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06/22/2018 - 6:21pm They could overcome on goal…

They could overcome on goal differential yes, but a three goal win is very hard to come by in soccer, especially for a team that stinks.  But as bad as they've been, it's gotta be totally frustrating that Iceland get to face by far the best team in the group after they've already clinched the group (barring a total GD collapse of course).

Would be shocking if Croatia played their top players much if at all and that's unfortunately for Argentina and Nigeria who had to play them at full strength.

06/22/2018 - 3:09pm I didn't realize he's played…

I didn't realize he's played most of his professional career in Russia.  Seemed right at home today.

06/22/2018 - 2:46pm Not only do they have to win…

Not only do they have to win, they need Croatia not to lose to Iceland which isn't at all a guarantee considering Croatia have nothing to play for and will likely rest their stars.

06/22/2018 - 2:44pm Yeah other sports waste time…

Yeah other sports waste time by going to 5 minute TV timeouts so that 25ish minutes of actual action gets drawn out to 4 hours.

06/22/2018 - 2:36pm Of Monsters and Men are…

Of Monsters and Men are really good though.

06/21/2018 - 7:32pm "Fewer matches means less…

"Fewer matches means less chance for separation."

And that's exactly why three team groups leads to better soccer.  You can't separate in your first two games and then coast (thus potentially screwing the teams that were unlucky enough to draw you in the first two games when another team got to play you last when you were sitting your stars).

We don't want separation!  We want every game to matter and with just three games, they'll all matter.

Even if a team loses the first two games and is eliminated, the teams playing the final game will be able to play for the top seed without worry of losing.

I haven't run through all the permutations in my head but I think it'll make for higher quality play. 

06/21/2018 - 7:26pm No, these are pretty common…

No, these are pretty common.  Multiple groups per Cup are generally in a situation in which the third game for one or both teams doesn't really matter and competitive integrity could be compromised (even if it's just resting top players by a team that has clinched).

If Iceland beats Nigeria tomorrow, Group D will be in the exact situation.

In Group E: If Serbia beats Switzerland and Brazil beats Costa Rica, that group will be in the same situation.




06/21/2018 - 7:11pm Well, it's two more games…

Well, it's two more games than they otherwise would have played with 32 teams in it.  And don't get me wrong, I am absolutely against expansion in general.

I'm merely stating that the three team group with only three games lends itself to fewer games that don't matter since a team can't clinch anything before their last game.

06/21/2018 - 3:01pm The standings in Group C are…

The standings in Group C are exactly why I think 3 team groups will work far better than 4 team groups.

There was an argument earlier about how disastrous it will be to have only three group games such that one game will be played last, but the situation still happens ALL THE TIME that two teams going into the final game know what mutually beneficial result they need and have the opportunity to collude.

Current Group C standings:

France 6pts

Denmark 4pts

Australia 1pt

Peru 0 points.

France and Denmark already know a tie gets them both to the knockout stage.  If they wanted to collude, they easily could. 

It doesn't matter that they don't know the result of Australia-Peru. They still know a draw moves them both forward.  In fact, it's potentially WORSE that they don't know the result of the the other game because they'd be more likely to play it safe with a tie.

If the Australia-Peru game happened earlier and Peru beat Australia, Denmark wouldn't have to worry about possibly being eliminated.  They'd already clinch advancement and could go for the win without worrying about losing.

Someone last week shared a reddit analysis that claimed collusion/shady incentives could only happen if a group is 4, 4, 1, 1 going into the final day but that's completely false.

06/21/2018 - 12:04am List is not sorted in order…

List is not sorted in order of favorites. Not sure why because it's close.

Michigan is tied for 5th mostly likely with Washington at 3/1. This is right in line with all the other odds we've seen from the books (5th most likely to win it all).

06/20/2018 - 2:15pm "He is...not afraid to go…

"He is...not afraid to go against the grain."

This is literally the tactic every HOT TAKE sports radio guy inauthentically uses to get mentions and stir the pot.  That's why he's terrible.  It's not bravery, it's SOP.

06/20/2018 - 1:57pm They're coming from the AFC …

They're coming from the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) which gets 5 teams in despite never really being competitive as a region.  FIFA gives them more spots than they'd merit to expand the popularity of the game. 

It's good for the game overall, good for interest in the tournament but makes it such that the best 32 don't make it. It's like letting a 15 seed automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament over a team that just missed an large berth.  They got in because their qualification standards were easier.

