Mailbag: Ben Braden Location, Keeping Score In Life, Why The Big Ten Is Bad, Etc.

Submitted by Brian on January 11th, 2013 at 11:43 AM

2009 Topps Heritage - Clayton Richard TTM Auto[1]

it worked out okay for everyone in the end

Position battles: exciting instead of terrifying?


Way too early 2013 depth charts are beginning to pop-up. It’s looking like the battle at linebacker this year will be a good one (and both lines in future years). What was the last position battle that got you excited? 2 plus players going for one spot or, like the LBs, 3 plus players going for 2 spots. There have been positional battles the last few years, but those have been between average, at best, players.

Mike in Ohio

I'm not sure if excited is the right word, but the last position battle I remember being pretty "whatever" about was Henne vs Richard vs Gutierrez at QB in 2004. In some order those were the #3, #4, and #5 QBs in their respective years, so I figured Michigan was going to be just fine no matter who ended up starting.

The Gutierrez injury threw that all out of whack, of course, and we had Henne starting as a freshman, but he had Braylon to throw to so that worked out just fine.

It's tough to remember any others. The age of roster hyper-awareness was just dawning in 2004*, and Michigan hasn't exactly had an embarrassment of riches since. The linebackers this year should be a preview of coming years when Michigan is choosing between something like Wormley/Hurst/Poggi/Godin at three-tech and I'm all like "confidence, it is something I have."

*[I remember Tim Biakabutuka's first carries of Michigan being met with general merriment at his last name. If that happened now, the extent to which it did would be greatly reduced since about 40% of the people in the stadium would be like "four star recruit out of Canada, tailback, 6'0", born in Zaire, did well at Army Bowl. BOOM KIPER'D."]

Wither Braden?


obligatory (The Wolverine/Tim Sullivan)


With Taylor Lewan returning for his 5th year, I've read quite a few message board commenters suggesting that Schofield move back to LG and Braden or Magnuson take over at RT.

My question is this: for sheer upside, wouldn't it make more sense to move Braden inside for 2013 than Schofield? Just looking at their body types, it seems to me that Braden is more suited to the power run blocking Michigan needs than Schofield is.  I'd enjoy your perspective on what you would like to see happen with the OL and what you think will actually happen with the OL.

Thanks, and Go Blue!


It depends more on Braden's ability to pull than anything else. We've had some indication that Schofield is capable of it despite his tackle-like size, since he played guard effectively and Michigan spent chunks of the year pulling tackles on that sprint counter and an occasional sweep. In the event that Braden forces his way into the lineup, is he going to have that same ability? I don't know.

A point in your favor: with Lewan back Michigan gets plenty of power run blocking from one of their tackles. They can probably afford to have a non-devastating drive blocker at RT if he brings more pass protection to the table, and Schofield does bring a lot of pass pro. Remember that both of South Carolina's defensive ends are damn good and neither did that much in the bowl when they weren't ending Vincent Smith on a busted stunt pickup. By the end of the year, Schofield was pretty good.

What I think will happen and what I'd like to see happen are the same, and it's basically the five-guy lineup I posted yesterday: Lewan-Kalis-Miller-InsertGuardHere-Schofield. I assume Kalis and Miller are locks (though if you heard my segment on WTKA yesterday you heard Sam Webb rhapsodize about Patrick Kugler's ability to start early). The fifth guy is up in the air; I would prefer that guy to be a guard simply because it provides less uncertainty, and I worry less about guards getting the QB murdered.


As I'm sure we all were, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Lewan's decision to return next year. However, it seems like all non-Michigan sources (and I'm not talking about rival fan sites like 11W) have done nothing but trash his decision. Analysts at ESPN, some of the pay sites, Yahoo and others have all said he's making a terrible decision...given the insurance policy he will take out and other factors, what gives? Many of the sources are saying there's much more risk than Jake Long took, but given the new rookie pay scale, I actually think there's less. What say you?


Lewan didn't come back because it was the most profitable thing to do, so analyses of whether it's the most profitable thing to do miss the point. They do so very badly, so badly that I assume Darren Rovell has been cloned a thousand times and sent to draft chattering class.

Anyone trashing the decision doesn't understand that there things other than money that might be important.

"You'll never play for a team again. You'll play for a contract."

It's a risk. But it's an opportunity as well.

but but but oversigning


Throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the BCS National Championship Game, we have been subject to overwhelming Bama praise. “How much better are they than everybody else?” “Is this a dynasty?” “How many years until Michigan can compete on that level?” My constant mental response to this is: but, but, but…OVERSIGNING!

