Hoops Preview: Northwestern 2018

Hoops Preview: Northwestern 2018 Comment Count

Brian December 4th, 2018 at 3:08 PM


WHAT #5 Michigan (8-0) vs
#46 Northwestern(6-2)
WHERE Welsh-Ryan Arena
Evanston, IL
LINE Michigan –6 (Kenpom)


This is going very well!

Michigan is undefeated and if they can brave the new Welsh-Ryan there's a very good chance they get through the year unscathed. They've unleashed beatdowns on every opponent so far, but Northwestern provides a couple of potential roadblocks.

One: it's a road game. All basketball teams have weird road games where they shoot horribly and the refereeing seems absurdly tilted. Two: last year Northwestern bottled up Michigan's offense in two ugly  games by playing a lot of zone, and pretty much the last "oh no what if" left in this season is "what if they play a good zone D." As you'll see, the Wildcats have the length to make their zone annoying indeed.

At some point Michigan is going to look mortal, and this is a good candidate. Hopefully their defense carries them through even if that's the case. The alternative is more red flowers down below us.


Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 11 Anthony Gaines So. 6'4, 200 58 15 93 Yes
Never shoots, for good reason. 43/27 last year and worse this year. TO rate of 28 is awful. Blocks a lot of shots for a 6'4" guard though?
G 14 Ryan Taylor Sr. 6'6, 195 79 20 112 No
Evansville grad transfer. Finding life in a major conference much more difficult but still a low-TO guy and shooting is shooting. Early scuffles (31% from three) probably a mirage, must check.
F 21 AJ Turner Jr. 6'7, 188 80 19 99 Maybe?
BC transfer. Decent numbers as a low-usage guy there two years ago; currently getting to the line a ton at 88% and missing all his threes.
F 4 Vic Law Sr. 6'7 200 78 26 117 No
Stretch four with low-ish TO rate shooting 48/45 is most Beilein player on NW roster.
C 5 Dererk Pardon So. 6'8, 250 77 22 125 Yes
I just learned that dude has an extraneous R in his name. WTF! Crushing it so far with top 20 OREB rate, 66% from floor with 22 usage early. Both are big steps forward.
C 22 Pete Nance Fr. 6'10 210 33 18 93 Maybe
Erstwhile M recruit chose poorly. Miniscule rebounding numbers on both ends, shooting too early to tell. Beanpole.
C 25 Barret Benson Jr. 6'10", 240 23 16 109 Yes
Just another backup C. JABC? JABC.
G 2 Ryan Greer Fr. 6'2, 185 21 18 65 Yes
Composite #341 is closest thing to PG on roster. Miserable in all facets so far after reclassifying to 2018.
F 23 Miller Kopp Fr. 6'7, 210 33 25 94 No
Composite #116 FR off to good start from three but miserable inside line, lot of TOs.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]


2018-19 Big Ten Hoops Preview Part 1

2018-19 Big Ten Hoops Preview Part 1 Comment Count

Alex Cook October 15th, 2018 at 4:04 PM

It's been about a decade since I started following the Big Ten closely, and I've started to realize some things about my hobby (for lack of a better word). I'm the type of normal, well-adjusted adult that sits down at home after a day of work and decides to spend my finite leisure time watching, like, Illinois vs. Minnesota. I could be doing anything else: watching the best basketball players in the world in some meaningless February NBA game, watching a college basketball game between two good teams in a different conference, or doing something different altogether from watching basketball.

Instead, it's like a compulsion. Get home, relax for a bit, and then when 7:00 rolls around, flip over to BTN, listen to the familiar jingles on the broadcast, and then let Jon Crispin whisk me away to the Bryce Jordan Center or whatever. I could be doing anything else with my free time (short of actually stepping away from one of my screens - let's not get too carried away), but I often choose to watch a crappy Big Ten game. It's not good. It's usually not fun. But I do it anyways.

The league has been in decline for the last few years. Thad Matta's back gave out on him, Bo Ryan retired, Rutgers became our giant anchor dragging across the ocean floor, so on and so forth. Only four teams made the NCAA Tournament last season. Michigan, fortunately, is still good; as long as John Beilein is in town, the Wolverines will play a pleasing style of basketball that stands in contrast with most of the league - really most of the rest of college basketball, period. But, especially now that the Big Ten has moved to a 20-game conference schedule, featuring December matchups against league foes, we have to pay attention to the other thirteen schools.

