Hello. There are blog awards coming. Joel @ Rocky Top Talk has the details. There are 22 of these freakin' things, so I'm going to post nominations in blocks. The nomination process is open to anyone who wants their opinion to be heard. All readers/bloggers are encouraged to hit up the nomination form and proffer opinion. Each category will have 1-2 nominees selected by a blue-ribbon committee instead of nomination volume, so even the most obscure blog or post will get notice.
Anyway, on with the show.
The Sports Fans Don't Cry Award
(for best response in the face of crushing misery.)
Hey Jenny Slater. In my head this award is about putting the agony of defeat on paper in a way that simultaneously acknowledges the ridiculousness of feeling anger towards a fundamentally meaningless game and makes it clear that you and your little View-watching compatriots can take your condescenscion and stuff it up the gerbil hole. Bonus points for property destruction. Take it away, Doug Gillett:
While I take college football a lot more seriously than some people, I'd always figured that I could still approach it with a measure of reason and sanity, keeping a level head and venturing toward neither the extreme of overexuberance nor the extreme of seething despair as I see so many other people doing from time to time. Only once have I ever even come close to getting in a fistfight over a game, and I can't remember a single time when I actually destroyed property. But during the Colorado game, my feeling toward the team went beyond disappointment, where it has been before on occasion, and advanced straight into anger. Rage, even. Enough anger that Ann and I had to leave Loco's Deli and Pub in Homewood, where we had been watching the game, for fear that I would do something to get thrown out if we stuck around.
This turned out to be an astute decision on our part, because after Matt Stafford's fumble to end the first drive of the third quarter, I knocked a chair over in the kitchen, then picked it up and threw it a ways. And when Georgia's next drive also ended in a fumble, I yanked my toaster oven off the counter and hurled it off my balcony.
The clincher is the next sentence.
No, I'm not proud of it, but it happens. I'm moving on.
Keith Jackson Circa 1995
(for the best prose.)
Every Day Should Be Saturday. This is a "duh," right?
Sunday Morning Quarterback. Also "duh."
Ron Bellamy's Underachieving All-Stars. One of the persistent frustrations of the past year is that Johnny's posting schedule on RBUAS was around once or twice a week. All that nasty "class" and "writing things for newspapers" interfered with his god-given talent, which was telling us all why Steve Breaston was still his hero and making it sound goooood. I remembered a particular sentence vividly; I looked at RBUAS' August archive -- surely it couldn't have been that old if it stuck in my head like that -- and the June archive, and the May, and April, and March, and February, finding it in none of these. Eventually I did locate it, January 21st of this year:
There's this feeling you get when you know a player's worth something, where you sense the eyes of the world and every loose molecule in the atmosphere gravitating toward them. And then before you can catch your breath Michigan's trailing Penn State by a touchdown, the kick off's fallen into his hands, he's at midfield, your lungs deflate, and the camera pans out and you see an image like the one at the end of "Field of Dreams" where miles of headlights are being pulled to that one player everyone can't stop watching.
So, yeah, I just went through 2/3rds of a year's posts to find that, and I think it was worth it. This is not a phenomenon unique to me.
Best New Blog
Two votes here. One: Card Chronicle, a Louisville blog that introduced the world to Ill-Advised Haircut, Kentucky's version of Spain. Um... "Spain" as in the "Spain" of the On Notice board, an apparently blameless entity that is nonetheless blamed for all the issues facing the favored program. (Though I should point out that Spain has recently done me very wrong indeed and now actually warrants its place on the board. And no, ain't tellin'.) Why? Well, this was the #4 reason Louisville might lose to Rutgers:
4. We got a haircut
We weren't sure whether or not we were going to admit this, but damnit we've never known how to lie you.
Still drunk with happiness last Friday afternoon, we decided things were getting a little too shaggy up top and that it was time to head to our fancy Barbershop (Super Cuts) and get a dome chop. The chair was comfy, the conversation exquisite, and the hair (obviously) glorious. It wasn't until about five minutes after we'd left the lovely Sharon with a generous tip (37 cents) that we realized what we had just done.
Our last cut had been right before our birthday, meaning it was the last week of August, and more importantly meaning it was before the season started.
We may have been the only ones present in our atumomobile at the time, but that didn't stop us from saying "Oh. My. God." out loud. We thought about pulling a U'ey in the middle of the road, sprinting back into the SC and asking what their policy is on super glueing the used hair of a recent client back to his head. Alas we came to terms with the fact that there was nothing to be done, and that we may have just ruined the hopes and dreams of all of Cardinal nation.
If the unthinkable were to happen tonight, rest assured there will be a self-inflicted penalty, and it will involve our hair. Or testicles.
Ill-Advised Haircut recently came in third in a CC poll of BCS opponents Card fans would like to see. One question: what happened to the hair/testicles punishment promised?
Vote #2: Corn From A Jar, the Tennessee blog that gave us "We Must Protect This Cheese" and many other bits of hilarity throughout the season. I am a sucker for a blog that can make me laugh.
Post of the Year
(Tyrone Prothro Award)
On January 12th of this year -- a mere eight days after the NC game which marks the boundary of available posts, Every Day Should Be Saturday posted the triumphant peak of its "Your Schools Promotional Ad Is Teh Suxors" series: Appalachian State is HOT HOT HOT. About a week later, VH1 featured it on its Web Junk show. Coincidence? Maybe. It's now got its own Wikipedia page. Point Orson.
