Golden Nugz - 01-16-13

Andy Lyons

#STATSTAKES, Gopher institutional awesomeness and a sad face for the lack of college football amidst 2013 projections.

Yes, I still blog around here. In case you were wondering, or something.

Gopher Footbawwwww

- 2013 is only 16 days old and the last college football season is only recently deceased (RIP 2012 season -- insert Manning Face.gif), so naturally that means everyone everywhere is already looking ahead to the fall with their armchair prognostications. First on the docket is the WWL Blog with their appropriately titled Bold predictions for B1G in 2013 post, where Rittenbro and the other BB (Bert Bennett?) trade soothsayings. Bennett continues his recent hero turn of Gopher love:

Jerry Kill's teams have typically made big jumps in his third year, and the same happens with the Gophers in 2013. They showed a glimpse of the type of power running team they could be in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas loss to Texas Tech, and some receivers emerge to give young quarterback Philip Nelson some options. Minnesota surprises either Wisconsin or Penn State at home and wins eight games.

Fuller nearly spit out his coffee:

Dude...it's not that bold of prediction. A two win improvement over the 2012 campaign? ZOMG TOO BOLD AND SPICY #TAKES #TAKES #TAKES. Another way to interpret Bennett's not-so stepping out on a limb declaration is as such: the Gophers do what they did last year, which is run the non-conference slate unscathed, beat two of the worst teams in the conference (Indiana, Iowa), win one additional game (Wisconsin or Penn State, as BB suggested above) and win a bowl game.

Man, Bennett is really putting himself out there. Fuller may need to lay off the Tabasco green love sauce and stick with ketchup.

In "deep thoughts from the non-#TAKES community," Vico from Eleven Warriors explores the possibility of a random Big Ten team making a run at the conference elite over a period of several years that no one saw coming at all. Prerequisite: teams must basically be in the bottom 4 of a Big Ten weighted average-ish last half decade. Such is consistent with the tales of Wisconsin under Lord Alvarez, Tillerstache 1.0, Gary Barnett before he threw wild recruiting orgies, Ferentz and Sparty after they stopped hiring dudes like John L. Smith. Let's roll with it!

Is Minnesota ready for a January bowl game? My love of Minnesota's liberal use of Power O from Maryland I in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas notwithstanding, Jerry Kill has done well enough to erase the stink of the Tim Brewster years. The improvement has been measured and incremental. Minnesota won two games in year one for Jerry Kill before winning six this past season, allowing the Gophers to participate in its first bowl game in three years.

As such, Minnesota's trajectory mirrors Northern Illinois' trajectory under Jerry Kill as well. A program that won two games in Joe Novak's last season before retirement in 2007, the Huskies won six games in 2008, seven in 2009, and ten in 2010. It was the 10-win campaign and MAC West divisional championship that ultimately got Kill the job with the Gophers. This is at least consistent with the idea that Jerry Kill is building toward that in 2013 in his third season with Minnesota.

The disaster season for Northern Illinois was really 2007, where an unnatural rash of injuries dropped the usually consistent Novak led Huskies to a 2-10 dumpster. Kill didn't have as tough a rebuilding job he had at Southern Illinois, a dreadful scenario ole Jer' has consistently referred to as more analogous to his current program restoration than NIU. And the mountain to climb in the B1G is considerably tougher than the MAC or Missouri Valley Conference.

Still, patterns are repeating themselves. Among the first things Kill did at SIU was lighten the scheduling load considerably, making the non-conference schedule more manageable for his burgeoning FCS powerhouse so they could 1) learn how to win and 2) get to the meat of the conference schedule unblemished.

Enter the 2013 Minnesota schedule, which is even softer than the 2012 iteration. According to Mr. Fremeau's program ratings, the Gophers entered the 2012 slate facing only one opponent with a weaker recent program history -- UNLV.

In 2013, the number bulges out to four: the same Rebels, New Mexico State (REVENGE!!!), San Jose State (the latest version of a 10+ win from the previous year non-AQ school that scares the living crap out of Gopher fans) and Indiana. Brian Bennett thinks that OOC schedule is the weakest in the B1G, and I don't really care if he's right.

Point being, if things aren't such a damn struggle during non-conference play every single year (which has been the case every year since Mason's last stand), maybe the cascading effect of getting all those young pups early playing time and extra reps starting from Kill's first season (and really, Brew's exile if you think about it) can pay dividends in 2013 as the team in fresher and more mentally prepared for Big Ten play.

- And now, time for a bit of a rant. Or, if you like, #STATSGUYTAKES.