Well, you don't have to pay attention to them. I can do that for you. If this dour intro hasn't completely soured you from reading the rest of this post - which is to say, reading about the five worst* teams in the league according to my extremely powerful POWER RANKINGS - then your brain might be broken just like mine. If that's the case: enjoy.

*I don't know if this is just the BTN propaganda machine altering my perception of reality or what, but the more that I learn about these teams and write about them, I inevitably find myself feeling optimistic about them (except for Rutgers and Illinois, who will doubtlessly be terrible). So I guess you can consider this a disclaimer that even if these previews have a positive slant, you should realize that most of the teams in the bloated middle will probably be bad.


Unverified Voracity Says Throw-God, No

Unverified Voracity Says Throw-God, No Comment Count

Brian May 1st, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Recruiting rankings matter, and also have a systemic bias. NFL players versus blue chip recruits, mapped:


Blue states have more NFL players than blue chip recruits; red states have fewer. That's part of a thorough Football Study Hall article on recruiting rankings and the draft, and is about as conclusive as possible that the recruiting industry is systematically underrating the Midwest and overrating the south. The south does have more players—only an idiot would dispute that—but the gap isn't as big as the rankings suggest.

UPDATE: Related event:

Barkley was not composite top 100.

"I'm in Paris, better justify my existence." Kyle Rowland of the Blade unearths a cool Michigan story:


PARIS — Less than 10 miles from the Michigan football team’s palatial hotel in the heart of Paris sits Stade Olympique de Colombes, the host of the 1924 Olympic Games.

The old stadium, now 111 years old, is rickety and considerably smaller than its heyday when it entertained the world’s best athletes. Inside the concrete walls, DeHart Hubbard, one of the University of Michigan’s greatest sportsmen, became the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event, with a leap of 24 feet, 5 inches in the long jump on his sixth and final jump with a bruised heel.

“When I was a student, I came in 1976, and I looked at the school records because I was a long jumper, and that’s when I found out the first notion of who he was,” said James Henry, now the co-head coach of the UM women’s track and field team. “Then I found out he was the first African-American Olympic gold medalist. I was enthralled by him. He was my role model.

“He was at the University of Michigan at a time in which blacks couldn't do very much anywhere. I just felt that if this man can make it, I can make it. Making a name for myself by beating his records meant everything to me. That was my drive as a student-athlete to participate at a high level.”

Much more at the link. Now Rowland can file that expense report with a clear conscience.

Paging Mitch Leidner to the Department of Inexplicably Overrated Big Ten Quarterbacks. One mock draft was a hilarious oversight by an overworked intern. Two was worrisome. But now that it appears the NFL draft people are unanimous in asserting this person is a first round pick

    The Pick: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern

    The New York Giants passed on the chance to draft a quarterback of the future with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, but is that a decision they'll regret? Or will fourth-rounder Kyle Lauletta be the answer?

    If after a season of watching Lauletta and 2017 third-rounder Davis Webb, the Giants feel like the long-term answer at starter isn't on the roster, the team could be in good shape to draft a quarterback in 2019. Northwestern's Clayton Thorson nearly declared for this year's draft before surveying the deep group of passers and deciding to return to school. He has the arm, accuracy and intangibles to be considered a first-rounder one year from now.

…it's time to lay very still and sweat profusely, hoping this is a crazy dream.

Clayton Thorson! Sir, I have seen an unstoppable throw-god in purple. You, sir, are no Trevor Siemian. Thorson averaged 6.6 YPA with a 15-12 TD-INT ratio last year. But he's 6'4" and superficially looks like an NFL quarterback, so on the list he goes.

Making this take even nuttier: Thorson tore his ACL in the bowl game and is questionable for the upcoming season.

Meanwhile, Michigan prospects for 2019. Only two Wolverines show up on Athlon's top 50: #2 Rashan Gary and #22 Shea Patterson. Zach Shaw rounded up all the Way Too Early Mock Drafts and those two are the only guys on any of them. This is odd to me since Michigan's cornerback duo was probably the best in the country, at least in terms of passer rating allowed. You'd think one of the two would be a consideration for the end of the first round.

A flip. A development in the slightly less important FBI investigation:

The director of an amateur Massachusetts basketball team affiliated with Adidas AG agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors investigating an NCAA bribery scandal, according to a copy of the agreement made public Friday.

