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12/07/2014 - 4:00pm Why a 3-year SOS?

The playoff committee rates what you've done this year. Who the Buckeyes played two years ago or last year is irrelevant.

12/07/2014 - 3:59pm None

The one invariable rule of conference expansion, is that no one expands to lose money. The available options for the Big XII are pedestrian, small-market teams that don't bring in much new money, but would give the league two more mouths to feed. The best candidate is BYU, but the Cougars have declined the Big XII's overtures in the past.

There's another big problem. The Texas schools want to play each other every year, and the remaining teams want two road games in Texas every year. If they expand, then some teams will have to accept a considerably worse schedule than they have now.

Coming up with balanced divisions is a problem for the Big XII. Oklahoma and Texas do not want to give up their annual game (the Red River Rivalry), but the league is horribly unbalanced if Oklahoma and Texas are in the same division, assuming the Longhorns return to respectability (which, with their resources, they are exceedingly likely to do). The old Big XII was at least able to balance it somewhat, by having Nebraska in the opposite division to Oklahoma and Texas, but Nebraska is gone.

So, to make a long story short, I think the Big XII is highly unlikely to expand based on getting screwed once in the CFB playoff. A four-team playoff with five power conferences is always going to screw somebody. There's no evidence yet that it'll always be the Big XII.

10/20/2013 - 2:59pm This is one of the reasons

This is one of the reasons why they were hesitant to replace Jack Miller. When they finally did, I knew this was going to be the case. You're trading off a handful of bad snaps per game vs. a whole game's worth of poor blocking in the middle of the line. Choose your poison.

09/15/2013 - 9:17pm Just a couple of points

Akron ended up missing a 45 yard field goal and we went to half up 7-3.

Bowden really gave Michigan a gift there. He was going to go for it on 4th & 1 (which he should have done, IMO). He changed his mind, but sent out the FG unit too late, and got a delay of game. The FG clanked off the left upright, so it probably would have been good from five yards closer.

Norfleet caught two passes for 20 yards. He only had one kick return for 15 yards and no punt returns. It's almost like Akron scouted us, or something. Imagine that. 

I can't call that scouting, as Michigan hasn't had a good punt return unit since Braylon Edwards graduated. Norfleet seems hesitant to catch the ball, which is understandable given his performance in the first two games, but I am not sure what he's contributing in that spot. (They did send Dileo out there at least once.)

09/12/2013 - 5:14pm When Lloyd laid an egg

Lloyd Carr was pretty darned good against ranked teams, but not as hot as he should’ve been otherwise; blame the 85-scholarship parity era for that.

I don't blame the 85-scholarship era for that. For some reason, Lloyd occasionally let the players get complacent against teams they had no business losing to.

09/11/2013 - 1:19pm A good problem to have

Just three Michigan players have won the Heisman, so the odds are pretty low. In the rare case where a guy wins the Heisman while wearing a Legends jersey, that's a good problem to have. I'll take it any day.

Meanwhile, 99 percent of the guys wearing legends jerseys won't win the Heisman, simply because it's such a rare achievement. Probably half of them will be on defense, and no purely defensive player has ever won the Heisman.

So I'd rather solve for the 99 percent, rather than 'worry' about what to do if a guy happens to win the Heisman.

08/25/2013 - 2:58pm He's Playing

Brady Hoke has consistently put in the back-ups when the game gets out of hand. Morris has won the #2 spot fair and square, so he's going to play, unless Michigan for some reason can't put away Akron and Central Michigan.

In some ways, the worst possible case is that Morris sees only spot duty as a freshman, and then can't come back for his fifth year. That was what nearly happened to Devin Gardner, before he earned a hardship waiver for his true freshman season.

But I don't see a realistic scenario where Gardner plays every down. If the game gets to garbage time, you want your backups to get some experience. Beyond that, you don't want to risk an injury to Gardner once the game is no longer competitive.

07/02/2013 - 2:07pm On "camp vs film"

The other issue with film is that a lot of what you see are highlights. You've got to watch a whole game to see the player's mistakes, and to see if he gives a full effort on every play. On top of that, many players aren't filmed on every down: for instance, on a running play, you might not see what the receivers and defensive backs did. On a pass, you might only see the part of the field that was thrown to.

06/22/2013 - 4:36pm But is there evidence for that?

When you "optionally" burn the redshirt, do you really accelerate the learning curve? I know that's the argument that people make, but is it true?

As I recall, Devin Gardner as a freshman played something like 1 play vs. UConn, 2 plays vs. Notre Dame, and about 2 series vs. Bowling Green. Is he really THAT much better today, because of that action? I'll bet he isn't. (It wound up not mattering, because Gardner got that year back, but at the time they put him in, there was no assurance that would happen.)