The morning following the Bama beatdown, there was an interesting blogger exchange on Twitter. Basically, a B1G blogger alludes to oversigning as a competitive advantage, then an SEC blogger trivializes oversigning’s competitive impact. Looking back, I see our friend Ramzy once called oversigning an “almost insurmountable competitive advantage.”

What say you? Are B1G fans making too much of oversigning by using it as an excuse for its poor brand of football? Are SEC fans ignoring it in order to maximize pride in their conference? What’s the best quantitative analysis out there that attempts to truly measure the impact?


It's an advantage, but it's only a small part of the reason that the Big Ten has fallen behind the college football world. Florida and Georgia don't do it, and they have been okay at playing football recently. Ole Miss seems to do nothing but, and they suck every year.

In parts:

  • Sucky management of the Big Ten's elite programs. Michigan has been wobbly at best since 2006 largely due to coaching and the program's remarkable ability to punch itself in the face. Penn State was operating essentially without a head coach for the past decade and has now been nuked by the NCAA. Ohio State has largely escaped these doldrums but was stripped of various key players last year en route to a .500 season and banned from postseason play this year. No other Big Ten team can really pick up the slack, except somewhat Nebraska, and this is only the second year they've been in the league. Of course the league is going to be bad when OSU and PSU can't play in bowl games and Michigan's sixth offensive lineman is a walk-on.
  • Talent distribution. Not sure this is a huge-huge factor in the Big Ten's sudden decline since demographic trends are very gradual, but population shifts aren't helping. Notice that the powerhouse basketball conference is hugely dependent on basketball-mad Indiana. You have the in-state schools, of course, and then the best player on OSU (Thomas) and second-best on MSU (Gary Harris, and he may be better than Appling) are from Indiana along with the backbone of Michigan's resurgence—Novak, Douglass, Robinson, Albrecht, and incoming Irvin and Donnal. Michigan has one player from outside the Big Ten footprint—Hardaway. Indiana is the Florida of high school basketball. Wisconsin is a great program… for a bunch of guys from Wisconsin and Ohio leftovers.
  • Sucky management of every Big Ten program. Bielema flees Wisconsin for an SEC also-ran. Why? I guess more resources. What's the difference between Wisconsin and Arkansas's revenue? Zero. Tim Brewster. Danny Hope. Ron Zook. Tim Beckman. Purdue just hired Darrell Hazell, a guy with two years of MAC head coaching experience. Again, compare that to basketball hires: Crean, Beilein, Tubby,  and Matta had all run programs that established themselves perennial ranked teams in major conferences before getting snapped up by the Big Ten. That's not happening in football. Instead Bielema gets sucked away.
  • Yeah, oversigning and whatnot. "Whatnot" == jamming a kid full of fake classes to get him eligible and keeping him eligible with the Tarheel curriculum. JUCOs and such. It's a factor. How much? It's not nearly as big a deal as the first bullet here.

That's good news. If Michigan can recruit at a level with Georgia and Florida and Stanford, they can play at that level. That's probably not enough to go up against an all-time dynasty like Alabama that cuts ALL THE CORNERS, but those things collapse eventually, and they can compete with just about anything else.

My thing with oversigning is not that it explains the gap between the conferences, but rather it's the ultimate dick move and should be stopped if the NCAA wants to consider themselves a snow-white organization with pure motives. The Big Ten has plenty of problems, most of which stem from the leadership of the conference (leaders and legends) and trickle their incompetence down from there.

I'm not even sure how you would be able to quantify the impact. But the fix is so, so easy: remove scholarship caps in favor of per-year caps. Move from a system that encourages attrition to keep costs down to one that isn't about athletes going pro in transferring to Kenesaw State.

Notre Dame == Michigan?

Is there any validity to an assertion that Michigan and Notre Dame were basically the same teams this year but for Notre Dame has an offensive coordinator that knows the spread and how to use a spread qb?


No. Notre Dame's defense was a significant cut above Michigan's until it got eviscerated by the Tide, and remains so: 7th in total D, second in scoring D. While their secondary was not good, neither was Michigan's, and while Michigan's front seven was surprisingly capable, Notre Dame's contains many highly touted recruits on their way to long NFL careers.