Thomas "T.J." Gassnola entered the plea on March 30 to federal charges that he made payments to families of high school student-athletes in exchange for their commitment to play for certain universities, according to the filing.

NC State seems to be the main school linked with Gassnola, but, uh… Notre Dame(!) is an Adidas[correction: they switched to UA] school that just picked up two players from Gassnola's AAU team. I will give the FBI one dollar if they sweep the Irish into this. Think of the ND Nation takes.

Wilde take. Quinn Hughes is #5 on this NHL mock draft. Bode Wilde is #17:

17. New Jersey Devils: Bode Wilde, D, U.S. U18 (NTDP)

There are few prospects in this draft who can provide GMs with a skill set as tantalizing as Wilde’s. The big, mobile defender was a minute muncher for a deep NTDP blue line and his explosive first step is drool inducing. You don’t find many 6-2 defensemen with dynamic speed and a blistering shot, which is why GM Ray Shero should add this thoroughbred to his already-dangerous Devils’ attack

He'll be an acid test for the new staff's ability to mold guys, because he's a boom or bust guy on the NHL level because of his tendency to get out of position and cede odd man rushes.

FWIW, Hughes is the only draft-eligible and only college player on this year's IIHF World Championship team.

Etc.: John Infante on the NCAA resurrecting the transfer waiver, which may have been relevant for Patterson. WCBN profiles Hughes. The era in which Orson launches entirely warranted bombs at a Michigan assistant coach is going to be brutal. Wagner and Matthews invited to the draft combine.


2017 Power 5 Preview: 41-48

2017 Power 5 Preview: 41-48 Comment Count

Alex Cook August 15th, 2017 at 12:09 PM

For 2017, instead of previewing conferences division-by-division, I decided to rank the 64 Power Five teams and count down from the bottom.

I created a ranking system based heavily off of Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings: half of the ranking comes from the S&P rankings from the past five seasons among Power Five teams (1/3 of that number is 2016’s ranking; 1/3 is the average from 2014-2016, 1/3 is the average from 2012-2016); half comes from two component parts of his 2017 S&P+ projections, weighed evenly – recruiting impact and returning production – and ranked 1 through 64. The ranking itself skews towards emphasizing where the teams were according the 2016 S&P+. I think it serves as a decent way to sequence these previews.

(Note: I didn’t include Notre Dame.)

Previously: #64 Purdue, #63 Rutgers, #62 Kansas, #61 Illinois, #60 Boston College, #59 Virginia, #58 Vanderbilt, #57 Syracuse. #56 Maryland, #55 Arizona, #54 Wake Forest, #53 Duke, #52 Iowa State, #51 Texas Tech, #50 Missouri, #49 Oregon State.


#5 Pac-12 South, #10 Pac-12

5-7 (2-7) in 2016

Maybe Todd Graham should have bailed when he had the chance. The notorious job-hopper has been in Tempe for a half-decade now, and after two straight seasons with a losing record, his job security is tenuous. Graham won ten games in 2013 and 2014; in 2013, they won the Pac-12 South and in 2014, it came down the last weekend of the season – they lost by a touchdown on the road to rivals Arizona. The trajectory for both programs (utter freefall) has been quite similar – they were both in the Top 15 for that game in 2014, and both of their coaches are now on the proverbial hot seat.

Graham’s 5-7 campaign last season was more disastrous than the record indicates: they started the season 4-0 and 5-1, though all of those wins came against bad teams, and all but one of their Pac-12 losses came by three scores or more – including a season-ending 56-35 defeat at Arizona, a team that hadn’t won a conference game all season. That loss prevented ASU from reaching a bowl game for the first time in Graham’s tenure. It’s worth mentioning that injuries, particularly to the QBs, definitely played a role in Arizona State’s slide.

QB Manny Wilkins showed some promise and he’ll be joined by blue-chip Bama transfer Blake Barnett at the position in 2017 – surely the Sun Devils will get better play from the position than they did last season, when they were forced to turn to a fourth-stringer. RB Kalen Ballage – a versatile bruiser who scored 8 touchdowns against Texas Tech last season – but ASU ran for just 3.3 yards per carry as a team last season. Sophomore WR N’Keal Harry showed off his blue-chip potential in 2016 and could be a star.

