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.

MOTSAG TV Guide

BUCKEYES

(9/27) Cincinnati @ Ohio State. 6:00p, Big Ten Network.

It’s time for the 2014 Silver Bullets to solidify themselves as a top defense after shutting out Kent State. The Bearcats roll into town with QB Gunner Kiel, the 10th highest-rated passer in the country. The good news is that Cincy’s offensive eggs are all in the passing basket, so if the Buckeyes can disrupt Kiel, it could be a long night for the Bearcats. It also helps that the 12th highest-rated will be on the field Saturday night too.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

(9/27)

Northwestern @ Penn State. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Wyoming @ Michigan State. Noon, ESPN2.

Tulane @ Rutgers. Noon, ESPN News.

Maryland @ Indiana. 1:30p, Big Ten Network.

Minnesota @ Michigan. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

This week, Michigan AD Dave Brandon found a way to make tickets to the Minnesota game the 2014 equivalent of an AOL disk in the 90s.

Illinois @ Nebraska. 9:00p, Big Ten Network.

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS

(9/27)

South Florida @ Wisconsin. Noon, ESPNU.

Iowa @ Purdue, Noon, Big Ten Network.

OTHER OHIO TEAMS

Central Michigan @ Toledo. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online) / BCSN (?)

Akron @ Pittsburgh. 1:30p, ESPN3 (online)

Bowling Green @ UMass. 3:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Eastern Illinois @ Ohio. 2:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Miami (OH) @ Buffalo. 3:30p, ESPN3 (online)

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

Tennessee @ Georgia. Noon, ESPN.

Stanford @ Washington. 4:00p, Fox.

Notre Dame vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford. 8:00p, ABC.

The Spread, Week Five: The Fraud List

This year’s Fraud List is coming to you a week earlier than normal, because this is not going to be a normal year. Undefeated Power 5 conference teams are dropping like flies, and honestly I’m afraid if I wait another week, there won’t be anyone left to populate this list. And then I’ll have to think of something completely new and original to write, and nobody wants that.

A Fraud Team is a currently unbeaten team that I believe will end the season with a least five losses, of which their tend to around 2-4 each year. I’ll pick five and consider the list a success if at least one team is a true fraud and none of them finish better than 8-4.

1. Oregon State

The Beavers have three wins and so do their three opponents. Combined. Even though their only close win was on the road against Hawaii (is it still “on the road” when it’s Hawaii?) the softness of their opening schedule can not be overstated. Three of their next four games are on the road, and that includes USC and Stanford.

2. Washington

Similar to Oregon State, with close wins over Hawaii and Eastern Washington, the Huskies have played slightly better opponents and have a couple of blowouts as well. They take on Stanford next week and travel to Oregon on October 18th.

3. TCU

The Horned Frogs have only played two games, so maybe it’s not fair to put them on this list. But I’m still doing it. They play at dismal SMU next week, then face Oklahoma, Baylor, and Oklahoma State.

4. N.C. State

The Wolfpack’s first four opponents are a combined 9-7, which isn’t terrible, but we’re talking about Old Dominion, Presbyterian, Georgia Southern and South Florida here. Hardly a fearsome bunch of teams. Their next four opponents are Florida State, Clemson, Boston College and Louisville, teams that are a combined 10-4 (which includes Clemson’s losses to FSU and Georgia.)

5. Mississippi State

I think 8-4 is more likely for the Bulldogs, but I wouldn’t rule out a freak loss to Kentucky or Arkansas while they try to navigate through upcoming opponents like Texas A&M, Auburn and Alabama.

MOTSAG TV Guide

My apologies for accidentally including Western Illinois @ Northwestern in last week’s guide. I hope I didn’t screw up anyone’s big party. The Buckeyes are off this week, so we’ll just be enjoying watching everyone else (hopefully) crash and burn.

UPCOMING OPPONENTS

(9/20)

Eastern Michigan @ Michigan State. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Maryland @ Syracuse. 12:30p, ESPN3 (online)/ACC Network (is that a thing?)

Utah @ Michigan. 3:30p, ABC/ESPN2.

