Doom, Doom, Beat Drums In The Big 12 Deep

Doom, Doom, Beat Drums In The Big 12 Deep

Submitted by Brian on June 7th, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Death_star1 Blogs With Balls picked a surprisingly inconvenient time to happen. A weekend in early June should be the most boring, torpid time of the year for a college football (/basketball/hockey/baseball) blog, but over the weekend Michigan dealt with a scary injury to one of their players, an assistant coach departing, and all hell breaking loose when it comes to college football expansion.

I dumped about a thousand words worth of up-to-date speculation, opinion, and head-shaking at The Sporting Blog, but here's an addendum directed at Michigan's place in all this:

Is this good or bad?

Probably good? I owe Frank The Tank an apology for considering his Texas Death Star scenarios a law-addled fever dream: guy was on the money. Now that the fate of the Big 12 is seriously in play, Texas can shake loose and the Big Ten can swoop in and claim the Longhorns and associated Big 12 teams to create a superconference worthy of the name. I still think 16 team conferences are stupid pretty much without exception, but a 16 team superconference formed by adding a few Big East schools and Big 12 North refugees goes beyond that into the realm of depressing.

The Pac-10's main advantage when it comes to wooing Austin is also its main disadvantage: the Pac-10 does not have a CIC-type organization and is (evidently) not as hung up on the possibility of admitting the Oklahoma teams. In short, they do not have a "Tech problem." The Big Ten has a Tech problem because the wide-ranging institutional cooperation on the academic side has seen Penn State and Texas go from approximately equal centers of research to Penn State peering down at Texas from atop a $200 million dollar pile of Big Ten money.

Is Notre Dame seriously in play?

Eh… probably not. Big 12 disintegration leaves the Big East intact and removes much of ND's motivation to join a conference.

Do you have a wild guess to how this works out?

Absolutely not, but I think Texas prefers the Big 10 to the Pac 10 and it will be a fight between UT and the Texas legislature's insistence on tying Baylor and Tech around the Longhorns' necks. If Texas wins that fight the end result is probably the addition of Nebraska, Missouri, Texas, A&M, and then a wildcard team the league would prefer was Notre Dame but probably won't be.

I wonder how the triumvirate of hate schools (Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota) look at this. They'd probably be put in the Big 12 division (otherwise you have to break them up) and would have their worlds more rearranged than anyone else.

Conference Expansion: That's No Moon

Conference Expansion: That's No Moon

Submitted by Brian on June 4th, 2010 at 10:22 AM

I am about to head out to Chicago so of course this is breaking today: ninjas have descended upon the Big 12 meetings and are busy abducting various members of the Big 12. The Columbus Dispatch continues to use the FOIA for interesting things by getting this email from Gordon Gee that seems to confirm that all the lurid fantasies Big Ten fans have issued about Texas, Texas A&M, and all the other crazy proposals are true:

"I did speak with Bill Powers at Texas, who would welcome a call to say they have a 'Tech' problem," Gee wrote in an e-mail that was among several obtained by The Dispatch through a public-records request for documents and correspondence related to Big Ten expansion proposals.

Meanwhile, the Big 12 is cancelling press conferences, Iowa State is expressing its strong commitment to the Big Twelve, and everything else is going crazy. Now I get in a car. Yay for timing. BWB thing then out.

(HT: @chrislittman.)

Mailbag: Title IX and BCS Bo

Mailbag: Title IX and BCS Bo

Submitted by Brian on May 28th, 2010 at 1:15 PM

Hey Brian,

I was wondering if you could give me some insight on why we haven't taken the leap in going Varsity with our lacrosse programs. We appear to have one more women's sport than men's at the varsity level (women's rowing is varsity, men's rowing is club), so would that make it easier to add a men's sport under Title IX? If Lacrosse were the next sport to go varsity, would we also take the women's program?


Title IX compliance isn't based on the number of sports but the number of participants, which gives football a big overhang and usually forces everyone to carry at least one more women's sport than they do men's. For some reason, even rostered walk-ons count in Title IX calculations. Here's an ESPN article about K-State's 124-member football team that takes the stance that the problem in this scenario is lots of walk-ons and not the stupidity of counting a player who's not adding anything more than the cost of his pads to the athletic department's expenses.

Adding lacrosse as a varsity sport will necessitate the addition of a women's sport. I am not aware of any that have the organization or success that lax does, but some club team is going to get lucky.

Title IX, at least as it applies to college athletics, seems outdated to me. When 57% of college students are women the gender to be concerned about has switched, and when a sport like football takes in millions of dollars it seems like it shouldn't count at all. It's supposed to be about equal support, and football doesn't require support in many places.


Have you ever determined, if it's even possible to determine, how many national championship games Bo would have coached, if the BCS system existed while he was a coach?


Jack Turner

It will depend on what crazy mixed up BCS system you want to adopt. Since the Harris Poll didn't exist when Bo was around, you can't replicate the current system. Since that current system is the final expression of "the voters are always right," though, we can just use the AP poll as a proxy. If we're going by that, Bo would have played in the national title game in 1976, when  Michigan was #2 and had eight first-place votes. They would have played #1 Pitt.

There were a ton of close calls, though: 1989 (#3), 1986 (#4), 1985 (#5), 1978 (#5), 1977 (#4), 1974(#4), 1973 (#5), 1971 (#4 despite being 11-0). With many of those votes close and between teams will wildly varying schedules, the computers might have been able to swing Michigan into a title game in one of those years.

Hey Brian-

this thought was spurred by your mention of Boise St potentially being included in the Mtn West. Do you think that if Big 10 expansion steals Missouri & Nebraska away from the Big 12, it might lay the groundwork for TCU & Utah (maybe Boise, as well?) to step in to fill those vacated spots? Given these recent bits I've read about the Pac 10 and Big 12 working together to seal the deal on TV contracts west of the Mississippi, it seems to make sense that both leagues might be up for welcoming in the hot non-BCS schools out there. In fact, maybe the PAC-10 opens it's doors to Boise??

