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Rose Bowl Roundtable with The M Zone and M Go Blog

With the Rose Bowl fast approaching we invited the great Michigan Blogs The M Zone and MGoBlog to have a little roundtable about the upcoming game. Our hope is to have a couple of rounds of questions leading up to the game.

This is round #1. You can also head over to these great sites and check out some of the great reader comments as these questions are also posted on there.

1. Have you recovered yet from Michigan's exclusion from the national championship game? We've heard the "experts" give us their opinion on why Michigan dropped from 2nd to 3rd without snapping the ball. What do you think really happened here?

The M Zone:

Personally, I needed all of one minute to recover. During last Sunday (and even on Saturday night during the SEC Championship) it became quite apparent that the pick was going to be Florida. Obviously I held out hope, but wasn't optimistic. What really made me sick was the Fox BCS Selection Show. It made it very easy to rationalize Michigan playing in the Rose Bowl on ABC.

The experts are idiots. These are the same guys who said that Michigan would get into the BCS Championship game if USC lost. So they know nothing. Which is probably about what I know. What it came down to is the pollsters basically saying they didn't want a re-match. Was it because they felt that "Michigan had their chance?" Or that they thought it would be more exciting to get a new team to play tOSU? Or was there some vast anti-Big Ten conspiracy? Probably a little of the first two of these things. Though we've complained on the site about Urban Meyer's whining leading up to the final poll, we never really felt like Michigan got ripped off. At least not any more than Florida would have if Michigan was selected. Interestingly, I think the computers probably had it right - these teams are very close and to be able to say that you can distinguish which one is better is complete horseshit. That's why there needs to be a playoff - so that they can prove it on the field and not have it subject to politicking, when the games are played, or perceptions on schedule strength.

M Go Blog:

Recovered? Well, I'm still mad but I have managed to stop crying myself to sleep.

As for what happened, there's no debate after all the quotes we saw: the question "who is the better team" was discarded. I find this irritating but want to move on.

2. We admire Lloyd Carr for having enough dignity to refrain from campaigning for BCS positioning. Pete Carroll has the same approach. Still, it was nice to hear Carr call out Urban Meyer for his whiny Tuberville impression. What's your take on the "southern inferiority complex"? What do you think about this season's conventional wisdom, which is that the Big-10 is weak ... despite having arguably the two best teams in the country?

The M Zone:

Isn't the SEC the only conference that has a major broadcast network all to itself? Sure, the Big Ten gets a ton of exposure on ESPN/ABC, but that's a bit of a mixed bag. Both tOSU and Michigan had games stashed on the little received ESPNU. Meanwhile, every week there's an SEC game that gets NATIONAL, not regional distribution that everyone - even those deviants without cable or a dish - can see. Michigan and tOSU had only two national, over the air games all year. Almost all of the games on ABC are regional broadcasts. Not to mention the fact that ESPN also shows SEC games. So any cries of bias against the SEC are ridiculous. Pretty much the entire season, all of the "experts," including those on ESPN, called the SEC the best conference. This despite the fact that the top teams never play tough out of conference games, particularly on the road, and that the conference finalist gave up 50 points at home to USC.

That brings up the point of how to measure the difficulty of a conference. Is it tougher if it has five or six, solid but flawed teams or if it has two top-five, dominant teams and a bunch of middle of the road teams?. That's a debate that can't really be settled. When the Florida backers go on and on about how the SEC is the toughest conference, they neglect to mention one thing about Michigan's schedule - it contained a certain loss for every team in the country (on the road against tOSU). Although there's no way of answering this question with certainty, all the pontification about Florida's tough schedule could be answered with two questions. What would Michigan's record be with Florida's schedule, and what would Florida's schedule be with Michigan's schedule? I tend to think they'd both be 11-1. Chalk another one up for the computers (and a playoff).

M Go Blog:

The Big Ten is pretty weak this year from a certain perspective. Ohio State doesn't benefit from the fact that Ohio State is really good because they don't have to play themselves. They basically had a two-game season.

Iowa didn't show up, Michigan State collapsed, and Penn State and Purdue are teams with one good unit and one atrocious one. Wisconsin is a good team but arguably less proven than Boise State, who at least beat good Hawaii and Oregon State teams. I don't mind admitting this. What is bothersome is that when the Big Ten is up -- as it was last year -- the SEC drumbeat continues unabated. No matter what the facts on the ground are, there's always someone waving the SEC flag. Usually their arguments have all the coherency of The Orgeron on crystal meth, but it doesn't matter, and it results in a media environment where mediocre-to-bad Georgia and decent Tennessee play a sloppy game you could see any week in the Pac-10 and get an SI cover declaring the SEC to be "SIMPLY THE BEST." And what wonderful cover subjects for that particular assertion.

