Archives for December 2008

It starts. Plus, the reality behind the Big Ten’s perceived weakness

Football…the Big Ten bashing, that is.

ESPN (who else?) leads off the bowl season with another anti-Big Ten article, this time by Michael Weinreb, who says the Big Ten is “a legacy of linebackers missing front teeth and running backs built like, well, Plymouth Valiants.”

And, once again, we’ve got another formulaic attack on the Big Ten. Weinreb clearly only has a rudimentary knowledge of college football, but is a clever-enough writer to mask his tenuous point behind a way-too-thick metaphor and a ton of superficial analysis. Presto! His entire point may be wrong, but who cares? He’s witty.

Worse yet, he’s stated his company line: The Big Ten had better do fantastic this bowl season, or it will confirm to the world that the conference is irrelevant.

That’s ridiculous. OF COURSE the Big Ten is going to fail miserably this bowl season. But it has nothing to do with the conference’s weakness — it’s a simple, reasonable outcome of the fact that all of the conference’s bowl representatives have unfavorable matchups. This occurred because Ohio State was selected for a BCS at-large slot. Once OSU was pulled away from the Big Ten affiliated bowls, the four other bowl-eligible teams “slid up” one slot to fill the vacancy.

Consider the following 2008/09 bowl matchups:

  • Penn State vs. USC (#8 vs. #5)
  • OSU vs. Texas (#10 vs. #3)
  • Michigan State vs. Georgia (#18 vs. #15)
  • Northwestern vs. Missouri (#23 vs. #21)
  • Iowa vs. South Carolina (B10 5th vs. SEC 5th)
  • Wisconsin vs. Florida State (B10 7th vs. ACC 4th)
  • Minnesota vs. Kansas (B10 6th vs. Big 12N 3rd)

Of the above Big Ten teams, all are playing against higher ranked (or rated) opponents, with the exception of Iowa/SC, the lone relatively even matchup. In other words: seven teams, six underdogs and one even matchup. No favorites.

However… if Ohio State had not been selected to the Fiesta, the bowls would have likely looked this way:

  • Penn State vs. USC (#8 vs. #5)
  • OSU vs. Georgia (#10 vs. #15)
  • Michigan State vs. Missouri (#18 vs. #21)
  • Northwestern vs. South Carolina (#23 vs. SEC 5th)
  • Iowa vs. Florida State (B10 5th vs. ACC 4th)
  • Wisconsin vs. Kansas (B10 7th vs. Big 12N3rd)
  • (Sorry, Minnesota.)

Now THAT is a more reasonable set of matchups. From this we can see that had OSU not been selected to the BCS, the Big 10 (from OSU on down) would have been on more “level ground” with respect to its opponents. There would have been a mix of favorited teams (Iowa/Fla St, OSU/GA), even-stevens (MSU/Mizzou, Wisco/Kansas), and underdogs (PSU/USC), instead of the current slate of games, in which the teams are all underdogs.

Big Ten fans are jealous, because this is the type of schedule that SEC, Pac 10, and Big 12 fans enjoy year after year. Meanwhile, Big 10 teams are just good enough and attractive enough to merit selections they probably don’t deserve.

For instance, because OSU got pulled into the BCS again – where it probably doesn’t belong this year – to play #3 Texas, Northwestern has to play Big 12 North champ Missouri.

The fact that the Big 10 is such a popular conference, and has so many good teams year to year, is probably why the conference gets such unfavorable matchups during each bowl season. Bowls are about money, not matchups, and therefore lesser-qualified Big 10 teams are consistently pulled into bowls against better opponents simply because they’re a higher $$ draw.

No other major conference has this issue. Mid-major teams like Utah and Boise St. are always underdogs, and deservedly so. But no other BCS conference has this perennial underdog matchup problem like the Big 10 does.

Put simply, the conference is too popular for its own good. It’s too good for its own good. Had OSU not finished in the top ten yet again, none of this would have happened.

So what’s left? Superficial articles like Weinreb’s that ignore matchups and instead base conference strength on bowl win-loss records.

Honestly, if the Big 10 even goes .500, that should be an indicator of the conference’s strength, not weakness.

So where did this false idea of Big 10 weakness come from, anyway?

Contrary to common opinion, the Big 10’s perceived weakness can be traced back to three events. Not a collection of data points, across years or decades, mind you – but three singular events that started this current fad of conference bashing. The talking heads took it from there.

