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Stadium and Main: November 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

WVU and the BCS

As I contemplated just how upset I would be if Kirk Ferentz ends up being Michigan's next head coach (right now, "extremely"), I had some thoughts about the team that has become my second-favorite blog topic: the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Who did WVU play and beat?

West Virginia is about to waltz into the BCS Championship Game. Don't say I didn't warn you. I'll be interested to see if any talking heads mention WVU's relatively easy schedule, or if people just give it to them without a discussion. Think about this for a second: The Mountaineers will likely be playing for the BCS Championship without having defeated a single team in the current BCS Top 20. And on top of that, the best team they played (#21 South Florida) beat them. If WVU makes it to New Orleans, I'm pretty sure they will be the first team with those odd distinctions. I'm not saying that West Virginia isn't a good team. I think White, Slaton, and Devine can burn anybody on any given day. But did they earn a BCS Title shot, or did they just benefit from the rest of the big boys beating up on each other?

What about the Buckeyes?

One thing in WVU's favor is that Ohio State's schedule isn't that pretty, either. Here's one thing I was thinking about: If OSU had lost at Illinois (instead of at home), and if WVU had lost at home to South Florida (instead of on the road), would OSU have a leg up on WVU? And even as it stands now, how much of an argument does OSU have if there's a "snub" on Sunday's BCS selection show? Seeing that Illinois gave #1 Missouri all they could handle and might get a BCS berth while South Florida cooled off a bit, I think OSU has a legitimate beef. But last year's loss to Florida will come back to haunt the Buckeyes if WVU and Missouri win on Saturday. National perception matters, fair or not.

Final random thoughts

In a year as crazy as this one has been, why are 2-loss teams being left out of the discussion? And if this was the mid-90s, LSU would be undefeated with 2 ties. Would that matter? Just some stuff to think about...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thank you, Lloyd

I’m no good when it comes to nostalgia, but I definitely want to thank Lloyd Carr for everything that he’s done for Michigan Football. His successes both on and off the field have been, as he would say, tremendous. Not perfect, of course, but nothing to be ashamed of – not by a long shot. There were disappointments and frustrations along the way, but those are overshadowed by a lot of great memories and big victories. And beyond that, Lloyd ran what is generally considered to be a very clean program (especially by “big time football” standards). He might have been short with the media at times, but after seeing how some of those folks refused to give credit to Brian last week after reporting on the story that he broke (“internet reports” … idiots), I say good for him. Lloyd loved his players and he loves Michigan. That’s why I will always respect and admire him.

He wasn’t the best game strategist in the world, but he put up some quality results. If you would have told me that Carr would close out his career with 9 straight wins over PSU and 6 (or, 8) straight wins over MSU, I would have taken that in a heartbeat. On the other hand, if you would have told me that he would struggle with some weaker Notre Dame teams and finish with 6 losses in 7 years against OSU, I might have said “no, thanks.” But overall, it was a good run. Lloyd’s most ardent supporters often point to 1997, 1999, and 2006, but I think there was a nice “peak” to Lloyd’s career, and it only started with 1997. The seven year run that Carr had from 1997 to 2003 was a good one. Very good:
69-18 overall record: 79% winning percentage

46-10 Big Ten record: 82% winning percentage

1 National Title

4 Big Ten Titles

5-2 in bowl games: All New Year’s Day bowls, or better. The 2 losses came to #1 USC and #8 Tennessee (which was arguably a Top 3 or 4 team that season)

5 ten win seasons

4-3 vs. Ohio State: Including 2 wins when OSU was ranked #4

6-0 vs. Penn State: Including the “Judgment Day” domination

6-0 vs. Wisconsin: Including 2 wins in years when Wisconsin went to (and won) the Rose Bowl

5-2 vs. Michigan State: Or 6-1, if you take away Clockgate

3-2 vs. Notre Dame: Including the first beatdown (38-0 in 2003)
If our next coach can duplicate those results, I’ll be a happy dude. So thank you, Lloyd. Thank you for 1997, for keeping Michigan a top program, for your integrity, and for knowing that it was time to retire. Thank you, and Go Blue!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My arm got squeezed!!

A few quick things after a long absence and before what should be a crazy weekend:

- Prior to the Michigan-Georgetown basketball game tonight, the UMDC alumni association had John Beilein come speak for a few minutes before the game (about 6:15 p.m., IIRC). I was waiting for my girlfriend at the door, and when Coach Beilein came in, I got to talk to him for a quick minute. He seemed like a nice guy - very personable, firm handshake, appreciative of the support... all the things you'd expect from a coach. We had the entire first floor of Clyde's packed with Michigan fans, and Coach Beilein actually got up on one of the bar area tables to talk to us. I don't remember every word, but he mentioned something like "If you could see our practices, they look like middle school practices." Talked about fundamentals, asked that we be patient with the team, said that the team will grow throughout the year, etc. Finished it with something like, "On Saturday, let's beat the snot out of the Buckeyes." Yes, he definitely said "snot," which I found amusing. This of course led to a big cheer and a chorus of The Victors. I think I saw a tourist or two in the corner, probably wondering what in the world was going on.

