Unverified Voracity Pivots To Hamster

Unverified Voracity Pivots To Hamster Comment Count

Brian July 5th, 2017 at 12:06 PM


let's talk about all three of these dudes [Bryan Fuller]

Chris Evans: already good? I'm a wee bit skeptical about these numbers because I seem to remember Chris Evans breaking some tackles and running for a gorillion yards when it was 49-0 against Rutgers, but, uh:

No Saquon Barkley is a surprise. (He's not even 4th, which goes to Maryland's Ty Johnson.) Enough of a surprise that I look at this stat with a bit of a jaundiced eye. It looks like it heavily favors guys who end up in certain situations but not others. Wadley and Evans were insulated from short yardage situations by LeShun Daniels and De'Veon Smith, respectively. And the whole Maryland offense was geared towards getting little quick guys in space one on one. The context is important.

This one might be better?

I still think that's about Evans breaking the occasional tackle and getting a huge play than anything De'Veon Smith-esque. Huge plays are good, don't get me wrong—I am just worried about sample size. Better to have Evans on these lists than not; maybe not super predictive about the season.

Less skeptical about this one. Michigan's DL is going to be just fine this fall.

Bosa and Winovich are in fact #2 and 3 nationally, behind only Harold Landry—another Don Brown acolyte. Meanwhile the new DEs were actually more productive against the run than the departures:

That one may be a garbage time artifact. Even if you haul those numbers back down to Wormley/Taco level that's pretty dang okay, and we haven't even talked about Mo Hurst.



Exit Fox Sports Dave Brandon. A spectacular final act for carnival-barker Jamie Horowitz at Fox Sports. Step one is gutting the profitable(!) Fox Sports digital team in order to consolidate his hold on power, with a side of implementing his post-apocalyptic vision:

What really does work is when you take things are good like ’11 Coaches Oregon Might Hire’, that might be something someone is interested in the day Helfrich gets fired, and we change to ‘Colin Cowherd’s 11 Coaches.’ We’ve seen this be very successful. You look at Fox News right now, O’Reilly and his take. That’s all it is. And there are many different ways.

Step two is getting fired literally the next week.

Jamie Horowitz’s dismissal Monday came about a week after Fox began investigating allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace in its sports division. The company interviewed several women at L.A.-based Fox Sports about Horowitz’s behavior, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to publicly discuss it.

The women included prominent on-air personalities and show producers, according to two people who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.

Lawsuits will follow as Horowitz tries to collect on a contract and Fox Sports tries to separate itself from an alleged sexual harasser. Unfortunately for Fox and their writers, there appears to be no way to re-spool the thread.

A bloody few weeks in online #content have caused a round of introspective articles about "pivoting to video," and why that's exec-speak for "I give up, eat at Arby's." Bryan Curtis:

Why this is happening is simple: The web has a surplus of copy versus advertising. Companies have decided that sticking an ad at the front of a video makes it less ignorable than putting a similar ad next to an article. It doesn’t matter what the video is. I often get a paragraph or two into a Sports Illustrated story only to find Madelyn Burke in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, giving me a summary of the sentences I’m already reading.

The new round of layoffs ignited a lousy ritual. “Hire these people!” we tweeted at … whom, exactly? A word-friendly publication that would promise to never, ever pivot to anything else? The contact information for Vocativ’s “free agents” was sent around on a spreadsheet.

Other writers tried to play media visionary and stepped in it. “I’ve been in digital media for 12 years,” Sports Illustrated’s Andy Gray tweeted last week. “One thing I’ve learned is that nobody wants to read anything over 1,000 words. MTV is more proof.” Never mind that Gray’s employer uses the motto “longform since 1954.”

On Twitter, Gray got the noogie he deserved. I enjoyed reading his replies. They proved that no occasion, not even an existential threat to the industry, will prevent a journalist from citing his old articles — and, in this case, also providing the word count. Why, my recent longform piece was actually quite popular!

There are two kinds of online video. One has video content. Like this:


The other kind of online video does not have video content, whether it's a talking head repeating what someone else said or a poorly lit podcast-on-youtube-for-some-reason with horrible audio. These are stuck next to the actual written content you want, set to autoplay, and nowadays they even follow you around when you scroll down. They exist only to scam advertisers willing to play high CPMs for ads on video content. The problem, of course, is that these videos only have written content repurposed badly. No hamsters anywhere. They are never watched. At best they run in the background of someone's work computer, on mute.

Scout's bankruptcy and firesale was easily predicted by their own pivot to video. I can't tell you how many times I've clicked on a Scout article hoping for information on a recruit only to be presented with a video. Once in a while this seems useful enough for me to transcribe, and I do so. Half the time I decide to do this I can barely hear the #content because they taped it outside on a phone in high winds.

I dunno what the solution to online content is but I do know that scamming people is not it. Making your product worse by turning it into a tedious video instead a searchable, skimmable article is also not it. Until someone trains a hamster to recite your text, video is strictly worse for most content.

Penn State skepticism. Various folks on this here blog have been trying to elucidate why we're not as high on Penn State as most folks. Mostly it comes down to "their all-bomb offense was pretty lucky," and here's a stat to back that up:

That conversion rate on jump balls is almost certainly unsustainable and PSU will have to make up for it elsewhere. They've got a shot at doing so because they bring back a lot from last year's team.

Drake yes? Drake no? Per Sam Webb, Drake Johnson did get approved for a sixth year in various sports:

Whether he'll actually come back for football is an open question. Webb reported that he's 1) down to 180 and 2) very fast, so there's a role for him in both football and track. With a wonky hamstring that might not like stop-start, you could hardly blame him for packing it in and just running track.

Michigan has the room, FWIW.

Etc.: Buccigross survives, gets new five year deal. The Elite 11 is basically garbage for predicting QBs. That Bamba cash thing isn't going anywhere. The fullback is dead in the NFL. Assistant coach names. Talking with Mel Pearson. A reason to huddle?


