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]


It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Football

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Football Comment Count

Seth August 24th, 2015 at 5:59 PM



We had a little preseason meeting of the MGoBloggerati last week. Due to some oversight, we unfortunately had this meeting at a bar with TVs and the Lions preseason game on those TVs. So no, we didn't get much planning done with a table full of football bloggers who had football in front of them, but Brian had this fantastic idea:

What if the NFL preseason actually counted? Teams would have unlimited rosters, but you could only play your 1st stringers for the 1st quarter, and your 2nd stringers in the 2nd, and so on. Play in a quarter and you lose your eligibility for the rest of them. Everybody wins!

In things that somebody wins:

Football season means we're gonna start getting back to picking daily/weekly fantasy games to congregate in with our fantasy partner Draft Kings. This week's is an NFL preseason contest because frankly that's what we're all paying attention to right now (sorry boss). And since it's early we just went with a free one anyone can play:


  • $100,000 prize pool.
  • First place wins $10,000
  • FREE for everyone to join - no deposit required
  • Top 23,150 scores win guaranteed
  • Starts on Sunday, September 13th at 1:00 PM EST
  • Salary Cap Style Drafting. $50,000 to select 9 spots. 8 players and 1 defense.
  • Roster Format: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex and 1 Defense

Smart pick:

I noticed Kelvin Benjamain has torn his ACL. Although the rookie vying to take his targets tweaked his hamstring last week and missed the Miami game, Funchess should be good to go. And the nice thing is you have to scroll a loooong way to get to him.


Athletic Director Time: Stakes

Athletic Director Time: Stakes Comment Count

Brian April 21st, 2015 at 1:12 PM

Previously: overview.


feeling that a ticket you have is a precious thing is good

More games should mean things

This is something that Brandon was moving towards getting right, save for the horrible contract that saw him eat an extra Notre Dame home game at the (hopefully temporary) end of that series. And that contract might not have been his doing.

This year's football schedule has one tomato can on it, UNLV, and three actual teams: BYU, Oregon State, and Utah. BYU and Oregon State are one-off home games. They're more expensive, but we've finally reached the point where spending an extra few hundred thousand dollars on an opponent like that has a clear ROI in ticket sales. (That is the reason Brandon was getting that right.) One of the smartest things he said during his tenure was about this.

Unfortunately, I have been able to google it to get the exact quote, but it was along the lines of "we have to get out of the business of scheduling games that feel like exhibitions to fans." He largely put his money where his mouth was in that department. Or tried to, anyway. It still galls that Michigan State landed a home and home with Alabama and Michigan was forced to play a "neutral" site matchup in Dallas against them.

But Brandon was right: repeated tomato can poundings make the fan look at his ticket and feel like a sap. The Product™ boils down to that: you look at the ticket that has a section and seat and opponent on it and you feel a certain way. For years many of these tickets have made you feel like it's another way to pay for the Ohio State game. That is going to remain true, but being less explicit about it is a first step on the road towards making fans feel like part of the enterprise instead of marks.

There's not much flexibility when it comes to college football. Michigan's going to play in their division and they've got three games a year (Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland) that aren't going to feel like much no matter what happens. They've been filling out the nonconference schedule with more respectable opponents; further additions have to happen a decade or more out. The wider landscape of college football will help here: double the number of teams in the playoff means double the number of late-season games that can impact the championship picture.


Michigan's other two revenue sports could use some help. This year's hockey schedule was a textbook example of what not to do: a weird one-off at Ferris State before even the exhibition games, home games piled into the fall when most fans are busy with football, an almost two-month absence from Yost in January and February punctuated by a fiasco of an outdoor game taken in by fewer fans than would have been at a home game.

Meanwhile, basketball plays a lot of nonconference games against the Coppin States of the world. It was seven last year (they just happened to lose two): Hillsdale, Bucknell, Detroit, Nicholls State, NJIT, EMU, and Coppin State. I don't see a great solution there given the way college basketball works: you're going to have a preseason tournament, you're going to have a game just before Christmas no one wants to play, there's not enough room to do anything interesting.

The conference, though… the conference could use some tweaking. Here are a couple of concrete plans to make basketball and hockey games have more wow factor on the ticket.

Basketball: making 14 an asset

Wisconsin ran away with the Big Ten title this year. Their last seven games included matchups against 9-9 Illinois, 4-14 Penn State, and two against 6-12 Minnesota. What if their stretch run was nothing but the other three games—Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State—and so was everyone else's? And what if you could never point to anyone's schedule and say that's why team X won?

This is possible, even in a 14-team conference if you're willing to rethink a conference schedule. You can have a true, fair, thrilling championship in 19 conference games:

  • FIRST 13: round-robin amongst all teams
  • LAST 6: split the league into top and bottom halves, have second round-robin within.

Everyone in each half plays the same schedule. The last three weeks of the regular season are an all-out brawl for a banner that means something it might not in a world where getting the wrong teams twice could knock you down a peg.

The downsides are real but not insurmountable. You would not know the last six games of your schedule until a few days before. With home sites that's not a huge problem. There will be demand for those games. And teams right around the cutoff could find their path to a bid get harder as teams just above it draw a bunch of tough games and teams below it lose the opportunity to knock off a Wisconsin. That effect is probably marginal (on average it's turning three games into somewhat harder or easier ones).