- Maybe more important, depending on how you dissect it, was my quick pseudo-conversation with Associate Athletic Director Greg Harden (Who is Greg Harden? This is Greg Harden - a really cool guy, it seems). Coach Beilein had introduced him and another member of the staff, and I leaned over to Mr. Harden and said "You guys have called Les Miles, right?" He just smiled (knowingly? It was hard to tell). I said "You know you've got him." At that point, he shook my hand and gave me some sort of arm squeeze (with his other hand). It was like two quick squeezes, hand grasping the biceps, and it really left me befuddled. He walked away without saying a word. A smile, a handshake, and an arm squeeze. I relayed this story to a few friends, and they all seemed to think that it was telling re: Miles coming to U of M (some more than others). I have no idea what to make of it, I'm just posting it because (1) people seem to love to read the tea leaves, especially this week (rightfully so), and (2) I have no idea what it meant, if anything!

- The b-ball game was what it was. Kelvin Grady is a good player and someone we really could have used the past few years (a guard and a player who goes all out all the time). Manny Harris is a pure basketball player, but he needs more experience and improved fundamentals. Ron Coleman needs to not start, and arguably needs to not play. He just looked BAD tonight. Rebounding was weak and the team looked a bit lost at times. But there was some flow on offense, which was a good sign after years of Amaker-ball. Georgetown is a very good team, so I'm not sure how upset to be about the loss. It's clear that we don't have many pure shooters, and when DeShawn Sims has a bad night (like tonight) we're going to struggle. Zach Gibson might end up being a pleasant surprise. He had a few "hustle" type of rebounds and defensive plays.

- One random thing that I wrote down on Saturday but never posted. Don't necessarily trust the ESPN ticker! After years of near-perfect accuracy, the ESPN ticker was all messed up for the Texas - Texas Tech game. During Ron Zook's post-game presser, ESPN's ticker said "Texas Tech 10, Texas 39 - 9:00 left 4th quarter." I knew this was wrong since on my other TV was the game itself: Texas Tech 28, Texas 38 - 9:00 left 4th quarter. Come on, ESPN!

- I'm off to Ann Arbor. MUST BEAT OHIO STATE. Win one for Lloyd (and Hart, and Henne, and Long...). See you there... Go Blue!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lloyd Carr vs. Les Miles: To the Death!

"No! To the pain…"

As the season winds down, bowl projections and BCS selections move to the forefront of the discussion. Additionally, the “Les Miles to Michigan” buzz is slowly but surely building. So I wanted to talk about this stuff for a second. With all due respect to my friend Ben, who contends that the powers that be won’t let it happen (more on that later), I think that a Michigan-LSU bowl game is a possibility. Granted, there are thousands of “what if” scenarios still on the table. I’m just saying that Michigan-LSU isn’t unfathomable. Let’s break it down…

Unless the college football world gets completely turned on its head, Michigan isn’t going to play for the BCS Championship. Shocking, I know. While the big prize isn’t attainable anymore, Michigan’s bowl destination won’t be as bad as most predicted after the 0-2 start. Seeing that Michigan has zero Big Ten losses and every other conference team (except OSU, obviously) has at least 2, Michigan will almost certainly end up in the Rose Bowl, Capitol One (Citrus) Bowl, or Outback Bowl.

LSU, on the other hand, has bigger things in mind. The Tigers are on path to play in the BCS Championship Game or finish just outside the Top 2 in the final BCS standings (prompting plenty of hootin' and hollerin' from SEC country, no doubt). However, these scenarios assume that LSU will run the table. Take a look at LSU’s remaining schedule:
@ Alabama
Louisiana Tech
@ Ole Miss
SEC Championship Game
Not a daunting slate, but a tough road game in Tuscaloosa this weekend and the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta (where they might face local favorite Georgia) are potential roadblocks.