Proposal for a Better Big Ten Schedule

Proposal for a Better Big Ten Schedule Comment Count

Seth February 9th, 2017 at 12:12 PM


Can you name all the Michigan players in this photo from the last Purdue-Michigan game in Ann Arbor? [photo: a much younger Eric Upchurch]

Since going to 14 teams the Big Ten schedule has been a mess. Some teams rarely face each other, other teams face each other twice a season. The divisions are historically and presently uneven. The last two years in a row this resulted in a Big Ten “champion” that had a demonstrably worse season than at least two other Big Ten teams. Congrats Penn State and Michigan State, but I think we can do better. In fact I have an idea how.

I’ll get into the details below but the idea isn’t for everyone to have to memorize the details. The simplest description is every year you play three locked-in rivalry games, three games of your choosing, and three games against schools near you in the standings. Your biggest rivalry is played at the end of the season, and its result (half) carries over to next season.

On FiveThirtyEight’s Solution: Nate Silver’s proposal and mine share a few concepts: locked in rivalries early in the year, a mini-playoff at the end of the year, and eradicating divisions (which is essential to any good schedule reform). But it has two big flaws I tried to avoid:

1) It puts The Game in September, which: no, or in Week 7, which again: no, and then you’re seeding with less information.

2) Teams at the top will rarely face those at the bottom. I don’t like that because it cuts down on variety and could easily lead to things like long droughts between Michigan-Purdue tilts which are one of the things we’re trying to fix. Also it’s not good for the long term health of the conference since it would redistribute more losses from the bottom of the conference to the middle and middle-high. In effect it would result in fewer and lower ranked teams at the top, and fewer bowl-eligible teams from the conference. A few more competitive games is good, but 538’s proposal takes that to an extreme to the detriment of other important considerations.


  1. Maintain the annual rivalries and maximize their importance, keeping the big rival games at the end of the season.
  2. Play 9 conference games.
  3. Split up rivalry games so every team has a compelling schedule every year to sell to season ticket holders.
  4. Produce a fair and least disputable conference champion by playing all or most of the relevant games during the season.
  5. Play as many competitive games between similarly ranked teams as possible.
  6. No rematches!
  7. See a variety of opponents over a 10-year period.
  8. Encourage Power 5 opponents in non-conference scheduling.
  9. Be relatively simple.

The system I came up with hit all of these benchmarks to varying degrees (#9 being measured in Kelvin). #5 conflicts with #7 so I left it up to the schools themselves to prioritize between them. As for #9 it’s actually complicated, but can have the appearance of simplicity.

The schedule has four components:

  1. Three locked-in games versus your annual rivals.
  2. Three games where the top teams draft their opponents.
  3. Three games where you play like competition, and the top four teams all play each other.
  4. A “Big Ten Showcase” invitational during conf championship week to play the best three games that weren’t played.


This is the easy part. The teams are all separated into four pods of three or four with rivals they ought to be playing every year.

Grp Big Two,
Little Bro
East Coast Cable Subscribers Intercollegiate
of Maladroit
Corn Corn Corn Corn Cheese Corn
Corn Corn
A Michigan Rutgers Illinois Wisconsin
B Ohio State Maryland Northwestern Minnesota
C Michigan State Penn State Indiana Iowa
D x x Purdue Nebraska

The division names are not important but the order is—if you want a clue as to why, look at the A-B and C-D matchups. Teams in your pod are the two or three teams you play every year. There are two ways to handle the three-team pods and I haven’t decided which I like better—either works about the same:

  • Option 1: Lock in rivals. Each team gets an annual rival from the opposite division, e.g. Michigan-Maryland is played the week of OSU-MSU, PSU-OSU always comes when Michigan plays State, and Rutgers-Michigan State is played annually on the last week of the season for bragging rights and the Situation Trophy.
  • Option 2: Rotate every 2 years. So after two seasons of the above, Michigan plays Rutgers on week 1, Ohio State plays Maryland, and the Land Grant Trophy becomes the end-of-year rivalry for MSU. Then after two years it becomes M-PSU, OSU-Rutgers, MSU-Maryland.

I sorta prefer Option 1 but Option 2 seems more feasible.

[HIT THE JUMP to see how I worked it all out]


A Totally Useless List Of People Michigan Might Hire But Will Not Hire, Probably

A Totally Useless List Of People Michigan Might Hire But Will Not Hire, Probably Comment Count

Brian January 8th, 2014 at 8:22 PM


NOPE. / Please!

UPDATE: Kirk Herbstreit says it is a current college OC.

I'm going to try to keep this realistic, which means Oregon OC Scott Frost is out, RichRod OC Calvin Magee is out, and the two guys who have been in Manhattan, Kansas for 16 and 17 years as co-OCs are out. This puts me one step ahead of Coaching Scoop, which throws out Lane Kiffin as a name to watch.

The question is: how much control will Hoke cede and how married is he to manball? His coaching history suggests he's a "whatever works" guy, running a MAC-standard passing spread during his breakout year with Nate Davis and hiring Rocky Long to run the dreaded 3-3-5 at San Diego State. The fact that This Is Michigan seems to have given him the impression that he has to run Carr's mid-nineties offense. Has this season disabused him of that notion? Is he willing to hand the keys over to a proven offensive mind and say "go get it," even if it looks funky and does not abide by the Queensbury rules?

I don't know.

The problem with assuming that Hoke will look for a "pro style" coordinator is that they are increasingly hard to find. Looking at the top teams in yards per play this year is futile since they consist of guys Michigan cannot get to make a lateral move (OCs at Alabama, LSU, FSU, and Georgia aren't moving) or run offenses that would require a major philosophical shift(Oregon, Baylor, A&M, Auburn, Indiana) even if Michigan could hypothetically grab their OC. If we are sticking to manball, the field quickly narrows, leaving Michigan looking at candidates who are… uh… well, they're not slam dunks.