Arizona State’s had a very aggressive, blitz-heavy scheme since Graham arrived, and that led to a ton of big plays against the Sun Devils last season. Only one starter returns in the secondary – box safety Marcus Ball, who was second on the team in tackles – and dealt with some unexpected attrition as well. Graham brought in former Baylor DC Phil Bennett to fix the defense, but the Sun Devils would have to improve a lot to approach respectability.

Like Rodriguez, Graham will have to show some results this season: there’s talent on offense and if the line improves, ASU will probably put up big numbers on the scoreboard. Still, the defense was terrible a year ago and they’ll have a tough time with the many explosive offenses on the schedule this season. A lot rides on if Bennett is able to turn things around quickly.

47. CALcal17

#5 Pac-12 North, #9 Pac-12

5-7 (3-6) in 2016

When Cal replaced longtime head coach Jeff Tedford with Sonny Dykes, they committed to overhauling the program’s identity and embracing the “Bear Raid” aerial offense that Dykes had at Louisiana Tech. Long story short: it didn’t work. Cal went 1-11 in Dykes’s first season as the roster turnover basically ensured a lost season; his combined 18-19 mark over the next three seasons (despite the presence of future #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, QB Jared Goff, for two of them) led to his firing following 2016. It was never a great fit – Dykes reportedly was looking around for a different job following the 8-5 campaign in 2015, Goff’s last season, and now the program will be searching for a new identity after hiring away DC Justin Wilcox away from Wisconsin to be its head coach.

Wilcox made a great offensive coordinator hire by luring former Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin away from one of the best programs at the FCS level. Baldwin will be looking for a new QB after one-year grad transfer rental Davis Webb’s departure; Webb was a very solid Goff replacement and it stands to reason that Cal will take a step back at the position with an unsettled situation there. The Bears’ top RB and WR also are gone, though Dykes left the cupboard full at the receiver position. The offensive line also needs to be overhauled.

The defense was an utter disaster a season ago: the Bears gave up 42.6 points per game and were involved in plenty of shootouts – somehow, they lost three games (against San Diego State, Arizona State, and Oregon State) in which Cal scored at least forty points. They had a six-game stretch in the middle of the season in which they gave up at least 45 points per game, and somehow won one of those games (against Oregon, who had a similarly awful defense). Eight starters return, but Wilcox has a massive rebuilding job after last year’s implosion.

The schedule is difficult: of Cal’s three non-conference games, two are against power conference programs (at North Carolina and home vs. Ole Miss, a program in an incredible amount of disarray) and even though there are some winnable conference games at home – Arizona and Oregon State – them getting to a bowl game would be surprising.

[46-41 after the JUMP]


Unverified Voracity Is A Mythical Creature

Unverified Voracity Is A Mythical Creature Comment Count

Brian March 29th, 2017 at 1:14 PM


"Access to the legal system requires money; also that was holding." [Fuller]

The most interesting man in the world. Jim Harbaugh is (probably) the only football coach in history to land a Politico interview and come off more educated on the topic of said interview than most elected officials:

Politico: What was the response to the tweet when you sent it out?

Harbaugh: Mostly positive, varying to some degree of people’s awareness. There's issues that people just don't understand. One of the biggest issues that got me most fired up is how fines and fees are being used to punish the poor. I've learned how the devastating effect it can have on lives of low income Americans. I mean across the country 48 states have increased civil court fees since 2010 and they're using those fees to pay for government services and not just courts but roads and generating millions and in some states billions of dollars.

But basically the crux of it is when people can't afford to pay a fine or a fee for things like a speeding ticket or municipal violation then they get additional fees. Late fees can start piling up and these fees can double, triple, quadruple the total amount due and if somebody has an inability to pay that fine that can quickly snowball into a driver's license suspension or driver time. People aren't even able to go to work. So you can't pay a fine or a fee and then you lose your driver's license. You're not able to get to a job, and a lot of people, I mean, they’ve got to work.

Also Harbaugh quotes the Federalist Papers in this interview. It is quite an object, the interview.


Bamba (center) yukking it up with fellow BOYCOTT THIS COMPANY

A version of reality including this guy would be nice. Brendan Quinn hits up the [Boycott This Company Until There Is At Least One Ugly Person In Any Of Their Commercials Ever] All-American Game, to focus on the guy Michigan is recruiting: Mo Bamba. Nobody thinks Michigan is actually going to get this dude but MAYBE:

"There's a significant difference between greed and hunger," he said. "When you're greedy, you just want things. That's your only need. But when you're hungry for things, it's a mixture of need and want, which is more logical to me."