So that's why I asked if the Mathlete has data. Is there enough evidence to suggest that limited action in the true freshman season really accelerates the learning curve to any great extent — enough that it's worth losing the potential fifth year?

Bear in mind that in the scenario we're talking about — where Michigan is not forced to burn Morris's redshirt — he probably would not see "substantial playing time." We're probably talking about garbage time in blowouts, in which most of his plays would probably be handoffs.

06/22/2013 - 1:32pm Paging the Mathlete

Do your stats suggest an answer to the following question: If burning Morris's redshirt is "optional", should they? By "optional," I mean something like garbage time in a 34-3 blowout, where he hasn't yet played in a game.

Burning Devin Gardner's redshirt in his true freshman season was obviously optional: nothing happened where he had to play. Fortunately, the team got that year back. I doubt there is anyone here who is NOT happy to have the possibility of Gardner's fifth year in 2014, which was very nearly lost.

But Gardner is only one data point. When you look at more data, is there any evidence that burning the redshirt for limited back-up duty is ever worthwhile, when you have the option not to?

My own sense is that when you've got a potential multi-year starter at QB (which Morris clearly is), burning the redshirt is almost never a wise idea, if you have the option. Your data seem to show that the true freshman season is seldom very good: you're sacrificing a fifth year that could be magical, in return for limited action that accomplishes very little.

But I'm curious if there's data that backs that up.

Of course, I'm talking only about cases where it's optional. It doesn't count cases where there's no one else available, or where the true freshman is the best guy.

05/23/2013 - 4:33pm It's gonna be tough

Most teams want at least 7 home games a year. The Big XII and the Pac-12 both play 9 league games, The SEC will probably go to that format sooner or later.  That leaves room for at most one home-and-home with a non-conference foe.

Bear in mind that Florida and FSU already have an annual non-conference game with each other; Stanford has an annual game with Notre Dame that neither side plans to give up.

Another issue is that many of those teams probably prefer variety to the same opponent over and over again. Everyone wants to get on Texas's schedule, so they don't need the certainty of a common opponent every year. Their future non-conference home-and-home opponents include USC, Maryland, Notre Dame, Ohio State, BYU, Cal, and Arkansas.

Oregon has scheduled similarly: their future home-and-homes include Wyoming, Texas A&M, Virginia, Michigan State, and Ohio State. If this happens at all, it's going to be in the 2020s, not right away.

Lastly, it's worth noting that most of these teams play in warm-weather climates, where a September game is going to put Michigan at a disadvantage. That, at the very least, is one issue they didn't have to deal with when playing Notre Dame.

05/21/2013 - 5:17pm Sorry...right conclusion, flawed premise

I'm afraid a lot of this just isn't true:

A rule I have seen with expansion so far is that schools central to the existence of a conference do not leave for other conferences.

The Southwest Conference blew up because the schools central to its existence left. So did the Big East (not the newly-formed all-Catholic version, but the other one). There are plenty of other examples among lesser lights, such as the WAC, and if you go way back, the Southern Conference.

What IS true, is that schools like North Carolina and Texas are willing to make a bit less money, in exchange for being in a league where they're top dog. But if the money differential is big enough, eventually they jump ship. This has happened often enough in history, to convince you that it'll probably happen again. The only question is exactly when.

The only real question is how big the income disparity will be, the next time these leagues' grants-of-rights are up for renewal. If it's just a few million a year, North Carolina will choose to make less money, so that it can be in a league it largely controls. But if it's tens of millions per year, North Carolina will jump ship.

However, you are correct that major expansion is over for now, simply because all of the desirable schools are locked up in grants of rights, except in the SEC, and no one is going to leave the SEC.

Ultimately, expansion is about money, and the only schools available (i.e., not locked up) are financially dilutive to the major conferences.

02/19/2013 - 2:32pm Re: Syracuse, Nebraska, and Florida State

"I list Nebraska and Syracuse as they are schools that only recently lost AAU membership, and may very well regain it. I also list Florida State since it is a school that has potential to obtain it, and is located in a congressionally rich state."

Nebraska was booted out of the AAU because they were WAY below the average, in various metrics the Association uses to determine fitness for membership. They were pretty close to the bottom, and in fact, were below quite a few schools that are not members.

Syracuse realized that they were likely to be booted. Rather than put themselves through an embarrassing vote, they elected to resign. Florida State's metrics are somewhat comparable to those of Nebraska and Syracuse, or perhaps a bit below.