If they tried this I bet they would never even think about going back once they saw, say, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, OSU, Indiana, and Illinois have a three-week war for a Big Ten title.

Hockey: a state championship


The FA Cup: the only time anyone has ever believed in Wigan

There's not a whole lot Hypothetical Michigan AD can do about the Big Ten or NCAA's playoff format. (It does sound like the national tournament is in line for some long-overdue changes.) But he can probably get the Michigan schools together to provide early-season matchups some additional oomph.

The formation of the Big Ten is something college hockey needed if they were ever going to expand past two western conferences, but it broke up a bunch of 40-year-old rivalries that mean something to college hockey fans. Instead of having every Michigan team save Tech in a single conference, now they're spread across three. The GLI has tried to compensate by inviting a Michigan team for the foreseeable future, but that doesn't do much for the three teams that aren't invited in any particular year.

Nor does it have that much selling power. The GLI is a nice event, but it's always been a little silly that Michigan has a banner for years they won it. It's two games. The trophy doesn't have a name. It's not, say, a 40-pound bronzed cast of Red Berenson's head.

What if the first half of the season had a different competition in it? Soccer does this to excellent effect. A state championship competition that features World Cup/Champions League style groups would be a reasonable time commitment and a way to inject stakes into otherwise fuzzy early-season matchups.

A problem: there are seven Michigan teams, not eight. We will fill in the eighth spot with a guest program. This could either rotate between reasonably local programs (ND, OSU, BGSU, Miami, even PSU) or be permanent.

Hypothetical groups:

Michigan Michigan State
Notre Dame Western Michigan
Michigan Tech LSSU
Northern Michigan Ferris State

Each team plays the others twice, whether that's home and home or not. The next year invert home/road and do it again; then switch the groups up. The only hard and fast rule is that Michigan and Michigan State are separate. The four teams in the bottom two rows are all WCHA members. They can either book an early-season conference series to count for the state championship or schedule bonus nonconference series, their choice.

After that's done, the top two in each group play for the Michigan Themed Hockey Trophy* at the Joe. (The other two also go to the Joe and play because everyone wants to know they've got X number of games booked.)

This is a commitment of eight games—six for teams currently in the WCHA. For teams in the Big Ten (20 conference games), Hockey East (22), or NCHC (24) that is doable. It does seriously restrict the flexibility of WCHA teams (28 games), but a lot of these games are the ones these schools would want to schedule anyway. For example, Ferris's nonconference schedule included two games against State, one against Michigan, and the GLI. Tech played Michigan and in the GLI. They would be signing up for another two or three games only. And the lack of flexibility is offset by the fact that they're locking in a Michigan or Michigan State series annually.

If you can pull this off then your early season, normally something without stakes other than the hope down the road your Pairwise ranking will be good, becomes three weekends in which you hope to qualify for a GLI that means you can print out shirts that say State Champs and kiss let's just say a 40-pound bronze cast of Red Berenson's head.


like this except with Red Berenson's head

Play for things. Give us stakes. A ticket that reads "Red Berenson's 40 Pound Head Tournament" is better than one that just says "Western Michigan."

*[Options: unearth the Ron Mason trophy that went kaput when the CCHA did, inaugurate a Red Berenson trophy for the former Michigan player and Detroit Red Wing, or go studiously neutral but somewhat silly by naming it after a guy who didn't play college hockey.

Gordie Howe played in the defunct minor-pro version of the USHL for a year, not the CHL, and he's Gordie Howe. So he's a good idea if you're going that route.]


On Numbers

On Numbers Comment Count

Seth April 14th, 2015 at 10:33 AM

If you were to sort everything in the world by a factor of how much I pay attention to it vs. actual importance, what jersey numbers Michigan players wear is probably just below and to the left of Alan Trammell's snub.


His career was merely "average" for a Hall of Fame shortstop

If you don't care, I respect that; here's a report from BBC news on the rising nuclear tensions in South Asia that probably matters a lot to the long-term stability of the region and the horrifying possibility that our species might some day wipe out the better portion of the lifeforms we know of. If you do care who wears the numeral we associate with Woodson, maybe read up enough on the arms deal first so people will know you've got your priorities straight. All set? Alright here's what I think we should do with the Legends numbers.

The Legends Question


Earn it, Keith

I don't think anybody knows what they'll do with the program now. Hackett seems earnest in this evaluation period. I also have an idea where some of the pushback is coming from, since former players—in email groups, in private, and some publically—are a key demographic against them. Part of that's a get-off-my-lawn attitude among older guys regarding the over-attention paid to jersey numbers by kids these days. Part of it's the same jarring fan sensation of having long associations undone—the Kovacs Principle—and part of it's a new guy wearing sacrosanct numbers every year. I saw more complaints about Funchess wearing 87 while not blocking than Moore wearing it while not playing.

I wish they would keep this program, but only for underclassmen. The Seth Plan:

  • Establish a set of attainable criteria for each number. Past Legends have input but this shouldn't be the Braylon gauntlet—that worked for Braylon because Carr tailored it specifically to Braylon.
  • Establish a set of higher criteria for getting added to the patch.
  • Underclassmen interested in wearing a Legends number apply to their coaches
  • Number must be earned before a player either starts his 15th game, or reaches the end of his sophomore season of eligibility, whichever comes first.
  • Back-elevate past Michigan greats based on Legends criteria.
  • Add 2 (for Woodson, defensive backs), 77 (for OTs: Lewan, Long, Jansen, Jenkins), 46 (Harry Newman, for special teams players), and 27 (Benny Friedman, for quarterbacks) to the program. Make 98 for running backs.
  • Establish a set of criteria for having a new number Legendsized (so future HSPs can hope to wear #5)

I imagine if more than one young player wants the same number Harbaugh won't mind competition.