(I reserve the right to expound further here.)
Best Regular Feature
(Old Faithful Award)
Desperately torn here between "Friday Morning Quarterback" and "Sunday Morning Quarterback" from, yes, Sunday Morning Quarterback. I don't actually have to choose, but it poses
a philosophical issue: is the most essential preview column in college football more important than the most essential review column in college football? If so, why? 8-10 pages due Monday.
MaxwellPundit. Chris Wilson at Rakes of Mallow put together the Heisman alternative and gave me real reason to hate Reggie Ball, since I kept shoving Calvin Johnson at the top of my ballot right before Ball would lead Georgia Tech to, say, a stirring 31-7 loss versus Clemson in which he wouldn't even look at Johnson all game. Unfortunately, Troy Smith sliced Michigan into ribbons and removed all suspense from further proceedings, but if things had been a little bit different you could see the potential for a person who wasn't a quarterback or running back to win. Wilson also deftly combined everyone's opinions into an entertaining weekly post, pioneered the use of descriptions like "Robot-God of Aerial Destruction" when describing awards candidates, and weekly reminded me to actually vote in the damn thing.
Under The Hood. Burnt Orange Nation's pro-bono comprehensive statistical breakdown of teams and matchups not involving Texas in even the slightest itty-bitty way was an unexpected boon. The Michigan-Ohio State one saved me a couple hours. Distilling a mass of numbers into something sensible is a difficult enterprise, and BON did it with aplomb.
Best Podcast/Audio Thing
Ohhhh yeah, baby... Lee Corso. "I'm about to run a freaky option like you never seen between passion and ecstasy." Orson, Orson, Orson, you have no idea how many sweet love-makin' sessions you've ruined when Corso's head has floated in from the side and hovered over the lovee, Reese-Witherspoon-in-Election style. Half nightmare, half dream, all sexy: The Lee Corso Soul, er, Explosion. Mascot head don't lie.
The Orgeron Song. Memphis radio host Chris Vernon revolutionized the state of the art in weird Orgeron parody/tribute with "Colonel Reb is Crying." yawwwwyawwwyawww yaw yaw footbaw, indeed.
Friday Nite Lites. House Rock Built's semi-regular podcast disappeared towards the end of the season but was still to my knowledge the only regularly produced college football podcast. Also I ruled the lightning round.
The Free Press has confirmed yesterday's widely-circulated internets rumor that Jake Long will return for his senior year. Divers alarums, and six points to anyone who gets that particular obscure reference. There is, of course, one to go: Alan Branch. As speculated on the Fanhouse, chances are he goes. He's a top-ten lock if he does. All anyone has at the moment is common-sense speculation, though, and that should be regarded as an aimless prediction, not anything solid.
You might not want to think about hockey, but there are a couple articles out there for your persual. One on Rohlfs, the other on Cogliano. Bob Miller, who wrote the Rohlfs article, also offered this on a couple of recruits:
In a word - wow! Just in from watching Little Caesar's play Chicago Mission in the MWEHL MIdget Showcase being hosted by Compuware this weekend.
Treais had a hat trick made up of highlight reel type goals, reminiscent of his skill-set clone, T.J. Hensick. Very, very impressive performance by the Michigan commitment.
Jon Merrill was also a rock on defense for Little Caesar's. Bodes very well for Wolverine fans.
Boh Treais and Merrill are a few years from campus.
Kampfer's shoulder injury suffered on Sunday is supposed to be a separated shoulder that will keep him out a month. Michigan will go into the GLI down Johnson, Dest, Kampfer, and Cogliano, and my hate for the holiday PWR-murdering it represents will increase. Why do we play in this again?
(Rohlfs HT: Gorilla Crouch.)
More renovations. According the Sports Business Journal, Michigan will embark on a $75 million renovation of Crisler($). Weird thing: a reduction in public capacity from around 14,000 to 10,000. This seems backwards. The program is floundering so the logical thing is to expect it to flounder forever and reel in expectations and seating. Maybe the basketball team should go back to Yost.
More honors for Panter. He's been named to another All-American team: bad hair. It should be noted that Panter's grungy die job has disappeared.
More playoffs! Corn Nation has a discussion with Josh Centor of the Double A Zone on what, exactly, the NCAA does and does not control in this situation. Upshot:
CN: Could the NCAA have any influence on whether or not Division IA would move to a playoff system?
Only through the collective will of the membership. If an appropriate majority of the membership thought the postseason bowl system should be more akin to an NCAA championship, it is conceivable we could see a change that would bring the Football Bowl Subdivision in line with the rest of NCAA championship events.
Rakes of Mallow takes issue with the idea that the importance of the regular season would be seriously diminished if a playoff was instituted. I do find the argument that a playoff would have made the Michigan-Ohio State game "meaningless" odd. For one, that game was unprecedented in the history of the series. Every other time Michigan and Ohio State have played, they would have been battling for either a spot or seeding or whatever. A once-in-a-lifetime #1 versus #2 game is just that: once-in-a-lifetime. Citing the most extreme outlier you can find is the sure sign of a losing argument. And since it was ONCE IN A LIFETIME, the prospect of consolation in a playoff would have provided little solace on High Street November 18th, trust me. College football games won't morph into something with all the passion of a February Atlanta Hawks-Golden State Warriors game just because the playoff will permit the occasional two-loss team to compete.