Unless the AAU changes its standards, those schools would have a looooong way to go, before they'd be candidates for membership. Bear in mind that the existing members aren't standing still, and plenty of others trying to get in. To become an AAU members, it's not enough for a school like FSU to improve. They have to improve at a faster rate than their competitors, and that's hard to do.

02/14/2013 - 4:05pm It's minor, because....

...because of the very rare circumstances in which it would occur. How many games a year have an extra play, because someone managed to spike the ball with 2 seconds left? The only Michigan game in memory where the outcome would have changed was the famous Michigan State game, and that was only possible because of a very friendly clock operator in East Lansing. They've sinced replaced homer clock operators in the Big Ten, so even without this new rule, that probably wouldn't happen again.

In the 1997 Rose Bowl, Washington State's Ryan Leaf tried to spike the ball with 2 seconds left, and couldn't get it done. That is the normal outcome. All this rule is doing, is to codify what should happen anyway, given a competent clock operator.

01/30/2013 - 5:52pm I'll tell you why they didn't do Inner/Outer

1) They want the eastern teams to see a heavy diet of Michigan and Ohio State, because of the comparatively large number of alumni those schools have in that region.

2) Travel: fewer games that fans of the eastern and western teams can drive to

3) They were burned by the generally negative reaction to Leaders/Legends, and they want something with simple, non-gimmicky names: East/West, not Inner/Outer or "Eye of Sauron"

01/30/2013 - 5:34pm A few reasons

Most Michigan fans get a kick out of beating State. Or, to put it the opposite way, aside from Ohio, there is no more annoying loss—which, by the way, has happened four years of the last five. Empirically, the game does well on TV, and fans in the stadium consider it a premium game the years it's played in Ann Arbor.

Moreover, the Big Ten is an "all for one, one for all" league. Whatever you may think of them, Michigan is the #1 rivalry on State's schedule. The Big Ten is not going to roll out a system that screws any team out of the #1 game they want to play. They might not get their second or third choice, but every team will at least get their first.

A similar example is the Illibuck trophy (Illinois/Ohio State). Illinois fans would like to preserve that game annually, but they're not going to get their wish. But there's no way they'd do away with the Illinois-Northwestern game. No. Way.

01/28/2013 - 12:37pm Stalking Horse

I think the 10-game idea is just a scheme to make 9 games more palatable to the ADs who now oppose it. The drawbacks are just too apparent. I can't see them adopting it.

For what it's worth, I don't favor 9 games either. I'd rather have more games under the schools' control. Those who want to schedule tough, can schedule tough. Those who want cupcakes can have them.

But 10 games would really put a crimp in the OOC schedule. If you ever want to play a real OOC opponent (the kind that demands a return game), you'd only have six home games half the time. The schools with a locked OOC rival (Purdue, Iowa) would have no flexibility at all.

01/04/2013 - 10:30am I also prefer Inner/Outer, but....

I also prefer Inner/Outer, but unfortunately I don't think it'll happen, for three reasons:

1) As a number of people have noted, I think the league will want to maximize the exposure of Michigan and Ohio State on the East Coast, and Inner/Outer fails to do that.

2) I think they'll worry about creating the perception that the Outer division is the "ghetto" for Big Ten arrivistes (i.e., all the teams that weren't in Bo & Woody's Big Ten).

3) I think they'll be skittish about names other than "East/West," given that "Leaders/Legends" didn't exactly take the world by storm.

01/03/2013 - 9:05pm You've asked the wrong question

The real question is travel time, not miles. Beyond a certain distance, teams and their fans are (mainly) going to be flying, not driving.

Now, airplane trips are much shorter in the air, but you've got to get to and from an airport, get through security, board/disembark, check and claim luggage, and so forth. For most Big Ten trips that require flying, travel time is dominated by these other factors, and it almost doesn't matter where you're going.

So the real issue for the Big Ten is not the average distance, but maximizing the drivable games. Once you're beyond driving distance, it doesn't matter who's in your division, and other factors will take over (rivalries, competitive balance, marketing).

12/18/2012 - 11:41am Could you measure "good" attrition and "bad" attrition?

Some attrition is better than others. When a mediocre or non-contributor leaves, it might actually be a good thing. That player is no longer taking up a scholarship, and it can be offered to someone else.

Jerald Robinson was good attrition. There was ample evidence that he wasn't going to make a big contribution. It's better to have the scholarship available for someone else.

Darryl Stonum was really, really bad attrition. He was a star player at a position of need, and because of a stupid mistake off the football field, he was unavailable when Michigan could have used him.