Projecting the Fall Arrivals

I used to try this every year: attempt to predict numbers for the new guys to wear. Before MGoBlog it was an annual rite of rostering the new NCAA game. Last year I missed it; in 2013 I went 12 for 22 with the scholarship guys, but that was in June when some guys already knew their numbers. This year I'm gonna try to do it early and honestly.

[My methodology and sure-to-be-incorrect predictions, after the jump]


Ding Dong, The Divisions Are Dead (Again)

Ding Dong, The Divisions Are Dead (Again) Comment Count

Brian April 22nd, 2013 at 2:48 PM



After months and months of leaks to the effect that the Big Ten would use the opportunity presented by their (nonsensical) expansion to ditch the current divisions and go with a straight East-West breakdown, the Big Ten… actually, wait.

The proposed Big Ten West includes the six teams located in the Central time zone -- Illinois,Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern andWisconsin -- plus Purdue, sources said.

The proposed Big Ten East includes Indiana,Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State,Penn State and Rutgers.

"Just take a ruler and a map [and split the 14 teams]," a source said.

A source? Didn't we just do this last month? ESPN? reported last month that the divisions debate was down to whether Purdue or Indiana would go to the West. Purdue's campus is located west of Indiana's.

Yes. We did. Every Big Ten blog has a post on this today. The news: Purdue and Indiana have been situated. This came out in the middle of a surreal terrorist manhunt, and we still care. News is weird, but let's get swept away in the tide of history.

Competitive upshot


cowboys ride for free wait, seriously, Kansas?

Anyone with a keyboard to tap at is making a Big Ten West == Big 12 North comparison, and… yeah, down to the school that'll probably be making the conference's last stand against the dual hegemony in the other division. The best team out of Iowa/Illinois*/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Purdue/Northwestern will probably be pretty good. They'll be a dog in most every championship game, but this is what happens when you expand with absolutely nothing other than the rapidly-fading cable television model in mind. More like NONsense and NONsensibility and zombies, amirite?

Meanwhile, the other division is Michigan, Ohio State, and Also Ran until such time as Penn State gets off the deck from their NCAA sanctions. Michigan State's trying to puff their chest out, but it's over for them. State's recent run of quasi-relevancy (still no BCS bowls… ever) coincided with a three-year period in which

  1. Michigan was busy punching itself during the brief Rodriguez era
  2. Ohio State was off the schedule (2009 and 2010) or having their one-year tatgate implosion.

MSU has one win over a good OSU team since 1974, and four total. While they've been a little less futile against Michigan, before the Rodriguez run their record the previous 20 years was 5-15. With Michigan and Ohio State poised for decade-plus long runs of coaching stability and recruiting dominance, there aren't going to be a lot of opportunities to pick off easy wins against teams struggling to .500 records or worse. It's over.

More interesting is Rutgers. New Jersey is fertile recruiting ground. With Penn State down, eastern Pennsylvania should be easier to get into. They've been recruiting on a level commensurate with a middling Big Ten team despite being stuck in the Big East. If the financial and prestige boost from their move bumps them up a notch, they could become the most annoying ankle-biter in the division.

Penn State has to dig out, obviously, and then who knows what they're like without Joe Paterno? Early returns are good, as they managed to acquire some serious talent despite the sanctions. Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman signed up for a team with three more bowl ban years upcoming—that says something about PSU's enduring pull with Pennsylvania recruits.

They still have no chance to keep pace. They have to be down to 65 players this year and are currently on track to have a recruiting class of eight guys this year even with some attrition that's 10 to 12 players. Doom awaits. By the time they're good the Big Ten will probably be at 84 teams. Short term thinking, that's our motto.

Indiana and Maryland enjoy basketball.

*[Yeah, Illinois. Every ten years they have a good team and then implode.]

Should we be thinking long term?

The ACC is trumpeting a very long "grant of rights" deal that hypothetically locks the TV revenue from the 15 member teams—ND included minus football—to the conference they're currently in until 2027. This will save the conference unless something totally improbable happens. That thing: lawyers!

Unless a league member decides to go to litigation to escape this down the road, the ACC believes a Grant of Rights will protect it from conference realignment poachers.

Because lawyers never get involved in these things. While the GOR provides an extra hurdle, it's a deterrent designed to look super scary. Just how effective it'll be in the event of a departure is unknown. See: Maryland, currently involved in that litigation stuff over a $50 million exit fee the ACC voted in just before they left. Maryland will likely pay something less than that in a settlement.

People in charge of things are just in charge of them

Goodbye, Successories Conference.


leadership is more about not being clueless than eyebrows

Let us pour out some gasoline for our dead homie division names, and light them on fire. Burning is the most terrible way to die, but as the wisps arise from the charred notions that were "Legends" and "Leaders" it seems far too kind. If that debacle doesn't prove to you once and for all that our tendency to worship any bushy-eyebrowed dim bulb who manages to ascend to the talky bit of any enterprise is destructive, I don't know what to tell you.