  1. OSU – Florida, BCS Championship, January 2007. One of the best Ohio State offenses in history shows up uninspired, poorly motivated, and gets spanked on national TV by a Florida team that felt disrespected by the media. Media overcompensates for their error by slobbering all over Urban Meyer.
  2. OSU – Florida, NCAA Basketball Final, March 2007. Just 11 weeks after the BCS championship game, the Buckeyes play the Gators again, but this time on a basketball court. The Oden-led freshmen make a great effort, but are unable to topple the senior-filled Florida dynasty. At this point, it became fashionable for fans to chant “SEC! SEC!” while eating corn dogs and wearing jorts. Media REALLY likes the easy story angle the two championship games gave them, and moves from slobbering over Urban Meyer to slobbering over all things SEC.
  3. Michigan – Appalachian State, Sept. 2007. Michigan craps its pants on national TV to Joe Bob’s University and Lube and Tire Clinic. Awesome for the schadenfreude, not awesome in that it literally caused the Mark Mays of the world to pee in their pants a little. Media moves from slobbering over SEC to full-blown writing it love letters, sending out radio dedications, and mild stalking.

Those three events in 2007 are the lens through which every Big 10 team’s failure of the past two seasons has been viewed. Yes, I know that the OSU losses to LSU and USC were bad for the Big 10, but in all reality, had either of those games happened “in the void,” that is to say, without the three events mentioned above, nobody would have read anything else into it other than the fact that LSU was a much better team last year than Ohio State was, or that it wasn’t surprising when a banged up OSU team without a running back didn’t beat a USC juggernaut.

It was only the events of the previous year that turned OSU’s losses into an example of the Big 10’s weakness by those who were looking for a superficial thing to analyze, rather than anything significant or substantial.

So, heading into another tough bowl season, nobody is likely to care that each Big 10 team is playing a higher-ranked or rated team, and that even being competitive on a consistent basis in that situation is admirable. Like I wrote above, if the Big 10 even wins half of these games, that would be a major feather in the conference’s cap.

And it’s an absolute shame that nobody else will see it that way.

Holiday Weekend Open Thread

FootballOSU LogoOSU FootballCavaliersBrownsIt’s been quiet around these parts recently, mostly due to heavy workloads and blogger burn-out, but…

There’s a lot going on and a lot to talk about. Hopefully everyone’s holidays were enjoyable and the loot haul was plentiful. What did Santa bring all you?

Are you ready for some football?! – We’ve got a ton of sports going on this weekend. the Non-New Year’s Day Bowls are in full-force now, with the Big Ten’s first appearance as Wisconsin represents the hopes of Big Ten fans at the Champs Sports Bowl. Can Wisconsin out-muscle and run over the Seminoles? I’m not hopeful, but who knows. It’d be a great way to start the Bowl Season. (I know it started last week, but I don’t recognize any bowl with a name like “magicJACK St. Petersburg Bowl.”

Movin’ on Up – “… just cause it’s a theme song don’t make it not true.” We haven’t talked much about the Basketball Buckeyes here, but that’s not for lack of things to talk about. They’re off to a 9-0 start and are talking on a West Virginia team lead by Bob Huggins this after noon. The Buckeyes miss David Lighty, but this should still be a great game.

Witness – Speaking of basketball, how about those Cavaliers? I wasn’t blown away by the Mo Williams trade earlier this year, but now I’m a believer. This is the best Cavs team I can remember, and they’re just getting better. Two games upcoming with the rejuvenated Miami Heat should tell us a lot about this team.

Dumb and Dumberer – Whether you’re a Browns or a Bengals fan, have you given up yet? Did you give up eight weeks ago? Will you watch the final game? I’ll be on the road tomorrow during the Browns game, but I’ll be smiling if they beat the hated Steelers.

Monkey and me – We aren’t totally slacking off. We’re working on a handful of posts for next week, leading up to the Fiesta Bowl. I’m not feeling the excitement of bowl seasons past, so I’m hoping the next week or so will get the juices flowing once again. Go Bucks!


cbjlogonew.jpgAttention, Mr. Bettman, Mr. Campbell, and Associated NHL Morons:

When a player is flying through the air, moving his skates backward relative to his body in order to not slice the jugular of your flavor-of-the-month goaltender, and the puck bounces off his edges & goes into the net, it is not a “distinct kicking motion.” Mmkay?

Nobody on planet Earth, including the die-hardiest Dallas hockey fans, think the Toronto war room should have even reviewed, much less overturned, Malhotra’s game winning goal.

Between last night’s fiasco and the referree shamefest of Fail that was the Oct 25th CBJ/Wild game, that’s three points the Jackets have lost this year, directly due to the officials changing the outcome of the game.

Those two circumstances have completely changed the Jackets’ place in the standings (from their earned 35-point 7th position to their current 32-point 12th), and by domino effect, the entire makeup of the Western Conference:


Does this type of thing happen to other teams? Sure, but – and this is importantnever to the level that it happens to Columbus.

There is clear, historical evidence that the Jackets suffer from consistently poor and/or controversial officiating. Last night’s blatant failfest. The deceit/subsequent revelations following the Wild game mentioned above. The infamous “scoring a goal after the horn sounded” fiasco against Calgary. And we can’t forget the “Wes Walz Copperfield” goal where the center carried the puck into the net inside his pants leg, the goal was waved off (hence unreviewable), yet Toronto decided to break its own rules and give the game to Minnesota. And on and on and on.

