big ten navel gazing
Nice job picking a QB, Ace. Here's your reward.
While re-watching the M-PSU punt-fest my brother made an interesting comment: "It's amazing what's happened to two of the best quarterbacks in the conference." If you ever again need to point to something to show that the offense means more than the quarterback, this Big Ten season has that in spades. What it doesn't have is an answer to the question: who IS the best QB in the conference?
I have no idea. Of guys I expected big things from, Braxton Miller (injury) and Tre Roberson (transfer) didn't make it out of the preseason, Gardner played his way behind a true sophomore who obviously couldn't play, Hackenberg's been a tackling dummy, and when I got down to Cook my Sparty slappy brother shook his head and declined the nomination.
Lower down, Sudfeld is now out for the season but he wasn't world-beating before. C.J. Brown, true to form, has been keeping pace just behind Gardner; a wrist injury against Indiana has ceded snaps to Caleb Rowe. Nebraska and Iowa aren't getting anything more than mediocre from their 2nd year guys. Trevor Siemian is not a throw deity of any sort. Etling hasn't been good enough for Boiler fans to stop mentioning that Michigan stole Bellomy(!). Wisconsin's QB situation has been awful. Illinois thought they had something when transfer Wes Lunt was picking apart bad defenses, but he broke his leg, which is apparently 4-6 weeks these days.
Everybody's played only a few real opponents, and everybody's been a product of his offense so stats are only a little useful. Last year ESPN's Dean Oliver rolled out his "QBR" metric which is based on Mathlete-like expected points on a 100-level scale; 50 is average. Mouseover the headers for clarification (explanation here):
|PLAYER||Pass EPA||RUN EPA||SACK EPA||PEN EPA||TOTAL EPA||ACT PLAYS||RAW QBR||TOTAL QBR|
I pulled the raw QBR in each game to plot it against Football Outsiders' S&P+ so you can see the individual performances in context. Gardner's games are labeled and Michigan's remaining opponents are shown.
[after the jump: trends, discussion]
That episode where Mr. Burns had to go work for Smithers. I'm sure there is one.
The Big Ten Championship Game and bowl selection gives us an opportunity to zoom out a little.
Who's on the up, how do next year's divisions stack up against each other for the short and long term, and what's the long term outlook for the Big Ten on a national scale (and do you care?)
Mathlete: With Michigan State's title and several preceding years of quality, they have moved into that 1B tier. Ohio State is the only team right now I would consider in the top tier. They have both the recruiting and the on field to be clearly at the top.
|I wonder what Coach Dantonio thinks about "1B" status. He probably has a measured, mature response that acknowledges his schedule was kind of easy and his recruiting is lacking. [Fuller]|
Joining the Spartans in 1B I would put Wisconsin. Behind them you have the good but definitely behind the top teams group. Unfortunately right now that includes Michigan along with Nebraska, Iowa. In the third group you have the chaos teams. Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota (how did that happen), Penn State and probably Maryland are teams that had a pretty decent year last year despite another rash of injuries. That leaves Purdue, Illinois and Rutgers at the bottom tier.
So if you look at the divisions you have the East with 2 first tiers and 1 second tier team. The West would have 1 first tier and 2 second tier teams. The caveat is that the East's second tier team, Michigan, has been recruiting like a first tier and will finally have a large amount of acclaimed talent in the upper classes. If Michigan can move up to tier one, then the East is considerably more challenging.
On a national scale it's hard to see the Big Ten join the top as a group. The two paths up are recruiting and coaching and right now there is a pretty big gap between the Big Ten and the best in both. If Michigan can start playing like it's recruiting, and 1-2 teams of Michigan St/Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa can play at the top level each year, then that should help the profile of the conference. Three+ really good teams means you move out of ACC territory and get to where a conference champ would be in a position for 2 high quality wins. Ultimately, that's the blueprint for the Big Ten at the top as a conference, 3 high quality teams, 2 high quality wins. Without a foundational shift, the full depth isn't going to match up. But if the top 3 can, the conversation should die down.
You may be aware that the Big Ten has not been too good at football of late. You are probably also aware that Ohio State and Michigan are locked in a titanic struggle for the sexiest recruiting class, one featuring players like Jabrill Peppers, Vonn Bell, Derrick Green, and Jalin Marshall. The opposing sides in The Game had top five recruiting classes last year according to the 247 composite rankings, with OSU second and Michigan fifth. So far this year Michigan is first and Ohio State ninth.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is flailing. The next Big Ten team on the list was #22 Nebraska; #30 Penn State—NCAA-crippled Penn State—followed. That concludes our list of Big Ten teams with better-than average recruiting classes amongst the 60 or so BCS teams.