ND's offense was only slightly better than Michigan's. Moreover, it was much different. Gholson had just under 300 rushing yards on the year. It's a passing spread that keeps a little bit of QB run threat involved; it's not a spread 'n' shred. I could have given you partial credit if you'd said "an offensive coordinator more comfortable with his personnel," but again the ND line was nowhere near as problematic as Michigan's. Mark it zero, dude.


Now that Kovacs has graduated, we need a new #11. I say we give it to Desmond Morgan. That would leave us without somebody for #48, but the problem could be solved by giving BOTH numbers to Morgan. He could wear 11 on the front side and 48 on the back, or possibly reverse the order week to week.

This violates NCAA rules, you say? I have thought this objection through. The answer is to give him a special jersey where the numbers are the same color as the rest of the jersey -- dark blue numerals at home, white numerals on the road -- so the number is completely invisible. The officials will never find out.


Never let it be said that the Outback Bowl jerseys were a bad thing if ideas like this flow freely after seeing them.



January 11th, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

Re: SEC vs B1G.

Books could be written about this, but Brian has a good summary of some of the reasons. Two of them in particular: Michigan and Penn State underperforming, leaving OSU the only elite-performing team in the conference; and a glut of programs that are satisfied with mediocrity. Brian calls this "mismanagement," but what it comes down to is a lack of drive. Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, Iowa, MSU, and even Wisconsin and Michigan, have all at times settled for program models that can at best be competitive in the B1G without keeping up with the nation. Saban gave MSU a chance to upgrade the program and keep him; they declined. Result? Previously mediocre LSU, which will (unlike most B1G teams) go to any length to win, becomes a national power.

This widespread acceptance of mediocrity compounds itself by hitching all of the B1G's national results on the performance of a couple of elite programs. The SEC has more depth of teams that are winners; when Bama has down years (irrelevant for the middle years of the last decade) teams like LSU are good. When Florida stinks, Georgia is good. When Tennessee stinks, Auburn is good.

When Michigan stinks, Iowa is only ok. When Penn State stinks, MSU is only ok. Etc.

These are all legitimate issues. Of course, I also believe that most of the SEC is as dirty as Lance Armstrong's US Postal operation.


January 11th, 2013 at 12:25 PM ^

Oh, so that's what happened to WTKA...I guess they had a reboot?  Now, who has figured out how to get their podcasts onto an android smartphone?  I need my thursday morning Cook, dammit!


Ed Shuttlesworth

January 11th, 2013 at 1:09 PM ^

Yeah, but Bo could contrast "team" and "contract" with credibility because he made a salary not much higher than the best professors, coached in a stadium without pro-style luxury suites, had turned down bigger money himself, and was the very antithesis of the modern slick huckster vagabond coach.


January 11th, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

I distinctly recall Biakabutuka's first carry and how I viewed him that first season. When his name was announced, everyone cheered. I assumed at the time, and was probably correct, that it was because his name was so unusual and not because they had any idea who he was. Shortly there after the student section chant "Biaka"  and then "Butuka" over and over.

He was the only backup I didn't hate because he wasn't Wheatley and not because of anything he did just because it was fun to chant his name.

There were a thousands of RBs getting carries in those days. There was no anticipation that THIS GUY would be the next big guy. Wheatley had just taken the big guy status for Powers afterall. I mostly just really didn't like Ed Davis for some reason.

French West Indian

January 11th, 2013 at 1:25 PM ^

The thing that I first remember about Biakabutuka was him coming into a game as the 3rd or 4th string running back during his freshman year against Minnesota (?) and he cracked 100 yards rushing in just the 4th quarter scrub-time appearance.

But I'm also getting old so my memory might be skewed, for whatever that's worth.

True Blue Grit

January 11th, 2013 at 5:07 PM ^

out of the backfield I've ever seen at Michigan - and I go back to watching Gordie Bell at tailback.  Biakabutuka just had great acceleration and was also good at finding holes.  He was relatively unheralded coming in compared to guys like Wheatley and Anthony Thomas.


January 11th, 2013 at 9:21 PM ^

When reporters interview someone, make a statement, and say, "talk about that." Not a question, just an invitation to "talk about that." Why even have the reporter there? Just hand the guy a mic with instructions to "talk about that."


