the 13 most lopsided victories of the recent past. Carr contributed 16% of his games to the top 13 routs, and RR contributed 8% of his contests to the blowout total. A reasonable expectation is that Hoke will have a blowout pace between those two numbers – we will say 12%. He is currently operating at 80%. He is beating expectations almost by a factor of 7.
I am not going to try and predict a win total here, small sample size and all. I do believe that Hoke has this team overachieving in a very big way. I also believe that if that keeps up, and so far there is no indication that it can’t, we are going to see some very special things this year.
Let's look back. This was our preseason rank from CFN as of January 17 2008:
21. Michigan 2007 Record: 9-4
Expect a step back to take a big leap forward, at least offensively. There could've been one of the nation's best passing games with Ryan Mallett throwing to Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington, but they all took off. Who's the quarterback? Georgia Tech transfer Steven Threet? He's a passer, but Rich Rodriguez will want a dual-threat playmaker meaning Terrelle Pryor, the nation's top recruit, could be coming to Ann Arbor, or Carlos Brown could step in from the running back corps. The defense takes a big hit, but DT Terrance Taylor should be a strong anchor to build around.
This didn't exactly pan out. What it shows is that after we beat FL (using a spread offense), after Mallett and MM and AA were already gone, before the destination of TP was known, it wasn't unreasonable to guess that we would have success in 2008. In the months that followed it became apparent that UM would not be a top 25 team. Even so, expectations remained high, Alex Wang from June 2008:
Though the question marks are there—and they are numerous—I believe this team will be better than what most the prognosticators have projected. Most rumblings have Michigan as either a six or seven-win team, some even stating that the streak of 33 consecutive bowl games is at risk. While that situation is a distinct possibility, I envision a minimum of seven victories, and if everything goes Michigan’s way next fall, I see this team with the potential to win eight, maybe even nine games, and make a return trip to the Capital One Bowl come New Year's Day.
Though the question marks are there—and they are numerous—I believe this team will be better than what most the prognosticators have projected. Most rumblings have Michigan as either a six or seven-win team, some even stating that the streak of 33 consecutive bowl games is at risk.
While that situation is a distinct possibility, I envision a minimum of seven victories, and if everything goes Michigan’s way next fall, I see this team with the potential to win eight, maybe even nine games, and make a return trip to the Capital One Bowl come New Year's Day.
This didn't exactly pan out. But again we see a willingness to project UM with a fair amount of wins. And why not? You have a team that has enjoyed 40 years of success who just got what is supposed to be an upgrade to coaching and to the S&C program.
Let's assume the default projection from 2008 was 6-6. We all know how 2008 turned out - a good win at Minnesota, and two almost accidental wins against Miami OH and Wisconsin. Of our losses, the four closest losses were Utah, Purdue, Toledo, and Northwestern in that order. Three of these were home games. Assuming we win any three of these four games we end the season 6-6, go bowling and there is less gnashing of teeth. The losses against Purdue (4-8 in 2008) and Toledo (3-9), were losses against teams that RR should have beat.
At the beginning of this season, based on what we saw last year 6-6 seemed to be the default preseason estimate. Then we went 4-0, showed signs of competence, and even were a ranked team at some point. The two losses that followed were close games where we still looked like a servicable team. Delaware State doesn't count. PSU showed it is again a much better team than we are. So far nothing really unexpected.
Then Illinois and Purdue happen.
Both Illinois and Purdue currently have losing records and will probably end the season with losing records. In both games Michigan had the halftime lead. Again, two losses against teams we should have beat.
Assuming we beat Wisc in Madison and beat tUoOS at home (this confluence hasn't happened since 1999) then RR will have proven something. For the first time in his tenure, he will have given us results that we can point to as proof of our hope for the future. I will agree that even if we come away with one win RR will have demonstrated that he can overcome adversity. However, the more likely outcome will result in the second year of two where RR couldn't get his team to overachieve or even meet expectations.
The argument in favor of RR is that in time he will make us a consistent top 5 team. That may be so. The trouble I am having accepting that argument is that so far RR hasn't demonstrated he can live up to any expectations.