MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, November 1, unless otherwise noted.

BUCKEYES

Illinois @ Ohio State. 8:00p, ABC.

I don’t know. This game is probably exactly what it looks like it is–a bounce back after a surprisingly close shave against Penn State and an officiating crew rehearsing for some new hilarious Will Ferrell movie I guess. You could probably argue that this is a potential “trap game” if you want to be the kind of person who says stuff like that.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Indiana @ Michigan. 3:30p, Big Ten Network.

Minnesota, Michigan State: no games

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Wisconsin @ Rutgers. Noon, ESPN.

Maryland @ Penn State. Noon, ESPN2.

Northwestern @ Iowa. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Purdue @ Nebraska. 3:30p, ABC.

OTHER OHIO TEAMS
All games on ESPN3 (online) unless otherwise noted.

(Friday, 10/31) Cincinnati @ Tulane. 8:00p, ESPN2.

Western Michigan @ Miami (OH), 2:30p.

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

(Thursday, 10/30) Florida State @ Louisville. 7:30p, ESPN.

Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville. 3:30p, CBS.

TCU @ West Virginia. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

Auburn @ Mississippi. 7:00p, ESPN.

Stanford @ Oregon. 7:30p, Fox.

The Spread, Week Ten: It’s All About the Benjamins

The first-ever College Football Playoff rankings have been released, and you probably know someone who’s mad about where their team has been slotted. That’s not me, and that’s not what this is about. I don’t really care how many SEC teams are in the top whatever or how this team isn’t being measured by the same standard as that team. To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t even really care where Ohio State is ranked.

Now, that’s partially because this week’s rankings are completely meaningless. I’m not even sure I understand why the committee is doing a weekly update when one of their announced important factors is conference championships, something we won’t know until all the games have been played. I guess they just want us to know they exist. And ESPN needs to fill time and fuel their shouting shows for another seven days.

What I’m concerned about is the absence of a specific team, a team who–admittedly–hasn’t beaten anyone noteworthy and won’t really have a chance to. I’m talking about undefeated Marshall, one of only three teams with a perfect record remaining and the only one of those three to not show up in the first official top 25.

And yes, I know all the arguments against the Thundering Herd (and I don’t disagree with them) but the simple fact is that any post-season structure that doesn’t allow an undefeated team a shot at the title is broken. It’s what I was most afraid of with the paltry four-team format and it’s clearly going to come to fruition should Marshall win out.

Some may argue that a team like East Carolina, with its three non-conference games against “Power Five” schools, could crack the top four had it won every game. (ECU does check in at #23 in this week’s rankings, the lone non-power team on the list.) But let’s face it, by the end of the season having beaten South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina wouldn’t have been impressive enough to leap-frog a one-loss Oregon or Michigan State or Auburn or Notre Dame.

And it’s all by design.

The College Football Playoff replaces the BCS, a championship system developed in 1998 by the six major conferences. (This, kids, was a time when the Big East was populated by Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.) For sixteen years, the BCS ensured that a team from one of those six conferences would be named the champion, even as it pretended to open it doors ever-so-slightly to the smaller conferences.

Eventually, people grew dissatisfied with the format, reaching the breaking point when two teams from the same division (guess which one!) played for the national title. Playoff talk–which has existed pretty much since the beginning of the sport–heated up again. So, the exact same group of teams, who had now rearranged themselves into just five conferences, came up with our new system and made sure to keep nearly all of the money (over 70% guaranteed) for themselves.

Of course, conferences receive an extra $6 million for each member team that makes the playoff, so it’s very important to make sure the committee understands exactly where those four teams should come from. By placing value on things like conference championships, strength of schedule, quality wins and (apparently) quality losses, the deck has been sufficiently stacked against the mid-major conferences.

Judging from the initial rankings, the committee has heard the message loud and clear. A mid-major team will never play in the College Football Playoff as long as it only has four teams.

Money wins again.

MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, October 25, unless otherwise noted.

BUCKEYES

Ohio State @ Penn State. 8:00p, ABC.

The Nittany Lions have not been particularly impressive so far this year. Their wins have been close or against severely outmatched teams. This week, they come off a bye following consecutive losses to Northwestern and Michigan, both 3-4 teams. They’ll be looking to capitalize on a White-Out crowd and avenge last year’s 63-14 beatdown. This is a rare big “National Stage” game against a team that isn’t really that good.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Minnesota @ Illinois. Noon, ESPNU.

Michigan @ Michigan State. 3:30p, ABC.

A few weeks ago, I would’ve bet money that Brady Hoke wouldn’t be the Wolverine coach in this game. Will he still be there after it?