January 11th, 2013 at 1:17 PM ^

I don't disagree with Brian's assessment that mismanagement at other B1G programs has hurt the overall ability of the conference nationally, but I also think he talks up teams like Georgia and Florida as examples of "teams doing it right" by not oversigning when they have not been nearly as competitive in the SEC the past couple of years.  Georgia played exactly two ranked teams before the bowl, and split them.  One was Florida, which did play a much tougher schedule but post Meyer was a bit of a mess until this season.  And while Goergia played well against Alabama this season and Florida was #2 for part of the year, I don't think either team looked particularly dominant this year or on the level of Alabama.

What appears to be happening is that one school in the SEC (Alabama) and one coach (Saban) are becoming a dynasty, while the rest of the conference is full of really good teams but certainly not juggernauts.  Florida was housed by Louisville, LSU lost late to a meh Clemson team and has one of those teams that has to play superb defense every week to win against good teams, and both SC and Georgia struggled to put away inferior opponents.  The conference overall looked no stronger than the Pac-12, Big 12, or the B1G in past years, and I'm dubious about teams like SC, Arkansas, and to an extent Georgia really taking that next step to MNC contender.  And Auburn, a champion 2 years ago, is a tire-fire that will probably have its title stripped away in the next 5-6 years.

I guess my point is that when we talk about the dominance of the SEC, certainly demographics, management, over-signing, should be considered as causes.  But even more important is Nick Saban finding a system (and a conference) that will enable him to dominante, through great recruiting, very competitive funding, lax enforcement of rules, and a culture that seemingly values winning above everything else.  He raised LSU to a different level, and he is doing the same with Alabama.  The only way I see that truly changing is the NCAA coming down and looking into how a school with a history of breaking the rules is suddenly the most dominant national program in decades, remembering that the last couple of teams to flirt with that designation (USC, YTM) all had a graveyard of skeletons in their closets.


January 11th, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

We're being too narrow if we limit such a search to Bama. The fact is, teams have flagrantly broken the rules, been sort of caught due only to actual illegal activity that got law enforcement involved, and still basically got away with it. When Auburn won the title, the message was clear: If you break the rules, the consequences will not outweigh the benefits.

See: OSU. Mississippi State (they offered Newton money, lost, zero consequences!). USC, which has plenty of talent but a bad coach.

And these are just the ones that we know about. No one in the south is interested in looking closely at what goes on--remember what a grudge we hold against the freep? A paper that investigates Tennessee or Alabama or LSU will never attract readers again.


January 11th, 2013 at 3:14 PM ^

But I think that we've seen schools like Florida and Georgia self-police to an extent, and it's not like schools outside of the SEC are squeaky clean either.  But like I noted, Alabama is at the same height we saw with Miami, USC, Oklahoma, etc.; dominant programs without equal more extended periods of time.  And with failure, they inevitably get caught and the championships tarnished.   


January 11th, 2013 at 3:44 PM ^

Naturally schools outside the SEC aren't clean; it's just that the culture of the SEC takes win-first, fast-and-loose-with-the-rules philosophies and puts them on steroids.

Schools that cheat do not inevitably get caught. In fact, the last 30 years have demonstrated in any number of sports that cheating usually pays off. This is particularly true in college football, where many things that are classified as "cheating" are not illegal in other spheres, and thus law enforcement has no ability or desire to do anything about it.

Notice that major scandals in college sports almost always come hand-in-hand with legal action. The Ed Martin scandal did not destroy Michigan basketball because the NCAA unearthed a lot of wrong-doing on its own; it destroyed Michigan basketball because Martin broke Federal Laws and people with knowledge of what went on were compelled to talk about it by Federal subpoena. Reggie Bush's scandal emerged not because of NCAA action but because the agent that had paid him money sued. The recent allegations about Miami's football program in the 00s came not from NCAA or self-reporting but from a disgruntled, imprisoned booster. Ohio State's tattoo scandal did not come to light due to their own action but rather in spite of it, as police discovered illegal wrongdoing tangental to the football allegations.

The message in college sports is clear: If you cheat but don't break the law, you will not get caught. 



January 11th, 2013 at 5:22 PM ^

I agree that legal issues tend to be the tipping point for NCAA violations, but some of that could simply be due to the fact that NCAA violations have easy analogies to state and federal laws.  As noted, Tatgate exploded because the shops receiving the players' memorabilia were involved in other illicit activites and there were tax issues related to player payments, school property, etc.  But I'm trying to think of other institutions that have the power and resources to independently review its members and administer justice without the use of an outside agency or whistleblowers. 