The WWL, in their ever increasing efforts to weave their tentacles into the world of college football (and basketball) recruiting and further establish their Orwellian dominance over the sport, has slapped together a bit of analysis regarding recruiting patterns of the AP top 20 by state, by decade and how they've changed since the 1940's.

(A disclaimer: these types of geographic recruiting pattern analyses are not new at all. Rivals.com produced an NFL player by high school weighted datamap back in 2004 that illustrated where NFL caliber players come from -- at that slice in time.)

Infographic? Infographic.

At first glance, the infographic tells a compelling and easy story: the top programs in the country have shifted from a local and even regional focus in recruiting to a more national scope. And a reliance upon Texas, California and Florida. But mainly, the latter.

That almost seems like a tautology, a confirmation of everyone's commonly held assumptions that the "Big 3" produce a disproportionate share of recruits compared to the rest of the country. You could arrive at no other reasonable conclusion from looking at the two graphics illustrating the "change" in patterns.

But here's my issue: these graphics look more like a summation of top 20 program roster breakdowns than actual recruiting migration patterns.

Per the accompanying "raw data" presentation (using quotes loosely here) which is curiously behind a paywall, the roster analysis is broken down by state and decade by some sort of index -- most likely against a national or top 20 average. I have no real gripes about indexing in general, except for the amount of noise it produces in this type of analysis:

Espns-wtf-recruiting-index-01_medium

A fast and loose interpretation of this data given the WWL hypothesis/presented storyline could lead readers to believe the state of Idaho is somehow indexing a lot more top 20 talent in the most recent decade compared to the previous 7. Likewise, the state of Illinois' prospect production fell off a cliff in 1990, while Iowa simultaneously started spontaneously generating awesome football players from pig feces and corn cobs. And finally, Indiana is producing a fifth of the talent if did in the previous decade, or said another way, this is why the Hoosiers suck at football.

Of course, the states' level of talent production had nothing to do with Boise State's 9th place finish in 2010, the state of Illinois' general irrelevance to college football in 1990, Iowa's last Rose Bowl team or Drew Brees. ESPN is trying to make sweeping generalizations about talent base migration patterns over the last 70 years by examining data from.... 8 years.

But wait! There's more:

Editor's note: Some roster information was unavailable for teams in 1940 and 1950. Where applicable, information on the team's letter winners was used in lieu of a complete roster.

Not even using complete data, then trying to aggregate for effect. About the level of sloppy analysis you'd expect from the four letter network, since this is generally the type of thing they outsource to a 3rd party specialist. Aside from the outstanding John Hollinger, ESPN's attempts at in-house statistical and data analysis are Fail Blog worthy -- think QBR.

/data guy rant*.

* Entire rant inspired by the fact Minnesota was ranked #1 in their faux-recruiting rankings for both 1940 and 1960. Had nothing to do with us winning a National Title in those years. And that 84% of the 1940 Gopher roster was from Minnesota.

- Back to present time, the Gopher Maryland-I and tight end motion system are not sloppy. That's why Rob Reeves was teaching it at a Michigan high school coaches clinic.

- Rah'Crootin article since it's Rah'Crootin Season and all, Nate Andrews is one of the more important and coveted feathers in Kill's 2013 cap. At one point, Andrews held an offer from the reigning college football machine of our time. His high school coach, Adam Winegarden, explains the sitch:

"He has been committed to Minnesota, and he's stayed with that all along," Fairhope coach Adam Winegarden said. "Minnesota was recruiting him before some of these other schools came along, and I know he feels loyal to them.

"At the same time, I think it is only wise for him to take some official visits and make sure he feels good about the decision. I don't think there is anything wrong with that."

Winegarden is referring to Florida State, who has also "offered" Andrews and will receive an official visit from the Fairhope (AL) native this weekend. Air quotes here, since I think FSU is lining up Andrews as a failsafe in case they lose out on a 5* prospect they're trying to flip from USC and another CB prospect decommits. Avoid noise; wait for signals.

Gopher Hoops

- Another week, another dose of Tubbystache love. Forde:

Smith has not had a winning Big Ten record in his previous five seasons with the Gophers, and has not won an NCAA tournament game since his last year with the Wildcats. Both of those things could change this season. Smith's best Minnesota team is 15-2 to date, with the only losses coming to top-five Duke and Indiana. In terms of balance, experience, athleticism and toughness, this group bears a slight resemblance to Tubby's 2002-03 Kentucky team, which won 32 games and stormed through the SEC undefeated. He is a strong early candidate for Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Andy Katz:

I loved Minnesota's effort against Indiana. The Gophers never stopped playing every possession.

I'm not predicting it now, but I won't be surprised if there are three Big Ten schools at the Final Four in Atlanta.