Bamba is a different cat, it appears, and hopefully that will take him to Michigan instead of the one-and-done factories down south. I mean, it's not going to. But maybe! But no.

If he did do the thing he isn't going to do that would be kind of good though?

With my own eyes, I saw Bamba grab a rebound near the shot clock during Tuesday's practice. I mean, I think I saw it. Watching Bamba can sometimes feel like bearing witness to Paul Bunyan swing an ax. The facial expressions of the NBA scouts sitting baseline told the story of this young man's mythology. After watching Bamba stretch, a veteran sportswriter covering the event approached me to say: "He's got joints I don't have."

Bamba sees himself as a stretch four and if there's anyone on the planet who can effectively sell his development of enormous inside-outside guys it's John Beilein. Dude has two 6'10"+ potential first round picks* collectively shooting 38% from three on his roster. Neither was as highly recruited as Bamba, to say the least.

Yes, this section has been a waste of time. Unless! But no.

*[2018 please]

Chris Collins might not be nice, but it's the system that rewards him. It wouldn't be worth mentioning except for the fact that so many people went to Medill and enjoyed telling us about pristine Northwestern being everything that's right with college athletics, usually two seconds after they slammed Jim Harbaugh. But since they exist and they did:

On February 3, 2015, the Northwestern men's basketball team somberly walked to the visiting locker room of the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska, after a 16-point loss to the Cornhuskers.

The team, now 1-8 in the Big Ten, sat down to meet, as it always does after games. Coach Chris Collins, then in his second season at Northwestern, turned to freshman point guard Johnnie Vassar.

According to Vassar and another person who was present, Collins yelled, "Johnnie, you fucking suck."

By any reasonable standard, Vassar had little to do with Northwestern's struggles. A seldom-used reserve, he had played one garbage-time minute against the Huskers. Yet, according to Vassar and another person who was present, Collins continued to berate the backup guard.

That's VICE's Kevin Trahan at the beginning of a lengthy article describing the lengths Collins took to get Vassar off his team, which took some doing in the era of four-year guaranteed scholarships but was nonetheless accomplished. It was accomplished by forcing Vassar into a demeaning "internship" that was mostly janitorial work and then juking timecards to boot him. One catch, via a D-I compliance officer:

"You can't push them off to another obligation," the official said. "There's nowhere in the NCAA manual that says anything about that. If they say, 'you need to do 40 community service hours,' no, you don't. It doesn't say anything about that." Another NCAA Division I school compliance official confirmed that analysis to VICE Sports.

Northwestern booted Vassar off the team after a year and then did whatever they had to in order to get his scholarship available again. Chris Collins seems like an incredible dick in the process. And not even a competent one:

One card spells Vassar's name wong; one has only another person's name on it (with that person's name crossed out); one says "Johnnie V" and has another crossed-out name; one is blank; and three have Vassar's name spelled correctly, but in handwriting that appears to be different than Vassar's.

None of this is news; what is news is that Vassar refused to suck it up and go quietly despite it being much, much easier to take the hint and move on. I admire that bullheadedness. Someone's gotta be Curt Flood.

The Vassar story once again exposes how the NCAA's terrible incentives force players and coaches into adversarial relationships annually. You should not be surprised if dicks like Chris Collins do well in a system that is set up to reward dick behavior. It forced John Beilein into similar last year when he no doubt encouraged Aubrey Dawkins and Ricky Doyle to find greener pastures.

A solution to Vassar's problem should be easy: allow him to keep his scholarship without impacting how many scholarship kids Northwestern can recruit. That costs money, and that's historically been a stumbling block because the SWAC and Colonial type schools without any outnumber those in power conferences; with autonomy there should be nothing stopping the Power 5 from allowing someone cut from a team to continue on scholarship, medical hardship or no.

Speaking of non-Bamba options and transfers. Per Some Guy, Michigan is on Washington PF Noah Dickerson's list of potential destinations as he transfers away from Washington.

Dickerson doesn't look like a great fit: he's not a stretch four in any way—he is 1/10 on threes in his career and his 68% FT rate last year does not suggest he's a butterfly waiting inside a pupa—and would likely have to play the 5 at Michigan, where he'd join Teske and Davis as 5-only contemporaries.