Indiana: no game.

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Maryland @ Wisconsin. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Rutgers @ Nebraska. Noon, ESPN2.

Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern: no games.

OTHER OHIO TEAMS

All games on ESPN3 (online) unless otherwise noted.

(Friday, 10/24) South Florida @ Cincinnati. 7:00p, ESPN2.

Akron @ Ball State, 2:00p.

Ohio @ Western Michigan, 2:00p.

Kent State @ Miami (OH), 2:30p.

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

(Friday, 10/24) Oregon @ California. 10:00p, FS1.

West Virginia @ Oklahoma State. 3:30p, ESPN.

Mississippi @ LSU. 7:15p, ESPN.

The Spread, Week Nine: Adjusted Margin of Victory

That’s right, this week I’m going to tackle college football’s biggest enemy: Margin of Victory. The stat was famously banned from the BCS formula’s computer component, effectively destroying the only unbiased portion of that calculation. The fear was that by allowing MOV to be included, the system would encourage teams to “run up the score” on lesser opponents, a theory that completely ignores the fact that the essential purpose of rankings is to determine which teams are “lesser.”

While I understand the reasoning behind disallowing MOV in a system that will determine who plays for the national championship, I don’t think it’s necessary to ignore it altogether. Sure, it can be misleading or manipulated to some degree, but it can also be a valuable piece of information in comparing teams.

The main flaw with MOV is that is heavily favors offensive teams in comparisons–a 28-0 win is the same as a 56-28 win. To combat that, I started looking at Percentage of Points instead, another neat stat that ultimately has the opposite problem: A 3-0 win is the same as a 70-0 win.

The answer is simple: combine the two. To calculate Adjusted Margin of Victory, I multiplied each team’s MOV by their overall percentage of points and the result is a number that values both offense and defense. The current number one team in Adjusted MOV is undefeated Marshall, averaging over 47 points a game and giving up less than 17. Ole Miss, Ohio State, Baylor and Alabama round out the top five. Michigan State and Nebraska also crack the top ten.

It’s worth noting that Western Kentucky, the #8 team in scoring offense, is ranked #71 in Adjusted MOV. Stanford, the #2 team in scoring defense, comes in at #27.

To be clear, this is not intended to be a complete ranking of teams. Some consideration for winning percentage and opponent strength would have to be added for that to work. But Adjusted MOV can be a useful way to consider scoring when comparing teams without over-rewarding anyone for piling on against weaker opponents.

MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, October 18, unless otherwise noted.

BUCKEYES

Rutgers @ Ohio State. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

People who gamble on college football like Ohio State a lot more in this game than they like Rutgers, and that makes Rutgers sad. Keep in mind that so far in the Big Ten, Rutgers has lost a close game to a middling Penn State team and barely beat a terrible Michigan team. On the other hand, Ohio State destroyed a Maryland team that, while not great, is still probably better than those other two.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Purdue @ Minnesota. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Michigan State @ Indiana. 3:30p, ESPN.

Penn State: no game
Illinois: no game
Michigan: no game

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Iowa @ Maryland. Noon, ESPN2.

Nebraska @ Northwestern. 7:30p, Big Ten Network.

Wisconsin: no game

OTHER OHIO TEAMS
All games on ESPN3 (online) unless otherwise noted

Western Michigan @ Bowling Green, 2:00p.

Akron @ Ohio, 2:00p.

Army @ Kent State, 3:30p.

Miami (OH) @ Northern Illinois, 5:00p.

Cincinnati @ SMU. 3:30p, CBS Sports Network.

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

Baylor @ West Virginia. Noon, FS1.

Texas A&M @ Alabama. 3:30p, CBS.

Notre Dame @ Florida State. 8:00p, ABC.

This battle of unbeatens will get even more interesting if FSU QB Jameis Winston is suspended for yet another potential scandal, this time involving some autographed memorabilia.

Washington @ Oregon. 8:00p, FS1.

The Spread, Week Eight: Getting The Playoff Right

Are we looking for the “best” teams or the “most deserving” teams? It’s an argument that came up frequently during the BCS era, and it’s not going away with the new committee-run College Football Playoff. While those terms aren’t really all that specific, what people usually mean is that there is a difference between the teams with the most talent or who are playing the best at the end of the year (the “best” teams) and teams who won the most games or played the toughest schedule (the “most deserving” teams). Most fans and followers of college football agree that one of these two approaches is correct, and since the playoff (as the BCS before it) will be filled based on varied opinions and not a single objective method, both of these ideologies will be represented. Most fans will be happy with the outcome, unless their school is among the few borderline teams on the outside looking in.

