Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Unfamiliar Territory: Part II of II

In Part I of Unfamiliar Territory, we examined the teams which Michigan has never faced.  In today's post, we make use of "The Matrix".

The Matrix is the product of about 10 man hours of work between December 2011 and June 2012.  I made use of the awesome Stassen database form here.  It could have been more comprehensive, but simply told, it shows the relative number of times teams have played since 1936 (my arbitrary cutoff based on the first AP poll) and the year of their most recent meeting (that is the season year, January bowl games rolling to the previous calendar year.)  The teams were selected as being the 35 FBS schools from 2011 AQ conference (or independents) with the most wins all-time (look, we go by winning percentage, Boise State's small sample size gets in the way) along with 6 wild cards (teams I just wanted to look in to, like FSU, Miami, UCLA, etc.)  Army and Navy are there mostly from a love of history.  So there's some absolutely arbitrary decisions in there.  If you're upset that Mississippi or Oregon State isn't in there, I'm sorry.  (About the only one I'm lamenting now is that I didn't include BYU, but alas.)  At the end of the article, you'll get the complete list of never have mets if you don't want to sort through my analysis.

Some general notes: As was pointed out by Pete Gaines in my tweet previews, the South was very insular.  Just look at the number of teams that Auburn has never faced, it's staggering.  As I pointed out in Part I, many of Michigan's SEC matchups have been in bowl games in the last 25 years.

So, my question, what are the ten best matchups that have never been played?  What would you most like to see?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Unfamiliar Territory: Part I of II

It started with a simple premise.  When Michigan and Virginia Tech were matched up in the Sugar Bowl this past season, many writers correctly noted that it was the first time that the two venerable college football programs had been matched up.  It also marked the second straight bowl game in which Michigan faced an opponent it had never faced, even though we don't discuss the 2011 Gator Bowl matchup with Mississippi State...ever.

So I wanted to know, what Division I-A teams has Michigan never faced in its long 132 year history.  I used the Stassen database lookup to find teams which Michigan had never faced.  I also used a 1936 cutoff point (the first year of the AP poll) to find teams Michigan has not faced during that time frame.  The complete list will follow, but let's look at the Big Five conference teams first, along with some commentary:

Michigan vs. Clemson
Doesn't it just seem like Michigan and Clemson should have played at some point in history?  But, nope, it's never actually happened.  Death Valley seats 80,500, so it's not like a home and home would be out of the question.  Plus, Dabo, so, yaknow. 

Michigan vs. Georgia Tech (1934)
Also known as the Willis Ward game, I'm wondering if lingering resentments and issues stemming from that game have prevented a rematch from ever happening.

Big East:
Michigan vs. Cincinnati
Kind of surprising, because of the proximity, but then again, Ohio State has only played their southerly neighbors six times ever, so...

Michigan vs. Louisville
Interestingly enough, Michigan has only played one team from the state of Kentucky in history and none in the last century.
Michigan vs. Rutgers
As two of the "founding fathers" of college football, coupled with Rutgers proximity to the New York metro area, this one is shocking.  I kept presuming that Rutgers and Michigan will square  off at MetLife Stadium at some point in the future, but the Pac-12 scheduling alliance makes that less likely now.

Michigan vs. South Florida
USF played its first football game in 1997, so this is not too shocking.

Michigan vs. Temple
Temple would actually be a great team for a home and home, as the Owls play at Lincoln Financial Field.  Temple was a MAC school until last year, so this could also account for a lack of Temple in our lives.

Michigan vs. West Virginia (1904, non I-A)
Michigan played Fielding Yost's alma mater during the run of four straight national titles, winning over the Mountaineers by a 130-0 score.  While I think it would be great to play the Mountaineers, recent history suggests that this matchup is not in the offing any time during the Brandon tenure.

Michigan vs. Kentucky (1908, non I-A)
Michigan won the only match-up in 1908 by a 62-0 score, but it should be noted, like the West Virginia game, Kentucky was not considered I-A level at the time of the game (which is kind of nebulous at best anyway.)  Most of Michigan's matchups with pre-2012 SEC schools have come during bowl games in the last 20 or so years: 
  • Arkansas-1998 Citrus Bowl
  • Alabama-three times, #4 coming up
  • Auburn-twice, 1984 Sugar Bowl & 2000 Citrus Bowl
  • Tennessee-2001 Citrus Bowl
  • Ole Miss-1990 Gator Bowl
  • Mississippi State-2010 Gator Bowl
  • Florida-two times, 2002 Outback Bowl & 2007 Capital One (Citrus) Bowl
  • Vanderbilt-no bowl game, but that 2006 game is the most recent of 11 games
  • South Carolina-two regular season home games - 1980 & 1985
  • Georgia-two regular season home games - 1957 & 1965 (meaning Michigan has never played "Between the Hedges" which is a major bummer.

