This Week's Obsession: B1G X Comment Count

Seth December 12th, 2013 at 12:05 PM


That episode where Mr. Burns had to go work for Smithers. I'm sure there is one. 

The Big Ten Championship Game and bowl selection gives us an opportunity to zoom out a little.

Who's on the up, how do next year's divisions stack up against each other for the short and long term, and what's the long term outlook for the Big Ten on a national scale (and do you care?)

Mathlete: With Michigan State's title and several preceding years of quality, they have moved into that 1B tier. Ohio State is the only team right now I would consider in the top tier. They have both the recruiting and the on field to be clearly at the top.

I wonder what Coach Dantonio thinks about "1B" status. He probably has a measured, mature response that acknowledges his schedule was kind of easy and his recruiting is lacking. [Fuller]

Joining the Spartans in 1B I would put Wisconsin. Behind them you have the good but definitely behind the top teams group. Unfortunately right now that includes Michigan along with Nebraska, Iowa. In the third group you have the chaos teams. Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota (how did that happen), Penn State and probably Maryland are teams that had a pretty decent year last year despite another rash of injuries. That leaves Purdue, Illinois and Rutgers at the bottom tier.

So if you look at the divisions you have the East with 2 first tiers and 1 second tier team. The West would have 1 first tier and 2 second tier teams. The caveat is that the East's second tier team, Michigan, has been recruiting like a first tier and will finally have a large amount of acclaimed talent in the upper classes. If Michigan can move up to tier one, then the East is considerably more challenging.

On a national scale it's hard to see the Big Ten join the top as a group. The two paths up are recruiting and coaching and right now there is a pretty big gap between the Big Ten and the best in both. If Michigan can start playing like it's recruiting, and 1-2 teams of Michigan St/Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa can play at the top level each year, then that should help the profile of the conference. Three+ really good teams means you move out of ACC territory and get to where a conference champ would be in a position for 2 high quality wins. Ultimately, that's the blueprint for the Big Ten at the top as a conference, 3 high quality teams, 2 high quality wins. Without a foundational shift, the full depth isn't going to match up. But if the top 3 can, the conversation should die down.

[Just Jump.]


BiSB: These things are always fluid, but it's pretty clear that holy crap the West is bad. If you line the divisions top to bottom and played them Big Ten/ACC Challenge style, the East probably wins, what, 5 of the 7 games? Maybe 6? It's easy to second-guess, but it looks like they should have put Indiana in the West and Purdue in the East.

Indiana this year looked a lot like how people remember the 2010 Michigan team, except with lower lows than the Denard-Tate offense achieved and without that half-season of only being rather bad to its credit. [Fuller]

The East is going to be a bloodbath for the foreseeable future. Obviously Ohio State is primed for continued success. If Michigan ever stops the Benjamin Button act and actually gets older, they have as much talent as any team in the conference. And Michigan State, alas, isn't going anywhere. And with the easing of the sanctions on Penn State, they might emerge from the depths sooner than anticipated. If the East was representative of the conference as a whole, the B1G would probably be seen as in that tier below the SEC along with the PAC 12. Instead, with the Tim Beckman-shaped anchor attached to its ankle, the B1G is somewhere between the Big 12 and the ACC. Any hope of the B1G challenging the top conferences in public perception (hurray, pointless ESPN First Take topic victories...) relies on Michigan becoming This is Michigan again and Penn State weathering the storm somewhat intact.

Any hope for the West being on par with the East relied on Northwestern emerging as a potential third power along with Wisconsin and Nebraska. And while the Fightin' Fitzgeraldses were astoundingly snakebitten this year, this year showed that Northwestern will probably remain an occasional contender at best. Nebraska is dysfunctional from the top down, and prospects of life after Taylor Martinez aren't particularly shiny. Iowa and Minnesota have solid ceilings, and Illinois and Purdue... yeah.