Whenever someone cocks their eyebrow at you and condescendingly says that you don't have the vast amounts of information and knowledge they do about complicated geopolitical processes like conference realignment, just remember that those guys are the ones who made the conference a national laughingstock for years. They did this by doing something that was such a bad idea from the start that they promised they'd reconsider after literally every person who heard it laughed in their face.

Therefore their projections that media markets are still going to matter in 10 years…

Nine games

At least there's that. Starting in 2016, Big Ten teams will play nine conference games each. It looks like there's an easy way around the unbalanced schedule issue: have all the teams in one division have four one year, five the other.

I'd rather play more Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa than any nonconference opponent you care to name save Notre Dame—RIP, ND series—so I look on this as no downside. With Michigan buying home games from the Oregon States and Cincinnatis of the world, they can have their seventh home game with a nonconference schedule that consists of one cupcake, one interesting guarantee game against a midlevel foe, and one marquee matchup. Well, most of the time. The 2016 nonconference schedule is now locked in: Hawaii, Ball State, and Colorado. Er.

Complicated solution to problem time

Time to re-iterated my desired solution for the basketball situation: everyone plays round-robin, and then the conference is split into a top seven and bottom seven, whereupon another round-robin commences. 19 total games, best overall record wins. Pros:

  • Conference championship is almost entirely fair. Home-road is unbalanced in the first half, but none of this "you didn't play team X" business. The regular season championship is a really big deal right now; this would make it bigger.
  • No divisions. Divisions kill the importance of the regular season title.
  • The last six games for the top half are a must-see all-out war. Dude, take this year's league and do this to it and imagine a stretch run where IU-OSU-M-MSU-Wisconsin-Iowa-Minnesota OR Illinois OR Maryland only play each other. That would be nuts.
  • Doesn't require you to expand the conference schedule too much to get coverage. No 20, 22 game conference schedules but you don't get all that discussion about how team X doesn't play team Y.

Cons are obvious and large: potentially problematic ticket sales since you don't know who you're playing or when, a potential for teams near the bubble to get blasted off it (if you're #7 in the top half) or have little opportunity to climb out of it (for #8 stuck with the little people). I stole the RR-split-RR system from Scottish soccer, which has a compelling narrative at the bottom as teams try to avoid relegation that doesn't exist in college sports.

In any case, they could at least try it and see if the upside outweighs the downside.


Dear Diary Fought in the Big One

Dear Diary Fought in the Big One Comment Count

Seth March 29th, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Jerry World (pic via Dawg Day Afternoon; need help finding the artist)

This week I saw a photo of Jerryworld with its floor removed in preparation for 2013 tourney games, and I was reminded of the horrific things that must be buried in that dirt: the blood from a terrible Indian battle, bits and pieces of Woodson's collarbone (Superbowl XLV) and Denard Robinson's shoulder dislodged by Dee Milliner, perhaps the remains of five hookers.

Among various banners this basketball team has been asked to carry, one is a flag of redemption for Michigan's other sports. Given the site and the stage, sure why not the Alabama game too? The last trip to the Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington parking lot from hell dismantled every shred of hope and excitement for the last year of Denard. Now another former Big Ten coach who moved South and built a pro factory of mauling blue chips could end our association with Burke. ClearEyesFullHart starts with Bill Self's Illinois teams to preview tonight's Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas.

If this trip doesn't work, there may be an opportunity in 2015.

Excelius in'dome'ine. Say hello to stopthewnba, who received a points advance so he could post another attempt to get all statistical about the "domes hurt shooting" meme. This is of course super-relevant to Michigan in Jerryworld tonight since we're very much the shootier squad. The data haven't gotten any larger, however there's knowledge gained:

In four of the past five seasons, among Sweet Sixteen teams, one of the top two teams that increase their scoring average in the tournament over their regular season average made the Final Four.  Similarly interesting is that in four of the past five seasons, one of the bottom two teams who score LESS in the tournament than their regular season average also made the Final Four:

I think I found the sampling bias in that: the further you go in the tournament the tougher defenses you will happen upon. The teams who score way above their normal rates those who "got hot" and they of course will go further, but good teams who are playing at the same level they did all year should see their scoring rate dip both due to the improved quality of defenses, and the fact that defenders are more rested thanks to all the advertising breaks. What sold this diary to me was the Excel sheet he attached, which gives me an opportunity to try out my new embedding plug-in:

That work? Sweet.

Pipkins Dominates the Michigan Drill. This was on the boards but it' the diary of the week, easy. Michael Scarn took the "Michigan Drill" I referenced last week and broke down how Ondre Pipkins did it right. The drill heavily favors the offense: a defender has to beat a blocker and contact the runner. A snippet:

As he makes contact with Bosch, Pipkins has already driven off his right foot as well, generating more power and force into Bosch.  His hands have shot inside very quickly and, as we'll see, will allow him to control Bosch.


When I watched this earlier I didn't want to over-emphasize because I thought Bosch probably true freshman'd something. He did, but Pipkins was able to use his technique mastery to take advantage of that. Read this if you want to know what Hoke is talking about when he gets defensive liney.

Goal by goal. Relive the wonderful Saturday and ultimately disheartening conclusion to hockey's last-ditch CCHA run via your last goal-by-goal analysis until probably sometime next year (hopefully MGoBlueline will start in November). Lost with the championship game was the glory of the semifinal against Miami (NTM), which itself can be a pleasant memory to keep from an otherwise unpleasant season.