UEFA (the European teams) also has a qualification process that leaves a lot up for chance. They split the 54 teams into 9 groups of 6 based 1) on the FIFA world standings which are very flawed, and then by pure random chance (rather than a more equitable snake method).

And then they only have two rounds of qualifying so you have to win your group to automatically qualify or you have to get second and then beat out one other team in a two leg playoff.  Other federations like CONCACAF do another full round robin amongst the top 6 teams so the luck ends up leveling out more.

The Netherlands were pretty unlucky to get put in a group with France which was ranked 22nd somehow.  So they had to beat out France or Sweden which they were unable to do.

Italy drew Spain into their group, whereas somehow Romania (?!), and Wales were in Pot 1 so the groups that drew them were super easy.  Not surprisingly, both teams failed to even finish in the top 2 of their groups.

It's a pretty bad way to do qualifications but the real flaw is the ranking system they use and I'm sure that'll change the same way the WC is changing the ranking methodology they use. 


06/20/2018 - 12:50am That was my biggest takeaway…

That was my biggest takeaway.  Looks to have gained 10 lbs since the season.

He looked good but that's what'll happen against walk-ons and your buddies that are playing defense at half effort.

06/19/2018 - 11:38pm There's a big difference…

There's a big difference between high 3 star and low 3 stars.  We'll take as many top 500 guys (5 stars, 4 stars and high 3 stars) as we can get. And high 3 stars from the region are guys that would otherwise go to Wisconsin, MSU, etc. so this is a nice pickup IMO.

06/19/2018 - 6:26pm This is all to say that I…

This is all to say that I expected European and to a lesser extent, Asian and African countries to outperform N, C, and S American countries in this tournament and that has mostly happened so far (with the exception of Germany the other way! They should be fine though).

06/19/2018 - 4:50pm Also good.

Also good.

06/19/2018 - 3:42pm FiveThirtyEight's FPI…

FiveThirtyEight's FPI rankings had Poland ranked 17th out of the 32 teams entering this field:

Behind Croatia, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Serbia, etc. and just ahead of Morocco and Peru!

They gamed the FIFA ratings to get into Pot 1 and I'm pretty sure FIFA changed the way they do rankings because of it.  Poland hasn't been near the world top 10 in reality in a long time.

06/19/2018 - 3:29pm He can play v Senegal but…

He can play v Senegal but the suggestion is that Colombia could be effectively eliminated by then if they lose to Poland.

And that is almost certainly the case.  There is a possibility they could still make it in with 3 points but it would require Japan to win the group with 9 points, ha:

Japan goes 3-0 (ummmm rigggght)

Senegal goes 1-2 (losing to Japan and Colombia)

Poland goes 1-2 (beat Colombia and lose to Japan)

Colombia goes 1-2 (beat Senegal and lose to Poland but cover the point differential by destroying Senegal).

So you're telling me there's a chance!  Yeah, about a 0.03 percent chance of all that happening.

06/19/2018 - 3:19pm I've come up with a good in…

I've come up with a good in-between solution:

DQ with no sub for the remainder of the half if the half is not yet to the 30 min mark (so the rest of the game if you do it after the 30 min mark of the first half).

That way you wouldn't have a near full game advantage like today and the punishment is more in line with the crime.  You still have to DQ for the following game too because players would do this at the end of a game every time if not for a following game suspension.

06/19/2018 - 3:07pm Not that surprising given…

Not that surprising given that they're playing on the other side of the world.  Central and South American teams dominated the 2014 World Cup (other than Germany winning it all):

Mexico advanced over Croatia (not shocking but about a coin flip)

Chile beat Spain 2-0 to advance out of that group (massively shocking)

Costa Rica (!!) and Uruguay advanced out of a group with Italy and England (massively shocking)

The US advanced in a group with Portugal (not exactly Central American but American)

Ecuador and Honduras were the only N, C or S American teams to not advance. 

06/19/2018 - 2:59pm But he saved a goal.  So the…

But he saved a goal.  So the real effect of the play is:

Benefit: Colombia prevents a sure goal.

Penalty: Japan is awarded a PK which is what 0.8-0.85 of a goal?

While I agree that playing a man down costs more than 0.2 goals, if they were allowed a sub, it would certainly be worth taking a hand ball there every time to save a goal. Because a DQ alone would be worth saving 0.2 goals.  