Long term, the East is pre-revolutionary France. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are the bourgeois, and Maryland, Rutgers, and Indiana are the proletariat. Penn State is the only wild card, but long term they'll probably end up suggesting Rutgers eat cake. The West is a little less fluid, with the annual Who Will Challenge Wisconsin coming from the group of Iowa, Nebraska, and Northwestern, any of whom could lose 6 conference games in any season.


Ace: The Mathlete and BiSB have covered everything except the very last bit—do we care about the Big Ten's long term national outlook? To a certain extent, the obvious answer is 'yes'. A better conference reputation means a better chance of making the CoFoPoff™, better recruiting, and—perhaps the most overlooked and underrated aspect—better football to watch on Saturdays; I'm getting pretty tired of flipping to random Big Ten game, saying "why would I do this to myself?" and flipping to CBS.




On the other hand, the playoff allows for a little more leeway in terms of national title aspirations. As long as the Big Ten remains somewhere in that murky second tier (the SEC being the first tier) with the Pac-12, Big 12, and ACC, any undefeated conference champ is going to make the playoff, and more often than not a strong one-loss champ will, too. The conference, by historical standards, has pretty much bottomed out and that's essentially the position they're in right now—Ohio State would've made the BCS title game if they'd defeated MSU, and the last one-loss conference champion (2006 OSU) made it.

In that sense, I don't really care; as long as the Big Ten doesn't deteriorate further—with Michigan expected to bounce back and Penn State potentially coming off sanctions early, this would surprise—then they're going to be fine from a national standpoint; the conference will produce a contender every year, make the playoff more often than not, and unless we're expecting to be on par with the SEC that's pretty good.


Seth: A thousand dear diaries ago I made a grading system based on national FEI ranking, giving out letter grades (letters every ten, +s and -s every five), and then did the same for the recruiting classes. Using a composite of the last three (2012-2014 classes) 247's rankings, we try that again:

West | East
School FEI Rk Grade 247 Cp | School FEI Rk Grade 247 Cp
Wisconsin 13 A C+ | Ohio State 8 A A+
Iowa 30 B C | Michigan State 9 A B
Minnesota 49 C D+ | Michigan 29 B A+
Nebraska 51 C B | Indiana 62 D+ C
Northwestern 60 C- C | Penn State 65 D+ B
Illinois 75 D C- | Maryland 74 D C+
Purdue 114 F C- | Rutgers 98 E- B-
AVG 56 2.0 2.0 | AVG 49th 2.1 3.0

In that 247 composite Ohio State was second in the country and Michigan was fourth; the next Big Ten teams were outside the top 25, FWIW. Michigan's "B" grade is the result of some high variance.

That's about how I feel: a conference baseline of "C" (ie ranked around 50th) teams with one division recruiting at a "B" level and the other "getting the most out of" C level recruiting.

Feelingsball West: A bunch of those schools have established they can field very good teams under their current coaches with Michigan State-level recruiting. Wisconsin don't care. I don't trust Minnesota's resurgence or Iowa's; both of those programs probably peak at Top-25. I think Northwestern's still on the up despite an injury-riddled nightmare of a season, and I don't know what to make of Nebraska since they're probably going to fire their coach. Illinois and Purdue are doormats for the time being.

Feelingsball East: Well once Penn State is allowed to recruit they will be better, which means Michigan has two years to either catch up to Ohio State or find themselves in a solid second tier. MSU will lose a lot of the talent on defense that made them so competitive this year; there's still a few redshirted rows of teeth behind them. Maryland and Rutgers are two more teams who recruit better than they play, which is basically the M.O. of everyone in Michigan's division except MSU.

Toussaint career rushing against Minnesota: 41 carries, 265 yards (6.2 YPC), and 4 TDs.

The rest of the field, as expressed as their teams' average GPAs:

Conf FEI 2013 247 3-yr
SEC 2.7 3.7
Pac12 2.8 2.8
BigXII 2.3 2.5
B1G 2.0 2.5
ACC 2.0 2.4
Other 0.8 0.4
MAC 0.7 0.1

Ultimately I think the SEC's wow factor (top-rated recruits, national championship string) has them overrated. They're really about on par with the Pac, which doesn't change that fact that the Big Ten is nowhere near either of them.