I know you've been critical of teams like Boise rising into the spotlight, due to strength of schedule issues. I definitely see where you're coming from, but I think it's great for the game to have teams like that step up. I do think this kind of seismic shift/realignment/expansion is an opportunity for these non-BCS teams to come to the table with the big boys and really prove their worth. Funneling teams like Boise, Utah & TCU into the 2 major conferences on the left side of the country really would make things pretty interesting, and, IMO, ends the possibility of BCS-busters, at least for awhile. Boise St joining the MWC really just continues the problems that already exist, even if the conference moves toward an automatic bcs bid. I think I'd rather have the good teams from the MWC sucked out into the BCS conferences, and have the remainder of the WAC & MWC relegated into a B-league with little chance of bursting the BCS bubble. What do you think?

Will be interesting to follow, for sure.


The way the current system is set up there is almost nothing a team like Boise State can do to actually deserve placement in the national title game. Any team from a BCS conference with one loss and a decent nonconference game or two is going to vastly exceed Boise's worthiness. One or two games against Pac-10 teams a year does not make a viable candidate when the chances of you, or any other serious national title contender, losing against the remainder of the WAC is close to zero. That's my only problem with Boise. Move them to the Mountain West and now maybe we're talking.

If we're talking about my ideal version of college football, it would be seven setups like the Pac-10 has now: ten team conferences that play a round robin. This would never happen, of course. Personally, I'd rather have the MWC as a second Big East than jamming more and more teams into big conferences with no clear winners.


Attached is a spreadsheet showing our redzone efficiency since 2003.  I have tracked various stats from the 2003 season forward and this happened to be one of them.  This is % of points scored based on 7 pts per trip.  Before the Illinois game we were right about average on offense and much better on defense (about the only thing the defense had consistently done well, thank God, otherwise things could really be ugly).  I couldn’t find the national numbers prior to 2007 so I used an average of 2007-2009 (to date).  The national numbers are assuming no 2 pt conversion and no missed xps. At that sample size I can’t imagine the other years straying too far from this figure. 


BGS 2003

National average: 69%

Offense RZ Trips RZ pts RZ efficiency Defense RZ Trips RZ pts RZ efficiency
2003 47 277 84% 2003 33 142 61%
2004 48 215 64% 2004 39 191 70%
2005 58 256 63% 2005 36 166 66%
2006 45 239 76% 2006 25 100 57%
2007 54 259 69% 2007 44 210 68%
2008 35 162 66% 2008 45 212 67%
2009 (wo/ Ill) 31 153 71% 2009 (wo/ Ill) 30 120 57%
2009 38 166 62% 2009 34 144 61%

What does this say? I'm not really sure other than maybe Red Zone efficiency isn't incredibly important. The horrible 2008 offense was not that far off the average and actually better than the 2004 and 2005 teams; the beyond horrible 2009 defense was actually considerably above average.

Unverified Voracity Pauses Dramatically And Talks About Justice

Unverified Voracity Pauses Dramatically And Talks About Justice

Submitted by Brian on May 19th, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Advertising note. If you live in Michigan (or, more accurately, if your ISP does) You may have noticed a banner for the Women's Football Academy rotating along the right side of the blog. They've purchased some ad space in support of the blog and I'd encourage anyone who is a qualified for the Academy (read: a woman) to check it out. As with many things related to the football program these days, the proceeds go to an excellent cause.

Poetry_Slam Line two. Dave Brandon is creating a slow motion poem. Line one: "I create the future." Line two:

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon: 'Change is in the wind'

Poem to date:

I create the future
Change is in the wind.

That is all. Oh: peanut gallery request for Dave Brandon Poetry Slam image to go with what promises to be an electric ongoing feature.

CEASE INSANE DIVISIONAL SPLITZ KTHX. If the Big Ten expands, Michigan and Ohio State will be in the same division:

"I think what’s probably most important is that you play them every year,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday from the Big Ten spring meetings. “For us, it’s always been at the end and that’s always had a great buildup and excitement to that, so you would think that would be part of the conversation. But there’s a lot of factors in play. I have not put a lot of thought into it.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said that issue is “very important” to him.

“At the end of the day when I look at things quantifiably, I’ll determine how hard I jump on the table,” Smith said. “But I can’t say for sure how high a table I’ll jump on. I have to wait and see.”

I have no idea what the hell Smith means by that but I'm sure if it's translated from Buckeye it means "beer fire bad. Michigan-Ohio State rivalry good." Bloggers still creating wildly impractical expansion scenarios—losers—can cut out the ones where Michigan and Ohio State do not play every year.

Getting way ahead of ourselves. Penn State rotates off the schedule next year along with all nonconference road games. (Also Purdue.) Minnesota and Northwestern return. The resulting schedule looks… well, it looks as easy as these things get short of moving to the WAC:

2011 Michigan Football Schedule

Date Opponent
Sept. 3 Western Michigan
Sept. 10 Notre Dame
Sept. 17 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 24 San Diego State
Oct. 1 BYE
Oct. 8 at Wisconsin
Oct. 15 Indiana (Homecoming)
Oct. 22 at Michigan State
Oct. 29 at Iowa
Nov. 5 Minnesota
Nov. 12 Illinois
Nov. 19 at Northwestern
Nov. 26 Ohio State

Eight home games, no Penn State, OSU and ND at home: that will be a put up or shut up type of schedule.

I don't understand why people keep falling out of the boat when I push more in. Hardcore Michigan recruitniks will have a vague recollection of Star Jackson, the dual-threat quarterback who was briefly on Michigan's radar during Rodriguez's first-month quarterback scramble that landed Justin Feagin and whiffed on Pryor, BJ Daniels, and everyone else. Jackson was committed to Alabama and stayed committed despite the Michigan offer. Today, he's announcing a transfer.

As far as Crimson Tide transfers go this one is near the bottom on the sketchiness scale: Jackson was third-string after spring practice and the Tide have hyped incoming freshman Phillip Sims joining the team this fall. Quarterbacks have a hair trigger these days when it comes to transfers. Even so, it takes a robot to say this with a straight face:

"We hate to see any player leave the program, but quarterback's kind of a unique position where one guy can play, and we have a lot of competition there right now. Greg's the starter coming back, AJ has done a fantastic job of improving, Phillip Sims came in at mid-semester and showed a lot of promise this spring."