Michigan vs. LSU
This is not only the #1 matchup I would love to see Michigan make in the next few years, I am sure the networks would love it, the story lines write themselves, the teams would hopefully be pretty good, and honestly, given the SEC/Big Ten bowl tie-ins, its a distinct possibility.  Let's just not do it in New Orleans.  

I will actually make the argument that this is one of the five best college football matchups that has never been played.  That will be Part II of the article (there's a matrix, it's awesome) when I get a chance to write it up.

Big XII:
Michigan vs. Iowa State
Makes sense on some level.  If you're playing Iowa, you don't need to play Iowa State.

Michigan vs. Kansas State
K-State was so bad for so long in the pre-Snyder era (and the post-Snyder, pre-Snyder era) that I can think that Michigan would not see any benefit in playing K-State.  Why schedule a terrible purple clad Wildcat squad when you already are playing Northwestern.  (Northwestern pre-1995)

Michigan vs. Texas Christian
TCU is only here because I had to remember that TCU is a Big XII team starting this season.  TCU would be a tough matchup because it's a high risk/low reward scheduling notion, just like Boise State.

Michigan vs. Texas Tech
If we're going to play the Red Raiders, play them now, in the post-Leach era, when it's a "Dumpster Fire". ("Tuberville Dumpster Fire" courtesy Fake Dan Beebe on Twitter)

Mountain West/Big East/Somewhere?
Michigan vs. Boise State
Boise State, of course, is a up and comer, but Michigan State is playing Boise State this year to open up the season.  Michigan and Boise State should figure something out.  Just not on the Smurf Turf.

Michigan vs. Akron (on the schedule)
On the schedule for 2013, so that takes care of that.

Michigan vs. Buffalo (1901, non I-A)
Would have been a better possibility if Warde Manuel (Michigan alum) had stayed at Buffalo as the AD, but yeah, not seeing it.

Michigan vs. Kent State
Just kind of seems like a fluke.  Then again, Michigan's only ever played Toledo once and Bowling Green twice, all within the last 12 years.  If Michigan is going to play a MAC school, it tends to play the Michigan MAC schools (Eastern 10 times, Central 3 times, Western 6 times) instead of the Ohio MAC schools (Toledo 1 time, Bowling Green 2 times, Miami 5 times [amazingly, never once while Bo was coach], Akron 0 times, Kent State 0 times.)

Michigan vs. Ohio
Seriously, this needs to happen, if only to revel in our mutual animosity toward Ohio State.  Then again, Ohio State has only played Ohio University thrice ever, so it's not like they're playing frequently either.

If I were ranking the matchups I would most like to see Michigan play among teams it has never, ever, played , it would probably be:
  1. LSU
  2. Clemson
  3. Rutgers
  4. Ohio
  5. Cincinnati

Stay tuned for our national rankings, some time soon.

Everybody else:
Michigan vs. UAB
Michigan vs. Arkansas State
Michigan vs. Central Florida
Michigan vs. East Carolina
Michigan vs. Fresno State
Michigan vs. Idaho
Michigan vs. Louisiana Tech
Michigan vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Michigan vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Michigan vs. Marshall
Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee State
Michigan vs. Nevada
Michigan vs. UNLV
Michigan vs. New Mexico
Michigan vs. New Mexico State
Michigan vs. North Texas
Michigan vs. San Jose State
Michigan vs. South Alabama
Michigan vs. Southern Mississippi
Michigan vs. Texas-El Paso
Michigan vs. Texas-San Antonio
Michigan vs. Texas State
Michigan vs. Troy
Michigan vs. Tulsa
Michigan vs. Utah State
Michigan vs. Western Kentucky
Michigan vs. Wyoming 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Everybody Talks

May/June is the down time of down times for college football fans.  Spring practices are in the books, the NFL Draft has come and gone, and we're too far out from the fall to have any kind of meaningful discussion with regard to the season forthcoming.  But the college football machine is one that is fed, day in and day out, by the tiniest morsels of information become three day stories.  The cycle of news spins ever faster, the ability to disseminate the smallest fragments of a notion of an idea become fodder.  I'm guilty of feeding this machine but I am also give pause.

