Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Miscellaneous Minutiae, 7/10/2012

Yes...this was a thing. 

Mediocrity and bygone memories. At this point in time, the Orange Bowl has lost its luster. It's MJ playing with the Wizards, and that is a very unfortunate thing indeed. Scanning the list of Orange Bowl games in recent years is a grotesque exercise. Even the 2006 Penn State-Florida State matchup--one which you'd think would be a firecracker of a game based on name brand cachet alone--featured a 4-loss Seminole team. To be fair, it did go to OT, and was a fairly exciting game. If anything, that game further confirmed that the difference between 1/2 (Texas and USC) and the next team, #3 PSU, was pretty significant. 2005: The Year That The BCS Accidentally Worked.

To make a long story short, the ACC courting perpetual free agent Notre Dame for an Orange Bowl tie-in, in one enormous melting pot of mediocrity. The ACC/the Orange Bowl game are kind of like the Cheesecake Factory: mindlessly uniform (everybody has 7 wins, everybody has the same mediocre, overstretched menu). Like the city of Charlotte--where the ACC title game has been held the the last two years after an embarrassing 2008 turnout in Tampa--ACC would rather be doing something else (i.e. playing basketball, while Charlotteans watch NASCAR).

On a related note, this isn't exactly a new thought, but: I wonder how long ND can continue to find itself being treated with kid gloves before the college football world just stops caring about them. I get the feeling that that might never happen, because after nearly two decades of mostly awful football, ND is still in discussions such as this one with the ACC. ND's privileged drifter status truly is one of the weirdest arrangements in sports. As Hinton notes, for any of this to even come into play, ND will need to win enough games:
Yes, that assurance could come at the expense of a mid-major outfit that can't promise a sellout or a huge TV rating, but old Notre Dame will never be handed a golden ticket based on echoes alone. Its current arrangement with BCSguarantees the Irish access to one of the big-money bowls if they finish with either a top-ten ranking in the BCS standings or nine wins in the regular season, hurdles they've managed to clear just three times in the Series' 14-year existence. Any deal with the Orange Bowl (or any other major bowl) is likely to come with criteria in the same vein, based on the selection committee poll that will replace the BCS standings.
As we have seen, this has been easier said than done, even with the 9-win clause built in for them. It's kind of irritating, but, when you think about it, the entire playoff process has revealed that it's all about the money. That thing that isn't money that you thought this was about just a little bit? Nope, it's not about that. A ND team that might not be great but provides a better turnout (i.e. a chance for a stadium to look somewhat full) than another team that is probably better but not as cash-flush...seems like a no-brainer for the ACC and the Orange Bowl. It's definitely needed, since I almost have no desire to watch the Orange Bowl these days, and I watched almost every pre-NYD bowl game this past season, so that should tell you something. Utah State-Ohio and San Diego State-Louisiana Lafayette were arguably more entertaining bowl games than every Orange Bowl game within the last five years.

PHIL STEELE IS VERY EXCITED ABOUT MICHIGAN. The Oracle that is Phil Steele has deemed Michigan one of a choice group of potential 2012 national title winners. I'm only mentioning this to highlight this part:
Steele used extensive statistical research from 24 different stat categories for all national title winners and contenders over the past 20 years to come up with his final list of 11.
His research looked at all past championship teams' wins and losses from the previous season, offensive and defensive numbers, turnover margin and schedule strength.
There's no way that Phil Steele is actually a living, breathing human being. Have any of you actually seen Phil Steele, like, walking around and stuff? No? Yup, he's a robot because Occam's Razor. Plus, if the BCS has taught me anything, a robot/computer agenda exists, and it is not to be trusted.

While I find Steele's most deployed construction of "if you'll remember that time I was right about this thing" to be amusing but kind of tiresome after having seen it for so many years, it's July; his analysis, JAM-PACKED WITH FACTS, is at least worth a scan. If anything, you have to respect that hustle.

UM-MSU rivalry fuel. A new book on an interesting part of Big Ten history is out, "Arrogance and Scheming in the Big Ten", by Dr. David J. Young (HT: Big Ten Blog). Man, I can't wait to find out who the arrogant ones in this yarn are! On a serious note, the 374-page tome details Michigan State's tumultuous entry into the conference in 1949 and our own evil, mustache-twirlingly arrogant attempts to keep them out. We're always the villains, it seems. Don't people know that calling us arrogant all the time hurts our feelings? We have them, you know.