The problem with both of these ideas is that they are impossible to define, rely heavily on subjectivity and circular reasoning, and are prone to outside influence. “Best” is probably the most meaningless term in all of sports, meaning vastly different things to different people. To some it is simply whoever wins the most, yet others will tell us that the best team doesn’t always win. “Most deserving” only works if you define what makes a team deserving, but even then chances are you’ll eventually say the words “Strength Of Schedule” and any hope of objectivity is out the window. Schedule strength is an absurd notion that can be boiled down to this basic argument: We can’t tell how good a team is just by how many games they’ve won, we have to look at how good the teams they’ve played are, which we’ll determine by how many games they’ve won.

I will refrain from touting (again) an expanded playoff and focus only on making a workable four-team playoff that at least strives for some sense of objectivity. To do this, I’m going to borrow an idea from every single playoff that has ever been conceived for any other sports league: If you aren’t the “best” team in your conference, you aren’t the “best” team in the country, nor do you “deserve” a chance to win the title. All conferences have already agreed that their champion should be treated as the “best” team–that’s who got the big-time bowl bids or the BCS spots. That’s who gets the trophies and the rings. There is no reason to change that now.

Therefore, when selecting four teams to play for the national championship at the end of the year, the pool of eligible teams should be limited to the ten FBS conference champions. The committee can then decide between them by whatever criteria they wish. Chances are the five “non-power” conferences are going to be eliminated based on record and quality of opponents, but there’s a chance a Boise State-type team might make a worthy run.

Still, it’s likely that a four-team champions-only playoff would include only the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC in most years, and of course, one of those is going to be left out. Again, it’s up to the committee to decide where to draw the line when it comes to comparing champions, but I honestly think there will usually be a fairly clear outlier.

MOTSAG TV Guide

Ohio State is off again this week, so we’re free to cheer for total chaos.

All games Saturday, October 11, unless otherwise noted.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Illinois @ Wisconsin. Noon, ESPN2.

Northwestern @ Minnesota. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Indiana @ Iowa. Noon, ESPNU.

Michigan State @ Purdue. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

Penn State @ Michigan. 7:00p, ESPN2.

Last year’s meeting was a four-overtime thriller. At this point, I think Michigan fans will just be happy to not be out of it by halftime. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses, and will want a win heading into a week off before a major showdown game (PSU plays Ohio State, Michigan plays Michigan State).

Rutgers: no game

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Nebraska: no game

OTHER OHIO TEAMS

Cincinnati @ Miami (FL). Noon, Fox Sports Network/ESPN3 (online).

Bowling Green @ Ohio. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online).

Miami (OH) @ Akron. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online).

UMass @ Kent State. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online).

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

It could be another shake-up week, with a handful of undefeated and one-loss teams facing off. Plus, the Longhorns may not be playing well right now, but that just makes The Red River Shootout a mid-season bowl game for them. Watch out, Sooners…

Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas. Noon, ABC.

Oregon @ UCLA. 3:30p, Fox.

TCU @ Baylor. ABC/ESPN2.

Mississippi @ Texas A&M. 9:00p, ESPN.

USC @ Arizona. 10;30p, ESPN2.

The Spread, Week Seven: Mo’ Plays, Mo’ Problems

It’s difficult as an Ohio State fan these days to find things to be unhappy about, but that doesn’t stop some of us from looking. If that’s you, chances are you’ve settled on the exciting new sport of Luke Fickell Scapegoating.

Fickell, as you know, is the linebackers coach as well as handling some unknown percentage of the defensive coordinating job. Naturally, this makes him entirely and exclusively responsible for every single defensive breakdown that occurs over the course of a game.

I’m not sure why Fickell is the target of so much outrage. Maybe it’s because we were pretty bad when he was thrust into the head coaching job in 2011. Maybe it’s because he’s the only Ohio State coach to lose to Michigan since 2003.

Regardless, it certainly is fair to say that the defense has gotten worse under Urban Meyer than it was under Jim Tressel. If by “worse” you mean that we give up more yards and points than we used to.

But the question is: why?

I promise you the answer is not “Luke Fickell.” In fact, it probably doesn’t have anything to do with the defense at all.

Last week, Ohio State beat Maryland 52-24. In 2010, the Buckeyes took out Minnesota 52-10. How were the Terps able to score two more touchdowns than the Gophers? First, that Minnesota team was way worse than this Maryland team, but that’s still probably not the reason.