I haven't worked out how to "score" these cases, but a crude measurement of how much value was lost seems to me more important than just counting people who left.

12/13/2012 - 4:40pm Eye of Sauron FTW

The "Eye of Sauron" (which I call burger 'n' buns) configuration really is the best:

1) It gets Michigan and Ohio State back in the same division.

2) It puts the PSU/Maryland/Rutgers trio in the same division, which makes sense because PSU used to have annual rivalries with those schools.

3) It puts the four western schools in the same division, which those schools are known to prefer.

4) It is competitively balanced.

5) Travel is reasonable. (Rutgers & Maryland will have to fly west twice a year, but they would have flown to any game, besides each other and Penn State. Minnesota pretty much has to fly to almost everybody. Etc.)

6) All of the "must-have" rivalries are in the same division. This eliminates the need for protected cross-division rivalries, and means that teams in opposite divisions can play each other more often.

12/11/2012 - 5:01pm Not so sure about Boise and SDSU

Most FBS squads play seven home and five road games a year. The Big East will put Boise and SDSU in the same division, so those two schools will have only 4-5 long road trips a year. In contrast, basketball would require 10 or more such trips, often for weeknight games. It would be even worse for their non-revenue sports.

So that's why Boise and SDSU joined in football only. The travel isn't tenable for any other sport.

12/04/2012 - 7:47am Eliminate the protected rivalries

First, you don't want to introduce competitive imbalance. That's one of the problems with the current alignment: Michigan has Ohio State every year (in addition to its divsion schedule); Michigan State has Indiana.

Second, most of the potential cross-division rivalries lack serious pedigree, except for Michigan-Minnesota. All the others would be just arbitrary annual games, which would diminish the frequency of playing everyone else in the opposite division.

Third, I think the Big Ten will want to maximize its blue-chip games, which are the ones in which Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Penn State play each other. Without protected rivalries, those teams can meet in the regular season more often.

Furthermore, everyone in the conference wants to face Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Penn State, as often as they can. Those are the games that get on basic cable and sell out stadiums. With nine conference games and no protected rivalries, every team will face almost every other team over a four-year period.

12/02/2012 - 5:05pm No, Michigan would not've made it to the BCS

The BCS bowls would have chosen Oklahoma (10-2) and/or Oregon (11-1) over Michigan. Of course, if Northern Illinois winds up with an auto-bid, then it would have been even less likely.

11/28/2012 - 9:50am The Big East already lost its BCS status

They have one more season in the BCS. In the new deal, which begins in 2014, they have the same status as the MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt, and Mountain West.

11/28/2012 - 9:47am Great post, but a few misconceptions

There isn't some inexorable gravitational command to reach 16 teams. Every add needs to be revenue positive, as well as meeting the Big Ten's geographical and academic standards.

As you note, UConn and Cincinnati fail on academic grounds. Pitt fails on revenue grounds: it doesn't add much, given that the Big Ten already has Pennsylvania's major football school. (Even with crippling sanctions, Penn State had a better football season this year than Pitt, as it practically always does.)

You are right that UVA and UNC will have a lot of trouble splitting up from their in-state sister schools, even assuming they'd want the Big Ten (and that the Big Ten would want them) if that issue evaporated. But I don't think Missouri had any choice. No one passes up the chance to join the SEC. Sure, they coveted a Big Ten invite, but when Kate Upton has the hots for you, you don't hold out for Jennifer Aniston.

11/26/2012 - 12:30pm The Time-Out before 4th & 3 bothered me

It wound up not mattering, but . . . .

The go/punt decision ought to be like the 2-point conversion decision. The coach should have a chart, and 95 percent of the time it ought to be automatic, rather than burning a time-out to think it over.

It did NOT bother me that they failed to convert. These "smart football" decisions are a matter of playing the odds. Hoke's decisions have paid off most of the time. You're not going to get them all.

But the play-call, especially coming out of a time-out, was awfully pedestrian. If ever there was a time to try and fake-out the defense, wasn't this it?

11/21/2012 - 11:01am Because everyone wants 7 home games

Every Big Ten team wants at least 7 home games every year. In addition, two Big Ten teams have standing home-and-home rivalries outside the conference that are probably not going away: Purdue with Notre Dame, Iowa with Iowa State.

If you have nine conference games, then Iowa will play five on the road the years they have Iowa State at home, and vice versa. The remaining two games need to be one-and-done body bag opponents, to get Iowa up to seven games at home every year.

Teams like Michigan and Ohio State that lack a standing non-conference rivalry would have the flexibility to schedule a high-profile non-conference opponent every year (i.e., the kind of opponent that would demand a return game).

