fair point that
Pulling the content a little closer to home this week in an effort to keep a higher R squared value with the MGoBlog readers!
As always, this analysis only considers games between two D1 opponents and takes only plays during competitive game situations into account.
Not all great offenses are created equally
If we are going to know what it takes to become a great offense under Rich Rodriguez, we must first know what it will look like, because great offenses can take on many different appearances. Below is a play success distribution for my top rated offense last year (Georgia Tech, option baby), the top passing offense (Captain Leach Texas Tech) and a look at West Virginia from 2007, Rodriguez’s last year at the helm. I went ahead and threw in the BCS’s worst, Washington St, just for comparison.
The Paul Johnson option is working with big plays, rather they are taking out the bad plays. Over three-quarters of Georgia Tech’s plays go for positive yardage. This balances out no strong tendency towards big plays. The end result is old school football: lots of long drives and moving the chains.
At the Captain’s helm, Texas Tech had nearly a quarter of all of their plays go for no gain. As always, there are tradeoffs. For Tech they came in the form of the 10-20 yard gain.
Under Rodriguez, West Virginia saw something different than either of those two. Even with a run-pass split close to Georgia Tech, the distribution of the spread 'n' shred was much different than the Option. Where the Yellowjackets saw a heavy dose of positive but small gains, the Mountaineers had a solid lead in everything from 4-20 yards. The end results where similar with both teams producing touchdown drives with regularity, but the path was much longer for Georgia Tech. West Virginia’s ability to get the somewhat big play allowed them to shorten drives, add possessions to the game and eliminate some of the variance through an increase in scoring chances.
How close are we?
As everyone knows, we are much closer coming in to this year than we were last year. Here is another chart to support that notion.
There are many charts to look at that show the dreadfulness of 2008, so we won’t dwell on that. What is becoming clear is that the shape of 2009 is becoming quite similar to West Virginia 2007. The big difference, and its a big one, is that Michigan still has a lot of plays going for no gain, where West Virginia was able to get 5+ yards out of those same plays.
If Michigan is going to mirror the West Virginia offensive success, it appears to have a made very clear first step last season.
How does this compare to previous years?
The biggest difference between the Carr era and the Rodriguez era in terms of yardage gained distribution is the passing game bump from the Carr era in the 10-20 yard gain range. The Rodriguez system is more geared towards to the 4-9 yard gains where the Carr offense excelled in the 0-3 and 10-20 yard ranges.
What does this mean for 2010?
The cliché: Take the Next Step.
It looks like framework of what Rodriguez wants to do is in place after two rough years, but the execution is still behind his days at West Virginia. The offensive line now has two years in the system and for the first time there is a quarterback (in fact two!) who have both experience and talent. As I noted in a previous diary, a jump from average in 2009 to good in 2010 is certainly a good possibility and with a break or two and improved quarterback play, it could go from average to great.
Blogs With Balls picked a surprisingly inconvenient time to happen. A weekend in early June should be the most boring, torpid time of the year for a college football (/basketball/hockey/baseball) blog, but over the weekend Michigan dealt with a scary injury to one of their players, an assistant coach departing, and all hell breaking loose when it comes to college football expansion.
I dumped about a thousand words worth of up-to-date speculation, opinion, and head-shaking at The Sporting Blog, but here's an addendum directed at Michigan's place in all this:
Is this good or bad?
Probably good? I owe Frank The Tank an apology for considering his Texas Death Star scenarios a law-addled fever dream: guy was on the money. Now that the fate of the Big 12 is seriously in play, Texas can shake loose and the Big Ten can swoop in and claim the Longhorns and associated Big 12 teams to create a superconference worthy of the name. I still think 16 team conferences are stupid pretty much without exception, but a 16 team superconference formed by adding a few Big East schools and Big 12 North refugees goes beyond that into the realm of depressing.
