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11/11/2017 - 4:40pm Technically everyone wins the division...

... assuming an OSU win over Illnois as well.  In that scenario, four teams are co-division-champs, each with a 7-2 conference record.

As for who gets to the B1G title game: the first tiebreak is record among the tied teams.  In this scenario, that keeps OSU (2-1) and MSU (2-1) and eliminates UM (1-2) and PSU (1-2).  If any tiebreak narrows down to just two teams, the head-to-head winner between the two (OSU) goes.

If OSU loses to Illinois and all those same teams win out, it's only a three-way split for the division title.  MSU (2-0 vs UM/PSU) wins the head-to-head tiebreaker over PSU (1-1) and UM (0-2) for the B1G title game berth.

10/07/2016 - 6:00pm It's good for UF, bad for LSU...

... due to differences in winning percentage (7-1 = 0.875, 6-1 = 0.857) determing division standing rather than the head-to-head tiebreaker.

If LSU beats everyone left on their schedule including Alabama, they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker for the West division.  Both would have just one loss in conference play.  But 6-1 sits behind 7-1 in the standings regardless, so Alabama gets the title game on the winning percentage difference.

Florida is already behind the other credible East division candidate (Tennessee) and has a head-to-head loss.  The canceled game helps them if Tennessee loses twice and if Florida would have lost to LSU, because 6-2 vs 6-2 goes to head-to-head, while 6-1 beats out 6-2.  (If Tennessee finishes 7-1 or 8-0, it doesn't matter what Florida does; they are out.)

12/07/2015 - 8:30pm As I recall...

As of PSU's 8th possession of that game (roughly midway 3Q), they were averaging about 9 yards per possession.  PSU's offense was not acting like a threat to score without help.

But Barrett was providing that help.  He threw a pick-six early in the second half, and later another INT that set up PSU in plus territory.  Urbz turtled up in order to play it safe, and nearly lost the game for doing so.

12/02/2015 - 11:59am Considering it's UGA...

Richt went 0.680 in SEC play.  The three decades prior to Richt, UGA's winning percentage in SEC play was 0.645.

I suppose that's "above average," but not by much.  It's one extra win every four or five years.

12/01/2015 - 4:47pm Am I the only one...

... who doesn't get all the Richt love?

UGA consistently sits near the top of the list in terms of number of active NFL players (this year: tied with Alabama, just behind LSU, Miami, USC).

... and of those schools probably has the least to show for all the talent passing though their program.

The last few years in particular, the other traditionally good programs in the SEC East have been a trainwreck.  It should have been easy to excel.

Not that I view Richt as a bad guy (or even a bad coach).  To me, he's the poster boy for "doing less with more."

10/21/2015 - 11:19am The term you're looking for is "selection bias."

Imagine that you flip a coin 100 times and get 54 heads.  Then you examine the 46 tails, note (correctly) that every single one of those flips was 50-50 to be heads, and figure that you "deserved" 54 + (46/2) = 77 heads in 100 flips.

You're ignoring the fact that you also "deserved" (54/2) tails on the flips you did not examine.  When both sides of that "should have been" accounting are done, it works out to a 50-50 exact split for the expected outcome.

If you wanted to do this sort of analysis and end up anywhere close to reality, you'd at least have to pick a Sparty fan to do an equally detailed review of every play that they feel went against them.

Which is not to say that Michigan didn't have some (or even most) marginal calls go against them.  It's to say that the 20-point total difference number is meaningless.

09/04/2015 - 3:23am Patience is a virtue...

I suspect Hoke would have had about the same result, but that does not mean that JH is an equivalent coach.

JH hasn't been a "gets big results in year one" guy in the past.  His first year at San Diego (7-4) wasn't better than the prior year (8-2).  His first year at Stanford (4-8) was better than Walt Harris' last year (1-11) but winning one-in-three games isn't much to write home about.

01/06/2015 - 6:29pm Beyond 4 teams...

.... I think you need to utilize the home stadiums of the higher seeds until you're down to a final four.  It brings in fans that don't have to travel to fill the stadium, and it makes seeding more important by giving home-field advantage to the higher seed.