If you go to ten conference games, then nobody could ever schedule a high-profile non-conference opponent again.

11/21/2012 - 9:01am It could happen, but it's really hard to do

There is no real logic to which schools are football powerhouses, and which are not. Decades ago, Minnesota had a long run of sustained success. Now they're terrible. There is no logical reason for Kentucky to excel at basketball and suck at football, rather than the other way around. It just IS.

But once you have a powerhouse program, there are enormous structural advantages that allow it to stay that way. That's why schools like Michigan, Alabama, and USC are never down for long, and why Penn State will be a premier program again, eventually.

Building that sort of program is rarely accomplished. Paterno did it at Penn State. Bowden did it at Florida State. Somewhat uniquely, Miami did it not with one great coach, but rather a sequence of them. Still, it takes many years to build up the kind of success where it becomes self-sustaining.

South Carolina is still at around .500 all-time, with a 5-12 record all-time in bowl games. They've never been to a BCS bowl and have finished in the top 10 just once in their history. They've never won an SEC title, and their only division championship, in 2010, came in an unusually weak year, when their conference record was just 5-3. South Carolina still has a LONG way to go.

11/20/2012 - 5:58pm Even your way, I'm not sure you're correct

Pre-realignment, the Big Ten had a total of 25 BCS appearances; 19 for the Big 12. The Big Ten had six teams who'd been to the BCS at least twice; the Big 12 had only three (Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska). The Big Ten has placed an at-large team in the BCS eleven times, and every year since 2004. The Big 12 has done so once (Kansas in 2008).

It is true that the Big 12 was killed mostly by its revenue-sharing deal, but that deal came directly out of the fact that so many of its members were weak. In the years the Big 12 had a conference championship game, the "Big Three" (TX, OK, Neb) won 12 out of 15. The Big Ten didn't have a championship game in those years, but during the comparable period, nine of its eleven members won or shared the title at least once.

There are obviously many stats you can use, but at the time Nebraska made the switch, you'd have had trouble finding very many people who thought they were moving to a weaker league by any definition. This year it's definitely true, but these moves are made with a 20+ year horizon.

11/20/2012 - 4:25pm Not sure what we are actually disagreeing about

I'm curious about your comment regarding the conference championship game. The B1G already has one of those, so how could it make "multiples of what we make today" by adding two additional teams?

The only financial benefit from expanding that anyone has touted, is getting the Big Ten Network into more households. That has nothing to do with the conference championship game, which is on Fox. Teams like Rutgers and Maryland, who'll hardly ever play in that game, do not make it more valuable.

11/20/2012 - 4:09pm There's definitely an adequate sample size

If all conference moves over the last 20 years are considered, there are a lot of them: certainly enough to draw conclusions. If you run through them one by one, but you'll see the four axioms are practically always true.

There is no plausible argument that the Big 12 was a stronger conference than the B1G at the time Nebraska switched. Texas A&M and Missouri were publicly and conspicuously looking at other options. Four schools at least listened to an offer from the Pac-12. After that fell through, it took Colorado about 15 minutes to make a switch. Did you see any Big Ten school even sniffing elsewhere? Of course not.

In my statement of the axioms, you'll note the word voluntarily. I didn't explicate what that meant...but yeah, when your back is against the wall (usually because you've lost members), the necessary actions to survive are not voluntary. When the axioms are violated, it's usually because someone's back is against the wall.

11/20/2012 - 9:17am You haven't considered the money angle

Sixteen-team conferences aren't an inexorable law. Every move has to make money. A lot of your scenarios are just "moves for their own sake."

According to the latest estimates, the Big Ten media payout will likely reach $45 million per school by 2019, compared with $25 million today. Simply put, the next pair of schools need to bring in $90 million just to break even. And Jim Delany doesn't do deals just to break even.

It gets harder and harder to find schools that are accretive, while also fitting the Big Ten's academic and geographic profile. As it is, some people feel that Maryland and Rutgers are a cut below the rest of the conference. How much deeper in the bargain barrel do you dig, and somehow come up with around $45 or $50 million a school?

11/15/2012 - 2:27pm Query: are timeouts in the database

This may be just a nit, but I'd think the lack of time-outs depresses the win percentage even further, since a sack ends the game, and you need to have at least 3 extra seconds after a completed first-down pass inbounds to spike the ball.

11/15/2012 - 1:45pm 9% doesn't sound right

First of all, in the write-up you said the nadir was 5%, not 9%.