Here is a team that finished higher than all but the mentioned Big Ten teams.
Kentucky. A team that stopped releasing attendance numbers. Mississippi State, Vandy, Baylor, and Virginia beat all these teams plus Penn State out. It was not so good out there last year.
Surely that's a flu…
Kentucky has six OH commits. Non-MI/OSU B10 combined: 7.
…mother of God. Everyone on that list has a Big Ten offer from a school that has been something other than a depressing blight on the idea of sport during the last ten years. (Ok, it depends on how you classify Illinois. They went to a Rose Bowl, but also: Illinois.) What's more, Tennessee has gotten in on the raiding, snatching three kids out of the Midwest.
What follows is a brief survey of the Big Ten's footprint recruiting areas. Prepare for carnage. Before we start, I should mention that despite being under extraordinarily punitive NCAA sanctions, Penn State has four-star recruits from Delaware and North Carolina and is currently holding on to a top 20 spot in the rankings. They'll slide back down to where they were last year before things are said and done because they will have a tiny class, but Penn State is retaining its recruiting cachet as well as—probably better than—they could have hoped. Once they're out from under the yoke they should quickly excise themselves from Little X talk.
Nebraska, too, consistently recruits at a level above most of the rest of the league even if they're off to a poor start this year. This is more about the conference's traditional middle class.
DeShone Kizer's top three is Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee. He has an offer from only the latter.
Ohio State is going for half of the 16 consensus four-stars, with six already in the boat and the probable acquisition of the two main Glenville kids this year. Michigan has one, Michael Ferns. Northwestern has one, Dariean Watkins. The four other guys are probably headed to Alabama or OSU (Derek Kief), ND or Kentucky (Darius West), Louisville (Daniel Cage), and somewhere in the SEC (DeShone Kizer).
Yes. There is one four-star in Ohio who will head to a Big Ten program not named Michigan or Ohio State.
It gets worse. One of the next nine guys (QB Chris Durkin, MSU) is committed to a Big Ten school. Three are headed to Kentucky or Tennessee. None of the other five have publicly stated a leader but Kentucky and Louisville are involved with three and two more are up in the air.
It is likely that only two or three of the top 25 guys in Ohio end up in the rest of the league.
TOP 25, APPROX. NUMBER OF RECRUITS HEADING TO VARIOUS PLACES:
- OSU/M: 10
- L12: 3
- GTFO: 12
top 100 linebacker Nyles Morgan favors… Vanderbilt
Illinois is going to be chaos and depression for the middle class of the Big Ten. The top ten kids are either headed to the Big Two (Bunting, Westphal, and Jamarco Jones), committed to another conference (Watson, Helm, Wilbon), or headed that direction (Clifton Garrett, Nyles Morgan, and Dewayne Hendrix are all headed south). Northwestern is the only L12 team to pick off a four-star kid from Illinois.
It's a little less grim as you head down to 25. Northwestern and MSU have five of those guys, OSU has one, and it looks like a few more will end up in the league. The top is just a disaster, though.
- OSU/M: 3
- L12: 10, 1 of them in the top ten
- GTFO: 12
Three of the four consensus four stars are off the board to M/OSU with Malik McDowell strongly expected to join the club. Michigan also has #10 Moe Ways. The Big Ten held on to most of the other guys in State except Chance Stewart, who bizarrely decommitted from Wisconsin and chose WMU shortly thereafter.
- M/OSU: 5
- L12: 4
- GTFO: 1
Michigan remains loyal, if a little talent-sparse.
Dominique Booth's top four: Tennessee, FSU, Vandy, Alabama.
The top player in the state has no Big Ten teams in his top four; OSU is the only one on the list of #2. ND and OSU have 3 and 5 committed, respectively. Louisville and Kentucky are heavily involved with #4. The next five guys are still fuzzy, with Purdue favored for a couple, if only because they seem interested while others are not.
- OSU/M: 2
- L12: 2
- GTFO: 6
if Dravon Henry stays in the B10 it will be at OSU or PSU
Pennsylvania has always been more up for grabs because anyone from the Eastern part of the state doesn't think of the Big Ten as local, so it's less of a surprise when things have a more national feel. Even so, only Penn State has made any headway in PA. They have 3 of the top 20. Michigan has one, and then Temple, BC, WVU and FSU also have one. The rest of the Big Ten? Zero. 247 projects that number will stay at zero, with Pitt, OSU, and Michigan cleaning up.
- OSU/M: 4
- L12: 8, almost all of them to Penn State
- GTFO: 8
WISCONSIN AND SMALL STATES
The top five players in Wisconsin are committed to the Badgers. Good job, Wisconsin. Here are some cheese curds for you.