Even the current four-team format is a hardship to fans of the semifinal winners.  How many fans  can pay to travel to the Rose Bowl and then on about one week's notice arrange travel to Texas?  (In an 8-team neutral-site format, the final two teams' fans would be looking at three sets of travel arrangements, the latter two of them made on short notice.)

12/19/2014 - 8:18pm As a quick-and-dirty measure...

Top teams by number of wins (before this year, per NCAA 2014 Football Records Book): 

  1. Michigan
  2. Texas
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Nebraska
  5. Ohio State
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Alabama
  8. Tennessee
  9. Southern Cal
  10. Georgia

Penn State would be in the middle of that list, knocking Georgia off the bottom, if not for the Sandusky-related NCAA sanctions which vacated a ton of wins.  And Georgia (767 wins) is a pretty good distance back of the team right above them (USC at 796) so I'd probably consider that a good place to end the list.

12/09/2014 - 11:55pm PSU was 'BYU '84 (or Marshall this year)...

... prior to about 1980.

But they upgraded thier schedule with decade-long series with both Notre Dame and Alabama, and then earned enough credibility to win a couple MNCs.

12/07/2014 - 10:02pm Surprised by all the folks picking Illinois...

Louisiana Tech isn't a "name" team but by Sagarin-PREDICTOR they are the biggest favorite (-12) of the B1G's December games.   Spreads by Sagarin-PREDICTOR:

December: Illinois +12, Rutgers +5, Penn State +4, Nebraska +4, Maryland +11

January: Wisconsin +12, Sparty +1, Minnesota +4, Ohio State +5, Iowa +8

... assuming all bowls are neutral sites, which may be technically true but may not be so in practice.

All 10 teams are underdogs, but enough (6) are within a TD that they should pick up a couple of wins.  I'll say 2-8 with only Penn State and Sparty winning.

12/07/2014 - 10:39am 6 should be enough...

I like this better than 8 teams.  It makes seeding much more important:

#1-#2: Bye into final four

#3-#4: Home game against worse seed to get to final four

#5-#6: Road game against better seed to get to fnal four

There will always be "bubble teams" regardless of the cutoff.  But taking the major conference winners plus one at-large should be good enough.  ("If you want in, win your damn conference.  If you can't do that, shut up.")

12/06/2014 - 10:49pm I look at it as win/win...

Either Ohio State gets left out of the playoffs and the Buckeye fans get insanely pissed off.

Or else they get in as the #4 seed, get housed by Alabama, and the Buckeye fans get pissed off.

12/06/2014 - 8:32pm "Desperately needs"?

Most OSU fans think Urban is playing with house money this year due to Braxton's injury.

11/27/2014 - 10:38pm Punter?

Ohio State (Johnston) is #70 in I-A in net punting.

With all due respect to Jim ("the punt is the most important play in football") Tressel, I'd not consider a punter "a star" unless he was top-10 or so.

11/25/2014 - 2:14pm 10+ wins during regular season...

College football is a coaches' game, meaning that quality of the coaching staff plays an outsized role in W/L record compared to other sports.

This would not be a complete overhaul of the system (like the transition to/from RichRod):  the scheme that Hoke recruits for fits well with Harbaugh's style.  There is a ton of young talent on this team.  The defense is already quite good and returns nearly everyone.  And the B1G is weak and should continue to be so for a while.

The current coaching staff would have a good shot at 8 wins during the regular season next year.  I can't believe that an elite staff wouldn't beat that by at least a couple wins.  Heck, I wouldn't be surprised to see the same 12-0 that Urban managed in his first year.

11/22/2014 - 10:46pm To be fair...

The team Florida destroyed was Eastern Kentucky.

It'll be interesting to see how the Gators do at Florida State next week.  I'm guessing they'll be on the receiving end of the destruction.

11/12/2014 - 7:09pm Not quite as "risky" as you suggest...

Saban took Michigan State to 9-2 in 1999, their best record in more than a decade (1991-1998 they lost 5+ games every year), before moving up.

Meyer took Bowling Green (who'd lost 6+ games the prior six years straight) to 8-3 and 9-3 seasons before moving on to Utah.  Then he took over a Utah program that had 4+ losses nearly every single year to 10-2 and 12-0 including a BCS bowl win (the first BCS bowl win for a non-AQ team), before moving on to Florida.