TMQ cites history... anyone know what he's talking about? I'm too young to get this reference:
As to Miami tactics, Jason Taylor has switched this season to a hybrid defensive end-linebacker position, similar to the old "elephant" role played by Charles Haley in his heyday. Taylor has been terrific, and if Miami were playoff-bound, would be a contender for defensive MVP. On Sunday, Dolphins' coaches reached still further back into the past and let Taylor be a 1960s University of Michigan style "monster man," lining up wherever he pleased. New England blockers clearly could not figure out the rhyme or reason to where Taylor was, and he gave them fits all day. The reason New England blockers couldn't figure out the rhyme or reason to Taylor's movements was that there wasn't any -- Taylor was using his instinct to decide for himself where to line up on each down. Essentially, Taylor was calling his own plays. In the hyper-organized NFL, it's interesting to see that giving a top player the green light to use his instincts worked out really well.
Who were these people?
Update 12/13: Linked to article on LB commit Marell Evans (claims VT and Clemson were interested) and one on JUCO LB Austin Panter (JUCO national DPOY.) Added TN OT Jared McGaha, removed CA RB Curtis Shaw(Washington). Linked to articles on IL DT Josh Brent, FL S/OLB Lorenzo Edwards, FL CB Doug Wiggins, and TX QB Ryan Mallett. Linked some YouTube video of MI WR James Rogers. Linked to article on OH LB Peter Rolf.
Editorial Opinion: Brent and removed IL DE Martez Wilson are announcing on the 20th at Wilson's high school and are expected to commit to... Illinois. No, I don't know why. Best guess is that Zook stumbled across some sort of downed alien spaceship and stole some sort of hypnosis ray. Anyway, they be gone.
McGaha visited, said he'd wait for a prospective Michigan offer, then committed to MSU yesterday. Two star OL heading to State is no big deal. The reason I bring it up:
"They were pretty up front about it with me. They've offered a tackle, from Oklahoma (Matt Romine)."
"Romine is going to make his decision in early January (at the Army All-American game). If he doesn't not pick Michigan, then they will come back to me."
Irish fans are very confident on Romine, some claiming he's a silent commit, but that behavior indicates that the Michigan coaches believe he's in play.
UMGoBlue uploaded some video of sleeper WR commit James Rogers:
It's clear that he's not going to play running back at Michigan, and for good reason. Those cuts are clunky.
On Doug Wiggins: I don't have feel for where he's leaning. It's sort of odd for this guy to have Georgia and Michigan as his leaders. It's more odd that he recently took a visit to Western Michigan. He does have three former teammates already there, including his cousin, and two current teammates are committed to Western, so there's that. Still... a bit odd. Useful information from the WMU article:
Wiggins intends to announce his decision at his high school team's banquet on Dec. 22. He said he'll graduate this month and will enroll at the college of his choice in January, making him available for spring practice.
Austin Panter woo! Guy was named the NJCAA defensive player of the year:
"Austin is everything you want in a football player. He's an extremely hard worker, he's committed both on and off the field, and he's certainly worthy of all the accolades he's received this year," [his coach] Morrell said. " Austin 's a leader, a very unselfish player and a team player. He has tremendous character, and he's a lot of fun to be around. "
Morrell has higher praise in a Scout article:
"Well, I coached Rudy Johnson who is with the Bengals right now (starting RB, and a first round draft pick). I coached both of Auburn's starting cornerbacks, David Irons and Jon Wilhite. I've got starters at Nebraska, Arizona State and Florida State."
"Austin is top of all those guys."
"He has a great size-and-speed combo (GBW note: we knew of Panter's 4.6 sec. 40, so we asked about his bench press ... Coach Morrell said over 350 pounds). His football instincts are as good as any player we've had here. He has a great nose for the ball. He has a great work ethic."
"He has tremendous potential."
Panter's now the leading candidate for both "surprise star" and "overhyped bust" going into 2007. Hopefully it's the former, as the coaching staff evidently is not in love with Johnny Thompson.
Lorenzo Edwards, like George Costanza, really wants to be an architect. This is an interesting issue for him, because Notre Dame's architecture program requires a year overseas:
Edwards wants to study architecture. The drawback to that for football players is that the program requires one year of study in Rome. Weis reassured Edwards that would not be a problem.
"That's one of the things [the year in Rome] that me and coach Weis talked about today," explained Edwards. "He told me once before that he wanted me to pursue my career goal and that he wouldn't want to interrupt something that I wanted. He was reassuring me that if I went off for that year I could come back and play for two more years. It's something that I love doing and something that I enjoy doing. I think that it would be a great experience."
That's a hell of a commute to play linebacker (or safety), and one less conveniently timed that a Mormon mission since it would come in his third year in the program. Seems kind of doubtful Edwards ends up at ND. Rumor was that, like Michael Williams, Edwards was mostly choosing between Michigan and ND... could be good for us.
We're apparently close to offering two-star OH linebacker Peter Rolf, according to Scout. He does have an Oregon offer, so there's that. He's also Polynesian, which is cool.
Conquest Chronicles is all asking Michigan blogs questions, and I'm all answering.
1. Have you recovered yet from Michigan's exclusion from the national championship game? We've heard the "experts" give us their opinion on why Michigan dropped from 2nd to 3rd without snapping the ball. What do you think really happened here?
Recovered? Well, I'm still mad but I have managed to stop crying myself to sleep.
As for what happened, there's no debate after all the quotes we saw: the question "who is the better team" was discarded. I find this irritating but want to move on.