Current D-I coordinators who seem like they might fit are limited. Two that seem plausible:


Jim Chaney, OC, Arkansas. Chaney's been around the block, operating both Purdue's passing spread under Drew Brees and Tennessee's pro-style attack with Tyler "The" Bray. He just got hired at Arkansas by Bret Bielema and while Arkansas was in no way good, it is impressive that the Razorbacks had two 900 yard rushers and finished in the top 20 in YPC despite having a QB who completed fewer than half his passes for a Sheridan-like 6.0 YPC. Tennessee's offenses with Chaney were up and down; he did finish 2012 with the #19 YPP offense despite the turbulence at the end of the Dooley era.

Chaney's been around the block and has coordinated both spread and pro-style attacks; he knows the Big Ten from nine years as Purdue's OC.

Matt Canada, OC, NC State. Was Indiana's OC from 2007 to 2010, when Bill Lynch was swept out. Then started a Loeffler-like odyssey, visiting Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and NC State for one year stints. None of his stops have been that successful save the one year at Northern Illinois, but did blow up at Bielema prior to last year's Big Ten Championship game, a 70-31 explosion against Nebraska. Likes futzin' and hoodaddery, in a Fritz Crisler sort of way.


Neither of these guys do much for me, and often the smart answer is to dip down to lower levels and pick off the guys killing it down there. Oklahoma State keeps losing offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator to head coaching jobs, and the last time Mike Gundy had to pick a guy he went over to the NCAA's website and picked off the guy at the head of D-II stats. That worked out fairly well.

With the kind of money Michigan was throwing at Borges they might not have to look at lower-level OCs, they can take a shot at…


Rob Ambrose, HC, Towson. You may remember Towson as the team that had an easier time against UConn than Michigan did, or from that time their basketball team played Michigan and was just unbelievably bad. Towson ended up in the FCS national title game against North Dakota State, and that is an amazing accomplishment for a program that almost ended in 1990. Ambrose was Towson's OC for a while before moving into the head job; he is a former quarterback who coaches that position but has flexibility:

Combs said many former quarterbacks who become offensive coordinators or head coaches often stick with pass-heavy offenses regardless of personnel.

Not Ambrose, Combs said.

With Ambrose as offensive coordinator in 1999, the Tigers thrived behind quarterback Joe Lee’s school-record 4,168 passing yards. The following season, Towson built its offense around running back Noah Reed, who rushed for a Patriot League-record 1,422 yards.

After a rough start, Towson's gone 9-3, 7-4, and 13-3, and Ambrose has heard of Michigan:

For Towson, winning a national championship means making history, and that’s something Rob Ambrose plays up when he talks to recruits.

“You can go to Michigan and be on Page 7,000 of their history book or you can come here and write it,’’ he said.

The article describes battles won to get coaches' cell phones paid for by the school, so I don't think the demotion in rank is going to bother Ambrose, hypothetically.

Bob Stitt, HC, Colorado School Of Mines. Stitt got on everyone's radar after Dana Holgorsen shredded Clemson with a play Stitt gave him, and his work at CSM has been impressive over a long duration. Hoke would have to give him the keys entirely…

Stitt says he'd be willing to move up as an offensive coordinator, but only if the head coach would give him total offensive control. It's not difficult to see why he's so well-regarded in coaching circles, especially by those who run wide-open offenses. At 6-3, Stitt is closing in on his 11th winning season in 13 years. In all but a few of those years, the Orediggers, who play in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, have ranked among the top-10 in Div. II in passing offense.

…but this is a guy widely known for not wearing a headset for most of the game, so… yeah. That's implied. In terms of consistent, long-term resume and success at a school with zero recruiting advantages(Mines consists of 5200 engineers), Stitt is tough to beat.

Troy Rothenbuhler, OC, Findlay. Three year record as OC with D-II Oilers is impressive. First year featured a bounce up from under 250 yards a game to nearly 400; year two was 437 yards a game, and year three saw Findlay crack 500. They do run a spread, but their plays per game of 75 is not super fast. Rushed for almost 2900 yards this year at 5.5 a pop. Is an OSU grad, with whom Michigan has done well with in the past.

Phil Longo, OC, Slippery Rock. Yeah, seriously. The main issue here is that he's a no-huddle Air Raid guy, but hear me out: He's in his third year at Slippery Rock, finding plenty of success, and spent two years at SIU in which the Salukies went 20-5. One year he lost his QB midyear and went from passing-oriented to spread 'n' shred. Kind of looks like Brock Lesnar, too.


The other option is to look up at NFL types. When not mentioning Lane Kiffin, Football Scoop throws out three NFL position coaches that induce varying levels of depression in the author:

  • Mike Groh, WR, Chicago Bears. The Jay Paterno of Virginia football under Al Groh. Was OC for three years at end of Groh tenure. In 2008, Virginia was 102nd in YPP, in 2007 they were 105th. CFB Stats does not have 2006, but I think the point is made. Groh's resume is terrible. DEPRESSION LEVEL: immense.


  • John McNulty, QB, Arizona Cardinals. A grad assistant at Michigan in the early 90s and has one year as an OC to his name, that in 2008 at Rutgers. Rutgers was good that year (20th in YPP) and he is a QB coach in the NFL. Track record very thin. DEPRESSION LEVEL: moderate.
  • Randy Fitchner, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Another guy who started as a grad assistant at Michigan, Fitchner in the mid-80s. He was a college OC for a decade at Arkansas State and Memphis, where he ran spread offenses rather effectively. This was the DeAngelo Williams era at Memphis, not the incredibly depressing stuff since. DEPRESSION LEVEL: minimal.
  • …and now Sam Webb's hinting strongly($) that the announcement will come tomorrow and crosses off Kiffin, Mazzone, and a few other possibilities that no one thought were particularly serious, so we won't have to wait long. To me this means none of these guys are particularly likely unless Hoke's been doing groundwork completely out of the public eye since AFAIK none of them have Hoke ties. I figured Michigan would vet and interview candidates at the big AFCA coaching hoo-haw this week; apparently not.


Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Northwestern

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Northwestern Comment Count

Brian November 20th, 2013 at 7:02 PM

FORMATION NOTES: Northwestern stuck to a 4-3 virtually the entire game, with pretty predictable rules as to how they would line up.