Jim Tressel had several mediocre seasons at Youngstown State to start out, so he didn't take them quickly to unprecedented heights as Meyer/Saban did.  But after about 5 years he took them on a run of three national titles in four years, and won I-AA coach of the year four times.

All of these guys were picked up from lesser programs and/or lesser divisions, BUT the one thing they had in common was that they were highly successful head coaches at those programs.  Taking a I-AA (er, "FCS") head coach who's won multiple national titles, or a non-AQ head coach with an undefeated season and BCS bowl win, or a coach who's taken an average-plus AQ team to unusually good years... those aren't really huge risks.  (Harbaugh more or less fits the third category.)

In my view, a risk is picking up a young-and-promising coordinator (like Ohio's OC).  That's a big gamble that might pay off big, or might not work out at all.  (What if he's largely a figurehead and Meyer is the brain trust by himself, for example?)  I'd prefer not to go that route; IMO any elite program should be able to pick from among folks who've already proven themselves highly effective head coaches.

11/02/2014 - 4:02pm Possibly...

I think an undefeated Big Five team is ahead of any one-loss Big Five team at the end of the year.  Metrics like "quality of loss" are out the window.  Imagine Michigan State played Oregon State instead of Oregon and was still undefeated,.  They might sit at the bottom of the undefeated teams, but they'd almost certainly be in the playoffs if they won out.  For that reason, playing in a weak Big 5 conference and not playing anyone of consequence is the best route to the playoffs.

But it's not as if that's a route open to just anyone. Even if Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, etc. played nobody out of conference, they'd lose one Big Ten game and be out of the running (and likely below some two-loss SEC and/or Pac-12 teams).  A tough schedule gives you more margin for error, but it also gives your more likelihood of "error" (losses) on your record.

11/02/2014 - 3:16pm That's now how I read it...

The point of "muggles" in the Harry Potter universe is that most of them are blissfully unaware of the magical world.


Rowling has said she created the word "Muggle" from "mug", an English term for someone who is easily fooled. She added the "-gle" to make it sound less demeaning and more "cuddly".


The charitable reading is this:  Use of the term is effectively calling the fans "ignorant outsiders."

The less charitable reading involves tacking on the added nuance that muggles are considered lesser beings by many of the magical folk.

10/31/2014 - 1:43pm Did he rethink?

I looked at the top of his twitter feed and didn't see it.  Maybe he deleted?

10/31/2014 - 12:53pm Congrats, Brian...

Given the timing it sure seems that your reporting had a major impact.

10/27/2014 - 7:41pm Link?

I tried googling that quotation, but it only turned up some Sparty rivals site as the source.

It's claimed to come from ESPN Insider, but has anyone actually seen that text on ESPN's web site?

I suspect some Sparty fans are trolling.  It just doesn't read like something a 17-year-old kid would say, to me.

10/26/2014 - 4:39pm I dunno...

The way I see it:  if you're running onside kicks and still trying to score, you can't complain if the opponent also behaves as if the game's not over.

The only way MSU ends up with the field position to score on seven running plays, is a pointless failed onside kick.

10/20/2014 - 10:04am Per Phil Steele, Michigan last favored in 2012 (-9.5)

Recent lines:

2013 +4.5, 2012 -9.5, 2011 +3, 2010 -4.5, 2009 +4, 2008 +4, 2007 -4, 2006 -15.5

10/09/2014 - 12:58pm There's a question of whether...

... he saw it and told the players to delete it (i.e., helped cover up a rape, which is itself a serious crime).

Lying then is OK.  Lying now, not so much.  But you can see that there would be some motive to lie now.

10/05/2014 - 8:37pm Records earned in the Big East, though...

Rutgers' final Sagarin rating the last four years: #100 (2013), #53 (2012), #36 (2011), #90 (2010).

Yes, they had some solid teams -- when Schiano was coach and in a conference worse than the current B1G.  Schiano is no longer there.  Recent history is:  they are stretching to reach the bottom end of the top 40 once in four years, and among the worst teams in FBS twice as often as that.