So how (and where) could Michigan and LSU meet up? As I see it, there are four bowls in which the Wolverines and Tigers could play each other, and some bowl destinations have more than one scenario under which each team could get there. Here’s my take, from most ideal scenario to least:

Rose Bowl (Big Ten Champion vs. Pac-10 Champion)
Michigan gets there by:

Winning the Big Ten championship.
This is fairly simple. Win out, and Michigan is in the Rose. Lose to MSU, then win the last 2, and Michigan is in the Rose. Beat MSU, lose to Wisconsin, and beat OSU… and Michigan still would be in the Rose, provided Wisconsin has lost one more game before the end of the season (which they might this Saturday against OSU). Since Michigan controls its own destiny, and can probably afford a loss to either MSU or Wisconsin, a Big Ten title is very possible. Once again, it will probably be a “one game season.”
Winning their next 2 games before losing to OSU.
This scenario is unlikely, but not impossible. thinks Michigan heads to the Rose after a loss to OSU, and considering (1) the lack of quality BCS teams this year, and (2) the Rose Bowl’s stated preference for Big Ten and Pac-10 teams, Michigan could get an invite. Again, this is doubtful but not unimaginable. However, this would make 4 of 5 years with Michigan in the Rose Bowl, with the last 3 Rose Bowl trips all coming after losses to OSU. Does the Rose Bowl really want us if that’s the case?
LSU gets there by:

Receiving an at-large BCS bid.
This is where it gets more confusing, primarily because we have no idea who will be in the BCS Championship Game. But assuming a Pac-10 team like Oregon or Arizona State is one of the teams there, the Rose Bowl would either get first or second pick of the at-large teams (depending on if the BCS standings). Then, LSU becomes ridiculously attractive to the Rose Bowl:
- Good team that spent the majority of the year in the Top 5.
- Unbelievably rabid fan base – no problem selling tickets.
- Michigan and LSU have never met. (The Rose Bowl loved the first meeting between Texas and Michigan, no doubt.)
- The whole “Miles is replacing Carr” storyline.
- Not to mention the “Miles coached at Michigan under Bo” storyline.
- Would likely guarantee them the most interesting BCS game (beside the Championship), even if both teams are coming off of losses.
- High TV ratings (SEC vs. Big Ten).
- LSU’s first trip to the Rose Bowl. In fact, LSU’s first bowl game on the West Coast.
- And the list goes on…
Taking a step back… This scenario assumes that there is no Pac-10 team with an attractive resume, and that is a big assumption. The loser of Oregon/ASU this weekend will likely be a decent choice, and if USC finishes the season on a winning streak you know their name will be in the mix. If LSU is going to end up in the Rose Bowl, they might need another USC loss and a really bad finish from either Oregon or Arizona State.

Keep in mind that if LSU loses at Alabama this weekend, and Alabama runs the table (at Miss State, vs. LA-Monroe, at Auburn), LSU is shut out of the SEC Championship Game and likely finishes the season with 2 losses. This is a similar situation to last year, where LSU “avoided” a potential 3rd loss by not having to play in the SEC Championship Game, and received a BCS at-large berth.

Also note that LSU theoretically could get a Rose Bowl invite with as many as 3 losses, assuming they’re still in the BCS top 14 (and thus BCS eligible). See my discussion of how Michigan could get to the Sugar Bowl to understand the rationale for that one - the "LSU in the Rose Bowl" argument is pretty much analogous.

Sugar Bowl (SEC Champion vs. At-Large)
Michigan gets there by:

Receiving an at-large BCS bid
If Michigan does not win the Big Ten, that means that they will have lost one of their last two games (most likely a loss to OSU). Since the Sugar Bowl is set up as an “SEC vs. At-Large” bowl, the Sugar will not have one of the first at-large selections under this scenario, since they wouldn’t have “lost” a team to the BCS Championship Game. A 9-3 Michigan team is usually not that attractive to BCS bowl committees, but compared to some of the leftovers that might be available (Virginia Tech (who’s already played LSU), Kansas, Connecticut, Missouri, Hawaii, Boston College, Arizona State, and so on) Michigan is the biggest draw, even if they have a few more losses than some of the available schools. Note that this scenario assumes a 9-3 Michigan team would be ranked in the Top 14 of the BCS. One valid argument against this happening is that if LSU finishes the season with just 1 loss, the Sugar Bowl (and LSU, for obvious reasons) would probably prefer to pit the Tigers against the highest-rated team at-large team available in order to give LSU an outside shot at a split national title. Michigan wouldn't be that team. If LSU finishes with 2 losses and an SEC Championship, this match-up is more likely, but still a long shot.
LSU gets there by:

Winning the SEC, but not finishing 1st or 2nd in the BCS standings.
Pretty self-explanatory, right?

Capitol One Bowl (Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2)
Michigan gets there by:

Not winning the Big Ten, and not receiving an at-large BCS bid.
This is arguably the most likely scenario for Michigan, at least as things stand right now. OSU and Michigan are the class of the Big Ten, and if Michigan loses The Game they will likely head to Orlando for the Bowl Formerly Known as the Citrus.
LSU gets there by:

Not winning the SEC, and not receiving an at-large BCS bid.
This is a much less likely bowl destination for LSU than it is for Michigan, but it isn’t unrealistic. It would obviously require a loss in the SEC Championship (assuming they make it) coupled with at least one more loss in the regular season. If LSU doesn’t make the SEC Championship Game, it would probably require 2 losses in their final 4 regular season games.