The Pac-10's main advantage when it comes to wooing Austin is also its main disadvantage: the Pac-10 does not have a CIC-type organization and is (evidently) not as hung up on the possibility of admitting the Oklahoma teams. In short, they do not have a "Tech problem." The Big Ten has a Tech problem because the wide-ranging institutional cooperation on the academic side has seen Penn State and Texas go from approximately equal centers of research to Penn State peering down at Texas from atop a $200 million dollar pile of Big Ten money.
Is Notre Dame seriously in play?
Eh… probably not. Big 12 disintegration leaves the Big East intact and removes much of ND's motivation to join a conference.
Do you have a wild guess to how this works out?
Absolutely not, but I think Texas prefers the Big 10 to the Pac 10 and it will be a fight between UT and the Texas legislature's insistence on tying Baylor and Tech around the Longhorns' necks. If Texas wins that fight the end result is probably the addition of Nebraska, Missouri, Texas, A&M, and then a wildcard team the league would prefer was Notre Dame but probably won't be.
I wonder how the triumvirate of hate schools (Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota) look at this. They'd probably be put in the Big 12 division (otherwise you have to break them up) and would have their worlds more rearranged than anyone else.
Jon Bills update. Fullback/linebacker Mark Moundros, his brother Kirk, and fellow-walk on Jon Bills were in a serious car accident over the weekend, and while the Moundros brothers are "fine" according to their mother, Bills is set to undergo surgery today. According to a source close to the situation, the surgery will be an effort to repair a damaged vertebra. The situation is "very serious" but Bills has escaped worst-case scenarios to date. If you are of the praying inclination, keep Bills in your thoughts.
Alcohol didn't have anything to do with the crash, FWIW.
They've evolved. Surely this is not paint.
User TR Saunders is "still debating whether or not to add a scythe," and also claims the above is actually paint, which is… like… whoah. He uses source pictures; even so I fear him.
Steeleinfo, corrected. Phil Steel lists Michigan 72nd nationally in terms of experience on the two deep via a system in which senior starters are worth 3 points, backups 2.5, junior starters 2, backups 1.5, etc etc etc. That is not as disturbing as you might think. Michigan is tied with Penn State and West Virginia, teams that are going into the year hoping for something a little sexier than the Insight Bowl.
Yay? Nay. The reason Michigan's numbers are not hugely terrifying is that Steele's numbers are wrong. He mentions that two-deep changes since publication are not accounted for but swapping Lewan in for Dorrestein doesn't account for the differences, as he credits Michigan with six senior starters and six backups. That's not accurate:
- Senior starters: Schilling, Ezeh, Mouton, Woolfolk, Banks (for now)
- Senior backups: Sagesse, Webb, Dorrestein, Rogers.
He's not counting redshirt juniors as seniors because if that's the case he'd add Hemingway, Molk, Huyge, and RVB in and come out with eight senior-ish starters.
By my count, Michigan's numbers* this year:
In Steele's system this comes out to 50 points. This is good for 118th nationally, better than only New Mexico and BYU. There might be some systemic overestimation going on, but probably not enough to get Michigan back towards the middle of the pack. You may resume rocking back and forth about the safety depth chart.
Somewhat more encouraging: my off the cuff calculations see Michigan rise to 70 points next year, which is 1) probably optimistic since there is always some level of attrition and 2) would be good for 37th this year.
*(Note: I used Shaw and Smith as the two deep at RB, which is the maximum experience you can wrangle out of it. You could pick up another point or two by putting Fitzgerald on the two-deep instead of Demens or Mike Jones and trying to count Adam Patterson somehow, but since guys like Rogers and Floyd Simmons should fall out once the freshmen arrive, this is actually a more experienced two deep than we are likely to see against UConn. Most schools can say that right now, so we won't use projections. The point: this is not finagled.)