So let's say that this is a good year for them and they're #40-ish (current rating of #74 notwithstanding, loss to a sanction-depleted Penn State notwithstanding).  Even granting that, that makes them only about as good as Iowa or Maryland.  Perhaps that's the "kind of game that even a healthy Michgian program drops once in a while."   But that would be a lot easier to swallow at 4-2 with the only other loss being a non-blowout to Notre Dame.

On a somewhat related topic:  If someone had come to you in August and forced you to bet something precious on Michigan's record through the first half of the 2014 campaign... what would you have picked?  I'd have looked at the schedule and would have seen:

  • Appalachian State, expected to be among the worst FBS teams.
  • Notre Dame, who should be pretty good
  • Miami-Ohio, who's picked towards the bottom of the MAC
  • Utah, who's picked towards the bottom of the PAC-12
  • Minnesota, who's picked towards the bottom of the B1G West
  • Rutgers, who's picked towards the bottom of the B1G East

I think I'd have gone with 5-1.  In my mind the possibility of a win over Notre Dame would be somewhat canceled by the (relatively slight) possibility of a loss to one of the other five.

There's still plenty of football left to be played.  The glass-half-full types can try to convince themselves that Minnesota is going to win the B1G West, Miami-NTM is going to finish near the top of the MAC, Rutgers is going to be much better than everyone expected, Notre Dame is going to be a playoff team, etc.

But I have a hard time buying that.  I think it's more parsimonious to suspect that a single team is much worse than expected, than it is to expect that six different opponents all turned out much better.

09/25/2014 - 10:14am 31-0

Goofers are coming in with a backup QB, their offense wasn't all that great to start with, and their strength (running game) is a good matchup for M.

They'll be lucky to cross midfield.

09/21/2014 - 9:18pm Brian's prediction...

... was "worst case 7-5, best case 11-1," and eventually settled on 9-3.


The individual position/unit predictions aren't far off, but most everything seems to have come out on the low end of the predicted range.

Four games into the season 9-3 isn't ruled out, but looks like an awfully big hill to climb.

11/26/2013 - 6:34pm Nebraska in the '90s, Oklahoma in the '50s...

Oklahoma won 47 straight games between 1953 and 1957.

Nebraska won three MNCs in four years 1994-1997.

Florda State finished in the top 5 something like 15 years in a row in the '80s-'90s.

Southern Cal had a multiple-MNC run just recently, and had a dominant period in the '70s as well.

I think all of those are arguably in the vicinity of Alabama's recent run.  Maybe if Alabama wins three more MNCs in the next five years, they'll put some distance between themselves and others.

While I don't think Alabama's run is all that unique, I do agree that one can't use Alabama's recent success as a measuring stick.  That's a recipe for disappointment.  I'd set the goal as competing for the B1G title (being in the division race up to the final week) most years, making the B1G title game one year in three, winning the B1G one year in five, and making the new 4-team MNC playoff at least once a decade. 

That seems like a modest goal that should be achievable even if fans of Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State all believe they're entitled to the same thing.

11/25/2013 - 5:12pm Ill's 35 is a bit misleading...

OSU's LB corps is like UM's OL.  They have one good player, a couple average-minus ones, and then it's dregs after that.  Their 2nd-3rd LBs were out for the Illinois game (details at the linked article, by OSU's equivalent to Space Coyote).

I don't think one can lean on Illinois' scoring vs OSU as being predictive of future results (if it were, wouldn't Indiana have scored more?)

11/24/2013 - 7:44am Double-digit pointspreads for The Game...

... per Phil Steele's preseason magazine, and his web site:

2010 UM +17

2009 UM +11.5

2008 UM +20

1999 UM -11

1998 UM +10

1996 UM +17

Steele's data ends in 1993, but there were probably several double-digit spreads in UM's favor in the late '80s and early '90s.  In the games above, the favorite is 5-1.

11/03/2013 - 6:11am Really good article.

My one quibble is that it seems a bit spin-heavy in places.  For example, in the "Rosters" section, you compare two quantities:

1.42 years of experience vs 1.65 (~16% higher) in Michigan's favor and call it "slightly" (italicized for emphasis in your original) more experienced.