2. We admire Lloyd Carr for having enough dignity to refrain from campaigning for BCS positioning. Pete Carroll has the same approach. Still, it was nice to hear Carr call out Urban Meyer for his whiny Tuberville impression. What's your take on the "southern inferiority complex"? What do you think about this season's conventional wisdom, which is that the Big-10 is weak ... despite having arguably the two best teams in the country?
The Big Ten is pretty weak this year from a certain perspective. Ohio State doesn't benefit from the fact that Ohio State is really good because they don't have to play themselves. They basically had a two-game season.
Iowa didn't show up, Michigan State collapsed, and Penn State and Purdue are teams with one good unit and one atrocious one. Wisconsin is a good team but arguably less proven than Boise State, who at least beat good Hawaii and Oregon State teams. I don't mind admitting this. What is bothersome is that when the Big Ten is up -- as it was last year -- the SEC drumbeat continues unabated. No matter what the facts on the ground are, there's always someone waving the SEC flag. Usually their arguments have all the coherency of The Orgeron on crystal meth, but it doesn't matter, and it results in a media environment where mediocre-to-bad Georgia and decent Tennessee play a sloppy game you could see any week in the Pac-10 and get an SI cover declaring the SEC to be "SIMPLY THE BEST." And what wonderful cover subjects for that particular assertion.
Anyway: I've always found this bit of contrived math to be interesting as regards schedule difficulty. Let's set up two situations.
Team A plays six teams it has a 70% chance of beating.
Team B plays five teams it has a 75% chance of beating and one team it has a 45% chance of beating
The average number of wins in these situations is equal: 4.2. But the chance of going undefeated is 11.76% in the first scenario and 10.67% in the second. This is by no means definitive, but it does suggest that the sort of test represented by travelling to Ohio State is a far greater danger to national championship hopes than playing in a conference where South Carolina is slightly less crappy than Iowa. This is apropos of little, I suppose, but look! Math!
3. After losing to Ohio State and now seeing Michigan's remaining hopes dashed while other teams made their case on the field, what is your assessment of the Wolverines' psyche going into preparations for the Rose Bowl? How will Carr get them ready?
I give little credence to the idea that Michigan's going to come out and play crappily because they're pissed. This isn't Kansas State falling into the Alamo Bowl against Purdue. The words "Rose Bowl" and "USC" get the attention of anyone associated with the Michigan program. I also don't think they're likely to come out more fired up because they've been passed over.
I do guarantee, however, that no matter the outcome of the Rose Bowl dim columnists will credit the BCS for Michigan's performance. If Michigan wins, they will be righteous warriors incensed at the folly of the BCS. If they lose, they will be dispirited and uninterested in any prize that's not a crystal football. Fire Joe Morgan coined a term for this: hindpsychology.
4. What is the general impression of Tressel abstaining from his poll vote, his vote for UM would have surely put you guys in the title game. Some have commended him for staying neutral others have hammered him for not having the guts to take a stand. How do you feel?
Um... Tressel's vote wouldn't have mattered either way. During D-Day I wasn't surprised or concerned. I probably would have done the same thing in his position, since however he voted it would have been spun as an insult to his opponent. If he had gone with Michigan, Florida would have bulletin board material about bias and not wanting to play Florida and SEC disrespect. If he had gone with Florida, Florida would have claimed disrespect since Tressel wanted them instead of Michigan. There would be dozens of columns, all of them very, very dumb, about the vote and what it means.
As far as I can tell, the argument for having Tressel cast a ballot revolves around "balls" and stuff about how he signed up to vote and knew what he was getting into, but Tressel's job is to do what's best for Ohio State and that's what he did.
One. Since we are in the post-season pre-bowl window and this is an year ending in an even number, the BCS has screwed up or not screwed up but chosen some team over another team for reasons that aren't very good at all and everyone wants to talk playoffs.
General Outline of various arguments.
A. Bowls schmowls. The BCS has already rent the traditions of college football. Arguments that posit the loss of bowl tradition as a major hazard assume that there is much of one anymore. Agreed that returning to the pre-BCS days when everyone understood the "M" in "MNC" was so so very real would be nice. Agreed that dropping all that for a playoff system would be a choice that, at the very least, would be difficult. But we don't have that. Also, a small playoff would not significantly impact most bowls. No one watches the Poulan Weedeater Bowl because of the distant possibility that it will have an impact on the national championship. These are the reasons you watch the Poulan Weedeater Bowl:
- Evil hospital janitor has stolen remote.
- Close relative of player or coach.
- Run college football blog from mother's basement.
That is all. The only bowls harmed by a playoff are the big ones, and seriously: who cares about the fate of games played in the Superdome or Arizona or the rickety Orange Bowl?
Rose excepted; you'll see later.
B. This is a playoff. It is a stupid playoff. But it is a playoff. There are two teams. They play. Then there is off, or whatever. Stealing from myself:
The situation reminds me much of the old... well, it's not really a joke, but, you know, the canard where a man asks a woman if he would have sex with him for a million dollars and she says "yeah, I guess." The man then asks her if she would do the same for five dollars and she asks, "what do you think I am?" to which the man replies: "We've already established what you are, now we're just haggling over the price." The BCS and the bowls have already established what they are. Now we're just haggling over the number of teams.