I don't mind making the penalty harsher than the crime to mostly deter the crime from ever happening.

06/18/2018 - 6:31pm Yes, here's just about the…

Yes, here's just about the best methodology out there....drum roll this link:

There you go.  The correct methodology is to use a calibrated statistical model to project team quality (FPI does a good job of this) and then calculate the chances an average team would have of going undefeated in the games on a given teams schedule.  That's what a good SoS does.

Your methodology is immensely flawed because it assumes the #1 team is as difficult as the #25 and you make a bunch of other terrible assumptions.

S&P+ and Bill Connelly will come out with soon and his methodology is the same (but his ranking methodology is different).

For those wondering without clicking the link, UCLA is 1st, Michigan is 8th, OSU is 49th.

06/18/2018 - 2:39pm Alabama and UGA say hello.

Alabama and UGA say hello.

If M loses at OSU to lose the division despite being 11-1, they'd almost certainly still get in.

06/18/2018 - 2:18pm The ads are being served by…

The ads are being served by Google Adsense based on your browsing history and any other data Google has on you (subject to limitations set forth by the publisher).

So you must like fishing.

06/18/2018 - 2:12pm While win % is a terrible…

While win % is a terrible metric, your completely arbitrary SoS scoring system probably isn't much better (weak conference penalty, wtf?).

06/18/2018 - 1:57pm If that's their only loss,…

If that's their only loss, they'd have a VERY good chance of still getting in, considering their SoS.

06/18/2018 - 1:02am I was wondering the same…

I was wondering the same about Schweinstieger.  I remember him being great in 2014.  Seems he aged very quickly as he's fallen all the way to playing for the Chicago Fire right now.

Mario Gotze was pretty good in 2014 and he's only 26 now.  He did have a mediocre season for Dortmund but seems curious the decisions Germany made for the national team.  Leroy Sane was left off as well.

Lot of options as a squad but a lack of elite talent and killer strikers it seems like.

06/18/2018 - 12:56am Never would have guessed…

Never would have guessed that but now that I think about it, it makes sense.  Any domestic sport is going to split support 30-some ways.  But I'd have to think a high percentage of Mexican Americans support the Mexican national team and since a whopping 11.2% of the US population is mexican american, that's a lot of support. 

06/18/2018 - 12:48am Coutinho's was pretty much…

Coutinho's was pretty much on par, IMO.

06/16/2018 - 2:40pm Agree re: France.  They…

Agree re: France.  They could end up like Spain 2014.  Could certainly lose to both of Peru and Denmark.

06/16/2018 - 2:38pm Perez-Navarro is great.  He…

Perez-Navarro is great.  He is a latino Gus Johnson.  Trujillo is subpar and I thought they had bad chemistry but improved as the game went on.  Perez-Navarro would ask for analysis and all Trujillo could say is that he liked Peru for the first 2/3 of the match before actually saying something different of substance.

06/16/2018 - 2:31pm That bandwagon is way too…

That bandwagon is way too full for me.  I was the Peru bandwagon for today.  Heartbreaker for them.  They're fun to watch, had a lot of good chances.  Missed a PK! Ugh.  Shortest team in the tournament so they don't even really put the ball up in box much.  Lot of give and go and creative passing near the goal.

06/16/2018 - 2:18pm Those two things are…

Those two things are annoying but are they really enough to stop reading the blog (the content is obviously still the best)? Or are you just referring to taking your message board posting elsewhere?

06/16/2018 - 10:22am Xavier Foster is probably a…

Xavier Foster is probably a C to John Beilein.  Not worried much about it in positionless basketball.

06/16/2018 - 1:09am Daughter and son.  Named my…

Daughter and son.  Named my son Bo. Drinking a Tripel Karmeliet and watching the Purdue at Michigan game on ESPNU (they're showing the top 20 CBB games of the season and it's 12th). I don't think I'll watch the end.

06/16/2018 - 12:59am For a third of the price,…

For a third of the price, why not a paddleboard?  They're fun, good exercise and can be as rigorous or relaxing as you want.

06/15/2018 - 12:35am I'd take Jordy Nelson 2.0. …

I'd take Jordy Nelson 2.0.  But I'm gonna go ahead and take this one with a grain of salt.

06/15/2018 - 12:31am Some guys that should be…

Some guys that should be playing Tackle are playing TE on this team.