Alabama oversigned by ten this February. Yes, again. They have six more guys to go. Jackson battled an academic suspension in spring, and given the state of the depth chart you have to wonder how invested Alabama was in getting him through that.

Now: which offensive lineman who isn't panning out will get a medical scholarship?

This is a problem? Apparently the one person on the planet with both a deep personal animosity towards the San Diego State football program and a connection to Michigan is Tate Forcier:

Honestly, San Diego State is a team right in my backyard and they didn’t show me any love or attention. Coach (Chuck) Long didn’t pay much attention to me, which was surprising because I showed some interest in them.

Son of a bitch. Grab the influenza and burn the boats: there's an indigenous group of homicidal, gold-hoarding polytheists to beat by at least three points.

Actually: maybe David Underwood also hates SDSU. Maybe he blames it all on them.

(HT: DocSat.)

Zinger. Rodriguez speaking about the ACC's Big East raid, which happened while he was the coach at WVU:

“I think it caught a few institutions off guard and it probably institutionally taught a few lessons that, hey, we better be prepared for that the next time,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know all the factors, but I’m sure there’s a few more buy-ins and buy-outs and things like that. I know all about buy-outs."

Zing! Wait, he zinged himself. Someone at this to the list of Rodriguez Humiliations that will be read over the loudspeaker before every game this fall.

Etc.: Even more python parsing of MGoBlog reveals that the words "Harbaugh," "mom," and "penetration" have each been deployed exactly 128 times. Isn't that was the Les Miles rumor? So much for python. Maize n Blue Nation gets detailed on the new turf. Beilein is heading overseas with the team if they can work something out.

Unverified Voracity Will Re-Report Anything

Unverified Voracity Will Re-Report Anything

Submitted by Brian on May 11th, 2010 at 12:46 PM

Believe nothing until you see the whites of their eyes. Yesterday saw yet another Big Ten expansion panic as some Kansas City radio station reported offers had gone out to Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Rutgers. This was pointedly denied by the Big 12 wing of the rumor, and laughed off by Notre Dame. Rutgers squinted its eyes as hard as they could and thought please be true please be true please be true. They sent in the fourth formal acceptance since the process began and later tearfully announced that this one didn't count, either.

People of Earth: I know I give a lot of stick to newspapers, but in this matter you should not believe a "report" until an actual newspaper—and not some intern piloting their pale imitation of a blog—from a place other than Chicago writes an article about with quotes in it.

This goes double for people at, you know, newspapers. It's amazing how credulous newspapers are with this stuff. All it takes is one yahoo on the radio talking about topics that do not directly pertain to the locals who know how much of a yahoo said radio guy is and wham:

imageAny semblance of a corporation behind a news-media-type organization and it's off to the races even if it's talk radio, the least accurate source of information on the planet, or some intern with a blog linking to the Bleacher Report. This one's all on you guys. Can't blame the internet.

Get it. Brock Mealer is training under Barwis in preparation for the UConn game, where he'll lead Michigan onto the field. Barwis is posting videos of his rehab:


Getting there.

What is the number? 22 million is the number that's usually thrown out in the midst of articles describing the BTN's status as a wondrous money cannon spraying cash across the midwest. Por ejemplo:

"We hoped it would be profitable eventually. But it turned a profit in, what, its second year?" said Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, whose athletic budget reaped an estimated $22 million in TV rights (including ABC, CBS and ESPN contracts) alone. "I don't believe anyone truly expected to be this successful this quickly. It's absolutely remarkable."

But estimated by who? If it's Maturi, okay. If it's a reporter in Chicago, alarms should be going off. Despite being the guy who appears to have hatched this meme, even Teddy Greenstein doesn't believe it anymore:

The Big Ten has declined to confirm the $22 million. What it has released is a figure of $220 million ($20 million per school) for 2010 that covers revenue from national television contracts, bowl games, the NCAA basketball tournament, licensing and the Big Ten Network.

So… by "declined to confirm" he means "denied." This year's conference distribution is $20 million, which you'll note is 1) not $22 million and 2) inclusive of many things that are not television. Bowl revenue accounts for about 2.2 million per school, for one.

That's still excellent. Last year the SEC shelled out just $11 million to its members. Michigan's conference distribution last year was $17 million and they projected another million this year. If that number is up to 20 that's a fantastic windfall, but it's also not the same as saying that Big Ten schools raked in $22 million from their TV deals. IIRC, the Big Ten now controls everything, even nonconference games, so there's no way the distribution fails to include all the TV money.

(Side note: that last thing is a major drag on the quality of nonconference schedules. When Michigan plays Notre Dame they get no more money from that game than Indiana does. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers are playing Indiana State in an effort to get bowl eligible. If the Big Ten would guarantee teams most of their nonconference TV revenue, there would be less financial incentive to schedule tomato cans.)

Also in that document. The "conference distribution" link takes you to last year's athletic budget presentation, in which you learn that a wrestling practice facility scored 75% more donations than the basketball version of same despite the wrestling facility coming in at 5.5 million and basketball coming in at 23.2. Also, the second major project other than "rebuild Crisler" is replacing the bleachers at Yost.

Why we always got to go and do that? Michigan seems incapable of scheduling a mildly interesting opponent that doesn't turn out to be considerably more than they bargained for these days. Utah, of course, finished the 2008 season by pantsing Alabama and finished undefeated at #2. This year, UConn is returning almost everyone from an 8-5 team that suffered a string of narrow losses. Echoing warnings that have been deployed here, Athlon has them 20th:

The Huskies welcome back 16 starters and possess plenty of optimism in a Big East that is wide open. The question for Connecticut is whether it is ready to play more as it did at the end of the season, when it won four straight games, including a bowl triumph over South Carolina, or if it is more like the outfit that dropped three consecutive league contests in the middle of the year, by a total of 10 points.

Survey says former.