At the end of the Not Fiesta Bowl on January 8th, some team will lift a championship trophy. They will put on hats that say "national champions." Ohio State fans will mortgage their Trans Ams to buy leather-bound encomiums to the '07 Wonderboys that relatives who live out of state will read to them during holidays or whatnot. The BCS is trying to have it both ways but it only has it one very stupid way.
C. A playoff is not perfect; do not pretend that this disqualifies it. Common argument:
An 8-team playoffs [sic] sounds good in theory, but in reality you are creating yet again another problem by having teams laying legitimate claims on one of the top-8 spots and being left off. What about a Texas squad with a healthy Colt McCoy? Is Boise State really going to be [+at, sic] the Longhorns if McCoy is healthy?
To take an extreme example, there is controversy when Air Force gets in or Manhattan is left out in the NCAA tournament, but no one really cares as soon as the games start because they're obviously not the best team in the country. Meanwhile, Auburn and Michigan and Oregon (etc.) fans will go to their grave complaining about the damn voters or the damn formula. (Disclaimer: god no, we don't want "January Madness." A playoff's size is a tradeoff between acquiring every available contender with a legitimate argument and preserving the importance of the regular season, and anything more than around 8 teams sacrifices way too much of the latter for way too little of the former.)
Anyway, arguments like this are akin to turning down surgery on a gangrenous limb because you don't want to have a peg-leg (hhhhyyyyarrrr!). Just because a playoff is still a little broken does not mean that it is not a preferable option to something that is almost always broken.
D. Yes: Irony. Used correctly, even. European soccer has no need of playoffs. Each team plays each other team home and away. They have a perfectly balanced schedule; whoever emerges with the most points is crowned the champion. Europeans, when quizzing Americans about the sports across the way, invariably express shock and dismay when it's revealed that after 80 or 160 game regular seasons the results are basically thrown out and then teams play a few games to determine who gets all the glory. Why bother playing? I don't know. You have all this data that suggests Team A has accomplished so much more than all the other teams in the league, then you ignore that in favor of an unpredictable crapshoot. See: World Series, 2006. This is what anti-playoff advocates hate. The idea that this year's Ohio State team would be put into an eight-game blender that may anoint a two- or three-loss team national champions is an anethma.
But... really, what has Ohio State proven? Little. They have suggested much, surely. This isn't a shot at Ohio State, but rather a simple observation that the Buckeyes have played 12 games and only two of them have come against ranked teams. Evidence suggests that they would finish with the best record if they were to play some magical round-robin against all of I-A. But it's a flimsy assumption that has precious little evidence to back it up. We have no way to reasonably compare Ohio State to anyone in the Pac 10 or SEC or ACC. College football's addiction to creamy nonconference nougat drives down the number of comparison points to almost nothing and leaves us guessing. The irony is this: college football, the sport that could most use a playoff to resolve its champion, is the only one that does not.
Properly constructed, a playoff that features a two-loss team winning it all could very well justify that team's national championship in the traditional vote-for-the-best-team (unless that would make a rematch) fashion, as they would have slogged through three games against premiere competition and won them all. More on this later.
E. Save The Children. You are a bad person who needs to be spanked if you bring up academics. Tell that to every other level of football or basketball or hockey or whatever, all of whom have vastly longer seasons than NCAA D-IA.
Three. Current theory.
A. Yes. Yes, yes, yes, a playoff.
B. The utmost priority is maintaining the importance of the regular season. Losing = bad. Berry, berry bad. Not so bad that a team like Michigan 2006 or Auburn 2004 (who didn't even lose) or Oregon 2002 sits at home pounding sand, but bad. Tier seeds such that there's a big difference between scraping in at the back end and dominating college football.
C. No Jim Walden. Or anyone of his ilk. No current coaches. No dug up old fossils who can't tell a football from World War I. Instead, a small group of smart people who love college football and can think rationally about it with a clear mandate.
D. Mandate. Pick the best teams based on accomplishments on the field. Heavily prioritize schedule difficulty, especially in the nonconference. Treat close losses to quality competition as evidence of suitability. Look past the number in the loss column.
Four. Current proposal.
A. Six teams. Six is a good number. Six teams means two byes for the top two teams in the country and makes one loss a big deal and a seco
nd loss a bigger deal.
B. No autobids. As a natural consequence of things there will often be conference champions in the playoff, but as much as I think Wake Forest is a cute story, they would be dead weight in a tightly constrained playoff field like this one.
C. Home games. Eliminate ludicrous travel requirements and up regular-season importance in one fell swoop. If you're higher ranked you get to play the game on your home field in the first two rounds.
D. Pick your poison. Seed only as far as you have to, then let teams draft their opponents. In this current format, the #3 team would have a choice between the 5 and 6 teams with the #4 getting the leftovers. The #1 team would get its choice of the first round survivors.
E. By committee. A dedicated team of people who do this year-round who are geographically distributed.
F. Final. At the Rose Bowl.
Five. Hypothetical this-year bracket.
#1 Ohio State versus #4 USC / #5 LSU
#2 Michigan versus #3 Florida / #6 Louisville.
Interchange Florida and Michigan if you so desire.
Point on two loss national champions promised earlier: if USC or LSU slogs through 1) USC or LSU, 2) Ohio State on the road, and 3) Michigan/Florida/Louisville, than they would have a mountain of skulls unmatched by any of its competitors. Keeping the top two seeds out of first round games is a mighty incentive to finish in the top two that also provides the neat service of damping any claims of robbery should those teams lose by preventing them from claiming another victory over top competition.