06/14/2018 - 1:49pm FWIW, FPI gives them a 31.6%…

FWIW, FPI gives them a 31.6% chance of beating M.  I would have thought it'd be closer to 40% but still in the should-win-but-scary game territory.

06/14/2018 - 1:46pm They overacheived a bit last…

They overacheived a bit last year in terms of record.  They're still expected to be pretty good (31st in FPI) but their schedule is pretty tough such that FPI projects them to win 6.3-5.8 games.

They have Duke and ND in the nonconference, 5 away conference games and crossovers against M and MSU.

06/14/2018 - 1:41pm Closer than it seems for…

Closer than it seems for Purdue though.  They should be pretty good, but they have a tough schedule.  Two P5 opponents out of 3 in the nonconf schedule (although they do host both) and their conference schedule is pretty tough.  They only have four homes games and those four are against OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin and Northwestern.  Ouch.  They'll be fortunate to win two of those (cuz they're not beating OSU or Wisconsin). Then even if they win all three non conference games, they'd still need to win two road games to get to seven.

That's probably the right line. FPI projects them at 5.4-6.6 wins (not sure if that's a 75th/25th percentile projection) so the advanced metrics are right on this O/U.  Bill Connelly's S&P+ preview isn't out yet.

06/13/2018 - 7:44pm AND ANOTHER THING about the…

AND ANOTHER THING about the West Germany-Austria game that I just read made it possible for Austria to completely not care about losing that game: there were TWO group stages which is totally stupid.  And the fact that the second group stage had three teams meant that some groups had a group winner and two runners-up.  Guess which group the runner up of the Austria group was predetermined to go to: a group with another runner up.  And guess where the winner went: a group with two winner and only one runner up.  There was literally no reason to care about winning that group or being the runner up which is why Austria didn't care to try to win the group.

Especially with a 32 team knockout round, being a group winner is important because it gets you a top seed.

People worried about a biscotto by citing that 1982 match are ignoring all kinds of relevant context that just won't apply here. Also, Algeria lost to Austria 2-0 so hard to cry about getting screwed there when they needed West Germany to win by 3 (!!) goals.

06/13/2018 - 7:18pm I'm not arguing that. That's…

I'm not arguing that. That's completely true. But there won't be many cases in which both teams don't need a win since you only get two group games.  You can't win your first two and then rest your players to screw a team over, UNLESS you completely dominated a team in your first game such that goal differential doesn't come into play even if you lose your second game. 

And in that case, the team that got dominated shouldn't advance anyway.  You can't get dominated in one of two games and cry about a possibility of getting "screwed".

06/13/2018 - 3:45pm ALSO, as we saw with Panama…

ALSO, as we saw with Panama-Mexico in the WC qualifiers, playing at the same time doesn't eliminate potential shady business.  You still know what's going on in the other game and you can still manipulate the end of a game to your liking.

06/13/2018 - 3:42pm I commented on this above…

I commented on this above but it's possible (likely?) the three team group is an improvement over the current four team group with top two advancing which easily leads to games in which a team that has already clinched the group rests guys in the third game and potentially screws over a team that was counting on them to beat an opponent that they would have if at full strength.  I'm too lazy to go back and look for scenarios in which this screwed a team over, but it's a possibility every event.

With only three teams, and two games, it is far more difficult to clinch a top 2 spot or be eliminated before your last game.  So if you win your first game, you still have to get a result to ensure you're in and if you lose your first game, you still have a chance in your second game almost no matter what.  In every case that the team that doesn't play last is at risk of being screwed over, it's because they would be far behind in goal differential, which like, don't lose by so much.

I'm not that familiar with the Austria-West Germany situation but it is surprising that Austria were content to take a loss by one goal in that game considering they could have won the group with a draw and then had a better seed for the knockout round AND even if they gave up another goal, they still would have advanced. There was no need to go into clock kill mode down 1-0 instead of trying to tie it up.  There had to be explicit collusion there with Austria agreeing to do something that wasn't even good for them and that could happen no matter what the format.

Two things I do dislike though: putting every group stage game into a shootout.  No reason to do it and does incentivize inferior teams to stay back and get to the coin flip shootout.

A 32-team knockout stage.  Too many.

Will be interesting to see what happens but I think 3 team group is an improvement over 4 teams.