Outback Bowl (Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3 or #4)
Michigan gets there by:

One word: Implosion.
I don’t even want to think about this. Losing to MSU and/or Wisconsin, and losing to OSU – that’s how we “earn” a visit to Tampa.
LSU gets there by:

An implosion that makes Michigan’s implosion look like a day at the park.
LSU is currently the only SEC team with one loss. To fall behind teams like Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, or Florida (a team they beat) in the SEC pecking order would mean a rough finish and an embarrassing loss or two.

So how realistic is a Michigan-LSU match-up?

I don’t know what sort of percentage to put on it… 3%? The bottom line is that Michigan is going to a bowl game, and the opponent could very well be an SEC team. LSU is an SEC team. Plug that into some crappy formula, and there you have it: “a chance.” Earth-shattering stuff, huh?

I think the Outback Bowl (please no) and Sugar Bowl scenarios are glorified pipe dreams (or nightmares, re: Outback). I think the Rose Bowl scenario is possible, but a very long shot. I think that out of the four bowl destinations, the Capitol One is clearly the most likely, as it’s the most likely outcome for Michigan and the 3rd-most likely scenario for LSU (after a BCS automatic bid and a BCS at-large bid).

But there are political factors at play, no doubt. Would the powers that be prevent such a match-up, as my friend Ben asserts? And who are the powers that be, anyway? How much pull do the schools have? Questions abound:
- Would the Michigan big shots be able to persuade the Rose Bowl to pass on LSU (in favor of a less-attractive option)?- Would LSU want to play Michigan, all things considered?
- Would the Michigan big shots kindly ask the Sugar Bowl reps to not select the Wolverines, even if that meant Michigan would be going to the Capitol One Bowl instead of a BCS game?
- Could the teams trade coaches prior to kickoff, so as to give Miles a “test run” at Michigan before Bill Martin shells out the big bucks?
I know I spent way too much time and energy on this post, and that it will come back to haunt me in the form of a loss to Michigan State this weekend, but that’s life. I also realize that considering the political issues, this is more like a Jim Carrey Dumb and Dumber style “so you’re saying there's a chance” situation. And because I want Les Miles as our next head coach, I’m not sure I want said game to take place. Just something to think about…

Help a dude out: Trinity @ Millsaps – The untold (and unkown?) story

After talking to some friends about the crazy ending that everybody has seen by now, I realized that many people aren’t aware of this: Millsaps (a.k.a. “the team that lost”) had a chance to run out the clock on the previous play. Word? Word! As this article states:
“[W]ith eight seconds remaining the [Millsaps] Majors took their last time out to avoid a delay of game penalty…. On fourth down, Millsaps quarterback Burt Pereira slowly faded to his left. He was unable to evade Trinity's Ryan Johnson, and with two seconds left -- and 60 yards from the end zone -- Trinity had one desperate last chance.”
After reading that article and listening to Trinity’s coach on ESPN’s College Football Live on Monday, I was pretty sure that Millsaps was trying to kill the clock as opposed to going for the first down. But after looking around online, I’m not sure about anything.

What I’m trying to figure out is whether there was another major coaching blunder here. Obviously there was with the 15-lateral play, but that’s another story. So what was going on here? Did Millsaps (and former Alabama) head coach Mike DuBose completely blow it on that 4th down play? Did the QB mess up? Did the defender make a great play? What happened?! Unfortunately, the internet is filled with a bunch of quotes that aren’t too big on the details, like this: “Millsaps had tried to run out the clock but was unsuccessful, giving the ball back to Trinity after a failed fourth-down run.” Um... OK.

We know that there were 8 seconds on the clock, which is a decent amount of time to kill (but not impossible). We know that the ball was somewhere past midfield, near the Millsaps 40-yard line. One unknown is what was the distance required for a first down? After some digging, I saw that Lawpundit
has an apparent copy & paste which states that “Millsaps went for the first down on 4th and 2 at … the Trinity 40-yard line and failed to make it,” but the link related to that copy/paste doesn’t say anything about 4th-and-2. Maybe the original author edited or corrected the “4th and 2” statement? I don’t know... but this only added to my frustration.

So, to recap, can anybody clarify this for me? Specifically:
- How many yards did Millsaps need on that 4th down?
- On what yard line was the ball spotted to begin that 4th down?
And most importantly…
- Did Millsaps appear to be trying to gain a first down, or trying to run out the clock?
Any other related info would be appreciated. Please forward the permalink for this post (see below) to anybody who might know the answer(s). I won’t rest until the truth is revealed! Is Mike DuBose the worst coach in America, or just a guy who teaches his defenders to play zone defense (basketball style)?

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