OTOH, he drew a buttload of fouls and was an excellent rebounder and interior scorer. The most fun thing about him is wondering how you have the #1 pick in the NBA draft and a dude with an 115 ORTG on average usage who pulls down rebounds at an 11%/23% rate and go 9-22. Lorenzo Romar, man.

Exit Melo Trimble. The Maryland guard is headed for the NBA draft and will hire an agent, figuring that another year under Mark Turgeon isn't going to get him solidly in the first round. The locals are a little cheesed off:

With 1,658 career points to his name, he would've had a chance to chase the No. 1 spot on the school's career scoring list next season, but he'll pursue a professional career rather than local immortality.

He probably figures that when you lose in the first round as a six seed in the NBA nobody gets on your case.

Etc.: Where Peppers fits in the NFL. Charges coming for MSU higher ups because of Larry Nassar? Don't click here unless you know karate.


Unverified Voracity Just Wants It To Be Saturday

Unverified Voracity Just Wants It To Be Saturday Comment Count

Brian November 22nd, 2016 at 2:24 PM

Rivalry bleah. I find myself completely unmoved by all the rivalry stuff this week, from OSU trying and failing to remove Ms from their campus to Markley spelling out "FUCK OSU". I don't care that Rivalry Game Is Personal For Player, whether it's Mike Weber or Mike McCray. Rivalry Game is personal for everyone on ever roster. Rivalry Game is personal for me. It is personal for everybody.

Does your rivalry item accelerate the pace of time? No? Not interested. Anyway, here's some stuff that does nothing to accelerate the pace of time.

Four minutes of Bo and Woody.

Ohio State things. JT Barrett had a typical JT Barrett bad weather game against MSU:

It was another classic game in this the “Year of the Running Quarterback” as Barrett posted a 55.9 passing grade but made up for it with a 92.6 effort on the ground. He was clearly affected by the wind, with passes floating all over the place and one throw that was dangerously close to a disastrous turnover, but the Buckeyes relied on him heavily to make good decisions in their run/pass option game and he came through with 122 yards on 20 carries. Even on a day where he finished 10-for-22 for 86 yards, Barrett showed that he can still provide enough value in the run game to keep Ohio State in games.

Under Barrett, OSU's passing game falls apart in crappy weather with a consistency that's undeniable at this point. This weekend's weather... partly cloudy, tiny percent chance of precipitation, 9 MPH winds. Subject to change five days out, but doesn't look like we'll be getting Bad Weather Barrett.

OSU made up for it by running for almost 300 yards against a makeshift MSU defensive line minus Malik McDowell. If Michigan cannot significantly outperform MSU, they will lose. You'd expect they would, but if you're in a believe-it-when-I-see-it state when it comes to Michigan shutting the OSU offense down, I don't blame you.

OSU had extreme issues protecting the passer against Penn State, giving up pressure on almost 50% of their dropbacks. Those issues were mitigated shortly thereafter, but one dollar says those are still lurking. Adjusted sack rates:

  • Penn State: 21st
  • Northwestern: 79th
  • Nebraska: 42nd
  • Maryland: 15th
  • MSU: 121st
  • Michigan: 1st

OSU's offense is 67th at preventing sacks. Their run stats are all terrific save for explosiveness—Barrett and Weber are not big play threats and Samuel doesn't get enough touches to make up for it—and that's what'll come down to. Passing downs should be a major advantage for Michigan... if they exist.

Time for a change? Ross Fulton notes something about the Michigan defense you may have noticed watching Mike McCray try to shut down huge swathes of space:

The Buckeyes’ best matchup is Samuel to the edge and as a receiver against Michigan’s linebackers and safeties. Brown often prefers to put Peppers to the formation strength.

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So Meyer and his staff need to use alignment to target the edge away from Peppers – where the Wolverines are left dependent on the less athletic Will linebacker Mike McCray for edge support. And the Buckeyes need to provide Barrett sufficient time for Samuel to work option and out routes from the slot – or routes from the backfield – against man coverage.

I would not put it past Don Brown to make a change here. McCray was exposed in all that space against Lorenzo Harrison and would be again against Samuel; he can get better, but it's not a great matchup. I also wonder if Michigan is going to stick with cover one and a bunch of man coverage—OSU does see many people play man against them for obvious reasons.