The NCAA really doesn't have the resources to independently seek out violations unless they are egregious; they need another entity with the resources and interests to identify these activities before they can start looking into them more thoroughly.  Now, that goes to the whole other issue of the purpose of the NCAA and its member institutions, but that's another discussion.  But the SEC (the government agency, not the conference) usually initiate proceedings only after some whistleblower or external party brings attention to some violation at a company; same for state organizations like Health and Human Services.  I don't expect the NCAA to see the fire before the smoke; I just expect them to extinguish and eliminate the cause once they do find it.




January 11th, 2013 at 5:35 PM ^

We pretty much agree. I do have to say that I think you have the first part backwards. It might be more accurate to say that individuals and organizations that flout the law and are likely to get into trouble are also perfectly willing to flout NCAA regulations. On the other hand, John Doe Booster from Birmingham, a successful businessman who loves Bama, wants his team to win and may contribute funds to do so in violation of NCAA rules, but avoids breaking the law and therefore never gets caught.

You've pretty much nailed the problem with the NCAA. It is a not-so-big voluntary participation organization with no compulsory subpoena power that can be thwarted merely by involved parties declining to participate in any investigation. There is no good answer here. I hate that I perceive certain schools to be succeeding due to breaking rules, but the only way I could see it fixed would be to involve government regulation of sport, an idea I find even more distasteful.

We're kind of stuck.


January 11th, 2013 at 8:35 PM ^

SMUs Death Penalty was the result of the Dallas media* investigating allegations of cheating by boosters and school officials...reaching all the way to the governors office.  AFAIK, while state laws may have been broken, there was no criminal investigation which became the the impetus for an NCAA investigation.

Penn State football program, hammered by the NCAA as the result of a criminal investigation of a former football assistant, though current athletic department when charges were prefered.  Interesting that there was no Football Program specific NCAA violation per se, the loss of institutional control should have applied to the entire AD.

It is often discussed that the NCAA doesn't prevent cheating it only investigates and punishes violations.  While that is true, it is also true of almost all inforcement agencies everywhere.  It is also true that the NCAA, like most enforcement agencies, relies on implied and explicit penalties should violations be found out.  They rely on there constituent members to weigh risk/reward and cost benefit analysis to police themselves.  And the NCAA of course also uses cost benefit analysis when it uses the benefit of media and criminal investigations as well as whistleblowers.

*Dale Hansen is a neighbor.  I don't know him, I just thought I'd drop a name.

French West Indian

January 11th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

To me, the thing about oversigning is that it is just one of many small differences between conferences (although it has been quite visible in recent years).  With differeing academic standards and scheduling philosophies, it's clear that not every conference is playing on a level field.  And with hundreds of rules, who knows what other kind of under-the-table shenanigans are taking place.

This is probaly a major reason why the NCAA doesn't actuallly award a national champion in FBS football:  it'd then be responsible for coordinating a level playing field between all eligiable institutions.  What a headache.  And like Wall Street, the smartest programs tend to remain a step-ahead of the regulators.  I was only half-joking the other day when I suggested that Saban was using complex computer algorithms to utilize "HIgh Frequency Training" techniques that skirt the practice regulations that befell Coach Rodriguez.

Those fans who expect Michigan to compete for "national" championships on a near yearly basis are really being naive.  If you can look a the culture of college football as it manifests itself in different places with clear eyes, then it quickly becomes apparent that the SEC will probably dominate for the coming decades, not just years, with the occasional (and probably slightly dirty) interloper such as Ohio State or Southern Cal.

All of which is to say, I'd still rather have the Rose Bowl than have anything to do with the farce of the "national" championship as it's currently constructed.  When you understand that the deck is stacked against you, then there really is little point in playing unless you get some perverse pleasure out of being taken for a fool.


January 11th, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

I hate to agree, but I don't see Michigan winning an MNC in the current climate either.  As Brian noted, this ND team had a great defense and a competent offense; maybe UM's offense would be better, but that ND front 7 will have a fair number of NFL starter on it when verything shakes out.  And that unit was housed by a semi-pro team that had more competitive games against 2-loss conference programs like LSU, Georgia, and A&M. 

What drove the talent disparity point home to me was realizing that Dee Hart, Mr. 5* super-stud that the M faithful were drooling over a couple of years ago, was sitting on the bench for Alabama, injured again and unable to play.  AND IT DIDN"T MEAN A THING.  Alabama just trotted out another highly-rated RB.  Behind a 2-deep line that probably has more NFL-quality talent than the Lions.  People used to joke that certain teams didn't rebuild, they reloaded.  With Alabama, it's not even reloading anymore; it's more like a shark's mouth, with rows of teeth that pop right in to replace equally-destructive ones that fall out after destroying its prey.