3.38 stars vs 3.69 (~9% higher) in Ohio's favor and call it "solidly" more talended.

I think the real issues are likely found in individual positions (others have noted OL recruiting) -- rather than in trying to read things into negligible differences in across-the-roster averages.  (Meyer walked into some depth issues as well.  Ohio started the season with only one servicable LB, but they play only two LB a lot of the time.  But that was more a matter of attrition than failure to recruit numbers.)

11/26/2012 - 2:18pm I'd bet the timeout wasn't to "think it over"...

... I'm guessing that a punt fake was called, but OSU left their defense on the field for the play.

If you've decided you're not going to punt, why go with a less favorable setup (your punt team versus the opponent's defense)?  Might as well run your starting offense out there to improve your chances.

11/24/2012 - 9:24pm OSU's defense improved greatly....

... towards the end of the year.   Compare their performance against Wisconsin last week, to Penn State's (who also has a pretty good defense) against Wisconsin this week.  Maybe because they stopped facing teams that could expose their weakness (pass defense in the middle), maybe because of a couple personnel upgrades at LB.

At the same time as we note OSU's struggles with Purdue and UAB, we should be fair and also note that they beat both Big Ten title game participants.   They're overrated as a top-five team, but it's not unreasonable to consider them the best team in the conference.   The rest of the B1G consists of a one-B1G-loss team that OSU beat by 25 points (Nebraska), two two-B1G-loss teams that they beat (Michgian, Penn State), and everyone else is 5-3 or worse.

01/08/2011 - 10:33am There was some fan angst over Tressel, IIRC...

... but Ohio State's position when Cooper was let go was closer to Michgian's position when Carr left (bound to a decent bowl, only a couple years removed from a top-five ranking, etc.).  They hadn't lived through the equivalent of the last three years, which made them doubt their program.

As for the Tressel hire, a lot of the fans thought he was too small-time, and too risky to wager that his I-AA success would translate to the next level.  But those were the fans fixated on pipe-dreams like Stoops and Urban Meyer and Gruden, who were never realistic candidates.  Tressel got rave reviews from the people who actually knew him, and from Ohio HS coaches.

01/07/2011 - 4:41pm Urban?

Not sure I'd be all fired up about someone who has health issues and already retired twice.

He's a genius coach, but you wouldn't know whether you'd have him for a decade or just for one or two years.

12/07/2010 - 9:11pm Sagarin's schedule strength is pretty straightforward...

... it's just the average rating of all teams played, adjusted for the home field advantage.  So it's not really amenable to being fabricated.  He'd have to change the rankings of the teams that go into the schedule calculation instead.

Since Sagarin thinks the Pac-10 is far stronger than the Big Ten, and since the Pac-10 plays 9 conference games, and since most of the Pac-10 teams schedule at least one decent non-conference opponent... it's not too surprising that he ranks all of the Pac-10 teams' schedules as being pretty strong.  (Of the top 11 NCAA schedules according to Sagarin, 9 of them are Pac-10 teams.)

Ignoring the site adjustment, Michigan's schedule per Sagarin:

Three top-20 teams: 11 OSU, 15 Wisc, 20 MSU

Two "second 20" teams: 27 Iowa, 28 ND

Three 50-ish mediocre teams: 44 Illinois, 50 PSU, 54 UConn

Four cupcakes: 91 Purdue, 99 Indiana, 107 UMass, 158 Bowling Green

Oregon's divided similarly:

One top-20 team: 3 Stanford

Five "second 20" teams: 22 USC, 23 Ariz, 24 ASU, 31 OSU(ntOSU), 34 Cal

Three 50-ish mediocre teams: 42 Wash, 51 Tenn, 59 UCLA

Three cupcakes: 82 WSU, 168 New Mex, 184 Portland St.

Oregon's schedule isn't tons tougher than Michigan's (only 2 points on average) per Sagarin.  The difference is one less cupcake and an extra 25-ish team, more or less.  If you took Indiana off Michigan's schedule and turned it into a team like Texas A&M, that would pretty much make Michigan's schedule the equivalent of Oregon's per Sagarin.