You should hold a hat ceremony too! I gave The Michigan Men's Football Experience the recruiting profile treatment:


If you are participating I highly encourage you to take the opportunity to mock the recruiting system as well.

Etc. LSAClassof2000 calculated the chances of various matchups occurring in this tourney, and you can follow the charts as games get decided; Ohio State's victory last night raised the likelihood of Michigan facing them in a championship to…I can't tell but it's like 5% or something. Sweet 16 Wallpaper by jonvalk. Blockhams uses a semicolon incorrectly.

[The Best of the Board, after the jump]


Unverified Voracity Scares Spencer Tracy

Unverified Voracity Scares Spencer Tracy Comment Count

Brian May 25th, 2012 at 12:52 PM



Tents fingers. The initial returns on Michigan's 2013 basketball recruiting class's AAU season continue to be positive—very positive to some. ESPN's just revamped its class rankings and 2013 looks a lot like 2012:

  • PG Derrick Walton, a "true point guard" who has "an excellent feel for the game" and a "tight handle" rises to the #39 player in the class.
  • SF Zak Irvin checks in at #61. "Has really good length and a great D-I basketball body," he can also shoot. Lots.
  • C Mark Donnal also rises significantly and is now the #65 player to ESPN. He's "ever-improving."

Target Reggie Cameron, a 6'7" stretch four reportedly shooting over 50% from three so far this summer, is #67.

So over two classes Michigan's only non-four-star sorts are the point guard acquired as part of the Trey Burke panic and late riser Caris LeVert. The other six guys (and counting): hyped. I think we can put the last shovelful of dirt on concerns about Beilein's recruiting.

EVERYONE DO EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE. Two things about the rapidly-morphing future of college football. One: I may owe Patrick Vint an apology after I scoffed at the idea that Jim Delany had a master plan behind his long, uncomfortable hug with the Rose Bowl. Now that the Big 12 and SEC have partnered up to provide a slow-cooked-pork version of the Rose, guess who's coming to dinner?

"I'd say before Friday that idea of a plus-one didn't have much traction, but I think the announcement on Friday's a game-changer," Scott said. "We're pretty far down the path on four-team playoff options, but given the very positive reaction to what the SEC and Big 12 have done, it's possible that (a plus-one) could get some traction."

The Sydney Poiter of playoff options: dignified, old-fashioned, and scary to Spencer Tracy. If they do go to the true plus one system, Vint is basically right and the two champs vs champs games are almost de facto semifinals.

Would this qualify as a diabolical master plan deployed by Jim Delany? I guess you're playing the Pac-12 champ for a spot most years but I'm not sure a steady diet of USC/Oregon/someone else every once in a while is much better than a true four team playoff. After all, the Big Ten's record in the Rose Bowl is horrible. Locking ourselves into it doesn't do much for the conference's title hopes. Sort of locking the Big East and ACC out is not a huge benefit.

If I had to bet I'd still put my chips on a true four-team playoff but I clearly have no idea what the thought processes these guys are using are like.

The second thing. The Big 12-SEC announcement threw college football into yet another realignment tizzy, this one focused on the Big 12 raiding the ACC for most of its prominent football programs. Florida State, Miami, and Clemson are most frequently mentioned. FSU started it, Texas scoffed at it, Virginia Tech denies everything, but now everybody's talking about it and the inevitable Death Star conferences that will emerge.

I still don't know how a 16-team conference even works. The SEC's gone to 14 and this has been enough for Steve Spurrier to invent (and Les Miles to back) the idea cross-division games shouldn't count in the standings. That takes the metaphorical "two conferences with a scheduling agreement" line I've dropped whenever this comes up and makes it literal. The Big Ten equivalent would see the Michigan-Ohio State game have no bearing on the Big Ten title. It's a nonconference game, an exhibition. It's either that or realign the two into the same division. There just aren't enough games to make 16 teams work without doing away (or all but doing away) with nonconference games entirely.

If that was the endgame, I'd be for it. Or if people got creative and implemented either dynamic scheduling—which may be the origin of this blog's "I come up with an incredibly complicated solution to something that may not be a problem" tag—or a relegation system*. The endgame that the current college football people can think up… not so much.

*[The linked post is for 14 teams and is really complicated and (BONUS) mathematically impossible. So don't take it too seriously. A 16 team relegation system could look like a bunch of things, but most likely is groups of eight playing a full round-robin with the eighth conference game either eliminated or given over to a play-in/play-out system.

I do still like the dynamic scheduling a lot, FWIW, but not knowing two thirds of your conference schedule before the season is tough.]

In other expansion news no one cares about. Luke Winn breaks out the graphs to show the relative strength of the new world of basketball conferences. The Big Ten is untouched but a couple conferences get hammered:


Even in this hypothetical world where Pitt and Syracuse are in the ACC, the Big Ten is still the #1 conference by some distance the past couple years.

Ohhhhhh. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:

“To have imagined that the event would be this spectacular, particularly when you’re there, to imagine that we would own New Year’s Day, which used to be for college football, nobody could have imagined it.”

There was no college football on NYD last year because it was a Sunday, but… is he wrong? Yeah, probably. But the very idea of having another very popular sporting event on New Year's Day would have been inconceivable ten years ago. Now it's not that hard to compete with Northwestern-Vandy, or whatever.