[Site goes down. Site comes back up with the pos and negs  back. We spend 38 hours pos- and neg-banging. And then…]

Brian: I do not care about the Big Ten's reputation one whit except insofar as it prevents Michigan from making CoFoPoff, and Michigan first has to be not horrible to get there. That's a distant concern, and if Michigan does actually win the Big Ten that means they'll have beaten OSU and the championship game to close the year after playing a decent three-game nonconference schedule. That team doesn't get left out in many circumstances. Michigan will lose all ties to the SEC, but that ship sailed when Delany wrote his letter.

Dear rest of NCAA: Due to our strong traditions we demand you take our conference srsly.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten's reputation isn't going to get any better now that they're adding a team that did in fact lose to UConn and can't seem to hire one damned coach, administrator, or athletic director who hasn't waterboarded not only their players but random passers-by who looked at 'em funny. AND something called Maryland, which may have beaten UConn but also lost to Wake Forest. Lost to Wake Forest 34-10. Michigan gets both of those schedule anchors every year, along with Indiana, but people are dumb and will look at ohhh shiny OSU win (hypothetical).

In the conference, the west is going to be a sack of cats that will cough up a nearly-random hairball into the championship game annually. You have to give Wisconsin the edge here, as they just weathered a coaching change without much difficulty and probably upgraded in the process. They've got a proven winner in adverse circumstances at HC, a redshirt/wait/destroy regime in place that apparently nothing can overturn, and a perpetual Chris Borland machine somewhere in Green Bay that we need to hijack. But they are always vulnerable because they don't have recruiting might and any or all of their competitors except Purdue could put a stick in their eye. Yes, even Illinois after Illinois fires Tim Beckman.

On Michigan's side of the ledger, they are the third banana at this instant, hoping that Hoke's recruiting and retention gets them to the point where they can be on par with... oh for pant's sake. Cruel fate, why do you mock me? Screw you guys, I'm going home.



December 12th, 2013 at 1:11 PM ^

2007 1 loss Ohio State that played 2 loss LSU in the title game.

2010 Wisconsin missed out on the BCS title game (but Oregon and Auburn were undefeated)  Interestingly they were 5th in BCS, 4th in the AP and 4th in the Coaches.  Potential playoff selection would have undefeated Oregon, Auburn and TCU (mountian west at that time).  1 loss Stanford, 1 loss Wisconsin (lost to MSU), 1 loss MSU (lost to Iowa), 1 loss OSU (lost to Wisconsin) to sort out for 4 teams.  No matter who they selected a 1 loss power conference champion was going to miss the playoff. 

At any rate, with a 4 team playoff and the push every season to get at least 2 SEC teams into it, 1 loss conference champions from the Pac 12, Big 12, Big Ten and the ACC will be in serious danger of missing the playoff.




December 12th, 2013 at 12:27 PM ^

We planted the seed you guys. Bielema is in the SEC. Now we just have to keep the pressure on them. Right now the model for coaching career path looks like this...

MAC > B1G > Fired

That isn't helping us at all. Now OSU has the right idea. I know. Crazy right? He got the SEC coach to come to the B1G. Now Bielema was the most recent, but remember, Saban came from the B1G too. We just have to convince them to take all our coaches, and turn the model into this...


So while the two B1G coaches currently in the SEC run rampant through the conferece, some very great college coaches are being made to look bad. So while we start filling in the SEC with the next great coach from the B1G (but really the MAC), we come in and swoop up all the actually talented coaches being fired for no reason from the SEC. The Model will look like this....


And so the SEC ends up with MAC Coaches and the B1G ends up with SEC Coaches. 

TL;DR: Watch out SEC, y'all about to be MACtion'd.