Etc.: Mike Hart and a couple other NFL players from New York are starting up a free football camp for Syracuse-area kids. They're looking for some donations to help defray the costs.

Mailbag! Jaunty Style!

Mailbag! Jaunty Style!

Submitted by Brian on May 6th, 2010 at 12:52 PM

always look on the bright side of life

Should we be depressed watching this draft seeing very limited Michigan players taken?  I mean I know we haven't been a good football team lately, but I look at a guy like Donavan Warren.  Couldn't SOMEBODY have told him he wasn't ready for the pros?  Unless I'm way wrong and he is ready?  I just wanted to get your thoughts on when it makes sense for a junior to declare early.  It seems to me that if you aren't a lock in the first 3 rounds, it's just not worth it.  I could be wrong on this, that's why I'm asking your opinion on it.

Thanks man,

Chris: if you are surveying the recent history of Michigan football and deciding that this year's NFL draft is the reason to be depressed, you are the modern day equivalent of one of those guys on the cross singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

As far as Warren goes, I touched on it briefly when Mark Carrier went to the well and declared the Michigan Warren signed up for "wasn't there anymore," but to expand on it: there were a lot of different factors that went into Warren's unwise decision to declare. Conventional wisdom held that Warren was looking at three years and out from the moment he stepped on campus. All the coaches he signed up to play for were broomed. Then he got a mid-round-at-worst grade from the NFL Advisory Committee—basically a "lock for the first three rounds." His decision was an expected outcome. The unexpected bit was not getting drafted.

FWIW, when all this was going down I did get the impression that Rodriguez thought Warren was not ready for the pros:

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said in a radio interview Monday he wishes cornerback Donovan Warren would have got more information before declaring for the NFL draft.

"I probably would have preferred to wait until I get the NFL advisory committee information back, which I have not gotten back yet," Rodriguez said on WDFN 1130-AM. "I don’t know if he talked to enough people yet or not, but he feels he has. I kind of wish he got a little bit more information so he would have been sure before he made his declaration."

He took off anyway. It happens from time to time—remember Shantee Orr?—but less frequently when you haven been placed in a situation someone else chose for you.


I had a discussion w/ Jon Chait about the 2 QB system. I personally feel that it is a bad idea but I don't necessarily always agree with the platitudes spun on ESPN ("if you have 2 QBs it means you have none"). Is there any evidence of a 2 QB system really being bad? Jon brought up the Leak/Tebow duo and the 1982 Miami Dolphins. Certainly 2 teams in 25 years is not much of a success rate but I was hoping you or Mathelete might have some more detailed data.


Dan Rontal

I could probably dig up some evidence that two QB systems are less effective than your average one QB system but that's a lot of effort to state something logically obvious: the chances of having one excellent quarterback are low. The chances of having two are vanishingly small. Therefore, playing two quarterbacks means you do not have an excellent quarterback. QED.

HOWEVA, this assumes that quarterback excellence comes in one shape, something that was 100% true for the duration of the Carr regime. The shape was a 6'5" fixed artillery piece 50% as white as We Are ND.

that's really, really white

When Carr experimented with his Henson-Brady platoon, that was something he'd promised Henson to prevent him from signing an enormous baseball contract. Even that petered out as Michigan began to realize what it had in Tom Brady. They were running the same stuff with both, so it made no sense to go with the guy who wasn't a crazy accurate cold-blooded senior.

The situation in 2010 is a lot closer to Leak/Tebow (minus the hellacious defense) than Brady/Henson. Michigan's two quarterbacks are radically different players. In that case it makes sense to use them in different situations. On third and one, Denard is a better option. On third and fifteen, Tate is. On first and ten it will depend on who the opponent is and how the quarterbacks are playing that day.

I have a feeling that by midseason it will be clear one or the other is the starter, but I also think both QBs will see snaps in every game this year.

Hi Brian-

I was wondering if you could help me understand something.  How does this deal between ESPN and SEC affect the amount of Big 10 games that are televised on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2?  In terms of football, is the SEC really getting that much more coverage on ESPN compared to the Big 10 on Saturdays (the Big 10 doesn't really play games any other day of the week too often)?

Up until now, I have been able to watch tons of Big 10 games on these channels (I live in Boston), but now I am afraid that they are going to be playing more SEC games and I will only get the 1 game at a time I get on the Big 10 Network.  Everything I read makes it sound like ESPN bought the broadcasting rights to all these SEC football games and other athletic events and that they will be dominating the ESPN airwaves, but if it started last fall (2009), I sure didn't notice a difference because they still played pretty much every Big 10 game not on the Big 10 Network (Indiana vs. Minnesota aside).

Any ways, just wondering if you have any insight on this.

The SEC deal has no impact on the Big Ten/ABC contract. ABC always gets first choice of Big Ten games every weekend, then ESPN, ESPN 2, and the BTN have a complicated system in which they alternate the second pick. The BTN gets two or three opportunities to go second—which is how they scooped up the M-MSU game in year two of the network, causing mass panic at the prospect it might not be on television in the state.

In fact, the much-hyped SEC deal is now coming in for local criticism because MLS and women's basketball have more pull than SEC gymnastics. The net effect has been to move the crappy SEC games from Raycom syndication (the ironically beloved "three Daves" setup) to the obscurer reaches of the ESPN dial (U and Classic). Since Big Ten games were never played on those networks, the impact on the conference is nil. I don't think the SEC pact actually does much of anything for the league other than fill their pockets: ESPN isn't going to stop televising good Pac 10/ACC/Big 12 games.

The Big Ten's ABC/ESPN deal is even better than the SEC deal in one critical respect: it mandates that any regional broadcast is "reverse mirrored" on another channel. End result:

The Boilermakers appeared on National or National/Regional Television for every game (12) [ed: thanks for the game count protip, marketing droid!] during the 2009 season. Boiler Up!

11:20 AM May 5th via web

That's really cool for Purdue. It is also true for every Big Ten team, even Indiana. There is no such thing as a Big Ten football game you cannot get nationally. The genius of the Big Ten network is matched by the genius of the reverse mirror. Whoever got that inserted into the Big Ten TV contract earns his keep.