Beyond that, Michigan had 1st & Goal from its own 38 with 18 seconds left and no time-outs. They needed around 30 yards to get into field goal range, and basically only one play to do it. (Clearly, if the long past to Roundtree had been incomplete, there wasn't enough time to throw another pass of that length and spike the ball.)

And even if you complete the pass, the FG isn't a sure thing, and OT is basically a toss-up, with perhaps a narrow edge for the home team.

You're saying that almost 1 out of 10 teams in that situation go on to win? I can't imagine it's that high.

10/29/2012 - 4:09pm Regarding fifth years

Most college football players, even very good ones with NFL potential, do stick around for the fifth year. Andrew Luck is a recent example. Obviously, there are no sure things in sports, but it's not like basketball, where the great ones hardly ever last four years, much less five.

Of the following scenarios, which is the more common in football:

(A) Player burns his redshirt and is not very effective as a freshman; he's a star by his senior year, and would have stayed a fifth year, if he could.

(B) Player redshirts; he's a star by his redshirt junior year, and foregoes his fifth year for the NFL.

I think (A) is more common, and therefore it's better to hold onto the redshirt -- unless, of course, the player actually beats out the older guys ahead of him.

10/16/2012 - 12:10pm Some Thoughts on Legends Jerseys

It appears that Hoke's de facto strategy is to assign them either to: A) Young players with a high ceiling (Ryan, Morgan); or B) "Good-guy" seniors with a low ceiling (Roundtree, Miller).

What he has not done, is take a star player's number away, late in his career (Kovacs, Denard). This solves the problem Brian was worried about, where after 3 1/2 years of seeing Kovacs roaming the secondary as #32, suddenly he's #11 for a handful of games.

Of course, after they've put Denard on the cover of their media guide and sold thousands of #16 jerseys, there was no way his number was going to change.

I suspect that Hoke will be leery of giving out legends jerseys to true freshmen. Hoke seems to believe that there's a "good citizenship" requirement, more than just being good at sports, and it would be tough for a true freshman to demonstrate that.

So a likely pattern is that they'll usually be given to younger players of starter caliber (but not true frosh), who'll then have the chance to wear the jersey for several years. In cases where there is no obvious candidate in the younger ranks, he'll give it to a "good guy" senior for a year, and then re-evaluate it the following season.

Michigan hasn't retired a lot of jerseys. There are pretty low odds that a second guy would have a "retire-the-jersey" type of career with the same number. In the event that happens, it strikes me as a good problem to have.

If you look at the accomplishments that get your jersey retired, they're pretty rare. I love Jake Ryan, but being a 3-time All-American and wining a Butkus award would probably not suffice.

10/05/2012 - 4:32pm As one of those 12 zillion East Coast alums....

I would personally be happy with it. But these decisions are made years in advance. The fact that Rutgers is on the fringe of the top 25 at the moment is irrelevant. Based on Rutgers' history, you can make a pretty good guess as to the probability they'd be ranked in a game played 3 or 4 years from now.

Although East Coast alumni would enjoy the road game, is Rutgers the kind of opponent that would set pulses racing in Ann Arbor? In terms of the quality of football that they usually play, Rutgers is practically the equivalent of a MAC school. Brandon can get a MAC school any day of the week, without having to give back a return game.

I think Brandon's main priority is to improve the quality of the home slate, and I'm not sure Rutgers does that. A pretty good SEC team, like Arkansas, is quite a bit different than Rutgers.

10/05/2012 - 4:19pm Sounds like 8 ACC conference games...

...was an accommodation for Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech. In years they play Notre Dame in South Bend, they would be looking at 6 road games, which (in general) no BCS team ever does. I know that Michigan played at Jerryworld this year, but that was a one-off, not a game built into the schedule on a recurring basis.

09/28/2012 - 12:44pm Look at it historically

Among FBS schools, Texas A&M is a top-20 program in all-time wins, ahead of all but five SEC schools (Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, LSU, and Auburn).

In all-time wins, Colorado is ahead of every Pac-12 team except USC. I realize they're terrible this year, but these types of moves are 20, 30-year decisions.

Mizzou on its own doesn't quite meet the league average in SEC football, although they're ahead (historically) of a number of SEC teams. However, Texas A&M and Mizzou were pretty clearly a package deal. Considered together, they certainly did not dilute the league.

09/28/2012 - 8:14am Boise State & Notre Dame

Boise State has had a nice run in football, but they're academically weaker than most of the Big Five schools, they come from a small market that wouldn't add many TV viewers, and they're not a good geographic fit for most of the major conferences. A lot would need to change for Boise to be considered compelling. I could see them as a potential 12th team in the Big 12, if that conference decided to expand. In the post, I gave the reasons why I don't think the Big 12 will expand anytime soon.