Iowa is doing similarly well in Iowa, with three of the six guys 247 rates committed, and a fourth probably on the way.
Nebraska has a commit from one of the two guys they've offered in-state and should get the second.
Minnesota has a soft verbal from the top kid in the state and may lose the second; everyone else is not the kind of recruit that would make Minnesota anything other than Minnesota.
THE NEW FOOTPRINT
Big Ten schools not named Michigan and Rutgers have zero of the top 20 in NJ. Penn State has the #5 kid in Maryland, and that's the only B10 commit in that State. Maryland is supposed to get a couple, and PSU may get a couple more.
This is where I mention that recruiting is not destiny. Wisconsin has never been particularly good at it in the eyes of the gurus but has turned themselves into a major program by keeping everyone they have for five years—Bielema just had a class of 13 guys, because Wisconsin only had room for 13 guys—and hewing to a system that works for the kind of players they can access. It remains to be seen whether they can keep that going without a hand-picked transition like Alvarez-to-Bielema. Similarly, Michigan State's classes have been almost devoid of attrition and they have locked into a stable defensive style that has produced.
Recruiting is kind of destiny, though: Wisconsin has reached the last three Rose Bowls. It has lost all of them. Witness any Big Ten program against Alabama. Football is random and rankings are not perfect, but if you're at the bottom any success you have is pushing uphill.
The slope of that hill is about to become alarming. It bodes unwell for the Big Ten's middle class that the gap between themselves and the heavyweights is growing, especially when it comes not only from the two at the top improving on historically good classes but from the meat-and-potatoes kids they've relied on for so long opting to leave the conference. Every kid in Ohio who opts for Kentucky or Tennessee or Louisville is virtually irreplaceable for programs whose recruiting reach outside the Midwest is limited to scrabbling for guys without Vandy offers.
Northwestern is the exception. With their committed niche offense and recent success they'll be a thorn in the side of anyone whose defense can't handle the spread. If they can just get their defense to middling, it's on in the West.
Why yes there is a story behind this photo:
"I took this picture at the pre-Super Bowl NFL Tailgate Party last week of my brother and Urban Meyer. My brother's hat was backwards but he twisted it around as I set up for the pic. Thought you might enjoy."
--Jared of Sports Power Weekends
As you may have heard on National Signing Day Urban Meyer inked a lot of five-stars (and poached as many three-stars from his conference rivals), then rounded on the rest of the B1G for not faring so well. MaizeNBlueInDC took to the Scout rankings to confirm, compiling the recruits by state to demonstrate how each conference was doing versus its footprint. He starts with a chart that seems to suggest the Big Ten recruited just like every other major conference except the SEC which I graph:
The parts I faded are the top two teams from each conference according to Scout's team rankings, respectively Bama/Texas A&M, UCLA/Wash(!), Mich/OSU, Okla/Texas, Clemson/FSU, and Rutgers/Cincy. That's what Urbz is whining about; he and we finished with the 1 and 2 teams to Scout, and the fourth Big Ten team doesn't appear until two spots above Kentucky. Course I'm not sure what Meyer expects to say at the coaches meeting except "Stop being MAC coaches promoted to your Peter Principle limit." For QED purposes, a reminder of Big Ten coaching hires since 2007:
- 2007: Saban/Tressel acolyte who turned Cincy into a BCS team, LSU's DC, Mack Brown's recruiting guy, Indiana's OC who coached Ball State before Hoke.
- 2008: WVU's head coach who invented the spread 'n shred
- 2009: Eastern Kentucky's head coach (hired in '08 under grooming plan)
- 2010: Bob Stoop's longtime OC
- 2011: SDSU's head coach, NIU's head coach
- 2012: Two-time national championship winner at Florida, Toledo's head coach (CBs under Tressel), a Belichick assistant
- 2013: Utah State's head coach, Kent State's head coach (WRs under Tressel)
Recently the SEC has taken to hiring rising star high school coaches who spend a year at Arkansas State, but they've also pilfered Bielema and hired a string of successful coordinators and guys who turned mid-majors into Top 10 teams, and, you know, former national championship winners who tried the NFL because their NCAA dynasties were no longer challenging.
Returning to the Diary of the Week at hand, the rest of the charts use the state data to show things like the SEC has a third of the nation's talent while Big Ten states accounted for a sixth—every other conference is less than us. In the comments turd furguson charted where the schools line up in ranking vs avg prospect rank to see if they're just hauling in more kids period. That also makes for easy graphing and general usefulness so:
In other takes on meeting Meyer's standards, here's EGD with a list of Urban-approved, non-"Don't be a Peters'd MAC coach" tips for Big Ten coaches heading out on the recruiting trail.