BONUS: how huge is the ESPN/SEC contract going to look in 15 years? Not very huge. The Big Ten is already matching or exceeding it and their deal with FOX includes profit-sharing that has already kicked in. When not speaking publicly, Jim Delany is a ninja.

It seems to me that if we are going to poach from the Big 12 -- it makes the most sense to make a play for Texas as taking 2 teams from the conference makes its demise all but certain and could push Texas into the SEC or Pac-10.
If we are going to be Machiavellian a la Notre Dame, it makes no sense to pursue two decent Big 12 schools when doing so pushes the crown jewel (athletically, academically, and demographically) into a rival camp.  Thoughts?
Relatedly, what is the basis for the comments that the TX legislature would only permit that if the Big 10 took A&M too? 
Thanks for humoring me.
-Name Withheld

Daddy, would you like some sausages?


I don't know what the basis for the TX legislature road block meme is Austin seem like the active sort and I buy it. Besides, A&M is a fine school in its own right.

Anyway: I'm with you. It's been universally agreed that Texas is the biggest fish in the pond. The problem with Texas is that it's geographically isolated from the Big Ten and beholden to a state legislature that somehow finagled perpetually useless Baylor into the Big 12. They've got power and they're nosy enough to use it.

But if this 16-team Big Ten is actually going to transpire, is that relevant? If the Big Ten grabs five teams they can lop off Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma in one enormous western surge. Big Ten Manifest Destiny seriously reduces the geographic implausibility and provides the Big Ten the most sheer intimidation possible. If we're putting the Big Cthulhu on the table, I don't see why the Big East has to be involved at all, or Notre Dame for that matter. It makes more sense to dismember one conference in its entirety.

I know that Oklahoma's academic standing has been widely declared a nonstarter for the Big Ten's ivory tower types. If that's the case, grabbing Colorado or Kansas has almost the same effect—Texas tentacles—with considerably less chewing tobacco at conference meetings.


Exactly what happens between now and August?  I really mean EXACTLY, not just "they do some conditioning and stuff".  Someone out there (football coaches or maybe former players) must know the answer.

Thank you,

Marc 71

I can't give you an all-caps EXACT answer, but I did ping Tyler Sellhorn for a moderately detailed one. Without further ado:

Dear Brian,

While school is still in session, the program can require attendance at conditioning.  When school lets out the players voluntarily submit themselves to The Church of Barwis, take 4-6 credit hours of summer school (so that most players, i.e. general studies majors, can take a minimum full-time courseload during the year and still be on track to graduate), most student-athletes will spend a week at home, and then Fall camp starts in August.  Also, the quarterbacks and defensive leaders are usually encouraged to organize skeleton passing sessions as well, but as we know too well now, coaches are not permitted to even witness said seven-on-seven sessions.

That is not an exactly, but a general overview that should answer less curious minds than Marc71.

God Bless,
Tyler Sellhorn

Thanks to Mr. Sellhorn.

Anticlimactic Big Ten Expansion Idea Dump

Anticlimactic Big Ten Expansion Idea Dump

Submitted by Brian on April 27th, 2010 at 11:41 AM


When you do a Google image search for "sixteen" you get two types of results: the literally porny and the metaphorically porny. We're going with metaphorically. This is a wikipedia commons image used in the articles on "sausage" and "gluten-free diet."

So… yeah. As mentioned in Friday's UV, the big expansion news was exactly nothing and we can all resume our lives without feverishly plotting complicated ways to make a 16 teams have a meaningful championship with only 8-10 games at their disposal. Unfortunately for many, many people this comes too late.

First: Brian Fremeau points out that current NCAA bylaws demand you have at least twelve teams to stage a championship game. They also require that there are two divisions in which everyone plays each other and that the champions of those divisions play in the game. If we're blowing the world up here you can probably get this to change, but that's a hurdle for the more elaborate proposals.


Many people complained that anything other than something boring and unbalanced would never happen. Skepticism noted. Now please return to your crabholes and have crabfights with the crabwife. You are crabby.

(@ Right: the funniest thing that has ever been put on paper. Do you see what T. McCracken did there? I do. I do so hard.)

Pod People

As The Only Colors puts it:

With 16 teams, I think you have to go with something like this--basically playing a multi-round playoff, but hiding the first couple rounds in the regular season.  But I also hate to lose the familiarity of playing major rivals every year and being guaranteed to play everyone in the conference at least once every few years.

A lot of people suggested organizing the Big Ten into pods of four. Instead of two static eight-team divisions there are four four-team pods. Each year a pod is paired with a different pod, so instead of playing seven teams every year and eight teams very infrequently you play three teams every year and twelve once every three years. This is similar to what the WAC did when it was a 16-team monstrosity.

So keep the pods in the back of your mind as you ponder…

In-Season Playoffs

I came to the conclusion that the most feasible way to have a meaningful conference schedule was to play all your divisional games first and then have dynamically allocated crossover games against teams about as good as you. This appears to be a common solution, but most other people used the leftover games to stage an in-season playoff.

In-season Semifinals

TOC's proposal is similar to the Totally Bats Proposal with the following exceptions:

  • Four team rotating pods.
  • There's one bonus game where the #1 in division 1 plays the #2 in division 2 and vice versa, followed by a championship game.

Feasibility: Leaving aside TOC's ludicrous divisions, which cleave Michigan from Ohio State and Wisconsin from their triangle of hate with Minnesota and Iowa? About as good as BTWC. Maybe better since there only 8 conference games still, but if the BIg Ten really goes to 16 they almost have to add a ninth conference game; at that point I'd be in favor of a tenth, bowl eligibility be damned.

Efficacy: I like mine better because it's a better intersection of the top teams.

Fun factor: Not crazy enough for me.

In-season Semifinals With Pod Divisions

Maize 'n' Brew proposes four team-pods like TOC. Conference schedules are a round robin in your pod and five games against other opponents that are "selected by committee." That's a little odd. I imagine they'd put in a rotation of some sort. The winner of each pod heads to a semifinal game. The remaining teams play another conference game.