Etc.: Buy Smart Football's book. They'll serve beer at the hockey game not featuring Michigan at Michigan Stadium. Softball lost last night; will try to stay alive at 4:30 on ESPNU. I'm disappointed Bob Gassoff isn't in this picture.


Even More College Football Relegation

Even More College Football Relegation Comment Count

The Mathlete May 21st, 2012 at 1:26 PM

In honor of SB Nation’s Relegation Week, I thought I would take a deep dive into the world of potential scenarios. Jason Kirk did an outstanding job, but if you are going to blow the whole system up, blow it up all the way. I tossed conference affiliations out the window and created a consistent structure throughout all of college football. 733 teams, five conferences and twelve levels.


Each conference within each level has 14 teams. Two divisions of seven teams each. The season consists of the following:

  • 1 Non-counting pre-season game
  • 3 Non-conference games with a maximum of one game from a team of a lower level
  • 6 Games against division opponents
  • 3 Games against teams from the opposite division
  • 1 Conference Championship Game, with home site determined by inter-conference record, team from the best division hosts, even if their record is worse

Playoff: An eight team playoff (at the Rose Bowl homesites, of course) featuring the five Conference Champs and three at-large selections with at most one from each league, with no priority seeding for Conference Champs.

Relegation:  Teams finishing seventh in their division play a Thursday night game prior to the Conference Championship with the loser relegated and the winner is safe for another week. If an at-large team is selected for the playoffs from the same conference in one division lower, the worst sixth place team plays the winner from the seventh place game on Thursday before the playoffs. Winner is firmly safe for another year and the loser spends the next season in the lower division.

The five surviving conferences are the same as Jason’s, the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. Each conference has a footprint that is consistent across all of the levels.

Big Ten
Current conference footprint minus Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio.

Current conference footprint minus Louisiana and Arkansas. Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. For the lower levels, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are included.

Big 12
Start at Texas and Louisiana and take everything north from there, except Minnesota. Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota.

Everything including and west of the Rockies. New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.

Everything else. East of Ohio and from North Carolina up the coast. North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are only in for current FBS teams.

Hypothetical post-season

Conference championship games
Big Ten: Wisconsin vs Michigan St in East Lansing
SEC: Georgia vs Alabama in Tuscaloosa
Big 12: Oklahoma St vs LSU in Baton Rouge
Pac 12: Stanford vs Oregon in Eugene
ACC: Penn St vs Virginia Tech in Blacksburg

Hypothetical playoff bracket
1. Alabama-SEC Champs
2. LSU-Big 12 Champs
3. Oklahoma St-At large #1
4. Oregon-Pac-12 Champs
5. Wisconsin-Big Ten Champs
6. Stanford-At large #2
7. Georgia-At large #3
8. Virginia Tech-ACC Champs


Big Ten: Ohio enters as Level 2 champs, Minnesota and Indiana play for the right to stay in level 1.
SEC: UCF and Southern Miss both earn Level 2 playoff berths so Georgia Tech and Louisville play for the spot out, and the winner plays Auburn for the second relegation position.
Big 12: Houston is in from Level 2 along with Tulsa while Iowa St and Texas Tech battle for the first spot and the winner will take on Iowa for the second.
Pac-12: Oregon St and Colorado are first on the block, with the winner facing Washington St for the right to stay in Level 1 while Nevada and Air Force are in the Level 2 playoffs.
ACC: Temple is in for the next season while Maryland and Duke play for the right to stay in the top level of the ACC.

The relegation system is a bit messy but I wanted to give each team a chance to play their way out of it, ensuring maximum drama. Even the worst team can survive a relegation by winning one or two relegation games. All playoff teams from the lower levels get promoted and only the three worst teams from a League at each level can be demoted, but everyone one of them has an opportunity to survive on the end.

The Pros and Cons

Obviously this is never happening, but the drama of weeknight relegation games leading into conference championship and playoff games would be great. There is a consistent footprint, a consistent league structure, and consistent rules all through the depths of college football. New programs adding football can earn their way up the ladder if they want to invest like the big boys. Traditionally terrible football schools like Duke have to earn their place at the big boys table instead of getting to coast on other programs, all while staying under their conference umbrella. I could see level-specific scholarship levels disappearing. If you want to compete like the big schools go ahead and offer 85 and see how far you can get. If you want to be cheap and control costs you can forgo scholarships and see how well you fare. Ultimately each team is playing against teams that are historically similar producers. Travel, especially at the lower levels,  shouldn’t be a significant issue and for some teams might be less than today. Because of the footprint restrictions and the division structure, travel should be manageable.

Rivalries could certainly be impacted but non-conference scheduling would allow series to continue, even if teams were in opposing levels. Divisions would likely be based on geography at the lower levels and competitive balance at the top. If one team really diverged from its historic level it would be difficult to maintain rivalries but the option is always there for at least the main rival.

[After the jump: conference breakdowns in the new world.]


Unverified Voracity, Thrilled By Polygonal Dreads

Unverified Voracity, Thrilled By Polygonal Dreads Comment Count

Brian June 30th, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Why I stopped buying NCAA in two sentences. Go:


Also this is definitely because of Denard.

Hockey bits. It was announced a while ago but in case you missed it, Big Ten hockey has adopted a fairly sensible playoff format. The bottom four finishers have a best two-of-three series at the higher seed's home ice and then there is a four-team single-elimination playoff on the #1 seed's home ice.

