Tag Archives: Michigan Wolveines

The New Era of College Football: The Haves Trump The Have-Nots

The evolution of college football has created a new reality. Thanks to the college football arms race in facilities, fan support, and money as well as the nascent playoff system, there are two types of college football programs:

  1. Those that have a chance to win a national championship
  2. Those that have no chance to win a national championship

There is no migration between the types of programs. You either have a chance to win it all or you don’t. The rich teams get richer, everyone else treads water or drowns.

While there are two types of college football programs, there are three types of college football fans:

  1. Those fans who correctly recognize that their teams have a chance win a national championship
  2. Those fans who correctly realize their teams have no chance to win a national    championship
  3. Those fans who incorrectly believe their team has a chance to win the national championship, when in reality, they have no chance.

No convinced? Take a look at the following videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVC3UziHeGk and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU4NXtu2T5E.

These are, theoretically, facilities for college students. But we all know what these really are. Recruiting tools to draw top athletes to Texas and Texas A&M. These are “in-kind” payments to players who are ostensibly amateur athletes.

I have no doubt that the other programs with a chance to win a national championship have (or will soon have) facilities on par if not better than these. We all know the names of these programs – Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Ohio St, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, & Oklahoma. You could probably add Oregon, Tennessee, Notre Dame and a small handful of other programs to this list, but that’s it. No other programs have a chance.

It is not shocking for fans of programs like Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College, Vandy, Kansas, and Northwestern that they have zero chance to win a national championship…ever. I think the fans of these programs understand that they will never have facilities like Texas or Texas A&M. They will never compromise their integrity to the extent that the contending programs must to get the numbers of top players needed to compete for a national championship. Fans from these programs and many more like them realize their role in the world of college football. They are fodder for the teams with a chance to win it all. They can have successful seasons and win bowl games, but they will never hoist the national championship trophy. Maybe that’s okay. The point of college, after all, is to educate young minds, not win national championships. College athletics is supposed to be entertaining, so if you recognize your place and revel in reaching the heights of success within the boundaries of your possibilities, college football is a great deal of fun.

What might be shocking to the vast majority of the fans of programs not listed above, is that their teams also have no chance to win a national championship. None, zero, zilch, nada… they just don’t realize it. Many programs fit this description…we can all name these programs with perpetually frustrated fans who mistakenly think they are on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of college programs – Virginia Tech, NC State, UNC, West Virginia, Michigan State, South Carolina, TCU, Baylor, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Iowa, Kansas St, and Arkansas among many others, have no chance to win a national championship. Unfortunately, their fans think they do.

Think about how excited fans of these programs are when they land a big-time recruit. A 5-star or high 4-star kid who is a “can’t miss” prospect. There are high-fives all around and dreams of winning the college football playoff. The sad reality is, the teams that have a real chance to win it all, get at least a half a dozen of these players – every year. Not one per year or every other year like the wannabe programs. So the teams with a real chance to win it all have 30 or more can’t-miss players on their teams. The wannabe teams might have 5.

None of this is lost on the best coaches in the industry either. Do you think Nick Saban is going to leave Alabama to coach Northwestern anytime soon? Urban Meyer going to Wake Forest? Which programs have huge donor bases that make space-age locker rooms possible? (hint: it’s not Duke and it’s not Virginia…nor NC State or West Virginia) The best coaches go to the programs with the biggest donor bases that pay the biggest salaries & fund the best facilities, which draw the best talent…and so the cycles continues.

Like gambling in Vegas, the college football game is rigged. Over the course of any season, there will be exciting times when wannabe teams beat the odds and score big upsets. But over the course of a full season (including the playoffs), a single wannabe program cannot beat the system. There are too many 30+ mega-recruit teams out there, getting better every day and one of those teams will win the national championship every time. It’s why house wins over time in Vegas. The swanky trappings of the Bellagio are not there because gamblers go home winners. The odds favor the house, so it always wins. The system favors the top programs, so they will always win.

As we begin the 2017 college football season, we could create a list of 18-20 programs with a chance to win it all. It would be the same list from 2016. The participants in the football championship will be from that list – with no chance for an upstart to crash the party. It’s like the list to get into the VIP section of a popular night club. Not on the list? Not getting in.