The focus on "winning teams" strikes me as kind of odd.  The Pac-10 has a handful of decent teams that ended up 6-6 or 5-7 -- for example, Arizona State who gave Wisconsin all they could handle.  You credit Michigan with beating a "winning team" in UConn and another in Notre Dame, but I believe that both of those teams are not as good as ASU, for whom Oregon gets no "winning team" credit. 

Going to a second level ("winning teams" by opponents) strikes me as even more contrived, as it suffers for the same reason: the Pac-10 having a lot of 0.500-ish teams, and those teams all playing a lot of games against each other.

12/02/2010 - 11:19am Smith vs OSU


Here's a longer version with the play that precipitated the meltdown:

09/06/2010 - 12:13pm "Exposed"?

Juice Williams showed that OSU is exposed with truly mobile quarterbacks

Juice was good for 77 yards passing and 18 yards rushing in a 30-0 shutout at Ohio State last year.

Who knows, due to the Zook effect... but it doesn't seem to me that OSU has any more trouble with mobile QBs than any other random team.  It seems odd to point to OSU-Illinois 2008, ignoring OSU-Illinois 2009 and the Rose Bowl, for example.

09/03/2010 - 12:28am People were talking about him in the spring 2009...

... and big things were expected from him that year... but he ended up out for the year with a fractured skull and brain trauma from an assault.

It's kind of astonishing that he's even back on the field.


09/02/2010 - 1:41am Div standing is by overall conference record...

Delany didn't say that straight out on the TV show as far as I can recall.

But in interviews afterward, he was asked and replied that division standings would be determined by overall conference record.  So the rumors to that effect weren't true -- or maybe it was just a trial balloon that fell so flat that they didn't go that way.

The OSU-Michigan game will not be meaningful for the division title berths often enough as it is; it's good they didn't render it entirely irrelevant to conference standings.  This analysis came up with 2 times out of 36 possible, it would have mattered to the division berths to the title game, using the last 18 years of historical data:

OSU-UM relevance chart

But I don't think that analsys uses the officially correct division breakup.  "c OR e" means "clinched or eliminated" based on a divisional game that would necessarily have been played (e.g., Michigan-Nebraska in 1997) but historically wasn't.

08/28/2010 - 12:57am Good strategy always...

I don't redshirt anyone that I think can contribute.  Not saying this to be mean, be RR understands that if things don't go well, Devin redshirting wouldn't do him, personally, any good.  I give minutes to anyone that can help the team in any way.

That's not just a strategy for this year.

Why sacrifice even a very tiny edge that any player could provide in the current year, in exchange for nebulous results in some future year?

You never know which kids are going to end up out of football, or leave early for the NFL, or get injured, or get passed up by future recruits.

I say (as a general policy): redshirt only those who can not contribute anything noticeable this year.

08/26/2010 - 2:43pm It's theoretically possible, but...

... back-to-back is worse for TV revenue, and (less meaningful) cross-division games really should be played before division games.  A lot of the time, the championship teams would be decided before UM-OSU played, which would be kind of anticlimactic.

All FBS conferences use "overall conference record" for determining standings. Years back, the MAC used division record only, but they have since joined everyone else.

It's depressing that they're talking about this as if it's a done deal.  Here's the letter I sent to Brandon and Smith (OSU AD):

Mr. Brandon and Smith,

I'll try to be brief:

1. There is a special urgency to the last game of the season.  Last year, even though it was an off-year for Michigan, they knew bowl eligibility was on the line in The Game.  Had that game been in October it would have been seen as: "a down Michigan team versus a decent OSU team, so what."

2. Cross-division games are less meaningful than in-division games.  Losing to a good cross-division team is not a big deal, as it does not prevent one from running the table in one's division and getting to the conference title game.

3. The last 20 years of Big Ten historical data suggest that Ohio State and Michigan would each be about 1-in-3 shots to win their division if separated, and about 1-in-10 to 1-in-15 to meet in the Big Ten title game.  (Oklahoma and Nebraska met in one Big XII title game in 14 years.  Miami and Florida state have yet to meet in an ACC title game.)