It's a little strange that the second-place finisher gets zero home hockey games but it could have been worse. I still prefer best two-of-three series the whole way because it's more hockey and less arbitrary.

Other logistical bits continue to filter out:

  • Teams have "already been asked" to play two Monday night games per season and Wednesday games between nearby teams have also been broached. The article also mentions the possibility of some Sunday-Monday series.
  • The Big Ten "will" reach a scheduling agreement with the WCHA that will take care of "perhaps eight" of the new Big Ten's 14 nonconference games.
  • They might have to move the state basketball championships in Wisconsin.

I expect the WCHA scheduling agreement just involves Minnesota and Wisconsin. Having the WCHA suck up the eight extra nonconference games now on OSU's, MSU's, and Michigan's schedules would hurt the CCHA further, and I'd rather to see them play traditional opponents like Miami, Northern Michigan, Ferris, etc., than fly to Minnesota to play St. Cloud.

As far as moving games for television goes, I'm all for the increased exposure but when I looked at the schedules it seemed like Sunday was a vast wasteland for basketball that hockey could fill. Is the NFL that much of a beast?

Meanwhile, it is alive:


Illini, probably not. A Champaign-Urbana developer is planning a $15 million ice arena with two sheets of ice in a 100k square-foot building. This immediately got message board folk speculating about Illini hockey, but it doesn't sound like that kind of investment is anywhere near what you'd need for a D-I program. Illinois would probably have to spend at least double that to get a proper D-I rink. Add in a former club player's perspective

Even though the club team has operated at a profit and has the third highest game attendance per season of all sports on campus (average 800-1000 per game with an all time high of around 2000), there are still too many things standing in the way for Illinois to field a D1 NCAA hockey team in the near future. Using the current ice rink for a D1 team is not an option due to the fact that the NCAA requires a minimum seating capacity of 4k-5k for all new D1 NCAA hockey teams (seating capacity at the current rink is ~1250) and the rink is not regulation size. Another problem is that while hockey may have proved that it is in demand in C-U, it is pretty far down the list of sports the AD would like to add. Mens swimming and men's soccer are both sports that could be added to the Illinois AD for significantly less money and without having to add new facilities to the university.

… and it sounds like if the Big Ten adds a seventh member in hockey it won't be the Illini unless they get a Terry Pegula-level donation.

One wing forward extra crispy. It seems like basketball might have its two-ish open spots for the 2012 and 2013 classes filled promptly, what with Flint's Monte Morris declaring Michigan his leader, albeit only from the four teams who have offered, and August($) his decision timeframe. Meanwhile, Indiana's Zak Irvin is stepping up his campus visits considerably. He says he's not going to make an immediate decision but it doesn't sound like he's going to wait that long:

“Right now I’m just taking my time with it,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to do anything soon. I’m just reviewing all my options.”

In addition to Butler and Michigan, Irvin also has offers from Baylor, Illinois, Indiana, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Purdue and Xavier. Asked about his recent offers, Irvin said he “likes both coaching staffs” of Butler and Michigan.

“I’m still curious to see who comes out in July,” Irvin said of next month’s evaluation period. “I doubt anything happens before the

Irvin told Sam Webb that rumors a Michigan commitment was imminent were false and that "there are other schools" on his list.

Irvin's now being listed at 6'7" some places, FWIW. He'll be Sim Bhullar by the time he hits campus. Glenn Robinson III teammate Mitch McGary is also scheduled to be on campus shortly but probably remains a longshot.

Austin Hatch's situation makes Michigan's recruiting even more complicated. It will be a while before it's clear whether he can play basketball at a high level again. While I assume the NCAA will work something out so he can attend Michigan either way, there's uncertainty there. That's in the triple digits about "things you should care about related to Austin Hatch," of course.

The cheddar issue. The Business of College Sports highlights Michigan's massive construction projects:


That is a lot of money being spent on buildings that only indirectly benefit student-athletes:

As you can see, gifts help make these capital projects possible, but they only make a small dent in the total amount needed. The athletic department has incurred debt for a number of the projects and has budgeted $13.2 million in expenses for this debt service for the coming year. This is up $2.2 million from last year due to debt incurred for the Michigan Stadium and Crisler Arena projects.

In addition to this debt service, Michigan has another $14.4 million budgeted for “Facilities Expenses” and a “Deferred Maintenance Fund Transfer”. I should point out that $4.5 million of the $14.4 million  mentioned is for the “Deferred Maintenance Fund Transfer”. This is a fund set up during the 2003 fiscal year that is being built up to fund future “major repair and rehabilitation projects” for athletic facilities. Because Michigan turns an operating profit each year, they’re able to put aside for future capital projects in ways I’m sure many other universities cannot.

The $14.4 million I just detailed on top of the $29.9 million set aside for renovations to Crisler and Yost and $13.2 million in debt service on facilities adds up to $57.5 million Michigan is spending next year on facilities alone.

When we point at the surpluses run by large athletic departments and say some of that money could go to athletes we should also keep in mind that if facilities are going to be kept up to date colleges have to make that happen themselves. They can't extort local governments for stadiums, so they have to build up reserves and carefully plan ahead.

The insane future. Braves and Birds has hopped on the promotion and relegation bandwagon, proposing a two-tier SEC that's not entirely dissimilar from my tortured attempts to turn the hypothetical Mega Big Ten people were tossing around last summer into an actual conference instead of two conferences glommed together.