Anyway: I've always found this bit of contrived math to be interesting as regards schedule difficulty. Let's set up two situations.

Team A plays six teams it has a 70% chance of beating.


Team B plays five teams it has a 75% chance of beating and one team it has a 45% chance of beating

The average number of wins in these situations is equal: 4.2. But the chance of going undefeated is 11.76% in the first scenario and 10.67% in the second. This is by no means definitive, but it does suggest that the sort of test represented by travelling to Ohio State is a far greater danger to national championship hopes than playing in a conference where South Carolina is slightly less crappy than Iowa. This is apropos of little, I suppose, but look! Math!

3. After losing to Ohio State and now seeing Michigan's remaining hopes dashed while other teams made their case on the field, what is your assessment of the Wolverines' psyche going into preparations for the Rose Bowl? How will Carr get them ready?

The M Zone:

It's an interesting matchup against USC for many reasons, one of which being the psyche of both teams heading into that game. Will Michigan go in with a point to prove, that they deserved another shot at tOSU and play with reckless abandon as they did against Notre Dame and, for the most part, against tOSU? Or will they be like Cal in 2004 and Oregon last year when both felt slighted by the BCS bowls and feel sorry for themselves and lay a turd on the beautiful Rose Bowl turf?

The same questions could be asked of the Trojans. Will they be focused to prove that the UCLA game was a fluke and they were the right team to face the Buckeyes before that, or will they feel their season has no goals at this point, having blown the national title chance and the game to their crosstown rivals?

Against top competition, Lloyd Carr has done a good job of having his team mentally ready in the past. I would expect him to do the same, and have the team focused on breaking their bowl losing streak. I expect Pete Carroll to have his team ready as well - these are two of the top coaches in the game.

M Go Blog:

I give little credence to the idea that Michigan's going to come out and play crappily because they're pissed. This isn't Kansas State falling into the Alamo Bowl against Purdue. The words "Rose Bowl" and "USC" get the attention of anyone associated with the Michigan program. I also don't think they're likely to come out more fired up because they've been passed over.

I do guarantee, however, that no matter the outcome of the Rose Bowl dim columnists will credit the BCS for Michigan's performance. If Michigan wins, they will be righteous warriors incensed at the folly of the BCS. If they lose, they will be dispirited and uninterested in any prize that's not a crystal football. Fire Joe Morgan coined a term for this: hindpsychology.

4. What is the general impression of Tressel abstaining from his poll vote, his vote for UM would have surely put you guys in the title game. Some have commended him for staying neutral others have hammered him for not having the guts to take a stand. How do you feel?

The M Zone:

I don't see how Jim Tressel's abstention kept Michigan out of the title game. Florida ended up with 1470 points while Michigan had 1444. If Tressel puts Michigan 2 at and Florida at 3, the totals still tip to Florida, 1494 to 1467. Hell, even if Tressel left the Gators off his ballot entirely, Michigan wouldn't have jumped the Gators. So I don't see why any Michigan fan has a problem with him not voting. I totally disagree with Lloyd Carr who claims that Tressel didn't vote because he didn't want Michigan in the title game - again, it wouldn't have mattered how he voted, though I guess Tressel had no way of knowing this ahead of time.

I actually agree with Tressel on this 100% for a couple of reasons. His stated reason was to not have to face a team he placed #3 (and essentially chose not to face). I can understand why he wouldn't want this situation, and it's ludicrous to put a coach in such a situation.

But the foremost reason for supporting his decision in abstaining is that a coach should not be able to pick who he gets to play in a championship game. Granted, his vote ended up not mattering in the final BCS poll, but it could have. What if his vote was the reason Florida (or Michigan) got in the championship game? Did he vote that way to give his team an easier matchup? Choosing your opponent for a championship is just a step or two away from point shaving - it compromises the nature of fair competition and no coach should ever have the opportunity to do so. Just one more log on the fire of why this whole system of choosing a college football champion is the worst thing in all of American sports.

M Go Blog:

Um... Tressel's vote wouldn't have mattered either way. During D-Day I wasn't surprised or concerned. I probably would have done the same thing in his position, since however he voted it would have been spun as an insult to his opponent. If he had gone with Michigan, Florida would have bulletin board material about bias and not wanting to play Florida and SEC disrespect. If he had gone with Florida, Florida would have claimed disrespect since Tressel wanted them instead of Michigan. There would be dozens of columns, all of them very, very dumb, about the vote and what it means.

As far as I can tell, the argument for having Tressel cast a ballot revolves around "balls" and stuff about how he signed up to vote and knew what he was getting into, but Tressel's job is to do what's best for Ohio State and that's what he did.

Thanks Guys! Look for round #2 in the coming days.