This week alone, three stories struck me and I was left to wonder why?
1). Brady Hoke, speaking at an awards banquet in his hometown of Kettering, Ohio, when asked a question about a move toward potential super conferences, said that he could see it, and could see the Big East going away.

2). David Brandon, speaking to the Wolverine Caucus in Lansing, discussed the fundamental changes he has brought to the Michigan athletic department since his arrival.
3). Jim Delany spoke about the president of the B1G preference to the current BCS system, then a plus one, then a four team playoff, but one that was not wedded to a flawed system of polling.

Each of these stories caused disconcert among the Twitterati, created air for sports radio fans**, and endless ability to snark.  I want to handle each one point by point because they all speak to something different.

1). Brady Hoke's superconference answer ultimately means nothing.  He was asked a question at an event where he was the honored guest.  People want to know the opinion of a major figure in the world of college football, and with conference realignment, superconferences have been much on the minds of people who have an interest in college football.  Brady gave his opinion based on what he knows.  Does this carry any more weight than a conference commissioner, or a school president, or an athletic director, or a television executive.  No.  But, many more people know Brady Hoke than many of those other people, so even those Coach Hoke's information may be more limited, his words carry more weight.
"But look, I'm just a coach. I don't know all of it."
Similarly, this wouldn't have even been a story ten years ago.  Now, every comment at every banquet or speaking engagement is a blog post.

2). David Brandon's remarks to the Wolverine Caucus are another in the master plays of "David Brandon's guide to messaging during the off-season".  Hmm, you mean David Brandon, the CEO of Michigan athletics, is speaking to a bunch of government leaders who self-select as Michigan fans or alums enough to attend a meeting of this nature?  You mean there will be press present?  You mean you want to show off how visionary you are because perhaps you still harbor visions of running for governor somewhere down the line?  So you talk about change, about the future, about moving forward, about revenue streams, to people who are receptive to this kind of dialogue.  Why?  Because you stay on message, because that's your job.

3). Delany's comments, which came after a teleconference of the B1G's presidents, are important because I think so many in the national media are missing something here.  Why are so many people convinced that Jim Delany is bad at his job?  Jim Delany may be passionate about the Rose Bowl, Jim Delany may be a traditionalist, but Jim Delany was also the guy who figured out the Big Ten Network, at a time when almost everyone was skeptical about it, and turned it into a cash cow which essentially launched conference realignment into the stratosphere.  So is it possible that Jim Delany is negotiating in public* by setting a B1G position far enough out that the conference and its member schools can give up things that they have publicly stated are meaningful to them, but of which privately they believe that they can be used as bargaining chips?  Delany knows that the SEC holds many of the cards, but sometimes its not about holding the cards.

*--Just because I can't help myself, I am reminded of political scientist Hans Morgenthau's nine rules for successful diplomacy and can see at least four of them at work, tangentially, for Delany:

"The objectives of foreign policy must be defined in terms of the national interest and must be supported with adequate power." Define your interests narrowly, stressing that which really matters, and make sure you have enough power for that purpose.

"Diplomacy must look at the political scene from the point of view of other nations." Other countries have national interests, too, and so long as they are limited and rational they are legitimate.

"Nations must be willing to compromise on all issues that are not vital to them." If you've observed the first three rules, you will be able to see what is vital and what is not. If your adversary does the same, you can find a middle ground.

"Give up the shadow of worthless rights for the substance of real advantage." Don't worry about scoring legal or propaganda points; look to see what you're really getting in terms of national interest.

Now, all of that said, the fact that the B1G ADs caved so readily on campus semifinals sites seems to violate the fourth one on the list there, but still, I think there's something to this.

My point, in all of this, if there is one, is that I think we need to consider the speaker, the venue, and their motives when examining anything that people say, especially at this slow time of year.  Otherwise we're just spinning our wheels.

**--Yes, I realize this footnote is not following the format of the others, but as much as I like The Scott Van Pelt Show, I was upset by the fact that on yesterday's show, Scott and Ryen were so ready to tell the Big Ten that the Rose Bowl is dead without thinking about what the Rose Bowl means to fans of B1G schools.  Just because the ACC or even, to a certain degree, SEC, have a long term, long standing, over century old tie to the Rose Bowl does not mean that fans of schools in those footprints have the right to tell the B1G and its fans that we're stupid for having a fondness for something that occupies a special place in our history.  Whether you want to argue that the B1G is consistently hosed by this arrangement is a whole other discussion worth having, but that is not the one being had at present.