The downside of this could be that as more college football fans realize the game is rigged against them, fans will lose interest and the game’s popularity could begin to fade. Then again, Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be losing its steam and state lotteries continue to be wildly popular. Maybe the fans of the wannabe programs understand their fate better than they let on. Maybe they are like the lottery players, thinking that someone is going to win this jackpot, if I buy a ticket it might be me, so every season, misplaced hope springs eternal. Unfortunately, the odds of winning the Powerball are better than their team winning the national championship.

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @dmrayner.

Ramblin’ Around the SEC, Something’s Burning

Occasionally, I do a column on my personal website which I call Ramblin’. It’s a stream of consciousness, word association, hodge-podge type of thing on which I bemuse on any number of subjects. Today, we’re going to ramble around the SEC a bit. This one will be more organized and structured but it is ramblin’ nonetheless.

One topic of discussion that tends to circulate throughout college football, in the off-season, concerns coaches who are on the hot seat. Some of those coaches’ fannies are truly scorching, for others it’s just a matter of speculation on the part of the media and fans.

Here is my take on the SEC coaches who appear to be feeling the most heat, in no particular order.

Gus Malzahn

I’ll start with Gus because I’m an Auburn guy and his situation is, obviously, the most important to me. I do not believe Gus’ hiney is as hot as many might think. Now. But, if Auburn loses 4 or 5 games it probably will be; however, I don’t think that will be the case. The Tigers appear to me as the second best team in the conference and their record should, ultimately, reflect that.

Kevin Sumlin

 A similar situation to Malzahn. A&M needs to have a big year. Sumlin needs to break the pattern of winning his first 5 or 6 games and then crashing and burning in the second half of the season. The Aggies’ boss definitely needs to take care of business or climb down off of the porcelain throne.

Hugh Freeze

 Whether the Ole Miss powers-that-be or their fans like it or not, his rump is hot. How can it not be? Regardless of the Rebels’ on-the-field performance, their NCAA situation screams for someone to take the fall in Oxford. In the end, doesn’t that fall on the head coach?

Butch Jones

 In spite of being “Champions of Life” and having “Five Star Hearts”, the Tennessee Volunteers need to win a lot of football games. Talk is, indeed, cheap, especially when the product on the field consistently fails to meet expectations.

Bret Bielema, are you listening?

Onward to some talk about some actual football games. SEC Media Days is just around the corner, July 10-13, and polls will then begin to pop up everywhere. Speculation will be like wildfires spreading across the nation. And here in the Southland is where things seem to always burn with the greatest intensity.

Yeah! Let’s keep on with that hot theme!

Here are the ‘smokinest’ games in the SEC on opening weekend. Again, in no particular order.

Florida vs. Michigan

 Both teams will be ranked (Yes, I think Florida should and will be ranked). SEC vs. Big Ten. Gators and Wolverines. Jim vs. Jim. The flamboyant Harbaugh and the steady McElwain. Jerry World.

Alabama vs. Florida State

 The biggest one of the weekend. Two top five teams, at minimum. The ACC and the SEC. The Tide and the Noles. Hotlanta, GA. First college game at Mercedes-Benz stadium. Playoff preview?

Texas A&M vs. UCLA

 Two coaches on the hot seat. Huge for both teams. Rose Bowl. Bruins house. Prime Time. Sunday! Sunday! SUN-DAY!!! Be there!

Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech

Rocky Top and Ramblin’ Wreck. Great jump-start for someone. Mercedes-Benz, again. Hotlanta Deux. Jones and Johnson.

Disparate styles. A shootout?

Missouri vs. Missouri State

Just messin’ with ya!

And now, we might as well conclude with more hot topics or burning questions.

Will Alabama keep its playoff streak alive? Will Ole Miss be sanctioned into certain, long term mediocrity? Will Georgia win the East for the first time in five years? Will Coach “O” deliver? Will Vanderbilt go bowling again? Does anybody care? Will Muschamp?

All of this and more… later!

Michigan at Ohio State for the Big Ten?

Heading into the seventh week of college football season, the Big Ten conference is very well represented in the most recent AP Top 25 Poll. Four teams are ranked in this week’s poll with all four also being ranked inside the top ten.