Feasibility: would require major change to bylaws to pass. Otherwise similar to other in-season playoff proposals.

Efficacy: eh… too much randomness in your opponents for my tastes

Fun factor: About the same.

In-season Eight(!) Team playoff

MGoUser U of M in Tx proposes what's essentially an eight-team playoff with the top four in each division making it. Seeds are not exact because he attempts to even up the home games and priority is placed on avoiding rematches if possible. Since everyone keeps playing, there are still nine conference  games for everyone. He also proposes the bottom eight have a similar tournament with some special bowl bid on the line; that adds a second championship-ish game on the same weekend as the actual championship.

There's another version of this from Tacopants that has four-team pods with two protected rivalry games outside of the pods, two more crossover games, and the eight-team in-season playoff. It does not use divisions.

Feasibility: worse than the backwards group because it requires the NCAA to approve a second championship-type game. Does violate the bylaw because two teams from the same division could make it to the final.

Efficacy: Eight team playoff ranks highly here. Playoffs make more sense as you add teams and remove games.

Fun factor: Good. Quasi-championship game would be kind of fun, if not that important.

Totally Impractical Stuff

And if I think it's impractical, everyone else does.

maddogcody suggests a divisional format where the last week of every season is a game against your counterpart in the other division at a neutral site that is another home stadium in the Big Ten. That's a really weird way to force everyone to travel an a guarantee of many empty seats.

The Mathlete suggests a wholesale reimagining of the BCS conferences that ends with five separate 15-team conferences that play an eight-team playoff at the end of the year. Individual conferences are broken down into five-team divisions that play each other and two or three opponents in the other divisions. Division champions plus one wild card make conference playoffs. This one requires 17 games for national championship game participants and for five different conferences to do the same thing. Too many cats to herd.

Boston College blog BC Interruption chips in with a question:

Why Stop At 16?

This is one of those questions where if they don't know, you can't tell 'em. BCI absorbs the entire Big East plus Notre Dame to create a 20-team league that operates as two separate Pac-10s. Michigan gets chucked in a division with UConn, Syracuse, Rutgers, WVU, Cincinnati, Pitt, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State, never to play for the Little Brown Jug again. For a thousand reasons from "Cincinnati and Louisville in the CIC" to "gaaah," this thing is never getting off the ground.

Priorities and Conclusions

Any conference that bloats to 16 teams is going to have problems determining a real champion without resorting to some oddities. A plain old divisions-plus-random-crossover-games setup is going to make the other division feel alien and introduce scheduling quirks that promise to have a distorting effect on the conference title race. Virtually all solutions propose taking information from early in the season and applying it to the last couple weeks of the season so that good teams play each other, whether it's in the form of a playoff in all but name or a crazy World Cup group or divisions-plus-nonrandom-crossover-games. That seems like the only way to make a 16-team football conference functional.

And now I will stop talking about this for at least three months, promise.

Bats Explanation Redux

Bats Explanation Redux

Submitted by Brian on April 22nd, 2010 at 1:26 PM


Okay. Complaints about a lack of clarity in the 16-team bats scenario have been lodged and heeded. Let's walk through an example of the "backwards scenario," which I will dub "Dynamic Crossover" because it sounds cool.

Yes, this is all irrelevant for at least a year now, and given the accuracy of media speculation to date the Big Ten will probably end up kicking everyone except Illinois and Northwestern out, and the chances that the Big Ten will adopt anyone's loony internet proposal are dim indeed. It's April 22nd. Minds will wander. On with show.


Let's say the final standings of each eight team division are like so:

Bo Record Woody Record
Ohio State 7-0 Penn State 6-1
Nebraska 5-2 Iowa 6-1
Michigan 5-2 Pitt 5-2
Michigan State 4-3 Wisconsin 4-3
Illinois 3-4 Minnesota 3-4
Northwestern 2-5 Missouri 3-4
Purdue 1-6 Rutgers 1-6
Indiana 1-6 Notre Dame 0-7

We now break the conference into four groups:

Paterno Osborne Colleto Dinardo
Ohio State Penn State Illinois Minnesota
Iowa Nebraska Missouri Northwestern
Pitt Michigan Rutgers Purdue
Michigan State Wisconsin Indiana Notre Dame

"Paterno" and "Osborne" are the good teams, "Colleto" and "Dinardo" the bad ones. Now we play games that haven't already been played in each group. Hypothetical focus on Paterno:

  • Ohio State has already played Michigan State, with OSU winning. (They dominated in yardage but a series of fluky turnovers made it look closer than it was.)
  • Iowa beat Pitt 6-5.

In week one:

  • Ohio State plays at Pitt. Pitt wins.
  • Michigan State plays at Iowa. Iowa wins.

In week two:

  • Pitt plays at Michigan State. Pitt wins.
  • Iowa plays at Ohio State. Ohio State wins.

The final standings:

Paterno Group Conference
Ohio State 2-1 8-1
Iowa 2-1 7-2
Pitt 2-1 7-2
Michigan State 0-3 4-5

Ohio State advances to the conference championship game by virtue of its overall record. You'll note that it is hard or even impossible for third or fourth place teams to win through—Pitt won both of its crossover games and still didn't make it—but this seems like a good compromise between keeping a lot of teams involved and making sure the totality of the regular season is weighed appropriately.

Simple Variant

If this is too complicated or falls foul of the NCAA's bylaws that restrict conference championship games to conferences that play round robin in two separate divisions, you can get rid of the group concept but leave the crossover games dynamic. The scheduling remains the same—#1 and #4 play #2 and #3 from the other division—but the winner is just the team in each division with the best record.


  • Crossover games are equitable, important, and high profile.
  • Guarantees two weeks of hyped games between good teams, culminating in a championship game.
  • Eliminates unbalanced scheduling complaints.


  • Leaves two weeks of the season uncertain. Although you know you'll be playing you don't know where or against who.
  • Increases the chance of a championship game rematch.
  • Increased connectivity between top teams will add extra losses and may hurt chances at additional BCS bids.