December 12th, 2013 at 1:06 PM ^

The B1G has made moves that make me think that we're not going to be a big time football powerhouse as a conference any time soon. The money and everything just isn't there like it is in the SEC, for coaches or other stuff. that said, the B1G is set up to be very good in a couple areas: Men's Basketball, and everything else. Last year the B1G was definitely the best MBB conference in the country, and may be again this year. Especially top to bottom. Hockey, while new, has 3 of the best programs in the country. What the BTN really did is help every other sport from a recruiting standpoint, I'd be surprised if the B1G doesn't really start to succeed in olympic sports and other stuff from the additional coverage and dollars from the BTN.

Sac Fly

December 12th, 2013 at 12:35 PM ^

I'm convinced that Illinois could be a good program, but they settle for mediocrity.

There's so much football talent in the state that doesn't go to U of I; if they could bring in a good coach to keep the players in state like Miami in the 70's, Illinois could build a program.

Bobby Petrino is at WKU looking for a bigger job and they give Tim Beckman a 3rd year.

NOLA Wolverine

December 12th, 2013 at 1:01 PM ^

"I wonder what Coach Dantonio thinks about "1B" status. He probably has a measured, mature response that acknowledges his schedule was kind of easy and his recruiting is lacking"

Glad to see we'll never be able to come to grips with what happened in Indy around here. As far as I'm concerned recruiting stars are irrelevant until someone actually whoops on Wisconsin and Michigan State year in and year out. Because if that metric means anything at all then that better be the result. 

Everyone Murders

December 12th, 2013 at 2:11 PM ^

Rutgers is Grandpa because they played Princeton in 1869 in the first inter-collegiate football game (Rutgers won 6-4).  So it's an "old" joke, plus it's fun to imagine Grandpa Simpson saying "Back when I played football it was played with a live weasel, which we called the shuttlecock, and you caught it with your mouth.  The weasels were brown and salty.  ... What was I saying?  .... I'm coooooooollllld."


December 12th, 2013 at 1:00 PM ^

of Michigan becomming a regular contender for the B1G title and occassional participant in the Playoffs.  Now I think it will basically take a 1997 like wave of good fortune to even get us to Indianapolis.  Sure recuriting is still very solid but I have major doubts about this staff's ability to develop schemes and play calling that maximize the players abilities.


I hope I'm wrong of course.


December 12th, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

Why do you guys write off Nebraska so easily? Sure they don't recruit like Michigan or Ohio State, but that hasn't stopped MSU or Wisconsin from winning B1G championships the past 5 years.

IMO they are not in any different position than Michigan is program wise.
   - Better record than Michigan the past 10 years.
   - From 1969 to 2001, never won fewer than 9 games
   - Rough stretch in mid 2000s (if you call 2 5-loss seasons rough)

I mean look at what they have accomplished since moving to the B1G. Bowl pending they have the ability to go 9-4, 10-4, 9-4, with a division title, 2 wins over M, 1 win over OSU, 2 wins over MSU. 

I personally don't know about them. Does Nebraska ever go back to being a National Power? To be honest, I think they are just as capable as Michigan IMO. But the consensus here seems to be that they are stuck in the 2nd tier programs in the B1G.

Idk how you count out a team with 11 national tites since 1970 from getting back there someday. And if M can turn it around in the next 5 seasons, so can Nebraska right? 

NOLA Wolverine

December 12th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

Michigan State and Ohio State looked like crap out of conference as well. Nebraska also won the division last year. And this statement was more directed along the lines that the orignial poster in this string brought up, the whole notion that Michigan is clearly on a better path than Nebraska. Really the only discernable difference at this point is a few four star recruits per year. 

Zone Left

December 12th, 2013 at 2:07 PM ^

I don't even know if they have the potential to be a player. They ran the Wisconsin retention model with a better national profile, unique offense, and a willingness to recruit JUCOs for a long time. Each was critical to their success in the 90s. Now, they're still willing to take JUCOs, but they lost the retention model, unique offense, and don't have a significant national profile.

At this point, they're Iowa with better history.