January 11th, 2013 at 3:09 PM ^

Alabama has found a system (oversigning, greyshirting, etc....) to build 85 man rosters where any of the 85 could start on most other teams. Nick Saban probably knows exactly how squeeze though all the recruiting loopholes. His greatest strength as a coach may be the management of his roster.


January 11th, 2013 at 3:17 PM ^

That is definitely true, but it's not like he is a genius for seeing these loopholes.  People have been talking about some of the "roster management" issues for years, and clearly people are copying.  Saban is a great defensive coach and a very solid recruiter; in no way are his 4 championships all flukes or purely the result of the issues discussed here.  But at the same time, it is telling that his greatest success came at schools with histories of lax enforcement of rules, in a conference where who divisions are known to oversign players, cut under-performing athletes at a monent's notice, and hide legal trangressions completely.


January 11th, 2013 at 3:30 PM ^

 "But at the same time, it is telling that his greatest success came at schools with histories of lax enforcement of rules, in a conference where who divisions are known to oversign players, cut under-performing athletes at a monent's notice, and hide legal trangressions completely."

Very true, very true.


January 11th, 2013 at 5:11 PM ^

He's a good coach, there is no doubt.  But the difference between a good coach who wins 9-10 games a year and who wins MNCs may only be a couple of players every year, which is what you get when you can bring in 100+ players every four years.  It means you have a backup guard who isn't a walk-on but a kid who is a major D-1 talent; your third RB is a 4* stud and not a 3* reach.  That 4 CB isn't a freshman but a third-year sophomore who didn't sign somewhere else because you were able to pull a scholarship from a poorly-performing backup RB.  Just little things like that can make all the difference between a really good coach and an elite one.

Ed Shuttlesworth

January 11th, 2013 at 1:50 PM ^

We should never have joined in the SEC's quest to nationalize and systematize college football as a means of ratifiying and legitimzing their "national championships."  That was our fundamenal flaw.  We had a chance to fix it in the playoff negotiations, in which they still needed us way more than we needed them, but being good passive-aggressive Midwesterners in essence, we got rolled again.


January 11th, 2013 at 1:50 PM ^

I think if you think that biggest difference between Michigan and ND is the competence of the OC then you've lost all perspective regarding the offense.

Notre Dame was the #2 scoring defense in the nation with a really tough schedule. Second only to Alabama. Michigan was down at #20.


January 11th, 2013 at 1:56 PM ^

Brian hits a major point with the better management & coaching in the SEC.  It seems to boil down to focus - the only sport and outcome that matter are football and winning.

After moving from B1G country to Atlanta a few years ago, I wouldn't dismiss the recent population shift and it's ramifications:

1. In 1990 Georgia + Florida was 3% smaller in population than Michigan + Ohio and now its 31% larger. That creates a much bigger talent pool.

2, The population shift isn't just people - its also economics. The relocation of corporate HQs and professional roles to the SE boosts resources for SEC schools.  More cash + SEC boosters is probably a bad trend.

3.  HS football investment.  HS in the South have significantly upgraded their programs and coaching. Speed and agility training occurs the entire off-season; spring football is a machine.  Heck, Urban sees the gap in Ohio.…



January 11th, 2013 at 2:20 PM ^

As you said, I have to think it's more "focus" than actual management.

The same management results in a great basketball conference for the Big Ten and a shitty one for the SEC.  That's despite the population shift and the perceived poor athletic department management.  The same Minnesota that went cheap with the Tim Brewsters of the world, give Tubby (and anything to do with hockey) a shitload of money.

#3 shouldn't be discounted either.  That's a ton of experience and practice time kids in the south are getting that kids up north don't get.


January 11th, 2013 at 3:50 PM ^

Also, for various reasons, gritty inner-city areas tend to produce a ton of great basketball players, but relatively few football players.  Public high schools in Detroit, Chicago and elsewhere are able to come up with the money to run quality basketball programs but have a harder time doing the same for football.  Even the handful of exceptions, like Cass Tech, don't face great competition week-in and week-out so that may hurt their players' development.

It seems like the inner cities (including midsize ones like Flint) produce the basketball players and suburban/exurban/rural areas produce the football players.  The North has a lot of the former type of city and the South is seeing a lot of growth in the latter.