Look, exactly how long is the unwritten expansion franchise always gets the bad calls thing going to last? If you could let those of us in Columbus know, we’d appreciate it.

Meanwhile, get control of your review process. You’re alienating a huge part of your fanbase, and not doing a particularly good job of hiding your disdain for the Jackets. When Dallas fans acknowledge they were fortunate, you’re not exactly being subtle anymore.


OSU LogoDavid Lighty is out for a couple months, just as the Buckeyes were getting into a groove.

(Sorry for the brevity. Illnesses and work are conspiring together to prevent more activity at the MotSaG HQ)

For your viewing pleasure…

Yes, football is a brutal sport. As Buckeye fans, we have seen our share of slobber-knocking hits over the years. But honestly? Rugby has always intrigued and fascinated me. The pure, unadulterated violence is second-to-none. These guys know how to hit. So, for your viewing pleasure, here are two minutes of some serious rugby violence.

Buckeyes to go Fiesta Bowling, again

As announced this evening, your Ohio State Buckeyes will be heading to Glendale for something like the 23rd time, taking on the Texas Longhorns in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 5th.

(Just an aside: I still hate non-January 1st bowl games. It just doesn’t feel right)

This is a dangerous game. A pissed-off Texas team. A young OSU QB. A huge monkey on OSU’s back of not winning a big game.

The question for Texas is: which team shows up? A dejected, “we should be in the MNC game” Texas? A post-Heisman Colt McCoy, primed to suffer the Heisman Hangover? A peeved Texas looking to make a statement? And which Ohio State team shows up? How will Terrelle Pryor benefit from the time off? What about Beanie? A full rested, mostly-healthy Beanie should scare the pants of Mack Brown.

If any team should fear a QB like Terrelle Pryor, it would be the Texas Longhorns. After watching Vince Young for three years, they know what they’re in for.

We’ll look at this match-up a little more in the coming weeks, but we’d love to hear your initial reactions. I’m not sure how I feel about playing in a BCS game this year. Both the Monkey and I were hoping for a match-up with an SEC team, preferably the imminently beatable Georgia Bulldogs in the Capitol One Bowl. We won’t look the gift horse in the mouth, but this match-up with arguably the best team in the country certainly isn’t doing us any favors.

Week #15 Open Thread

With the dearth of posts around these parts, you’d think the college football season had ended. Sure, it ended for the Buckeyes 2 weeks ago, there’s still a lot of football being played. Man, did this season fly by. Here’s our last chance to hold on to that sweet nectar that is our favorite sport. Enjoy it while you can, especially before BCS Hate Week starts in earnest tomorrow shortly after the Bowl Selection Show.

Here’s our last regular season Open Thread. Feel free to fill the comments with whatever is on your mind. Like: “What is up with those Army uni’s?”

Yes, there is some great football going on, but Michigan just upset #4 Duke (talk about mixed emotions) and Ohio State is beating #7 Notre Dame at last check. I don’t have ESPNU for the same reason no one else does, so I’m just watching the ticker when I get a chance.

Updated again:
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think that Alabama, at this point in the third quarter, would be in this game. But after a drive that took over half the third quarter, the score is tied 17-17. I don’t think anything would make me happier than seeing Urban Meyer lose. (Update – And of course, Florida rips off 14 points like they’re free)

Oh, and congrats to the Buckeyes on upsetting two top-25 teams this week, beating Notre Dame. Also, congrats to Teh ESPN for preventing just about everyone in Buckeye Nation from seeing it. Why, again, do we have the Big Ten Network?

2008 Blogpoll Ballot, Week #14

Rank Team Delta
1 Alabama
2 Oklahoma
3 Florida
4 Texas
5 Penn State
6 Southern Cal
7 Utah 1
8 Texas Tech 1
9 Ohio State 1
10 Boise State 1
11 Ball State 3
12 Oklahoma State 1
13 TCU 2
14 Cincinnati 2
15 Georgia Tech 3
16 Boston College 3
17 Oregon 6
18 Brigham Young 3
19 Michigan State 3
20 Georgia 8
21 Mississippi 4
22 Pittsburgh 4
23 Northwestern 1
24 Missouri 11
25 Tulsa 1

Dropped Out: Oregon State (#17), Florida State (#20).

Utah and Texas Tech flip-flop after a weak Texas Tech showing, where they needed three straight touchdowns to beat Baylor and Ohio State and Boise State flip-flop because I love the Buckeyes and I hate the Smurf Turf. A top-15 that includes Ball State, Cincinnati and TCU feels wrong.

Big thanks to Oregon for making it a lot more realistic for the Buckeyes making a BCS game this season. If it comes down to OSU or Boise or Utah, I’m guessing the bowl committee will make the right decision.

Comments, suggestions and poo-flinging are welcome in the comments, as this is preliminary ballot.