Sorry about the hiatus. I switched the blog over to Blogger's newfangled beta thing (look: tags). I did this last night in the hopes it would do all the busywork when people were snug in their beds. Hopes: crushed. Anyway, back now.
Update 12/11: Added CA CB David Ross, a four star without an offer who claims Michigan his "dream school." Removed DE, er, DE Devon Still, who dropped us. Moved KS LB Austin Panter to committed. Linked to article on AZ OL Jaivorio Burkes and one on OT commitment Mark Huyge. Added CA LB Malcolm Smith. Removed some safety chaff. Moved TX LB Brandon Herron to committed. Removed IL DE Martez Wilson, VA CB Cris Hill (dropped us). Added VA LB Marell Evans to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Panter and Herron have been covered before. New commitment is that of Evans, a two-star with no reasonable argument that he might have been overlooked. He doesn't play for an obscure high school (Varina is a state power), he hasn't been injured or forced to play out of position, and he doesn't have offers that belie his ranking. Michigan snatched him away from Temple, Buffalo, and Middle Tennessee. Virginia Tech appeared to be interested...
Meanwhile, last we heard Virginia Tech was looking at Varina defenders Andre Branch and Marell Evans.
"I know the Michigan coaches are coming down this week to see Marell," he said. "I believe Virginia Tech likes him, but coach Cavanaugh didn't say a lot when he checked him out. He does think he's a good player, but Tech is in a bind since they've got almost everyone they want. I do know that Virginia Tech does like him more as a defensive end. He's the type of kid that can put on weight and run really well."
... but not interested enough to offer. So he's got that going for him. He was also his district's defensive player of the year, and you can assume that Michigan has a high familiarity with him after spending much of last year chasing after Brandon Minor, who also attended Varina. Still, the probability he's a major contributor is lower than most other Michigan recruits. Standard disclaimer that the number of stars next to a players name does not etch their fate in stone, but it is relevant.
Other bits: dropped by a couple DEs; in all probability we're going to get Van Bergen and that's it. We'll need a blue-chippah next year but with Germany, Patterson, and Graham all entering their sophomore years the lack of numbers there isn't a concern. Weird article about David Ross, a California four-star who basically begged for a Michigan offer on Scout.com. He's a soft verbal to Nebraska now and visiting Oregon... no idea what the deal is there. I moved Jerimy Finch back to safety since there seems to be a flood of linebackers incoming. Things are looking good for FL OLB/S Lorenzo Edwards.
The above-linked Huyge article is worth a read for anyone concerned about OT recruiting. Michigan's had a lot of high-profile busts and low-profile successes recently, so I'm not particularly worried. It would be nice to pick up Romine or Elliot, though.
The second annual exploration of how very wrong I was about everything at the beginning of the season.
I didn't get around to Indiana or Minnesota previews, continuing a tradition started in 2005 when I decided not to bother projecting Illinois' fate. That worked out just fine. This year, not so much. Both Minnesota and Indiana were worth mentioning. Indiana was 5-7, a loss to I-AA Southern Illinois the only thing standing between them and a Motor City Bowl berth. Minnesota scraped its way to 6-6. Both beat Iowa, a team that
- I projected to win the Big Ten
- I ranked #2 -- in the country -- in the preseason
- failed utterly in every way imaginable and is about to get rolled by Texas.
So maybe they deserved some notice.
The Scoffed At
General tenor of the thing: Won't be as hilariously awful as last year, but certainly won't be good or anything. In sum:
Strides towards competency are probable, but there's a long, long way from last year's Travelling Bye Week extravaganza and respectability.
Interesting miscellaneous error:
The Ron Zook era started out well enough with a thrilling overtime victory over Rutgers, but whenever the phrases "thrilling overtime victory" and "over Rutgers" find themselves in the same sentence their buddy "harsh reality check" cannot be far behind.
We'll get a test of this particular theory when West Virginia takes on Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl but as a general sportswriting device, "mock Rutgers" is real passe all of a sudden.
Yesssss. Last year's edition of this featured progressively worse and worse predictions about the quarterbacks of the league. The overall impression left by it was the only way I would ever get anything right about the most important position in the game was by flipping out a la George Costanza and going against every instinct I had. Well...
If things go poorly with Brasic, Zook might say "to hell with it" and insert true freshman Isiah Williams, the jewel of this year's recruiting class. Williams' implausible senior-year stats: 1,441 rushing yards at 21.8 yards per carry and 1,841 passing yards on only 128 attempts with 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. He's guru-approved and potentially the kind of guy who can lift the downtrodden into a state slightly less so a la Antwaan Randle-El. One caution: Williams only completed 56% of his passes as a senior, but it's not like Zook's going to have anything to lose after September.
HA! HA HA HA! Brasic did get yanked, Williams did get inserted -- though he was universally referred to as "Juice" -- and he did run around like Antwaan Randle-El a lot while completing very few passes. Staggeringly few, actually: around 40%. The last quarterback to start most of a season in the Big Ten and come out with a completion percentage that low must have been decades ago.