In 2010, Minnesota ran 52 plays on 12 drives. Last week, Maryland ran 65 plays on 14 drives. Is that because this year’s defense couldn’t get off the field the way the 2010 D could? Not at all. In fact, this year’s team held the ball for over two and a half minutes longer than the 2010 team did.

The reason we’re giving up more points and more yards than before is the offense. The high-tempo, no-huddle approach results in more offensive plays, but also more defensive plays because we’re getting into the end zone faster.

In that 2010 game, a 3:00 scoring drive consisted of six plays and covered 49 yards. Last week, a 3:01 scoring drive consisted of eight plays and covered 75 yards.

This is a shift that can be seen around the nation. Teams everywhere are running more plays and scoring more points than they did just a few years ago. With that comes more pressure on the defense.

Since 2012, the team that leads the nation in plays per game has given up 30 points per game on average. In that time, Ohio State has given up 22 points per game. The Buckeyes are also doing better in scoring defense this year than the average team that runs a similar number of offensive plays.

You can thank Luke Fickell (among others) for that.

MOTSAG TV Guide

All games Saturday, October 4th, unless otherwise noted.

BUCKEYES

Ohio State @ Maryland. Noon, ABC.

The Big Ten’s new teams have done fairly well so far this season, so this first ever meeting between the Buckeyes and the Terrapins has some real excitement surrounding it. Hopefully, J.T. Barrett and Co. can make a big statement on the road.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

Purdue @ Illinois. Noon, ESPN2.

North Texas @ Indiana. 2:30p, Big Ten Network.

Michigan @ Rutgers. 7:00p, Big Ten Network.

It looks like Brady Hoke will still be the Wolverines’ head coach for this surprisingly fascinating match up. Will that be true by Monday?

Nebraska @ Michigan State. 8:00p, ABC.

A massive cross-divisional contest that will essentially establish the Big Ten front-runner. For now.

Penn State: no game

Minnesota: no game

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

Wisconsin @ Northwestern. 3:30p, ESPN2.

Iowa: no game

OTHER OHIO TEAMS

Buffalo @ Bowling Green. 3:30p, ESPN3 (online)

Memphis @ Cincinnati. 7:00p, CBS Sports Network

Eastern Michigan @ Akron. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Kent State @ Northern Illinois. 5:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Ohio @ Central Michigan. 3:30p, ESPN3 (online)

Toledo @ Western Michigan. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online)

UMass @ Miami (OH). 2:30p, ESPN3 (online)

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

Florida @ Tennessee. Noon, SEC Network.

Oklahoma @ TCU. 3:30p, Fox.

Stanford @ Notre Dame. 3:30p, NBC.

LSU @ Auburn. 7:00p, ESPN.

Arizona State @ USC. 7:30p, Fox.

The Spread, Week Six: I Don’t Have The Words

There’s really only one topic worth talking about this week, and as I type this, Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon are still employed by the University of Michigan, so I guess enough hasn’t been said. I’m just not sure I know what else needs to be said, what words could possibly convey to those who can make a difference here that they should. And now.

This isn’t just about a bad football coach. We’ve known Brady Hoke was mediocre for a long time. This is a guy who talks about winning championships when his team is 2-3 even though he hasn’t won anything more than a single division title in 11 years of coaching.

This isn’t just about a miscommunication either. How can there be a miscommunication when there’s no communication to begin with? Hoke still refuses to wear a headset on the sideline, which means he can talk to no one who isn’t within a few feet of him at any given time. I’m not the first to wonder if Shane Morris would’ve come out of the game when he should have were Hoke not some kind of technophobe, and I better not be the last.

Honestly, listening to Hoke at his train-wreck of a press conference, I wasn’t even sure if he knew on Monday that Morris had been concussed in the game. He came off as completely oblivious to the goings-on around him, including the actual sport he is supposed to be coaching.

Kirk Herbstreit wonders if anyone would care about this if Michigan was undefeated. He has a point, but it’s still just conjecture, and I’d prefer to think that there would still be outrage.

Because there should be outrage.

Michigan had timeouts. They had a neurologist who, according to Brandon, noticed Morris was exhibiting symptoms of a concussions even though he didn’t personally witness the hit. In fact, according to Brandon, no one saw the hit at all. Not a single staff member on the Michigan sideline was watching the QB when he got drilled, slowly got to his feet, stumbled and grabbed a teammate to barely stabilize himself.

I’m exasperated. Even if everything Hoke and Brandon have said is 100% true (even though it almost certainly isn’t), it’s still enough to fire everyone on that sideline. They all failed at their number one job: improving the lives of young adults.

No one, myself included, can say it any better than the student-run Michigan Daily did, but I guess we all have to keep trying.