My tortured attempt was tortured largely because I was trying to find a way to prevent the Auburn problem. Auburn was 2-6 in conference in 2008 and 3-5 in 2009. They would have been in the second division of the SEC. In 2010 they were the best team in the country. An outright promotion/relegation system would have seen that team unable to compete for a conference title at all. That seems unacceptable, and that makes a straight system like B&B proposes unworkable. This doesn't affect soccer much because the top division is 18 or 20 teams—the chance the next tier down actually contains the best team is tiny. Not so much when you have smaller numbers and rapid turnover.

The only place I think a straight promotion and relegation system might work in CFB is with the Mountain West and assorted other teams. Right now they're on the verge of an automatic BCS bid, but they'll drop out of that after the TCU, Utah, and BYU departures are accounted for. If they had an eight-team top division and rounded up the WAC/Sunbelt/etc to comprise a lower division they could assure themselves the SJSUs of the world wouldn't drop their average rating while automatically sucking the strongest teams into a group of eight that just might qualify.

Meanwhile, I think I came to the conclusion that the only way a super-conference works is if you use dynamic scheduling (i.e., play part of the season and figure out the rest of the schedule after that). If you play half the conference slate, then have teams with good records play each other while the teams with bad records do the same, you can get enough interaction between the top teams to actually feel like 16 teams are a coherent whole.

Etc.: Shawn Hunwick (and a couple of Michigan athletes you're probably less familiar with) get their charity on. Fulham, a soccer club in London, inexplicably has a Michael Jackson statue in front of Craven Cottage, and now they're selling equally inexplicable merchandise related to it. OH DE Chris Wormley says Michigan leads. TTB talks to Desmond Morgan.


Dear Diary Picks Its Poison

Dear Diary Picks Its Poison Comment Count

Seth May 22nd, 2011 at 7:53 PM

theerieottersbus existentialism

I don't know and don't want to know why it turned up pounds of shirtless man meat on page 1, but add "OHL" to things you should never search for on Google Images. "Existentialism" on the other hand, is quite entertaining.

Dear Diary,

Say you're a top Ontario hockey prospect. Your dream is to play for Michigan, but Michigan is not even allowed to contact you:

Stacked somewhere in between the Oshawa Generals and Bowling Green was a letter with a block M in the corner. It contained a brochure for the University, a questionnaire, and the contact information for the coaches. Turns out, I had not been emailing coach Berenson at all, but now I had his real address. I emailed him and got a response from an assistant coach. He told me to call him.

WHAT?! I can call these people?! How was this not explained to me before? I had never bothered to email any other school and since the player must initiate contact, they couldn't reach out to me.

Silk-Wolves-Sign-475You  don't know if Michigan will even offer you because it's too early on NCAA's schedule for anything like certainty. You are surrounded by people who want to see you in the OHL. You are drafted, and given a contract:

I sat down with the GM, who knew that I was considering college. He basically explained to me the benefits of the CHL, the education packages, and the unique experience of being a young local celebrity. He was very polite about it, but told me that if I was signing, he wanted it done within 2 weeks.

The diaries were blessed again with the concluding Parts II and III of JimLahey's epic personal tale that illustrates just how difficult it really is for hockey talent to cross the border, even for those who desperately want to play NCAA. Well written and poignant, with everything from twists to cliffhangers to a surprise ending, its plot is worthy of an episode of Law & Order. Except it happened to this guy. This guy: Diarist of the Week (again).

There was only one other diary this week, but it's a good 'un: ebv returned to do another analysis of correlation between defensive talent and performance, and also defensive experience and performance. Ganking charts:

Experience / Talent:

He used the Rivals depth charts so that's guys on the two-deep, not the starters. The comments had a lot of suggestions, and this overlaps with them, but I think there are a couple of factors that really need analysis more than average age and star-rating of two-deep:

  • Size of classes over 5-year period. A 3-star who made the two-deep out of 108 potential defensive players recruited is probably going to be more qualified than a 3-star who made the two-deep out of 40 defensive players recruited.
  • Run it again with just starters. The two-deep still includes a lot of guys who might not be ready to play, because the scholly limit and dress limit and whatnot. If the great teams have a 5-star junior or senior starting and two hyped freshmen backing them up, it won't show with an average age.
  • Gimme a "worst starter" breakdown too. Xcalibur once tried to test that when Michigan was rolling out Kovacs at free safety and every team we faced began running most of its plays directly at Kovacs. If there's a "weak link" effect for defenses, that will throw off your performance metrics for the team defense.
  • Related to above: Distribution?
      5th yr Sr Sr / RS Jr Jr / RS So So / RS Fr True Fr Avg.
    Team A 3 5 5 5 4 2.91
    Team B 9 1 1 1 10 2.91

    You are looking at teams with very big differences. Team B can field a much more experienced starting 11, but any injury or bust or low-rated older guy means a true freshman is likely starting. Team A's distribution is far more likely to be seeing players in their middle years handling significant time. You can do the same thing with star ratings:

      5-star 4-star 3-star 2-star Walk-On Avg.
    Team A 3 5 5 5 4 2.91
    Team B 9 1 1 1 10 2.91

    Any busts from B and you are starting a 2-star or a Walk-On. Distribution among the starters would tell us if there's a weak link effect too.

After the break (in honor of jg2112's poor scrolling wheel) I realign the NHL and suggest a playoff system.