4-3-even-slide 2

When Michigan aligned its strength to the short side of the field and had twins, NW would slide the LBs and play an even front. They would slide the LBs to the twins and shift their line to the strength of the formation when M aligned with their strength to the field.

When Michigan presented Ace, they would play a 4-3 under.


The primary exception to this was the redzone, where Northwestern played their safeties as extra LBs.


Five yards off the LOS and coming on the snap is why those two Derrick Green carries from around the ten ended up losing yards. The first one was actually blocked quite well.

Note that the way NW aligned consistently invited the bubble fake run game, as their corners played off and the slot LB had to respect the bubble. With a safety over the top those two guys removed three players from the box and left Michigan with seven on seven blocking opportunities without having to use the threat of Gardner's legs. It will still work if teams play Michigan like this; if they don't Michigan will have to find something else.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: QB, WR, and the OL were all as you would expect. Dileo seemed to return full strength in this one and this meant Jackson was removed. Paskorz got some early PT but it was Williams most of the way as inline blocky guy. The line remained Lewan/Bosch/Glasgow/Magnuson/Schofield save for some goal line plays on which Kalis game in at RG and weird stuff happened otherwise, like wing TE Taylor Lewan.

Running back was of course an overhaul, with Derrick Green getting the bulk of the work, De'Veon Smith becoming a 30% second, and Justice Hayes acting as a third down back sometimes. Joe Kerridge also got a few snaps as a running back in the shotgun on passes.

[After THE JUMP: wherein we seem relatively happy with nine points in regulation.]


Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs MSU

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs MSU Comment Count

Brian November 7th, 2013 at 3:32 PM

ACCIDENTALLY APROPOS ERROR NOTES: Since the NCAA decided to replace their stat pages with much worse stat pages I've been using ESPN's items—still worse than the thing the NCAA just replaced but better. Their drive pages have been consistently erroneous all year, but my irritation just evaporated thanks to this magically accurate error in re: Michigan's drive immediately following Taylor's interception:


CORRECT, intern or robot or whoever. Correct. Except that drive started at the MSU 41, but we forgive all transgressions for spiritual correctness. The best kind of correctness.

FORMATION NOTES: So I just called MSU's stuff 4-3 over but I should point out that everyone is within ten yards of the LOS on damn near every snap. This is M's opener.


This was completely typical. For the most part, MSU did not try to match corners, they just ran their D. They would occasionally move guys down and whatnot, but mostly this was like watching magic. MSU has acquired a variety of guys big time programs didn't want and plays them more aggressively than the most athletic defense in the country, whoever that might be, and apparently no one can do anything about it. It is boggling.

MSU did on occasion flip to man press on the corners; this is designated with "press."


While it was the same personnel, when MSU shaded a guy outside the hash I called this a nickel. As always, with opponent formations I'm not trying to describe personnel.


SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Gardner until last three plays, Toussaint almost the whole way save one, maybe two snaps on which Derrick Green didn't seem any better at pass blocking.

Line was Lewan/Bosch/Glasgow/Magnuson/Schofield with some limited exceptions featuing Kalis entering as a sixth OL. Paskorz got some snaps at TE; Butt got most of the inline snaps. When Funchess was inline it is noted below; he was inline for every play on Michigan's final drive but mostly split out. No Dileo; WRs were Gallon, Chesson, and a little bit of Jackson.

[After THE JUMP: otters, so many otters]


Unverified Voracity Busts Out Orbiting Panic Guy

Unverified Voracity Busts Out Orbiting Panic Guy Comment Count

Brian August 21st, 2013 at 12:53 PM


also Panic Kornheiser Google Image Search

Dammit, dammit, dammit. You have probably heard that Amara Darboh has blown up something in his foot and is out for the year. This calls for the little panic guy.


Michigan is not going to replace Darboh's combination of size and blocking and receiver expectations should be downgraded a notch. Judging from scrimmage highlights and practice buzz, Jehu Chesson or Joe Reynolds is the next man in. Hopefully it's Chesson, who has excellent upside; realistically both guys are going to split Darboh snaps.

Michigan may also turn to more plays on which Devin Funchess splits out. While Funchess doesn't have the same speed Darboh does he can duplicate some of the leapy-catchy Hemingway business Michigan just lost.

At least Darboh gets a redshirt.

Elsewhere in PANIC. Bad sign:

"More production" in this case probably means "fewer blown tackles/coverages." That's bad. What's more, the seemingly odd move of Courtney Avery back there signals that Michigan is scrambling at that spot. If it was a safety coming through another safety, fine. A 175-pound corner whose health is constantly in question triggers my alarm bells.

That's a death knell for Josh Furman, for one. While it's less of a negative sign for Jeremy Clark since he's just a year into the program, it would have been nice if he was able to play once Wilson faltered.

Feel better? George Campbell Whitfield, broom-wielding quarterback guru, on Devin Gardner:

“I was shocked,” Whitfield said. “I had only seen him in a couple cameos at Michigan. I was shocked at all the talent, how strong he was, how athletic, how fast.

“We worked on a lot of footwork ... weight transition, the ability to drop, put your foot in the ground, stop and work back into a play. That’s not always easy. ... We spent quite a bit of time on chaos training — what happens if two linemen got beat, halfway through drop, and I don’t have to pull rip cord or I’m getting chased to left sideline, I’m a right-handed quarterback, how do I make this throw?”

Gardner's main issue is accuracy—too many times last year he missed on simple throws because of erratic mechanics. Hopefully an offseason of ownership sees him make serious progress there.

[after THE JUMP: pudding pops, Bartlestein on the shot, and advice for freshmen.]


Let's All Fix College Basketball

Let's All Fix College Basketball Comment Count

Brian April 17th, 2013 at 1:16 PM

This season's proliferation of Bo Ryan bug basketball combined with the electric NCAA final and how that final was marred by the gibbering incompetents in stripes to create an environment where you can't throw a rock without hitting someone suggesting changes intended to make basketball more watchable. Most of these are at least indirectly aimed at Bo Ryan.