Lunardi ($):

In this group, keep an eye on Minnesota. Tubby Smith's Gophers have lost only to Duke and already own three conference wins in a Big Ten where nearly every victory is a gold coin. The Golden Gophers will certainly be tested in their next two outings (at Indiana, Michigan), but they've already won at Illinois and beaten Michigan State at home. If the Gophers can somehow split these next two, a Big Ten title and even a 1-seed are within reach.

Time Magazine?!? (that still exists?):

That’s opened the door for men’s basketball to emerge as the league’s most dominant sport. This year, six schools from the Big Ten (Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State) are ranked in the Top 25 (and Wisconsin’s garnering votes), and in the ratings of stats guru Ken Pomeroy (often more reliable), four Big Ten teams are in the top 10. With the return of Indiana and Michigan, two historically rich basketball programs that went through losing seasons in the 2000s, the Big Ten may be the best it’s been since the 1990s.

Meanwhile, teams are clamoring to join a conference that sits in the heart of the Midwest — rich with basketball recruits. Fans often forget about coaches like Tubby Smith, who’s quietly led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to a Top 10 ranking this year.

- Bracketology Updates.

Mothership: 2 seed, East Region.

Lunardi Bracketology: 3 seed, South Region.

SI: 2 seed, South Region.

- Potential hang-ups? Yeah, people are talking about 'em. First, Rayno takes a page from GN about the hockey line shifts:

At the same time, four games into the conference season, the bench’s value has been stunted somewhat. Against Michigan State, Smith played a shortened bench in the second half, and rightfully so – considering how the team was fighting to stay in the game, and the reserves had proven unmatched against the Spartans’ starting five. But against Illinois and Indiana, the bench’s production has fallen off dramatically. Saturday against the Hoosiers, only Ahanmisi (six points) and Ingram (two points) put points on the board from the bench, and at Illinois, no reserve scored at all.

ESPN's "Giant Killer" analysis is even more poignant, and funny:

If the Gophers ever played against themselves, they'd struggle to get the ball over halfcourt. But if they did, they'd get an offensive board on every missed shot. That's how strange their stats are.

Pretty much.

- Tomorrow's matchup with Meat Chicken tops everyone's list of must watch games, including KenPom's and Tom Dienhart's.

College Football

- Schlabach has his bold predictions for the 2013 season, including coaches on the hot seat:

Other coaches who will start the 2013 season on the hot seat: Maryland's Randy Edsall, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, New Mexico State's DeWayne Walker, Illinois' Tim Beckman, UNLV's Bobby Hauck, Missouri's Gary Pinkel, Army's Rich Ellerson and Texas' Mack Brown.

I don't know how hot Ferentz's seat is going to be, since we all know his move to the NFL is imminent /snorts.

Interesting to see three head coaches of Gopher opponents on the list.

- We may soon have an end to our long national nightmare. Do the right thing, Delany: East and West. East.... and West.

- It's always fun when a coach spurns Bert, though it's not quite as fun now that he's a Hawg. Oh, who am I kidding? It's always fun, no matter what.

- AIRBHG reference down at IMG Academy, which somehow will be able to field a legal high school football team. $60K tuition... WTF?!?

- People seem to think the migration of the zone read and pistol formations to the NFL is a new thing, since the common belief is #footbawwwww knowledge trickles down from the highest levels. Actually, I think it's the reverse: football knowledge and innovation is trickling up from smaller football laboratories to the bigger ones. Case in point: Gus Malzahn's no huddle option spread/inverted veer as an Arkansas HS coach led to him to SEC, Kevin Kelley's anti-punting beliefs at the Pulaski Academy (also, coincidentally, in Arkansas) or Bob Stitt's innovative offense at the Colorado College of Mines.

Much in the same way the NFL was influenced heavily by single back, 12 personnel sets that dominated college football in the 90's to an adoption of Air Raid style spread passing concepts of the latter part of the last decade, the migration towards a more mobile NFL quarterback capable of running zone read and pistol concepts has to be in part due to the ubiquitous breadth and depth of such quarterbacks college football is producing now.

- One thing the NFL still has in abundance is NFLAIDS, and a complete risk aversion from head coaches. Coaches don't understand probabilistic thinking all that well.

- Cam Newton is coming back to Auburn to finish his degree. Good for Cam... and the Auburn boosters who no longer have to pay Cecil.

Etc.

- I hate this recent trend of bleeding uniform colors. Piss off, Oregon. And screw you, Adidas, for blatantly copying Nike's awful example.

- Hack #SPROTS columnists, take note. This is a doctorate level course on the finer and more subtle art of trolling.

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