The Big Ten is in a tailspin right now, so we might actually be forced to do the unthinkable this week: cheer for Utah, but be okay with it if they lose. (Sorry, SOS apologists, that’s as far as I’m willing to go.) Utah may not be a big name Pac-12 team like Oregon or Stanford, but they are 2-0 and the Big Ten really just needs any win over a decent major-conference opponent.

Rutgers @ Navy. 3:30p, CBS Sports Network.

UMass @ Penn State. 4:00p, Big Ten Network.

Texas State @ Illinois. 4:00p, ESPN News.

San Jose State @ Minnesota. 4:00p, Big Ten Network.

Indiana @ Missouri. 4:00p, SEC Network.

I mean, who knows, right?

Right?

Guys?

Miami (OH) @ Cincinnati. 7:00p, CBS Sports Network.

OTHER BIG TEN TEAMS
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT
IS DECENT AND GOOD PLEASE
SOMEBODY WIN A GAME

(9/20)

Bowling Green @ Wisconsin. Noon, ESPN2.

Southern Illinois @ Purdue. Noon, Big Ten Network.

Western Illinois @ Northwestern. Noon, ESPN News.

Iowa @ Pittsburgh. Noon, ESPNU.

Miami (FL) @ Nebraska. 8:00p, ESPN2.

The Hurricanes are 2-1, so a win here is okay, but a loss is pretty much disastrous for the Big Ten. Guess which one’s going to happen!

OTHER OHIO TEAMS

(9/20)

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

Ball State @ Toledo. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online)

Idaho @ Ohio. 7:00p, ESPN3 (online)

OTHER BIG NATIONAL GAMES

(9/18)

Auburn @ Kansas State. 7:30p, ESPN.

(9/20)

Florida @ Alabama. 3:30p, CBS.

Oklahoma @ West Virginia. 7:30p, Fox.

Clemson @ Florida State. 8:00p, ABC.

The Spread, Week Four: What Did You Expect?

The Big Ten took a beating this past weekend–again. As the favorites in six of the nine non-conference games on the slate, the conference was looking for a little bit of redemption. Instead, it was another massive letdown.

Only Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska managed wins, and each of those was against a significantly weaker opponent. Penn State also squeaked past Rutgers, but that’s a wash for the conference.

Personally, I don’t really like the conference unity mindset spawned by the BCS and only exacerbated by the assumption that strength of schedule will be the major factor in making the new playoff. (I’m trying to really hard to not launch into yet another anti-SOS rant here.)

But since we live in a perception-is-reality college football world, I thought we’d take a look at how the conference is faring so far in that department with my Performance Against Expectation ratings.

Quickly, PAE is a calculation I came up with last year which compares the final score of a game to the “public prediction” of the score, as indicated by the associated betting numbers (point spread and over/under.) Teams who win do not always do so as convincingly as we thought they would and teams who lose do not always do so as badly as we thought. PAE reflects that. (Keep in mind that games without published lines–usually the ones against FCS teams–can not be included in this rating.)

It may surprise you that the Big Ten as a whole has actually outperformed expectations in two of three weeks of the season so far, including this week. To be fair, those numbers are boosted by a few great performances like Nebraska’s big win over Florida Atlantic and Ohio State’s shutout against Kent State.

So let’s look at the teams individually. It’s important to remember here that most teams’ ratings right now are based on just one or two games. Still, it’s a good measure of just how disappointing most Big Ten teams have been so far this year.

Big Ten PAE Rating through Week 3 (as a percentage)

1. Nebraska, 193%
2. Penn State, 123%
3. Ohio State, 120%
4. Rutgers, 118%
5. Wisconsin, 97%
6. Michigan State, 96%
7. Illinois, 86%
8. Maryland, 86%
9. Purdue, 76%
10. Minnesota, 67%
11. Indiana, 65%
12. Michigan, 60%
13. Iowa, 60%
14. Northwestern, 56%

Note that a high number doesn’t necessarily mean a better team. For example, no one really expects Purdue to do much, and they don’t. But people expect more of, say, Michigan than they’ve been able to deliver so far.

We’ll get a better sense of who these teams are as they all play some more meaningful games, but for now, it’s tough to argue that the public perception of the Big Ten as a “weak” and disappointing league is inaccurate.