Here are some ideas which I do not necessarily endorse, except in the case of removing timeouts. I have watched basketball at least once and therefore am passionately in favor of this.

[UPDATE: Andy Glockner just posted on this, too.]

Shorten the shot clock

shotclockx-large[1]Eamonn Brennan caught the normally shy and reticent Tom Izzo making an appearance on the radio in which he said this:

“We have the slowest game in the world,’” Izzo said. “As you say, the international [game] is less [slow]. The pro is less. The women’s is less. And here we are with 35 [seconds].

He went on to say that chopping the shot clock was discussed at the rules committee meetings in Atlanta. Brennan suggests a drop to 24 but if they did change this I'd guess they go with 30, an intermediate between the current clock and the same as the international game.

I'm not sure a drop does much to make basketball nicer to look at. If you go all the way to 24 you've got less good basketball players operating in an unrestricted zoning environment, which is a recipe for a lot of ugly no-look heaves at the basket with the buzzer going up. Is watching Wisconsin play in a 24-second shot clock world even grimmer? Maybe. I shudder to think about middling college teams trying to scrape together a shot in 14 seconds after barely busting a VCU or Louisville press. College players probing the Syracuse zone in 24 seconds… I mean. Yergh.

If it's 30 you have marginally increased the speed of the game and made it more difficult for bug people to squat on your enjoyment… at least when they're on offense. They'll squat all the fiercer on defense.

One positive development from a shorter shot clock is the increased attractiveness of running. It still seems like a minefield of unintended consequences.

Get rid of timeouts, the more the better


The only interesting thing that has ever happened during a timeout.

No one has specifically been suggesting this because they haven't been forced to watch a basketball game that's just gone under two minutes with both coaches in possession of four timeouts, but check twitter the next time this goes down. Basketball teams should get one time out, end story. If networks want to slightly bulge commercial breaks in compensation, fine. Anything is better than the end of a tight basketball game feeling like rush hour in Chicago.

For a quick check on what happens when you don't have timeouts, let's go to the end of the Michigan-Indiana game. Michigan is down one with twelve seconds left and no timeouts:

While the outcome was displeasing to Michigan fans, hey guess what it's still basketball, and for neutrals it was much better than the same thing after yet another 30 second break.

Severely reducing available timeouts has the added benefit of making games more chaotic at the end. You can't save a possession by calling TO on the floor; you have to inbound even if that seems like a bad idea; you can't bail yourself out when trapped in a corner. All those near-turnovers that end in an anti-climatic timeout are suddenly 50/50 balls, which favors the trailing team.

Unfortunately, an unholy conspiracy of control freak coaches and revenue-craving TV execs means this will never, ever happen.

Call those foul things

Wisconsin Arkansas BasketballAt right: possibly a foul. Possibly not. But it definitely wasn't called one. Probably.


The referees weren't perfect, but for the most part, Beilein felt the officials allowed players freedom of movement -- which, in his opinion, is the way the game should always be played.

"I like the way the NBA is played," Beilein told WWLS 98.1-FM on Monday. "If you put your hand on a guy, it's a foul.

"We actually teach it, and it hurts us sometimes when we're not as physical as other teams."

The national title game was poorly officiated all around. One of the ways in which it was is symptomatic of a larger trend and not just an OOOAAAWWWWHHHH outrage with no redeeming qualities: all those phantom fouls on Louisville once they'd stolen the ball. UL would foul Michigan up and down the court; refs wouldn't call it until Michigan was in a terrible position because of it and turned it over. There's a tendency to look at foul, see if it affects the play, and then call it. You know and hate those whistles that occur after the shot.

A foul should be a foul. No more talk about Deciding The Game. The refs are deciding the game either way. "Letting the players play" is in fact letting nobody play because it's hard to play basketball when people are bumping and grinding you. Letting people play leads to ugly rugby-scrum games. All year Michigan opponents would hand-check Burke; all year everyone would shuffle their chest into the shooter without consequence; all year you could plow into a three-point shooter on a closeout without getting a whistle except in the most extreme circumstances.

At this point there has to be a terrible period where a foul is redefined as a consistent thing not dependent on the game situation, which will lead to scads of ugly games with lots of free throws. It'll be like that period in the NHL when the powers that be decided that all that stuff in the rulebook was there for a reason. That was a half-season of misery, but the game came out better for it.

Also, for pants sake can we get an advantage call? If a foul does nothing to prevent a one-on-zero fast break, fling your arms out dramatically and give the foul at the next opportunity*, which will almost invariably be after the fast-break bucket. When it's not just whistle it when the opposing team gets the ball back. They can't complain, they committed a foul.

You'll like this a lot, basketball referees. It's very dramatic. You can pretend you're a matador, or super into right angles, and you can do it for seconds at a time when the play is still going on.

*[no shots, just the personal and the team foul.]

The usual NBA business

The NCAA has no power to change the NBA's one-and-done rule. If they did, they would have already done it. That doesn't stop people from coming up with better systems than the current one—all of them. Beilein advocates for a baseball model where you either go straight out of high school or hang around for three years:

"(My preference would) probably be very much like baseball," Beilein said earlier this week. "I think that would be a great thing. If there's a Kobe (Bryant) or LeBron (James) out of high school, he can get that big contract and go.

"If not, go (to college) for three years and make an educated decision. Then guys can redshirt and do all these things. That's ideal in my mind."

The NBA is unlikely to go for that since one of the main goals of one-and-done was to put their future stars in a year-long free marketing internship, and to prevent a bunch of high schoolers with no business declaring from doing so.

Actually, there are some things the NCAA can do to help out here. For one, they can change their archaic rules. If you opt into a draft, you're done. If you just get drafted, you can maintain your eligibility. The "you just get drafted" rule is in place in hockey, and while it has its flaws the end result is a lot more sensible. A couple years ago I made an extremely useful and no doubt soon-to-be-accepted proposed change to the draft that boils down to these points:

  • Everyone gets drafted out of high school; they retain their eligibility. The draft expands a round or two.
  • An NBA team signing a draft pick has to provide a guaranteed contract that lasts until the player is five years out of high school. They cannot reclaim this roster spot even if the player is cut.
  • Drafted, unsigned players can participate in summer league.