December 12th, 2013 at 8:16 PM ^

I think it's 5 national titles since 1970 for Nebraska.

The gist of it is that college football has changed quite a bit in the last 15 to 20 years OFF THE FIELD. The biggest for them is that they had strength and conditioning levels maybe 8-10 years ahead of their time in the 80s and 90s. Programs have caught up.

Ultimately it's a tradition rich program in a non-recruiting hotbed. A lot of those programs end up falling by the wayside over time (Minnesota, Pitt, Syracuse). 


December 13th, 2013 at 8:59 AM ^

Oh yep. 5 sorry. I was getting info as fast as possible and wrote in the first number I saw. 

But Run 2 Daylight was correct above. The main statement here is that M and Nebraska are pretty much mirror images of success (on the field) going back to 1970ish. You could say Nebraska was more successful. To claim (hope) Michigan is going to return to greatness and write off Nebraska as a team that might luck itself into a division title once or twice a decade seems silly to me. 


December 12th, 2013 at 1:33 PM ^

Long term, the East is pre-revolutionary France. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are the bourgeois, and Maryland, Rutgers, and Indiana are the proletariat. Penn State is the only wild card, but long term they'll probably end up suggesting Rutgers eat cake.

The bourgeoisie didn't wield any power under the old regime. The French Revolution to a large degree represented its triumph over the landed classes. I would restate it like this:

OSU/MSU - nobility (may be living on borrowed time, but currently in power)

Michigan - bourgeoisie (has great economic strength and is hoping for a revolution to come)

PSU - landowning peasant class 

Maryland/Rutgers/Indiana - landless peasants

Kevin Holtsberry

December 12th, 2013 at 1:32 PM ^

(if it ever does- yes, that is depressing).  Mchigan has a history at this point of losing three games or more. Since 1990 Michigan has had seasons with two or fewer loses four times. Ohio State has done it 13 times! With three or four undefeated regular seasons and a national title game. Michigan has one undefeated season and a shared title. Michigan State has won 11 games three out of four years.

This is what worries me about Michigan football.  We need to get out of that rut (3-5 losses) before worrying about being a national contender.  But as Brian notes above, competing for Big Ten titles more than likely means a national contender in the East.

December 12th, 2013 at 2:58 PM ^

1991 -- 2 losses

1992 -- 0 losses (or, 3 ties = 1.5 losses)

1997 -- 0

1999 -- 2

2006 -- 2

2011 -- 2

By my count, that's six seasons.  Change the bar to 3 losses or less, and it's 12 out of 24 seasons.  OSU has done that 15 of the past 24 (14 of the past 24 if you include a vacated 2010 season).  Still not anything to brag about, but more consoling than the cherrypicked--and, more importantly, wrong--stat you put up.

Kevin Holtsberry

December 12th, 2013 at 8:28 PM ^

OK, my count was off. I will admit I didn't know what to do with the 3 ties no loss season. But Michigan stil has half as many 2 or fewer loss seasons than Ohio State. In fact, OSU has 8 one or fewer loss seasons (or 7 if you take out Tressle's vacated season) while Michigan has 2.

My point was simply that OSU found a way to win a couple of more games pretty consistently over this period.  Is it some definitive statistic? No.  But significantly more 1 or no loss seasons means more great seasons and it feels like Michigan just hasn't been able to consistently accomplish that.

G Money

December 12th, 2013 at 1:50 PM ^ we're out of the bottom, bottom, mid tier range we had dropped to with Rich. But even better, it is recruiting that by far drives your position more than coaching (sans RR). We're now getting Brady's first class into it's RS soph and Jr years. The bad news is where we needed the help the most (have for some many years) has been in the trenches, the very positions that take the longest time to develop talent, esp offensive line. The good news is the talent is there due to some phenomenal recruiting under the circumstances. I take a more optimistic view at UM's future. The challenge (not for the coaches) for the fans is to take a breath and wait for Hoke's recruits to mature and develop. Good times ahead...Good times...