January 11th, 2013 at 3:47 PM ^

Those are fantastic points, and important numbers. And demographics do have a lot to do with relative power.

The good news for Michigan is that we are competing against a smaller pool of schools for the talent in the area; Maybe 10 of 14 SEC teams desperately want to win and are focused on it, whereas perhaps 4 of 12 B1G teams are. Michigan only has to fight with OSU and ND for top area recruits, where Alabama fights with Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Florida, and (usually) Tennessee for those kinds of players.


January 11th, 2013 at 4:21 PM ^

Good point. It most certainly appears that Michigan, OSU and ND are gearing up to dominate the Midwest. Hopefully one of these teams (Michigan) could potentially be the one to unseat the SEC (Monday's game was not a strong supporting point to that statement, however). With the hard times of western powerhouses like Texas and USC, I could see Michigan continuing it's current build up to throw it's hat in the national title hunt in two years.


January 11th, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

I'd rather have Kalis at Guard and Schofield at Tackle than Schofield at Guard and Braden at Tackle (or Guard?)

Taylor not only did the incredibly awesome thing by staying, he did the smart thing. His draft stock next year will be better than it was this year. There's a plethora of offensive line talent going in this years draft, and he looked to be taken in the middle of the first round, but by staying I believe he will be the #1 tackle in the country all year, and should be a lock for a top 10 pick, maybe top 5. He has had, and can have a better year than 2012, and so could Michigan, which would make him look better than he already does.

A big part of why the B1G football programs have been so very BIG TEEEEEN lately is they haven't been making very good coaching hires, O'Brien, Hoke, and Meyer aside. I think Indiana did a decent job, but they had nowhere to go but up. (Literally they could not have gotten worse.) Others like Zook, and Ferentz probably should've been cut loose a few years ago. Several B1G coaches never should've been hired in the first place. The B1G has had a wealth of personal ties to some of the best coaches in the country (Harbaugh, Saban, Miles, all the Stoopses,) but we've been perfectly happy letting other schools hire them up instead. 

Another reason we're not the SEC is because we also don't have the luxury of recruiting so close to Florida, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Florida where a great number of the nations top recruits seem to come from, (or enjoy going to.)



January 11th, 2013 at 3:06 PM ^

a talent and mix perspective, but Schofield might have greater comparative benefit at Guard depending on center.  If Miller or Kugler are overwhelmed, Schofield could make many of the line calls and more slide adjustments at G.  

To the point, I am not optimistic about Miller largely because he couldn't surplant Meahler this year.  Meahler's physical and technical limitations were crippling to the run game (his pass blocking was OK), and Meahler was already Plan B after Barnum couldn't handle snapping.  

Hopefully Miller or Kugler are capable.  


January 11th, 2013 at 4:11 PM ^

I don't see it that Miller couldn't replace Mealer or Kalis not being able to beat out Barnum for the Guard job. I just think the coaches would prefer to have 2 seniors who were decent at pass protection over a small RS Sophomore and a true Freshman. Hoke has said repeatedly, from his introduction speach until recently, that the team belongs to the seniors. Plus Mealer was pretty solid at snapping, I don't really remember a bad snap all year, so there's that. I think if it weren't for a broken leg Bryant may have beaten out Barnum, but maybe not.


January 11th, 2013 at 3:02 PM ^

He has the potential to:

1)      Win a Legends Division Championship
2)      Win a B1G championship
3)      Win a Rose Bowl
4)      Be a team captain
5)      Get included on a Legends jersey patch with Long and Jansen
6)      Get drafted 1st overall instead of mid-first round
7)      Spend more time with Jake Ryan (they were sitting together at the hoops game.)

Associate a dollar figure with each of those and then tell me that he made a bad decision.

snarling wolverine

January 11th, 2013 at 5:01 PM ^

And for one more season, he can strap on the winged helmet, touch the banner and play in front of the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in America.  Many, many ex-Michigan players have said they'd give anything to wear the winged helmet once more.

BOX House

January 11th, 2013 at 8:28 PM ^

"Anyone trashing the decision doesn't understand that there things other than money that might be important."

Well said, Brian. Not that I can compare Lewan's situation to my own, but I honestly feel that there isn't a thing in the world I would trade my 4 years at Michigan for. It's truly a once in a lifetime experience that will mean far more than my bank account ever will. My guess is that a lot of Lewan's critics never got a big-university, college town experience.