Unverified Voracity Has Only Done This Once Before

Unverified Voracity Has Only Done This Once Before

Submitted by Brian on April 21st, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Safety not guaranteed. This is a photo from 1940 that clearly shows a TIME TRAVELER who has visited the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in British Columbia:


The time traveler is the guy in the crazy sunglasses who looks like he walked out of Bursley and into history. That shirt he's wearing has a block M on it:


If you doubt this is actually a time traveler please note that Skinner from the X-Files is keeping a close eye on him. QED.

This guy's next mission is to find a sleepy bungalow in Mentor, Ohio and bang really loudly on the windows on the night Jim Tressel is conceived. Oh no… what if he's already done it?

Next guy hi. Michigan's looking for an assistant basketball coach and with the public "no thanks" from IPFW head coach Dane Fife—Mr. Self Aggrandizement also publicly shot down overtures from Indiana despite not being offered a job by either—speculation focuses on a trio of guys with state of Michigan ties. If you're looking for a guy with high major experience, Lickliter assistant LaVall Jordan is your man. If you want a guy who's recruited one of the better mid-major teams in the state, Oakland assistant Saadi Washington is your man. If you want a former Globetrotter who is "one of the most fashionable coaches around" and has a name that sounds like a vicious mixed drink of rum and bitters, Bacari Alexander is your man.

That's what I thought. Bacari Alexander for the win.

Meanwhile in attempting to get someone, anyone to join the basketball program: Sam Webb reported on WTKA this morning that Isaiah Sykes did pick up a Michigan offer this weekend. Surprisingly for a guy who's bounced around so much, his transcripts are in fairly good shape. So that's good news.

It's less good that Sykes didn't commit immediately and plans on trips to Central Florida and Arkansas. Orlando may be a trip to take a trip but anyone going to Fayetteville is going on business. Michigan fans grimly remember the recruiting saga of Chicagoan Patrick Beverly. Michigan had late-rising Beverly all locked up until a trip to Arkansas resulted in a Razorback commitment and rampant speculation about payoffs. The parallels are uncomfortable.

Cover three pattern read. Clemson blog Shakin' the Southland has a fantastic analysis of a cover three system that uses "pattern read" principles to prevent itself from getting sliced into little tiny cubes in the passing game, something that would be pretty nice if Michigan could swing this year. Pattern reading is pretty much what it sounds like: the defensive backs read what the receivers are doing and react accordingly. Here's an example:



Flat defender [Ed: SS] drops to the flat zone and picks up the RB when he crosses his face. The H/C defender [SLB] starts his drop up the seam but then takes the first receiver that breaks inside, and tries to wall him off. The deep corner takes the deepest threat, which in this case is the TE on a flag route.


Flat defender [WLB] starts his drop underneath the #1 receiver who is running a Dig route, and keeps inside leverage on him. Once he sees someone cross his face he jumps him in the flat (#2).

The H/C defender (MLB) runs with the #1 receiver on the Dig, remember he's supposed to cover any inside breaker into his zone. If the Z couldn't be walled off and breaks underneath, he must keep him in front of him, and try to stay under that Dig route.

The Corner closes on the most dangerous threat he sees, while the FS is reading the QB and breaks on any throw.

Depending on the formations and routes presented, the players in the zone take different actions. If everyone's on the same page (and has the requisite athleticism) your zones become hellishly adaptable man coverages that provide most of the advantages of zone and most of the advantages of man. The catch is that "if." Smart Football explains in a post on Alabama's pattern reading defense:

The two zone-dropping schools of thought are to teach “spot-drops” or “pattern-reading.” One can overemphasize the distinction, but generally spot-dropping is easier to teach and was the traditional approach. For example, if your outside linebacker is responsible for the weak-flat, he will take his read steps and, upon reading pass, will drop to a spot and then react to the QB’s eyes. A big advantage with spot-dropping is simply that it is easy to teach to, say, a run-stuffing inside linebacker who spends most of his time on run game pursuit and shedding blocks.

The difference between a spot drop and a pattern read is in the complexity of the algorithm. Spot drop:

  • GOTO X

Hypothetical Pattern read for a hook/curl defender:

  1. If (receiver #2 goes vertical) goto seam
  2. If (receiver breaks outside of me) goto smash
  3. If (receiver breaks inside) goto dig

One of the reasons Alabama is so good is that Saban is crazily efficient at coaching his guys up with pattern reading. Robots make robots, and robots are good at algorithms.

Will Michigan use this? Eh… I'm not sure. The linebackers were pretty clueless against both run and pass next year and have seen their defensive responsibilities shift. Adding complicated pattern reading on top of that is probably a bridge too far. Maybe we'll see it in some of the players, but probably not Mouton and Ezeh. It sounds like a move to a pattern read is one akin to moving from a regular gap blocked scheme to a zone running game: you've got to commit to it 100% or it doesn't help.

Chicago is full of lies. Remember early this week when everyone was panicking about the imminent expansion of the Big Ten and dissolution of the NCAA? Yeah. Here's Teddy Greenstein repudiating a previous report that sent everyone into a tizzy:

Big Ten expansion timetable isn’t on fast track

Commissioner says conference will stick with 12-18 month window

Good work! That will show whoever wrote that spurious article about Big Ten expansion acceleration. Who was that again? I couldn't find it on Bleacher Report… hmm, weird, there's a link right on this page…

Looks like Big Ten expansion timetable accelerating

Conference could decide to add schools in next few months

April 17, 2010|By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune reporter

Whoops. The Sun-Times would not let Bob Stoops-to-ND die and is still leading the race to the Bleacher Report bottom, but here's a point for the Tribune. I am not holding my breath for an orgy of clucking akin to the one after the BR-spawned and KC Star-abetted Pitt-to-Big Ten rumor.

First chance to see. If you haven't gotten enough of slightly disorganized football games with unexplained strictures on the defense, the North-South Ohio All Star game is Friday at 7 PM on "SportsTime Ohio," which you probably get if you live in Ohio. Math demands that Lexington quarterback/defensive back Courtney Avery will be on your screen at all times:

A four-year starter at quarterback for Lexington, Avery is just one of four defensive backs on the North roster and one of two true cornerbacks.