In any case, this is a history that I am admittedly not that familiar with, so this seems like something that would definitely be worth a read. With that said, I just wanted to touch on this point:
Among many revelations, “Arrogance and Scheming” smashes the idea that the early 20th century was a time of rah-rah innocence for college football. Indeed, scandals and presumed scandals weaved their way through the Western Conference.
Do people actually believe that the early days of college football were any different than they are now? If anything, they were probably "worse," just with way less cash money coming out of the whole enterprise. If so, this thinking is obviously naive, perspective-less "the old-days-were-better" talk. That said, if the book is as well-researched and sourced as it sounds like it is--featuring extensive use of Michigan's own Bentley Library--it would appear to be required reading for the college football history buff, B1G fan or not.

Also, I didn't know this, but apparently UofM English professor Ann Curzan was selected as Michigan's faculty rep to the B1G and NCAA in February, which, as Rexrode's article notes, is fairly poetic. Curzan is the granddaughter of former MSU President John Hannah, who sparred with Michigan's own Ralph Aigler--Michigan's faculty rep at that time--throughout MSU's Big Ten admission struggle.

To all of that I say: MICHIGAN ENGLISH DEPARTMENT REPRESENT! WOOOO WE RUN THIS CAMPUS, Y'ALL. Hope you are all ready to see "Special K" ushered out in favor of Samuel L. Jackson-voiced audiobooks of Victorian literature, played line by line at key moments throughout the game.

Carl Grapentine: Maxwell's pass incomplete, intended for Sims, Thomas Gordon covering. It's third and ten. 
English Department-sponsored SLJ reading: IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES, MOTHERF*@#^%!

/Big House golf claps
//jingles keys

This needs to happen. Coincidentally, I'm pretty sure the opening words of A Tale of Two Cities represent the most perfect descriptor of Michigan's 3rd and long defense over the years.

Speaking of Michigan State. Bill C. has a great run-down of MSU's prospects in 2012, and to be quite honest, I have to agree with most of his assessment. Outside of Alabama and LSU, you could easily make an argument for MSU's as the next best defensive team in the country. No, I'm not talking about Michigan (although I suspect that Michigan will be very soon; 2011 was only the beginning of the defensive renaissance) here. I am no Nostradamus, and neither are you. Whether MSU's recent success is sustainable can be debated, but that's only because they've won a lot of games (22 in the last two seasons combined). You could debate the sustainability of that success for almost any program out there, including Michigan's. More importantly, it would seem that Dantonio has upped MSU's baseline significantly. If the Spartans fall off, they're probably looking at 7-9 wins and not the complete and utter collapse of years past.

If you haven't already, it' time to discard the silly "Little Brother" thing, because MSU will be very good again this year. To be honest, I have a gut feeling that Maxwell will be just fine at quarterback. Jerel Worthy is a bigger loss, IMO.

Bednarik Award watch list. This is tangentially connected to the last section, but here's the list of B1G players on the pre-season Bednarik Award watch list (the award given to the top defensive player in college football). Note that there are zero Wolverines on this list. For a program that is a favorite to win the conference and a lock to be pre-season top 10, the lack of "high end" talent sticks out like a fan being loud between the 40s in the Big House.

I can't wait until Michigan has well-coached blue chip talent on the defensive side of the ball again. That will be pretty neat. It seems ridiculous that Kovacs isn't even on this list given that Chris Borland is on it (honestly, I've never been all that impressed with him), but whatever. I'm not sure how much longer Mattison is going to be coaching, but I think it's safe to say that he'll be there long enough to see the 2011 and 2012 classes form the core of the defense.

Now, the tangentially relevant part: the Spartans have four on this list (Gholston, Adams, Allen and Bullough). A serious question: in the history of Bednark watch lists, has this ever happened (i.e. 4 Spartans and 0 Wolverines)? I would venture to guess probably not. In any case, this is one more "MSU is for real, you guys" piece of evidence.

More? UMHoops with a comprehensive look at Beilein's recruiting options for 2013 and beyond...as in, 2015 beyond. Burkhead fluff in SI. Lake The Posts on Drew Crawford and how he will need to take over in the post-Shurna era if the Wildcats are going to have a chance at getting that first tourney berth this season.

Speaking of the Bednarik watch list, Alabama has four defenders make the list: Nico Johnson, CJ Mosley, Jesse Williams, and Robert Lester. To reiterate the "MSU is for real" thing...MSU, LSU, and Alabama are the only teams with four defenders on the list.

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