Because of (1) and (2), an October cross-division version of the OSU-Michigan game is about as meaningful as Michigan-ND.  It's an interesting game between perennial powers, but it is far less meaningful than The Game is now.  And -- this is the important part -- it is also far less meaningful than The Game would be if it were a season-ending division decider.

Nine years in ten, that less meaningful (October cross-division) version of The Game will be the only one that is played.  Is it worth taking that hit, in return for a once-a-decade shot at meeting in the title game?  That does not seem to be a good trade, to me.  You will be recruiting kids who were in kindergarten the last time OSU-Michigan "played for the Rose Bowl" -- they will know OSU-UM as something less than what UM-PSU is today.

08/26/2010 - 9:14am You're right...

... though I'm not sure whether it's arrogant or simply less-than-honest spin.

Yes, everyone agrees that an UM-OSU title game would be a big deal.  And there's no doubt that UM-OSU playing for merely a division title makes The Game less meaningful than playing for a conference title as it is now.

But what is being quietly swept under the rug is this:  UM-OSU playing a cross-division game in October is much less meaningful than UM-OSU playing at the end of the season for a division title -- and that is the OSU-UM game that will be the only one played in 90% of years.

Recent history suggests that UM and OSU are each about 1-in-3 shots to win their division.  They'll each probably have a perennial power (Nebraska/PSU) and a recent power (Iowa/Wisconsin), and a couple good-on-occasion teams in their division.  Add in the fact that the October game between the two will hang a loss on one of them, and you're looking at maybe a one-in-10 to one-in-15 shot for an OSU-UM title game.  The Big XII saw one Oklahoma-Nebraska game in 14 years, which is in the same ballpark.

Soon we will be recruiting kids who were in kindergarten the last time UM-OSU played in the Big Ten championship game.  To them, The Game's only significance will be as a mid-season cross-division game against a perennial power, that's really not all that relevant to getting to the conference title game.  It will be an interesting game like UM-ND, but it will not be the game.

I don't see the wisdom for killing the meaning of The Game for a twice-per-generation UM-OSU Big Ten title game.  The infrequency of the latter makes it a pretty bad trade in my opinion.

08/25/2010 - 12:13pm Nice post

Two comments:

(1) In-division games are naturally more meaningful than cross-division games, because of the head-to-head tiebreaker for getting to the title game.  If you lose to the other good team in your division, they'd have to lose two other games for you to get to the title game.  A cross-division loss is not that big a deal, because one can still guarantee getting to the title game by beating everyone in the division.

The Big 8 took their equivalent of Michigan-OSU (season-ending game between traditional powers that was regularly for the conference title), and turned it into Michigan-ND (an interesting early-season matchup between traditional powers, but not really all that meaningful for the division race).  And they ended up with one Oklahoma-Nebraska title game in 14 years -- despite adding only one perennial power (Texas) to the conference, while the Big Ten will have added two (PSU, Nebraska).

(2) Late games are natually more meaningful than early games, because there is a clearer idea of what is on the line.  If Michigan beats Iowa in mid-October, do we know whether that knocked Iowa out of the Big Ten title?  Not really.  Last year, despite the awful season, we knew that Michigan's game with Ohio State was for bowl eligibility.  Had it been in October, it would have been "a rebuilding Michigan versus a rolling OSU team, big deal."

For these reasons, splitting OSU into the other division AND playing The Game earlier in the season is a double-whammy of reduced importance.  It is astonishing to me that anyone would even consider it -- especially if the main reason for doing so is the possibility of a rematch that would probably be a twice-per-generation outcome.

None of the chocies is all that good, given expansion to 12 teams.  No matter what is done, the importance of OSU-Michigan will take a hit:

(1) Split across divisions, play earlier in the year.  Reduces the importance of The Game and probably will not yield a rematch all that often.  (And if guaranteed to play every year, Michigan and OSU end up with slightly tougher schedules than their division-mates who will rotate on and off OSU/Michigan's schedules.)

(2) Split across divisions still played at end of season.  Might have to play OSU  back-to-back, the more important in-division games aren't played last, and rematches still won't be common.  (Plus the more difficult schedule thing.)

(3) Same division, still play at end of season.  The teams are playing for a division title instead of the BIg Ten title.