The ACC is actually a far better fit for Notre Dame. They want to be a national team, not a regional one. Notre Dame will never have trouble recruiting the midwest. The ACC gives them a presence along the Eastern seaboard, where ND has always recruited well. The ACC is also a better cultural fit: it has several other private schools (unlike the Big Ten, which has only Northwestern), including the only other Catholic school that plays FBS football, Boston College. The ACC is also a better home for Notre Dame's non-revenue sports, e.g., the ACC sponsors lacrosse and the Big Ten does not.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that the ACC allows Notre Dame to remain independent in football, and the Big Ten would not. But even if the Big Ten admitted Notre Dame on the identical terms, I suspect the Irish would prefer the ACC, for the reasons I've given above.

09/26/2012 - 3:22pm Purdue is solid; M & MSU will probably alternate

Notre Dame isn't ducking Michigan. In the last 15 years, the Spartans have actually beaten them more often than Michigan has.

Purdue will be a lock. It's their most frequent Big Ten rival, it's an intra-state game, and it's close to an auto-win on the Irish schedule. And quite frankly, Purdue would be screwed if Notre Dame backed out. They would never be able to find home & home opponents of comparable quality.

Michigan State has a four-on, two-off schedule with Notre Dame. This is a more favorable arrangement for ND than they had with Michigan, who they were obligated to play every year until 2031 (except for a 2018-19 hiatus). On top of that, Notre Dame already had a 2014-15 hiatus scheduled with Michigan State.

So they dropped Michigan, for the time being, because Purdue is their highest-priority Big Ten rivalry, and a Michigan State break was already built into their existing plans. I think they'll keep playing Purdue annually and alternate Michigan and Michigan State.

Swarbrick (the ND athletic director) sounded very open to re-starting the Michigan rivalry. I don't see why he'd say that, if he didn't mean it. They have home & homes scheduled with Oklahoma and Texas in the coming years, neither of which is an easy win. This idea that the Irish are cowards is not backed up by the facts.

09/26/2012 - 10:46am I'd still call them independent

They've ceded 5 of 12 games to the ACC commissioner's office; but that's still far fewer than any other team in any other league. What's most important (to them) is that they keep their NBC deal, can continue to play a national schedule, and can make the playoff or a top-tier bowl without having to play a conference championship game. Those are pretty important differences.

Many of the ACC teams are regulars on the Irish schedule anyway (BC, Pitt, Miami), or have played them periodically in the past (Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Wake Forest, Maryland). It isn't any great leap for them to play five ACC teams a year. Notre Dame also recruits heavily in ACC territory, and they have a lot of fans in the ACC footprint.

Also, they typically scheduled 2-3 Big East teams per year, so this isn't such a huge leap from what they did under their old arrangement.

09/26/2012 - 9:31am ND isn't's why

It's obvious that the Irish can't play five ACC teams per year, maintain all of their current rivalries, and still have seven home games a year (the standard for most FBS teams).

There was no way Notre Dame would drop Purdue. It's an in-state rivalry, and it's the Big Ten team they've played the most often. And more than any other school on their schedule, Purdue really needs the game. Purdue would be really screwed if the Irish dropped them. Of course, you're right that it's close to an automatic win on the Irish schedule, so Notre Dame doesn't mind playing it, just as much as Purdue (economically) doesn't mind that they almost always lose.

Michigan State is already off the Irish schedule in 2014-2015, so dropping them wouldn't have solved their problem, insofar as clearing away the space to play five ACC teams per year. The Michigan State deal is also more flexible, because going forward it's structured as 4-on, 2-off, as opposed to the Michigan deal, which is every year aside from a 2018-19 hiatus.

As you've noted, the pesky Spartans have given the Irish fits. In the last 15 years, the Spartans have actually beaten Notre Dame more often than Michigan has. So it's kind of silly to suggest that Notre Dame is scared of Michigan.

Several people have noted that the Michigan-Notre Dame game was the highest-rated game of the weekend. Notre Dame needs games like that to make their NBC TV contract more valuable. For that reason (among others), I suspect that Notre Dame will be back on the Michigan schedule sooner than most people think. Brandon clearly likes the game, and Swarbrick's letter sounded like he is very open to rescheduling it.

09/20/2012 - 8:48am Hinton makes another great point people are overlooking

Denard’s accomplishments vs. Notre Dame are out-sized. The only other major opponent against whom he has a winning record is Nebraska (1-0). Otherwise, he’s 0-2 vs. MSU, 0-2 vs. Iowa, 0-2 vs. the SEC, 0-1 vs. Wisconsin, 1-1 vs. Ohio State. Although Michigan did win its bowl game last year, Denard’s performance itself was not so memorable.