Basketball, the What's Leftening: Two of the three remaining tough games for basketball were just played. Our Big Ten opponents all have enough rough stuff still to play that everyone's expected to end up 14-4.
Etc. A better-late-than-never wrap-up of things Brian said on the D.C. trip—if you ask your local alumni chapter nicely (and you don't live in a crappy, unvisitable place like Dallas) you too can get a visit. The weekly LSAClassof2000 stats thing is a Geographic survey of freshmen in the Bentley database that's mostly useless if you don't take out the walk-ons—I had a hell of a time with that same problem when I did the historical team makeup from Ohio (the yellow part) graph for 2011 HTTV. Free throw attempts = EFFORT (and refs but mostly EFFORT!) A made-up backstory for rapture guy (the guy who reached ecstasy in that one gif); the real story will be on these pages soon courtesy of Ace. Lacrosse opponents primer. Please give details. Blockhams was pretty funny.
Requested: A diary on Michigan's ski team, which is club but I'm told is pretty good this year and has Bob Thomas's son on it (and competes in a division called "Michigan Men").
[After the jump: the winner of last week's "Find me a Game…Stauskus lookalike from the Fab Five" contest, and some stuff from the board.]
See if you can spot Upchurch in his bucket hat | my phone
There’s a Kryk article in the 2011 HTTV about how Nebraska and Notre Dame spent much of the first bit of the 20th century beating down the doors to the Big then-Nine (actually nine). In the days when everyone had to travel by train, Lincoln was WEST man. As for Notre Dame, they were well within the conference footprint, but far outside the preppy conference’s idea of a fit. Said Kryk:
“[Expanding beyond nine members] wasn’t the biggest reason for keeping Notre Dame out. Academic snobbery was, followed closely by religious prejudice. The Big Nine was run by academic elitists, and they viewed the education provided by religious institutions of higher learning such as Notre Dame as purely second-rate.”
If you know your University of Michigan history, you’ll remember James Burill Angell’s biggest battles with regents and the rest of the brass were around his hiring Catholic faculty and saying nice things about papists. It’s a little snapshot of the prevailing prejudices of the day, and the genesis of the Notre Dame psyche.
You’ll also know that from these early days we too were arrogant enough to go it independent for a time. But while Michigan evolved toward benchmarks of greatness that involve our in-conference rivalries, Notre Dame’s established themselves as a fearless lone wolf. It’s why we balk when our chief rival is moved to another division, while they see nothing untoward about canceling the Michigan series to guarantee one West Coast game per year.
Fast forward a century with plenty of independent glory and this is what we hath wrought: a group of exceptionalists who are in many ways truly exceptional. Like how a mountain range of new or recently renovated megaliths spring out of an industrial Northern Indiana town. Like how in this craven era they can play on dirt and grass in an 80,000 seat bowl with no jumbotrons, no bad seats, and overlooked by a great big mural of religious figure who may be praying, may be calling touchdown, or may be exclaiming “Oy vey.” And yet they will also exclaim six times, with Michigan in attendance, that their fight song is the greatest. They will mike their band and have them drown out the visitors’ whenever our guys strike up. They’ll blare pump-up music deep into the opponent’s snap count on 3rd downs. And they’ll scoff at our 100-years-late invitation to finally sign on as half-members of the Virginia and Duke conference, keep the extra home game of this now odd-numbered series, and then tell Yost’s team to go screw.
Calling them arrogant when we’re the school that shows up to other stadiums with a trailer painted all over with the message “mine’s bigger” is pot-kettle-ish. They are the hot chick, and we can’t have them anymore. Cue the diaries of Notre longing. Start with conference realignment at the end game as oakapple, rehashes the four axioms that drive college football relationships. Then DanRareEgg reminisces over the latest series that spanned, with a few two-year hiatuses, from Dan Devine to Denard’s derps. Big Will the Gazelle thinks canning the Michigan rivalry to keep MSU and Purdue is a departure from the “We’ll play anybody, any time” ethos that built the ND brand. And if you’re really not ready to let go, here’s k.o.k.Law with a present tense poetic retelling of his ‘06 experience.
Let’s do THE JUMP here, and rejoin for the weeklies and the best of the board.
Hurray issues. So this morning an iframe insert got put in the js file. It has been removed and we are monitoring that particular file intently; the good news is that no other files on the server have been changed. I've turned off js aggregation, which will make the site marginally slower for first loads. We are still looking for the entry vector; if a js file gets updated we will know about it and check to make sure it does not have the malicious code in it. We have a request in to Google for a clearance.