As a bonus the NCAA could allow drafted players to retain agents, get some money, and go to NBA team activities on the team's dime. The NBA could execute the bulleted sections all on their own now, though.

This would move the "should I leave school" decision to the player and the team instead of an advisory board that's guessing. NBA teams would have to think hard about guaranteeing a high school kid money and a roster spot for five years, less hard about guaranteeing a junior two. The NCAA would enjoy an influx of attention from fans of pro teams tracking their draftees and could use that as a useful jumping off point from their archaic notions of amateurism.

Fire anyone who turns the act of calling a charge into a play in one act

Also never happening but as long as I'm getting this out of my system I figure I should mention this. God bless the guy who called the Morgan/Triche charge like he was Marvin the Paranoid Android.


Never Be The First To Report Someone's Dead

Never Be The First To Report Someone's Dead Comment Count

Brian January 25th, 2012 at 4:12 PM

Mark-Twain[1][ED: Meta. I was just going to put a bullet in a UV about this but things got a little crazy and I ended up with a full post.]

Joe Paterno's death was a hugely misreported fiasco of the sort that is inevitable given the speed of information in the internet age. This post is an attempt to provide a framework for existing in a world of uncertain information.

This is what happened: Onward State, a blog/online newspaper run by PSU students, reported Paterno's death based on an email sent to Penn State players that turned out to be a hoax. This was good enough for a local radio station and StateCollege.com. It hit twitter and was then picked up without attribution by CBS Sports. It took off from there once the imprimatur of a major news agency was on it. Black Shoe Diaries has a detailed chronology of the mass screwup if you're interested in details. Shirtless Mark Twain isn't sure if he approves of this whole business or not, but would like you to know that rumors of his rippling pecs have been sorely undersold.

It's a story about the internet screwing up in very understandable ways. Onward State had what seemed like reliable information, and it passed their threshold for reporting. It is not a good threshold, but not everyone has one these days. CBS's Adam Jacobi did something unwise and sloppy. Pagewhoring Huffington Post saw an opportunity for views and cares about nothing else.

We've seen this happen before when a newspaper intern replicates an internet rumor on one of the dingy blogs shuffled off into the corner of large metro papers: as soon as a rumor gets paired with header graphics associated with a real newspaper, everyone else is confirming it via "sources." In this instance, CBS's screwup was compounded because they didn't even provide a link to the primary source; Huffington Post did the same thing, but that's just their MO. Jacobi is a BHGP founder and should have known better.

I've screwed these things up myself. Earlier this year I erroneously reported that Kaleb Ringer had been booted from his high school team based on information that seemed solid but obvious was not. By contrast, a couple years ago I had the sense not to run anything about the serious car accident that Jon Bills and Mark Moundros were in despite having a ton of solid sources telling me about it. That seemed like a place to let journalists be journalists.

As I go along here that realm has steadily expanded. I probably won't report something like the Ringer thing again for a lot of reasons. Michigan playing Alabama is one thing to be wrong about; a high school kid's problems or lack thereof is another. This leaves windows open for crass opportunists like Ace Williams, but it's the internet. There's always going to be a bottom of the barrel.


Anyway, these things evolve naturally. As this site expands it has more at risk and becomes more cautious. People just starting out have little to lose and have not experienced the backlash from being wrong—or the frightening period between your post and official confirmation of it. Also some of them are total idiots.

From the user's perspective, the thing to do is maintain a Bayesian approach. Phil Birnbaum explains what that is:

Generally, Bayesian is a process by which you refine your probability estimate. You start out with whatever evidence you have which leads you to a "prior" estimate for how things are. Then, you get more evidence. You add that to the pile, and refine your estimate by combining the evidence. That gives you a new, "posterior" estimate for how things are.

You're a juror at a trial. At the beginning of the trial, you have no idea whether the guy is guilty or not. You might think it's 50/50 -- not necessarily explicitly, but just intuitively. Then, a witness comes up that says he saw the crime happen, and he's "pretty sure" this is the guy. Combining that with the 50/50, you might now think it's 80/20.

Then, the defense calls the guy's boss, who said he was at work when the crime happened. Hmmm, you say, that sounds like he couldn't have done it. But there's still the eyewitness. Maybe, then, it's now 40/60.
And so on, as the other evidence unfolds.

That's how Bayesian works. You start out with your "prior" estimate, based on all the evidence to date: 50/50. Then, you see some new evidence: there's an eyewitness, but the boss provides an alibi. You combine that new evidence with the prior, and you adjust your estimate accordingly. So your new best estimate, your "posterior," is now 40/60.

So if some guy with 50 followers claims Armani Reeves is headed to Michigan because Urban was late for his in-home visit, you might increment your 50% to 51%. If Mike Farrell says its 52-48 you might bump it to 52%, but if Farrell said he thought Reeves was definitely headed to Michigan you could push it up further. You base your confidence in the opinion on previous accuracy, with a list like this…

  1. TomVH/Sam Webb
  2. Established message board posters
  3. National analysts
  4. Random message board posters
  5. Raving lunatics
  6. People who don't know what football is
  7. Fictional races from another galaxy
  8. Hyperintelligent tacos
  9. Regular tacos
  10. Tacos that aren't too bright even for tacos
  11. Ace Williams

…and change your baseline confidence based on the information and your confidence level in it. This is something people do naturally, but too often the weight they put on the information is either 0 or 1 when it should be somewhere in between.

For purveyors of information, it's time to put an explicit confidence level on what you're relaying. My mistake with the Ringer thing, other than mentioning it at all, was saying something was the case when I should have said something less certain. When I got tips about the Michigan-Alabama game I erred by saying with certainty a contract would be signed on a certain date when the people involved with the thing probably didn't know that.

I try to follow a policy of revealing as much as I can about the nature any information I pass along without exposing a source, and that added transparency is necessary in an age when information—valid information—can come from anywhere or anyone. I still make mistakes. That's inevitable. I'm trying, though.

