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Stadium and Main: Lloyd Carr vs. Les Miles: To the Death!

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
Arkansas
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. Rivals.com 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…

3 Comments:

Blogger e said...

I have no idea what the majority of this post was about, but I liked your "To the pain!" Princess Bride reference!

- e

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog shows how strange people from Michigan really are. I bet you all have those snazzy accents and point to your palm when someone asks you where you are from.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Word. I'm from the little extra-padded area below the thumb.

3:19 PM  

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