Blue in Denver

December 12th, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

" But even better, it is recruiting that by far drives your position more than coaching (sans RR)."

I agree that recruiting/talent matter more than coaching (because this is what a lot of coaches say) but I don't know that you can definitively state we're recruiting more talent.

Star ratings for recruits are nice but it's a pretty inexact science.  We won't know how talented they really are until their careers are over.  I agree it looks good right now, but it's far from certain.

Certainly it's possible these players are beasts waiting to be unleashed, but we haven't seen very much out of them yet.  

\crosses fingers, arms, toes, legs, eyes, energy streams, etc


December 12th, 2013 at 2:23 PM ^

HA!  Love that Benjamin Button reference and the "cough up a nearly-random hairball into the championship" line.

Good writing, thanks for laughs guys, it was fun to listen to you on WTKA this morning.






December 12th, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

Starting next year with the 4-team playoff, the key seems to be:

  1. Start the season in the top 10
  2. Win a lot of games to get within striking distance of the top 4
  3. Win the conference to get into the top 4

I don't think #1 is a conference thing so much as a perception of being a powerful and winning program.  For example, I think Florida is definitely in a "prove to me you can win" position before they'll be pre-season ranked high.  Of the Big 10 teams, only OSU really enjoys this at the current time.

For item #2 I think it implies no worse than a 1-loss season; 2-loss only under special circumstances. 

Item #3 is mostly self evident -- have to win the late games -- except for special cases where the conference game pits two very highly ranked teams.

Michigan is going to need a couple of 10-win plus seasons to crack into consideration for pre-season high ranking.  The good news is Michigan carries enough historic goodwill to get pre-season consideration, but only if they are perceived as being back.  They're not yet perceived as that, so it's going to take some proving their back before people believe it.

Assuming #3 from above holds true, it means the Big 10 East champion is going to have to take care of business every year in the BCG.  It's unlikely we'll see the nation's #1 and #2 teams coming out of the B1G east and west respectively.

Here's hoping for a solid 10-win plus 2014 for Meechigan!


December 12th, 2013 at 3:47 PM ^

Good point ... generally 1 and 2 and 3, but exceptions exist.  Michigan State was helped by some losses by higher-ranked teams.  But in general the formula for highest chance of getting into the playoffs is 1+2+3.


December 12th, 2013 at 5:13 PM ^

His faimly lives in Ashwaubenon*. I live in Ashwaubenon. Will search for the cloning device and try to throw a Hoke Wrench in it.


*Try not to say Ashwuabenon without thinking of the Muppets' Manamana song. "Ashwaubenon, do do dodo, Ashwaubenon, do DOO do dodo, Ashwaubenon, do dodo dodo dodo..."


December 12th, 2013 at 9:31 PM ^

I think a real litmus test for the conference will be what happens with MSU next year.  OSU and UM are recruiting well, PSU should return to their pre-Sandusky levels of national relevance in due time, Wisconsin will continue fielding really solid teams that can occassionally be great, and Minny and Indiana have some identities that will at least make them consistent performers along with Iowa, with IU having the highest variability (I could definitely see them have one of those Big-12 seasons where they score 60+ points and give up 50+, and win anywhere from 9-10 games to 3-4). 

But MSU's recent success seems to come from solid player development as well as some fortuitous timing with consistent conference powers PSU, UM, and OSU going through various valleys between 2008 and 2012.  While MSU has "had" UM's number in recent time, history is not full of less-talented squads consistently staying ahead of top-10 recruiting teams with (I hope) competent coaching staffs.  So it will be interesting to see if they can turn this run of success into a sustainable program, or if this is a bit like those mid-00's Iowa teams that had some nice success but couldn't sustain suck heights. 


December 14th, 2013 at 3:03 PM ^

I'd be interested in your conference analysis for the SEC splitting the East and West.  I'm working in SEC country and they all talk about how much weaker the East is by comparison.  I wonder how it really looks, and how it compares to the new B1G East-West.

Thanks in advance.