However, not even linking to the original report is a mortal sin. If you are going to run something based on someone else's reporting it is vital that you explicitly tell readers that. Otherwise one report from a little-known online news source turns into multiple reports, some of them from organizations with people paid to do reporting, and the echo chamber starts going exponential. If you do not link, you are telling people that you are reporting it, and when it turns out to be wrong you can't point the finger at anyone but yourself.


I Only Post About Coaches Who Coach For Michigan

I Only Post About Coaches Who Coach For Michigan Comment Count

Brian December 14th, 2011 at 12:37 PM




Citizens of the planet, I come before you today to make an announcement. That announcement is: I do not give a microdamn about the things 1) Rich Rodriguez or 2) Michigan alumni such as Desmond Howard have to say about Michigan and Rich Rodriguez, respectively.

My interest levels are declining into femtodamn levels. On message boards I now flip past entire threads in which the same tired debates are brought forth with the speed and determination I ignore threads about politics on the internet. Let that sink in. Yeah. That's right. I have as much interest in this topic as I do Herman Cain.

So I don't want to dedicate yet more time to a guy who was fired a year ago except to talk about the things that made his offense very effective and his defense very ineffective. Those things affect Michigan's fortunes on the field and are interesting examples of the ever-evolving college football metagame. Also interesting, if slightly depressing, is the pickle Rodriguez's last couple recruiting classes have left Michigan in, especially on both lines.

Talking about other aspects of Rich Rodriguez's tenure makes me want to claw at my face. But I will do this for you, like I will eat a lemon if Yuri Wright picks Colorado over Michigan. So here is a handy chart for you to follow.


EVENT: Rich Rodriguez has said something.

1. Is it about Michigan? If yes, go to 2. If no, go to 3.

2. Is it really about Michigan or is it a paranoid delusion? If paranoid delusion, go to 3. If still about Michigan, go to 4.

3. Don't care.

4. Still don't care. However, this incident is further evidence that Rodriguez is deservedly bitter about his three year tenure at Michigan and impolitic about discussing it.

Yes, it is further evidence that Rodriguez's maturity level and ability to play "the game" are low. Yes, it reminds me how nice it is to have a guy like Brady Hoke, who says all the correct things in all the generic ways possible. Yes—

What? Where am I? Why am I upside down in some sort of river valley? Why is there a bridge above/below me?


I was probably bungee jumping at the time in an effort to prevent the inevitable—this is the level of my dedication to you, reader—but this topic was still massively boring enough to result in nappy times. I apologize. I'm so, so happy to be talking about this, no, serious—


EVENT: A program alum or Lloyd Carr has said something.

1. Is it about Rich Rodriguez? If yes, go to 2. If no, go to 3.

2. Is it really about Rich Rodriguez or is it more of a rapturous thing about Brady Hoke that sets the lack of support given during the Rodriguez tenure in stark relief? If rapturous thing, go to 3. If actually about Rodriguez, go to 4.

3. Yes, that is annoying but let's just suck it up because it's in the best interests of the program.

4. Yes, it is extremely disappointing that certain program alumni appear to be jerks. What can you do, though?

To take one example, when you're so dim and callous as to deride Rodriguez as "Cherry Coke"—probably meant "New Coke"—in front of 60-70 players who were recruited by Rodriguez, are the living embodiment of that change, and went 10-2 and reached the Sugar Bowl, well… that's hopeless. Anyone who would trash-talk Denard, even indirectly, is never going to Get It.

It's further evidence that several recent program alums' maturity levels are low. It reminds me of how nice it was to have Bo around. There's nothing to do about it but wait. Eventually the Rodriguez recruits will be out of the program and the Rodriguez years far enough in the—

Right, this again. Upside down in a river valley.


If I can remain conscious long enough to respond to these things in the future, all future events will be filed "3" or "4". This, people of Earth, is my sacrifice for your well-being. Let it not be in vain. File these things 3 or 4 and live your lives without Rodriguez-Michigan-induced narcolepsy. You, too, can live—

An upside-down Brian Cook who would greatly appreciate being reeled in now

PS. Many of you have passed out in front of your computers and are in danger of entering an infinite loop wherein you wake up, forget what you were reading, begin reading again, and fall asleep. In an effort to prevent the thousands of deaths that may result, here is an animated GIF of some levitating cats.


Hopefully this will catch the newly-awakened reader's eye sufficiently to prevent them from entering a fatal boredom loop.


Every Year. Same Time. Once. The Last Time.

Every Year. Same Time. Once. The Last Time. Comment Count

Brian August 26th, 2010 at 1:32 PM

Two must-read posts: Ramzy at Bucknuts on whoredom and Doctor Saturday on the sheer lack of sense.

I'm not posting this in the hope that it will change anything. Since Dave Brandon came out in favor of moving the Michigan-Ohio State game to midseason there's been tremendous fan pushback, with opinion running about 10-to-1 against. It obviously doesn't matter, because the men in suits are ramping up the meaningless PR doublespeak to alarming levels:

…the reason the Big Ten is great is because of our fans. We had five and a half million fans come to games [in 2009]. Whether it’s the Rose Bowl or Ohio State-Michigan, we welcome that, and there’s an awful lot of discussion of, generally speaking, how our fans feel about what we do. We're not fan-insensitive, we're fan-receptive and are only interested in doing what is going to grow our fan base.

Whenever someone starts talking about how great the fans are, the fans are about to get it in uncomfortable places, especially when that's the first thing they talk about in the face of obvious, massive opposition. Meanwhile, the SID is trying to calm people over email by saying for Michigan and Ohio State to meet for the conference title they will "have to play their way into the championship game." If it was a trial balloon people would be walking it back by now after the reaction it's received. The thing is far enough along that Barry Alvarez is flat-out stating that Iowa and Wisconsin will be split up. It's actually happening.