Nooooo. I was wrong, wrong, wrong about the defense:
[Defensive Line] I don't care that three of four starters return; the assumption here until proven otherwise is that the Illinois defense will be a mere rumor to opposing offenses. Defensive tackle Chris Norwood's 7.5 TFLs are nice, but that's about it as far as playmaking goes. The true sophomore defensive ends were awful a year ago and will probably be slightly less awful this year, but I'm saving all my miracle points for "Lloyd Carr understands probability"; "Illinois defensive line is half-decent" will have to wait. ... [Linebackers] See defensive line; I don't care that three starters return. This is what you need to know about the Illinois linebackers: one of them claims to be named "J Leman." No word on whether he plans on fleeing to
MyanmarBurma. [Defensive Backs] Detroit DePorres' own Sharriff Abdullah is the top returning corner; he is 5'8" and has zero interceptions and four breakups in about two full years of starting. This neatly summarizes the experience of being an Illinois cornerback: it's nasty, brutish, and you're short.
Later I reiterated my dismissiveness:
We're Sure About
The defense. The scoreboard operators at Illinois games are going to get a nasty case of George Jetson button-pushin' finger.
Moral of this story: always be wary of teams starting scads of underclassmen and returning them. J Leman, Redneck Linebacker, became a bonafide playmaker and the Illinois defense ended up thoroughly respectable at the end of the year: 38th in total defense, 32nd in pass efficiency defense, 51st in rushing defense. A big ugly 90th in scoring defense can be attributed to the short fields Illinois gave up frequently; they were 117th in both net punting and turnover margin.
Final Verdict on the Final Verdict. Official prediction of 3-9, "but an encouraging 3-9." It was 2-10, actually, but an encouraging 2-10. Overall: accurate.
General tenor of the thing: It's going to be ugly; no one will mind.
Football will continue in Evanston after Randy Walker's shocking midsummer death but wins and losses will be beside the point. That's probably a good thing for Pat Fitzgerald, thrust into the head coach spotlight at only 31 without four-year starter Brett Basanez or much hope on the other side of the ball.
Hurray for turnover theory: One consistently useful metric is finding teams at the extremes of turnover margin and projecting that turnover margin to head meanward. (This is bad news for us. We finished third this year, though one of the caveats in the theory has always been "senior quarterback." "Running back who never fumbles" is also a good one, too, so we should be relatively safe. Not so safe: Minnesota, #1 in turnover margin and losing Brian Cupito. Bottom could drop out on the Gophers next year.) Northwestern provided a perfect capsule of it in action this year:
The outlook is grim, especially when you consider Northwestern's outlying turnover ratio: they were +9 despite having a terrible defense because said defense managed 30 takeaways, including 20 interceptions. That is well into the land of flukes. With a mewling babe replacing ancient Brett Basanez, Northwestern's turnovers figure to shoot up. Probability and common sense declare that their takeaways will travel in the reverse direction. Presto: likely two-game swing to the bad.
Northwestern went from +9 to -7 and dropped to 4-8.
Continued quarterback bullseyes. Sort of, anyway. Northwestern went into the year with three guys competing for the starting job...
The only thing anyone knows about Northwestern's starting quarterback is that he isn't Brett Basanez. Sophomore CJ Bacher and his six career completions are projected to start, and this concludes the Bacher scouting report. I've scoured the Internets for any information on him and every preview -- every preview -- says "Bacher is in competition with Andrew Brewer and Mike Kafka."
(The next sentence contains what was probably the first "ha, quarterback named Kafka!" joke captured in captivity: "Some venture to guess he will start, probably because Kafka keeps turning into a beetle." Zing, indeed.) ... I bet on Bacher, but claimed that "whoever the starter was" would see the Northwestern offense revert to the spread-option-happy version run by Basanez as an underclassman, when having him throw was inadvisable. Bacher was slowed by a fall injury; Kafka and Brewer split time proving
that they were very bad quarterbacks indeed; Bacher returned to claim the starting job and did it with his arm, not his legs; and youbetcha I'm claiming this as a correct prediction:
If Bacher's arm is as accurate is reputed he'll get the opportunity to toss a lot of short throws to possession receiver Sean Herbert and Sutton, but Northwestern is going to revert from hoping their quarterback wins games to hoping he doesn't lose them.
Impression of the Northwestern offense under Bacher gleaned from the frigid Michigan Stadium benches: screen screen screen punt. Repeat until you lose. (He did improve radically given more time -- see first half versus OSU -- and is a major reason Northwestern should improve significantly a year ago.)
Side effects. On pint-sized dynamo Tyrell Sutton:
without Basanez's arm keeping safeties honest Sutton may find the sledding significantly tougher as a sophomore. If we make the safe assumption that whoever the starting quarterback is can't approach Basanez's efficiency and command of the offense, the only way to keep that eighth man from finding his way into the box will be to establish someone, likely Kim Thompson, as a deep danger. That requires not one but two untested players to step up -- unlikely. All eyes will be on Sutton* in '06.
Sutton's YPC dropped from 5.9 to 5.3; his carries slid down to 189. None of this is necessarily his fault.
Thank you for not defying expectations. Short but sweet on the Northwestern DL: "This is probably going to be the worst defensive line in the conference other than Indiana." 92nd in rushing defense, 110th in TFL, leading sacker had 3.
On the DBs:
Long Northwestern's glaring weakness, it would be folly to expect sudden improvement from this unit but for the first time in a long time there is something resembling a flicker of hope.
Ended the year 71st in defensive pass efficiency, which is almost mediocre and the best number this unit has posted in a while.
Final Verdict on the Final Verdict: I usually have a wide spread for the teams in the worst-case-best-case areas, but with Northwestern it was uncommonly narrow: 5-7 best, 3-9 worst. I projected them 4-8, and that's where they ended up, though I didn't see that New Hampshire loss coming. Also accurate.