"It's going to be a little different, because I'm not playing quarterback," said Avery, a two-time All-Ohio first team defensive pick and the owner of virtually every Lexington passing record. "It will be nice to focus just on defense. It will give me a taste of what I'll be doing at Michigan."

Antonio Kinard and Jake Ryan are also on Avery's team; the Talbott brothers are on the South team. Preferred walk-on kicker Carey Spear is on the North team, too. It's a little more data on all those guys, at the very least.

Etc.: Blurry Evan Smotrycz video. Guy has more driving ability than most of our guards. Touch the Banner previews the NFL draft, and MBN has a couple of nice videos from the Spring Game.

Totally Bats 16(!) Team Big Ten Proposal

Totally Bats 16(!) Team Big Ten Proposal

Submitted by Brian on April 20th, 2010 at 11:01 AM

 skull-sculpture-very-hungry-godthis is a sculpture called "Very Hungry God," so it goes here. the little boy is ND.

The old bats idea was for 14 teams and wouldn't have worked anyway. And with Big Ten expansion probably definitely happening now and probably definitely being the crazy XXL version, a 14 team Big Ten is so March. Give us 16 and give us the death of the Big East, even if it doesn't make any sense.

If this is happening, it's important that whatever form the Big Cthulhu takes makes as much sense as possible. Since the usual divisional stuff makes no sense and would see Michigan play opponents in the opposite division slightly more than once a decade, this requires thinking outside the chicken patties. So here's another crazy idea. The new bats idea: it's the World Cup, yo.

The New Bats Idea

So the problem with 16 is that it doesn't divide very well. You have two choices if you want to split teams up: eight or four. Thinking inside the chicken patties provides eight and all the stupid problems that go along with that. Four is interesting.

Divide the Big Ten into four groups of four based on last year's standings. (1-8-9-16, 2-7-10-15, etc.) Everyone plays each other.

Bo Record Woody Record JoePa Record Fry Record
Michigan 3-0 OSU 2-1 PSU 2-1 ND 3-0
Iowa 2-1 Wisconsin 2-1 Nebraska 2-1 Missouri 1-2
Michigan State 1-2 Minnesota 1-2 Purdue 2-1 Pitt 1-2
Indiana 0-3 Northwestern 1-2 Illinois 0-3 Rutgers 1-2

Top two teams in a group get put in an eight team division at the top; bottom two get put at the bottom. Point differential breaks ties. Everyone plays each other except for the teams that have already played.

Division 1
Michigan Iowa OSU PSU ND Missouri Nebraska Wisconsin
Division 2
Michigan State Minnesota Purdue Pitt Indiana Northwestern Illinois Rutgers

At the end of the year, the winner of the top division wins the conference.

(Variant: instead of lumping teams into eight team divisions on the second go-round, do another round of four team groups that split the top and bottom of the conference into approximately equal sets. Then do a third round of four team groups, two of which offer their winners a bid to the conference title game. The "contenders" groups consist of: the winner of both loser groups, the top two teams in each winners group, and the teams with the best conference records after that. This is probably too complicated.)

This makes a lot more sense to me than playing Penn State once a decade. You play a subsection of the conference based on how good you are. If you go from really bad to really good, as Penn State did in the middle of the decade, you don't get locked out of a championship game before the season starts.

There are a bunch of tricky issues, though: unbalanced home and away in the early section means getting through your group is partially dependent on home/road split. Getting stuck in the second division basically ends your conference championship hopes and that can happen with just one loss (see the PSU group above). And teams wouldn't know who they were playing, or even what their home/road split would look like, until midseason. Protected rivalries would be a thing of the past.

What about a…

Backwards Version!

Do the divisions first. Play seven games. At the end of the year create groups based on finish in the divisions.

Contenders A Contenders B
Div A #1 Div B #1
Div B #2 Div A #2
Div B #3 Div A #3
Div A #4 Div B #4

(Other teams would get sorted into groups as well and play out the rest of the season; these matchups can take rivalries into account because if you're not playing for the conference title you might as well play someone you hate.)

Play the two games you haven't already; the games you have played count in the group standings. The winner of each group gets a bid to the conference title game. First tiebreaker is overall conference record. Variant: Play a tenth conference game and do a full round-robin in each subdivision. Teams seeded #1 and #2 get the extra home game. The variant provides everyone who makes the contenders groups a reasonable chance at winning them, but does guarantee one rematch per year. It also severely restricts nonconference opportunities.

This version is way more doable. Teams would be able to lock down ten of their 12 games before the season. The clawing for the fourth spot in a contenders group would keep most of the conference at least theoretically in the title hunt until deep into the season, but keeping the result from the earlier game and using overall conference record as tie breaker gives the top team in each division a big advantage. The extraneous games against the other conference would be sort of like playoff games. They wouldn't be random, unbalancing games with a distorting effect on the conference race. They would have purpose.

You want games to have purpose, don't you? You don't want them wandering around being all pointless, do you?

CthulhuMyLittleCthulhu-thumb-300x333-25202 In Which I Pretend To Be Ives Galarcep

What do you think? Should Ricardo Clark have stayed in MLS?

I want more ideas. If a Big Cthulhu conference happens there should be so many different possibilities for the leadership to consider that they get very confused and actually pick one of them instead of defaulting to a divisional format that leaves everyone zo unsatisfied at the conclusion of a season (or the decade) when they drew the top two teams in the Bo division and the team that won your division drew Indiana and Northwestern and you haven't played Penn State since JoePa's age could be practically expressed without scientific notation.

So email me or post a diary or put it on the message board or pick this proposal apart—it's got its flaws—and we'll revisit this at a later date if this turns out to be something other than a game of chicken with the Big East and the Notre Dame administration.

Could you imagine that, by the way? The Big Ten waves its pointy stick at the Big East and manages to get them to boot Notre Dame and then ND ends up joining a 12-team Big Ten? Jim Delany would instantly be the most frighteningly Machiavellian person on the planet.