So this doesn't matter. But here's why Michigan and Ohio State's athletic directors should be out in the streets rounding up pitchfork-toting mobs instead of rolling over like Indiana:

The financial benefits are almost literally zero. Dan Wetzel cites a TV executive claiming that at maximum, the vague possibility of Michigan and Ohio State meeting in a Big Ten championship game once a decade might be worth two million dollars a year ("it might be half that," he adds). Even taking the most optimistic number, the end result for Michigan is another 150k per year (the conference takes a share). Assuming an average of seven home games a year, Michigan could earn that by raising ticket prices twenty cents. Meanwhile, every other Big Ten team sees the same increase in their bottom line.

Twenty cents!

Michigan and Ohio State will almost never meet. The Plain Dealer looked back at the league since Penn State's addition and concluded that in the last sixteen years, a Michigan-Ohio State championship game would have happened all of three times.

In the future you can expect that to be far less frequent. Michigan will be guaranteed that 1) they play an outstanding Ohio State team and 2) three of the other five teams in their division do not. If the matchup is going to occur it's going to be the same for Ohio State. The loser of that game is going to have to overcome that deficit against teams that have a much easier schedule. The addition of Nebraska adds another historic power to the league. "Once a decade" is not hyperbole. It's a reasonable estimate.

As a result, you are turning M-OSU from something that will always have stakes to something you hope to do over. This is Delany's reasoning:

"If Duke and North Carolina were historically the two strongest programs and only one could play for the right to be in the NCAA tournament, would you want them playing in the season-ending game so one is in and one is out?" he asked. "Or would you want them to play and have it count in the standings and then they possibly could meet for the right to be in the NCAA or the Rose Bowl?

"We've had those debates. It's a good one. The question is whether you want to confine a game that's one of the greatest rivalries of all time to a divisional game."

Yes. Because the loser of that game is doomed and knows it. Moving it to midseason just makes it a particularly high hurdle that might not mean much—that the conference explicitly hopes doesn't mean much—at the end of the year, when the two teams can do it again, except indoors in Indianapolis. Doctor Saturday:

Keep the game what it's always been, the ritualistic culmination of an entire season in a single, freezing orgy of centuries-old hate that cannot be overturned or redeemed for at least another 365 days. In good years, the division championship (hence a shot at the conference championship) will be on the line, preserving the familiar winner-take-all/loser-go-home intensity that made "The Game" what it is in the first place.

You are doing something your fans hate. The kids don't get paid, the stadium doesn't have advertising, the idea that there is a Michigan Thing that it is possible not to "get" in a way that it is not possible Jim Schwartz does not "get" the Lions Thing: these are the things that separate college football from minor league baseball. For decades Michigan's season has had a certain shape defined by the great Satan at the end of it.

This is where the disconnect between the suits and the fans is greatest. Beating Ohio State isn't about winning the Big Ten, it's about beating Ohio State, just like the Egg Bowl is about beating that other team in Mississippi or the Civil War is about beating that other team in Oregon or any billion other year-end rivalry games that have been played since the Great Depression. M-OSU is the super-sized version of the old-fashioned rivalries based on pure hate. It's not Miami-Florida State, a game entirely dependent on the teams being national contenders for it to even sell out, but the Big Ten is treating it like the country's fakest rivalry game anyway.

It so happens that a lot of the time OSU and Michigan do decide the Big Ten, but did anyone want to beat OSU less in the mid-90s when Michigan limped into the game with 3 or 4 losses every year? Or last year? No. Would it matter less as an October game to be followed by three or four more? Necessarily yes. Is that the worst thing in the world? Yes.

I have no tolerance for anyone too dense to grasp this, much less see it as a potentially good thing, as Dave at Maize N Brew does. I said his post on the matter was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen a Michigan fan write and it remains so. Orson's post on the matter is also the dumbest thing I've ever seen him write. The reason college football matters in a way the NFL does not is the idea it has that some things are not worth selling. Once the date of the Michigan-Ohio State game goes the only thing left is the labor of the players.

I'll still be there. I don't have a choice, really, but the special kind of misery I'll experience when Michigan plays Ohio State at 8 PM in October and Special K blasts "Lose Yourself" during a critical review will make me feel like an exploited sap, not a member of a community in which my opinions matter. They clearly don't. This will matter in the same way erosion does.


Jerry Hinnen:

Speaking as an Auburn fan on Big 10 moving M/OSU to midseason: If they'd tried that w/ the Iron Bowl I'd have burned SEC HQ to the ground

Doctor Saturday:

Because I have a soul, I've already firmly aligned myself with the "armageddon" crowd, made up of those of us who can't stand the thought of one side telling the other in mid-October, "We'll see you again when it really matters." Which probably means I've aligned myself with the losing side. Whatever the motivations of its less influential champions, the prospect of a Buckeye-Wolverine split only has traction among people who matter because the people who matter see a buck in it: If one Ohio State-Michigan game is good, two Ohio State-Michigan games must be even better, and I'm sure they have the ratings projections and accompanying ad rates to prove it. The rivalry has already defined and shaped the national perception of the Big Ten for the last 50 years; just think of the possibility of the rivalry-as-championship game as "expanding the brand."

Mike Rothstein:

Saving this game at the end is the culmination of a season-long crescendo.

Michigan-Indiana at the end of the year, for example, doesn’t offer the same cachet.

And it never will.

Stewart Mandel:

Are you kidding me? It's been played the last week of the season all but once since 1935, and it's the league's single most important franchise. You would think conference leaders would go to any length to protect it. …

Sometimes leaders make decisions without properly thinking through the issues. This one sounds like a case of over-thinking. Do the right thing, Mr. Delany, Mr. Brandon and Mr. Smith, lest the ghosts of Woody and Bo haunt you in your sleep.

John Taylor:

Be warned, Big Ten: you move The Game, you will rip the heart and suck the soul out of the single greatest property the conference owns.  And for what, a few more advertising dollars every few years when they do happen to stumble into a title showdown?  One that will, incidentally, likely be contested in a sterile, domed, neutral location as opposed to yet another reason that The Game is what it is -- The Big House and The Shoe.

So… yeah. Join the Facebook page. Maybe it will help. It won't, actually, but maybe you'll feel better about it.