That’s why Hinton notes that Denard’s “window for turning "exciting" into "great" is closing by the week.” That’s why Denard is no longer on most of the Heisman watch lists. He has produced a feature film’s worth of highlight-reel moments and rewritten the Michigan record book, but without a few more signature performances against opponents not named Notre Dame, you couldn’t say that he was a great quarterback, only that he was an extraordinarily exciting one.

That’s why Hinton writes: “Denard Robinson against Notre Dame is the ur-Denard from which all other versions of Denard follow and against whom they are all compared. With the possible exception of the Denard who played a nearly perfect game in the process of snapping a seven-year losing streak against Ohio State last November, the others almost always come up short. Denard against Notre Dame is the original formula. The idol to which thousands of No. 16 jerseys pay homage every weekend, hoping for a mere glimpse of what they got in South Bend in 2010, and under the newly installed lights in Michigan Stadium in 2011. . . . Since his second start at Notre Dame in 2010, that's the Denard fans have paid to see, and opposing coaches have desperately hoped they don't.”

09/18/2012 - 12:00pm The NFL is irrelevant

Gardner has already said, multiple times, that his dream is to play QB for Michigan. If the coaches think he is the best QB, they aren't going to play him at some other position so that he can improve his NFL draft stock. The coaches would love to be able to say they placed a guy in the NFL, but not at the expense of winning their own games.

By the way, some fans used the same argument to suggest that Denard ought to switch to another position, to make himself more attractive to the draft. Denard's dream was to play QB, and he was the best guy available, so he played QB.

Gardner will almost certainly be a QB in spring practice and voluntary summer workouts, since otherwise Bellomy would be the only QB on the team. Even if you think Bellomy will ultimately be better, you wouldn't want a situation where the job is handed to him without competition. Besides that, what if he suffers an injury, and then you've got nobody?

I also think Gardner will be a QB in fall camp, because no sane coach would want their only options to be Bellomy or a true freshman, even when that true freshman is a five-star stud. So by the time of the opening game next year, Gardner will have had plenty of time to show he is the best QB on the roster.

My own view is that Gardner will probably prevail over Bellomy, because he's a year older and has a higher athletic ceiling. But if he doesn't prevail, it won't be for a lack of trying.

09/14/2012 - 6:32pm The open question around strength of schedule

Yes, they say that strength of schedule will figure in who makes the playoff. Surely that means you get more credit for beating Alabama than for beating UMass.

But how much will losing to Alabama count against you?

Teams practically always fall in the rankings after any loss, no matter how close; and teams seldom fall after a win. So the system seldom penalizes you for playing a weak opponent, or for playing a strong one and narrowly losing.

Perhaps strength of schedule would help the committee decide which one-loss teams make the playoff. But would they choose a three-loss team that played a tough schedule over a one-loss team that played an easy one?

09/14/2012 - 3:46pm Sorry...typo

It was '95-'96 that the second hiatus was taken.

Yes, obviously there was a long period the two schools did not play. But once it was renewed, a long string of ADs on both sides clearly considered it advantageous to continue. I thought it might be worthwhile to examine the reasons why.

09/14/2012 - 2:52pm Big 12...a whole bunch of reasons

Except for Texas and Oklahoma, there aren't a lot of Big 12 schools the Irish are particularly eager to play. This contrasts with the ACC, where Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Miami, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Florida State have all been on ND's schedule from time to time (and several of them a lot more often than that).

It need hardly be added that for basketball, Notre Dame would far rather be playing the ACC schools than the Big 12 schools.

Academically, the ACC is much more of a fit, and remember that the people making these decisions are school presidents, who care about academics a lot. Obviously, the ACC is much more stable. South Carolina, in 1971, is the only school ever to leave the ACC. The Big 12 has lost four schools in the last two years alone.

Whatever may be the Irish and/or Catholic concentration in the ACC footprint, I think it's pretty clear that there are more Irish fans in the East than in the corn and oil belt. Notre Dame recruits far more successfully in the East than in Big 12 territory.

Lastly, I'd say that even if the attraction to Notre Dame in the East is "puzzling," what matters is that it exists, not whether it makes any sense. Lots of fan preferences do not necessarily have any rational basis.

09/14/2012 - 2:43pm Reported on The Wolverine

It's a pay site, so I can't link it. Their source was anonymous, but they usually have pretty good access to inside information, so I would consider it pretty credible.