But even though all the choices are bad, they're not all equally bad.  (1) is clearly the worst -- the end result is turning Michigan-OSU into Michigan-ND.  But it seems to be the direction we are headed, judging by the comments from various ADs and Delany.  I'm partial to (3) because I don't think rematches are likely enough to care about and because it allows more fairness in scheduling, but I could see that some would favor (2).

08/20/2010 - 1:52pm 2007 corrected...

2007 - Definite rematch.  OSU 7-1, Illinois and UM 6-2.  UM holds head-to-head over Illinois, so it's a rematch no matter which division Illinois is in.

08/20/2010 - 1:42pm On rematches

Looking back 20 years, I come up with eight potential rematches, in some cases depending on how the other teams were split between divisions:

2007 - Definite rematch.  UM and OSU are the only one-loss teams, rematch guaranteed.

2006 - Definite rematch.  OSU undefeated and UM holds tiebreak (head-to-head) over Wisconsin.  Rematch no matter which division Wisconsin is in.

2003 - Definite rematch.  UM 7-1, OSU and Purdue 6-2, and OSU holds tiebreak (head-to-head) over Purdue.

2002 - Maybe.  OSU 8-0, Iowa 8-0, Michigan 6-2.  If Iowa were in OSU's division, the two would have played and there's maybe a 50-50 shot at a rematch.  I'd count this as 25% (50% of 50%) of a rematch.

1998 - Most likely.  UM, OSU and Wisconsin 7-1.  If Wisconsin is in OSU's division, they would have played and there's a 50-50 shot; if Wisconsin is in UM's division rematch is guaranteed on Michigan's head-to-head win over UW.  I'd count this as 75% (50% plus 50% of 50%) of a rematch.

1997 - Maybe, slight chance.  UM 8-0, OSU/PSU/Purdue all 6-2.  OSU lost to PSU and didn't play Purdue.  If PSU were in UM's division AND OSU held a tiebreaker over Purdue.  I'd count this as a slim (~10%) chance.

1992 - Definite rematch.  UM (6-0-2) and OSU (5-2-1) were alone in 1st and 2nd place.

1991 - Maybe.  UM 8-0, Iowa 7-1, OSU and Indiana 5-3.  If Iowa is in UM's division, then OSU holds tiebreak over Indiana.  I'd count this as 50% since it only depends on Iowa's location.

Adding up the percentages, that's 5.6 rematches in 20 years, just over one per four years.

06/11/2010 - 10:16am Vacated wins

Vacated wins are removed entirely from the winning team's record, but left alone on the opposing team's record, I'm pretty sure. 

For example, Alabama: due to the recent textbook scandal, their record in 2006 became 0-7 (instead of 6-7) because the six wins were vacated.  But the records of the six teams that Alabama beat did not change in the official NCAA tally.

So instead of "1 W and 1 L" or "0 W and 2 L", there are "0 W and 1 L" for each vacated win.

(In the case of forfeits, the W/L are flipped: the loss on the opponent's record is changed to a win.)

01/01/2010 - 9:05pm I don't think that's what he said...

What I thought he said was that it's kind of goofy to take average stats (against top-ten teams) -- and then try to insert it into an NCAA ranking of teams (that aren't playing almost exclusively top ten teams).

I don't think it's fair to spin that criticism of your work into saying the "stats are not meaningful" -- it's not that they have no meaning, it's that you're really kind of abusing them for your comparison.

OSU couldn't beat the 5th place team from the Pac 10 at home, yet I hear the Big 10 apologists talking about how they'll go to Pasadena and beat the Pac 10 champion. Explain this to me. Oregon will shred that "darn good" defense.

Doesn't seem like it worked out that way.

Actually, I recall several folks here (in comments on blog posts) saying that Ohio State's performance against Oregon was going to be a preview of how Ohio State would be embarrassed by Michigan's offense once RR go the program into gear. Hopefully that's not the case.

And even granting narrowing the scope to Ohio State's performances against only non-Big-Ten BCS opponents, I am not sure it's all that damning to the Ohio State defense specifically. They held Texas (last year) and Southern Cal (this year) to well below their average point output. I think Ohio State's weakness in those games has been more offense than defense.