If you are concerned, running a noscript module on your browser is a good idea. Apologies.
(Note: this is unrelated to the scattered reports people were having of malware from the Google Ads, which are client-side issues.)
Fun with hats. Ace has it:
There's Waldo. Insane axe-murdering Waldo.
Hatch update. Via his CaringBridge page:
By the grace of God, Austin James is showing improvements everyday. He is comfortable and stable. He has begun opening his BIG BLUE EYES a little bit more! We understand that his healing will be a very slow and gradual process; we're not sure whether Austin has any awareness of what he sees yet.
He's got a long way to go, but it sounds like he's getting out of the woods.
Further evidence for the skinflint theory. The Big Ten continues to pile up the cash:
They continue to not spend it on football coaches:
The SEC paid its assistant coaches an average of $276,122 in 2010, according to figures compiled by St. Louis attorney and agent Bob Lattinville of the firm Stinson Morrison Hecker.
The Big 12 was second at $232,685 and the Big Ten a distant fourth, behind the Atlantic Coast Conference, at $187,055. In each instance, the averages do not include salaries at private schools such as Baylor, Penn State and Vanderbilt.
You may have noticed that Penn State is not a private school, but they have some sort of state law that protects them from FOIA requests. They likely pay their assistants more than the Baylors and Vanderbilts of the world but Northwestern is also omitted and Penn State isn't closing a 50-grand gap with the Big 12, let alone the 90 grand to the SEC.
Not that I have a problem with not heaping even more money on football coaches, but Braves & Birds's theory that the Big Ten is falling behind because they refuse to lay out money for proven coaches is looking pretty good these days. At least Michigan bucked the trend by 1) wildly overpaying their version of Gene Chizik and 2) finding their own Mahlzahn in Mattison.
Dominoes go further. College hockey lurches towards its final configuration apace, with Northern Michigan making the obvious move to the WCHA. Northern was in (an almost completely different) WCHA until the late 90s and returns, renewing a conference rivalry with Michigan Tech and easing their travel burden.
Interestingly, word from Marquette has a surprising second school on the WCHA hit list: Alaska. The WCHA retains Anchorage and the conventional wisdom holds that two Alaska schools are too many for one conference since teams could be required to make more than one trip up north per year. If the WCHA's endgame is an eight team league, you'd think the conference schedule would be 28 games—four each against seven opponents. That would require two trips per year. Even if you go to a division system where you play four teams only twice, you're averaging 1.5 trips to Alaska per year. Lake Superior seems like a more logical option due to its natural rivalries with the other UP teams.
Meanwhile, the smoking husk of the CCHA takes another hit. Notre Dame's gone sooner or later. Western Michigan's openly pleading for someone to take them. Lake State has to be angling for a WCHA invite along with Alaska. Poor Bowling Green and Ferris State are hanging out in Fred Pletsch's basement drinking the cheapest beer on the market until Atlantic Hockey teams start to look attractive.
Current wild-ass guess at what college hockey in the West looks like in two years:
|UAA||Ferris State||Michigan State||Notre Dame|
|Minnesota State||Mercyhurst||Penn State||WMU|
|MTU||Robert Morris||Ohio State||North Dakota|
If LSSU does not move to the CCHA you can insert Cansisius, another Buffalo-area AH team, or UAH into the CCHA to make eight.
Is that viable for everyone in the WCHA and CCHA? I think the WCHA will be okay. Most of the programs there have recent financial commitments from their universities; at all of them hockey is unquestionably the top dog. That's the case for everyone in the CCHA, as well, except for Ferris (no recent insertion of capital) and BGSU (MAC football and basketball probably more important). I think Ferris would be able to keep its footing.
What would really help is having a formal state of Michigan championship. In this new doomsday scenario Michigan teams are split across four leagues, making the previous plan—which relied on a lot of conference games being counted for the championship—dubious. On the other hand, in this new world there are a ton of nonconference games that need filling.
Have fun storming the castle. Even if Russell Wilson isn't certain doom for Wisconsin's opponents this year he's better than whatever the Badgers had before. KC Joyner makes an interesting point, though: Scott Tolzien was one of the most underrated players of the last decade in the league and Wilson won't approach his insane efficiency.
Etc.: Michigan's new white hockey jersey is going to be regrettable in a few years, and I miss the cool Rangers-esque lettering on the maize one. Outrage is low because they'll just change them next year anyway. Yost Built also says "you're out, White Jersey" in a flat sexy German monotone. Holdin' The Rope assembles things.