Brown's been great so far this year but this is the game he was hired for. Much rides on his ability to stay one step ahead of Urban Meyer.

In one graph. Impossible to defend:

Meanwhile even Power 5 schools raking in piles of cash are seeing a large proportion of their athletes on little to no scholarship money:

All of the colleges Allison was considering provide scholarship assistance up to the NCAA limit in the sports they sponsor. But a closer look at athletic-aid distribution at one of those institutions, North Carolina State University, shows how scarce the dollars are for many athletes.

More than 200 of NC State’s 558 athletes last year had 20 percent or less of their costs covered by athletic aid. Outside of football, basketball, and the four other sports that can [ed: I this is actually "must"] award full athletic scholarships, just 27 Wolfpack athletes were on a full ride.

Power 5 autonomy has not seen these gaps close. The money just keeps rolling in, and going somewhere. Not to the people who earn it, or even the people who are potentially incurring piles of debt to be athletes.

Basketball WTFs. One of these events is weirder than the other:

  • Northwestern hammers Texas 77-58 in a neutral site game. Barking Carnival runs down the good, bad, and ugly, with "everybody driving the ball," "everybody shooting free throws," and "everybody passing the ball" in the latter category.
  • Illinois loses to Winthrop at home. Winthrop is one of those good-but-not-that good low major teams you should be scheduling to prop up your RPI, but you have to, you know, win those games to prop up your RPI.

Which is weirder? It's got to be Northwestern. Illinois has not been good under John Groce, who is Big Ten basketball's Darrell Hazell. Groce was hired after a brief MAC tenure ended well—you probably remember. He was hired on the strength of three games.

One of the reasons Big Ten basketball is rather good is that there's a much deeper pool of head coaches to poach. Indiana plucked Tom Crean after seven years at Marquette including five tourney appearances; Michigan grabbed John Beilein after five years at West Virginia. Maryland got Mark Turgeon after he took Texas A&M to the tourney four straight years. Thad Matta was at Xavier, coming off three consecutive Kenpom top-25 teams.

There are various head coaches who moved up from MAC-like leagues. Fran McCaffrey had three straight tourney bids at Siena, with his final two teams ranking #67 and #59 in Kenpom and has more or less worked out at Iowa. The rest are guys at Minnesota, Penn State, etc. Illinois should be hiring like Michigan and OSU, not Minnesota and Penn State.

Speaking of Illinois, here's a crazy Illinois stat. Via Illiniboard:

I’ve mentioned this stat 131 times but one more won’t hurt: in those eight years, in the Power Five conferences, every single school has had at least a Sweet 16 appearance in basketball or an eight-win football season (with a solid bowl game) except for two: Illinois and Wake Forest. Colorado WAS part of that group, but Colorado just won their ninth game on Saturday and is headed to a great bowl – perhaps even a New Years Six bowl. And, as someone reminded me on Twitter, if Wake beats Boston College this weekend (and they probably will), they’re a bowl win away from eight football wins.

I didn't think I was getting into what I ended up getting into when I started this here blog but the all-time I've Made A Terrible Mistake By Starting This Blog champion is Robert at Illiniboard. Keep him in your thoughts the next time you consider rooting against Illinois for Gary Moeller or something.

Administrative leave is not a good sign. Barney Farrar, the gentleman mentioned in Laremy Tunsil's text, is placed in the plane of Limbo:

OXFORD - Ole Miss has placed assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations, Barney Farrar, on administrative leave, according to a report from Rebelgrove.com.

The website reported Farrar did not accompany the football team to Texas A&M last weekend and that he's not expected to travel with the Rebels to Vanderbilt this weekend.

Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork declined to comment on the situation, as did a university spokesman. Attempts by The Clarion-Ledger to reach Farrar were unsuccessful.

Something less than good is coming down the pipe for Ole Miss.

Etc.: Nebraska and Minnesota seek to throw the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy down the memory hole. Michigan was the only Big Ten school to flat-out say no to Friday games. Remembering Bo. The program from his memorial service, including the Lloyd Carr speech. (Guess who's on the first page!) Rivalry Game Personal for Mark Donnal. Rivalry Game Personal for DJ Wilson. 2K classic keys. Ten Year War 2? Peppers profiled. Fake tickets are bad.