The two big names from the conference are represented in Ohio State and Michigan, while a gritty Wisconsin team as well as upstart Nebraska round out the Big Ten teams currently ranked.

With that being said, only one team can win the Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes and Wolverines are the cream of the crop in the Big Ten, and I expect one of these powers to take home the conference crown.

The schools possess the two best coaches and rosters in the conference by a wide margin. That doesn’t guarantee that one of the two won’t slip up, but let’s make a case for each team to represent the Big Ten as conference champions.

Ohio State

For Ohio State, it’s not a question of the talent on the roster, but whether Meyer could mold this number of inexperienced talent into a Big Ten contender on the fly. With a week three throttling at Oklahoma, the Buckeyes eased most concerns about their inexperience and made a case to be the top team in the country.

Led by veteran quarterback J.T. Barrett, Big Ten rushing leader Mike Weber, and versatile playmaker Curtis Samuel the Ohio State offense has the potential to be great. The rushing game has been just about everything you could ask for so far as Weber has enjoyed a solid first season as a starter to this point. The passing game however may be the weakest aspect of this Ohio State team, one that could haunt them if not corrected.

On defense, ball hawking safety Malik Hooker is tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions with four, and rising cornerback Marshon Lattimore isn’t far off himself with three in his own right.

The Buckeyes truly have a chance to finish as one of the country’s best defenses when it’s all said and done. The combination of pass rushers  at their disposal cobimined with lockdown man defense makes this defense truly scary as their young players will continue to improve as the season progresses.

The schedule that the Buckeyes face the rest of the way however won’t be a cake walk to the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes travel to Madison this Saturday to take on Wisconsin in a showdown between top 10 teams.

If they can escape that game unscathed, they still play at home against #10 Nebraska, and finish with games at Michigan State and home against rival Michigan.

On Paper, Ohio State is the most talented team in the Big Ten. But games aren’t won on paper, ask the 2015 Buckeyes.  Urban Meyer’s offense relied heavily on the run against Indiana as J.T. Barrett passed for just 93 yards on 9/21 passing. That’s fine when your team can rush for nearly 300 yards.

When Ohio State plays a team like Wisconsin and Michigan that can make them do something else besides simply hand it off they may have issues if the passing game doesn’t get fixed. If it does, their may be no team that can stop the Buckeyes this season.


The Wolverines entered this season with expectations through the roof, as many pundits picked them to win the Big Ten. Ohio State returned just six starters, Michigan State lost key cogs in Connor Cook and Shilique Calhoun, and the rest of the Big Ten was mediocre last season.

The things to like about this Michigan team is its tenacious defense. The Wolverines boast what could be the best cover corner in college football in Jourdan Lewis. Harbaugh and company also have one of the deepest defensive fronts in the nation led by Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton. If Rashan Gary comes into his own even more late in the season, watch out for this Michigan defense.

The offense is led by a three-headed rushing attack which includes true freshman running back Chris Evans, senior De’Veon Smith, and fellow senior Ty Issac. Typical of a Harbaugh coached team, the Wolverines are very physical up front and like to impose their will on teams week in, week out.

The Wolverines also possess one of the most dynamic athletes in the country in Jabrill Peppers. Whether it’s at linebacker, nickel corner, running back, receiver, even special teams, Peppers is all over the field for the Wolverines and makes the team a lot better with him on the field.


The weakness in the Wolverines so far is the mediocre play at quarterback from Wilton Speight. As was the case with last season’s Michigan squad, the team lacks an elite quarterback, and counts on him to not lose the game rather than win it.  Later on this season, (most likely against Ohio State) the Wolveines will need plays from their quarterback to get the win, but is Speight a capable option?

Both teams are very good on defense, currently the two top teams in the nation in points per game allowed. The offenses are both run driven, albeit in different ways. What will make the difference when these teams actually play later this season?

The tie-breaker in a very close game come late November will be J.T. Barrett making more plays than Wilton Speight. The Buckeyes take out the Wolverines in a nail biter to send them to the Big Ten championship game.

E-mail Derek at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @D_Woods21.

Photo: flickr/Slippy Slappy

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