Post-hoc validation: So, yeah, I didn't watch that awards show, and a good thing, too, since it was dumb. Let us count the ways:
- They need to get rid of whatever the Maxwell trophy looks like and replace it with a bridesmaid crying into her wedding cake if they're going to insist on giving it to Guy Who's Not Winning The Heisman Guy every year. If there's an award for "Best QB" and you don't win it, how do you win "Best All-Around Player"? Did I miss Quinn returning punts?
- I don't think Leon Hall should have won the Thorpe, but if he was going to lose it should have been to Reggie F-in' Nelson instead of Aaron Ross.
- More "We don't understand set theory": Woodley wins best OL/DL/LB, Posluszny wins "best defensive player." (For what reason? Posluszny, good though he is, is possibly the most over-decorated linebacker since these fancy awards started coming out. Though Laurinaitis is off to a good start.)
Anyway, Woodley won some stuff and he, Long, and Hall were first-team AA. Hart was second.
- n00b Maize And Blue Tailgate has some suggestions to prevent this from ever happening ever again. Among them: don't schedule more macky-cakes, play after Thanksgiving, and accede to night games.
- Stadium and Main takes a look at next year's schedule and Michigan's prospects. Outlook: good. There are few returning QBs on the schedule. More discussion of that flashing TBA.
Personally, I think we should get a middling BCS team on the road to fill that hole in their schedule. Anyone who will give us a 2-for-1 and promises to be a respectable opponent. Hell, they can even be awful next year, don't care. North Carolina, maybe? An eighth home game against a stupid team opens us up to mocking columns about never leaving home to do anything on the road. If we can avoid that and get a pair at home against a respectable foe, awesome.
We will need more players on ice. Bob Miller of the Wolverine has some brief scouting reports on players who won't get to Michigan for a long time, three '09s and '10 commit John Merril. One, Kenny Ryan, is a recruit, not a commit. Yes, he's the younger brother of punter Ross.
We will also need more players this weekend: Dest is out for a month. Jack will miss Friday's game and is questionable for Sunday, when Andrew Cogliano will be off at Canada's WJC camp. Steve Kampfer will obviously draw in, but that leaves Michigan a defenseman short for ND. Will Red drop Rohlfs back or just go with five, giving Montville a token dressing? Don't know. Do know: this is awful timing for two critical games against ND.
O RLY. So there's this book coming out on last year's Springdale HS team that eventually sent five guys and its coach, Gus Malzahn to D-I schools last year. If you are a recruitnik you may remember that OMG Shirtless Arkansas freshman Mitch Mustain committed to Arkansas, decomitted and was widely speculated to be going to Notre Dame, then recommitted to the Razorbacks. Well, yeah:
A few weeks later, Mustain backed out on Arkansas and kept silent about his plan to attend Notre Dame, waiting on a promised scholarship.
Voigt recounts how Notre Dame offensive coordinator Michael Haywood was fine with Mustain's timetable until a few weeks before signing date. Then, the squeeze began. On his cell phone, Mustain heard Haywood say the Irish needed an answer in 48 hours.
It was at that point that Mustain called Nutt and requested a meeting. Nutt agreed and then realized it was a dead period and called right back to ask, "Does your mom mind you being out late tonight?"
Mustain thought Nutt meant 10 p.m.; the coach was talking about a minute after midnight. When Mustain arrived on campus that night, Nutt was there along with Malzahn, offensive line coach Mike Markuson and new quarterbacks coach Alex Wood.
They talked and Haywood called again the next day. Mustain reminded him he wanted to visit South Bend before making a commitment. He could wait only 24 more hours, Haywood said. That day, Mustain and Wood talked for almost an hour, drawing up plays on a dry-erase board. Markuson entered the room, acknowledged the rumors of a rift between himself and Malzahn, then wrote the names of his wife and children on the board, and told Mustain, " ... I'm not going to screw this up."
A short time later, Mustain decided to re-up with Arkansas and ignore Weis and Haywood. However, a recruiting writer penned a piece that said Weis wasn't interested in Mustain because he had verbal commitments from two quarterbacks and had told them he wouldn't take a third.
Mustain's mom was furious and said Weis planted the story "just so they could look good for the national people."
One guess as to who the "recruiting writer" was. Yup: Tom Lemming. What a weird sequence of events. Unlike Texas' pressure on Ryan Mallet, which was spurred by John Brantley's desire to commit ASAP, pushing Mustain for a commitment had no possible benefit for Notre Dame. It eventually cost ND Mustain's services. Doubly weird because Demetrius Jones is a dual-threat guy a lot of people saw eventually moving to WR or wherever.
I wonder if this is just Weis-ian SOP. Martez Wilson was an ND lock lock lock lock, suddenly wasn't interested in ND -- probably because his scholarship got pulled for some reason that's probably being spun retroactively as "grades" but was more likely another deadline -- and is now presumed to be an ND lock lock lock again. Would also explain their sudden lack of interest in Barksdale if they pulled a similar stunt, since Barksdale seems like a primadonna who holds grudges. ND gave him the hard sell and he reacted adversely to that.
Etc.: the Worldwide Reader blows up some dumb anti-playoff arguments brought forth by Bomani Jones; Wetzel on UF president Bernie Machen and playoff possibilities. EDSBS was taken over by Subcomandante Wayne yesterday, BTW.