06/13/2018 - 2:03pm Here's how an Art History…

Here's how an Art History major prepares someone to manage other people's wealth:

1) First, you have to convince people to hand over their money for you or your team to manage.  Sales is a big part of Private Wealth Management.  The people doing the selling are rarely allocating the portfolio.  So if you have a basket weaving degree from Michigan or Princeton or Harvard or an expensive, elite University, you are immediately pretty attractive to a bank because you probably have friends with rich parents or family members or fellow country club members, etc. And your friends are more likely to be rich when they get older.  You will be part of a higher income social circle than if you didn't go to college.  And that has tremendous value if you're in sales (of wealth management, real estate, etc).

2) I used to work at American Funds, the huge mutual fund company that manages trillions of dollars of wealth. They specifically targeted humanities majors from elite colleges to start their careers as research associates.  So they hired a surprising number of History majors and Philosophy majors from Williams, and small liberal arts colleges. 

I thought that was weird, but this is why they did it: The most important things they were looking for in candidates were curiosity, work ethic, and intellectual horsepower.  None of that is taught in any degree program but all of it is required to graduate from an elite university that encourages intellectual curiosity above all else.  They found that economics and business majors were more likely to just want to get rich and weren't as committed to the intellectual rigor necessary for researching companies.  They knew that they could easily teach these really smart kids how to read financial statements.  What they wanted was intellectual curiosity which is harder to teach.

06/13/2018 - 12:53pm While I'm not sure I like…

While I'm not sure I like expansion in general, I like the new format with three team groups.

Cuts down on a some of the meaningless/dead-team-walking games that are played in the current third round of the group stage. 

Just two group stage games. If you lose your first, you can still advance by winning your second and that's it.  Lose two and you're done.  Currently, if you lose your first two, you're out with like 95 percent certainty, but you still play another match which is unnecessary.

06/13/2018 - 12:47pm The 16 final stadiums aren't…

The 16 final stadiums aren't official yet.  The bid included 23 possibilities which will be narrowed down to the final 16 in a couple years.  I'm not sure if there is wiggle room to add/switch out a stadium but seems like there might be since the sites aren't set is stone yet. 

Like if LA wanted to use the new football stadium that is under construction instead of the Rose Bowl, I wonder if that is a possibility.

06/13/2018 - 12:43pm As incomprehensible and…

As incomprehensible and unlikely as it was to miss out this year, it would unfathomable to miss out on a 48 team tournament if required to qualify.  The expanded format alone would give the US about 99.7% chance of making it even with a team equal to the 2017-18 version. Still, let's have a better team and make some noise.

The auto-bid would really only matter for Canada so that's basically the decision: do we give Canada an auto-bid or not?  With 48 teams, I can't imagine they wouldn't.

The question is, do the auto-bids come out of the regional federation's allotment? i.e. would it come out of CONCACAF's allotment of teams?

06/12/2018 - 6:23pm Kinnel is easily replaced…

Kinnel is easily replaced. He's an average player. Watson isn't a starter (though a high quality 6th DB)  I think you're overstating the likelihood that Long and Hudson leave.

We also have a lot of really high talent guys waiting to replace the departures (which are, again, fewer than from 2016 to 2017).

Look at the 2-deep:

On the DL you have Kemp, Paye, Vilain, Upshaw, Hutchinson, Hinton. TONS of talent in the wings there.

There will be a step down because Gary and Chase can't be replaced but it shouldn't be a big step.

For LBs, you have Singleton, Uche, Ross.  TONS of talent there too.  As good as Bush is, I don't anticipate a dropoff at the position as a whole.  DB is a LB wizard.

For CBs, you have Thomas, JKP, Woods and a bunch of incoming guys that will be second years.  If only one of Hill/Long leaves, there probably won't be a dropoff in the secondary either.

So yes, we should have an elite top 3 defense in 2018 like 2016.  We'll lose fewer guys and have a lot of talent in waiting such that we'll be a top 5-10 defense in 2019.

That paired with what should be dramatic improvement in the OL, elite (possibly best in the nation) WRs and TEs and the offense should improve by a lot more than the defense takes a step back.

And that does rely heavily on the QB position, but 1) We really don't know that Shea Patterson is elite yet and 2) I have very high confidence that one of Peters, McCaffrey or Milton will be elite in 2019.  Those are all high talent guys that will have a ton of weapons.  Someone will emerge.