Elsewhere in Steeleology, Jamiemac has assembled a JAMPACKED Big Ten overview. Steele's projections are more optimistic than many to date, although that might be because he has significantly underestimated how young they are. This would be a positive step if it came true:
Regarding the Wolverines, he has them tying with the Spartans for fifth place in the league. Generally speaking, he’s optimistic about their chances and Rodriguez doing enough to keep his job. He doesn't have a whole lot of Michigan players on any of his top-4 All Big 10 teams. But however he manages his predictions, it must like the sum of Michigan’s parts. On his Big 10 page, he mentions that three of his nine ratings call for a 6-2 Big 10 season. More revealing is that on page 22 where he lists Michigan among his top-12 likely surprise teams for the year, he writes a stunning admission: “One of my nine sets of power rating has them going 11-0 before the Ohio State game.” I want those power ratings. I want to roll them up in joints and smoke them all summer long. More realistically might be 4-4 or 5-3 in the league for the Wolverines, but I’m going to dream about those ratings anyway.
Jamie then asks if Michigan fans want Notre Dame to be good. The answer to that is "no." That goes double for this year.
Indecision for the win. AnnArbor.com picks up on a polling website that's answered the question I get asked all the time about the general opinion of the fanbase towards Rodriguez. It's mostly "ask again later":
Of those polled, Rodriguez had a 20 percent favorable rating, 26 percent unfavorable rating with 54 percent undecided.
However, when those same people were asked if they'd like to see Rodriguez replaced as Michigan's coach, 51 percent said they'd like to see him continue. 20 percent wanted him replaced and 29 percent were undecided.
54% saying "eh, don't know yet" seems like an impressively high number given the last two years.
Some of the breakouts in the full report are bizarre and fascinating. Self described liberal voters have a 9% favorability rating for Rodriguez; conservatives are at 13%. Rodriguez pulls the vast majority of his support from moderates, who are 33%-22% in favor.
Meanwhile, my pet theory that Rodriguez drew most of his support from the younger graduates and was totally hated by old Bo folks—which I have told a dozen podcasts—is completely wrong. The rate at which people think Rodriguez deserves another year increases monotonically as people age:
|Favorable||Unfavorable||Not sure||Keep||Dump||Not sure|
|18 to 29||23||39||37||35||39||26|
|30 to 45||11||27||62||38||22||40|
|46 to 65||18||29||53||51||18||31|
I have no clever explanations for that. Later today I'll put up the same questions on the blog to see what this place thinks; results should be interesting.
[UPDATE: An emailer points out that the breakouts by age here are beyond insignificant: of the 890 respondents, 20 were Michigan fans under 30. Nevermind this last bit.]
Jackson goodbye. The departure of assistant coach Mike Jackson for Purdue has apparently moved from rumor-in-name-only to actual news now that folk like Angelique Chengelis are mentioning it on the twitters. This has caused a great deal of alarm on the premium sites, but from people who know Jackson personally and use him for information. Proclamations of doom… eh… whatever. If Carlton Brundidge sticks around, which it seems like he will, the impact will be minimal. Proclamations of Jackson's recruiting skillz fail to mention that Michigan hasn't landed a single recruit that had major offers from other programs—Smotrcyz blew up after he committed.
Is it going to get worse with someone new?
Well, he can do that thing. Widely unregarded WR recruit DJ Williamson is one of Michigan's least-heralded recruits, a guy with two stars on Scout and not much more in the way of praise elsewhere. However, he is real fast. He won the state championship in the 100 M dash as a junior and doubled that feat over the weekend by winning the 100 and 200. His 10.64 100 could have been better if he didn't pull up for some Usain Bolt action at the end:
Williamson pulled out a W, presumably to rep Warren Harding. With three receivers from this class already on campus, Williamson is a holy lock to be redshirted but if he can develop some that speed promises something better than his recruiting rankings do.
Etc.: Annual Izzo-to-NBA mild panic begins, this time starting MSU alum and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert as the guy angling for Izzo. Way uncool. Izzo, for his part, texts a swear back at a local reporter asking for comment. Jamiemac comes in for the Six Zero profiling.
Some of this stuff has been linked by Brian on the frontpage (or in a select few instances, frontpaged in whole), so it may look familiar. If you're interested in being featured in this space, start by coming up with a good idea and writing a diary.
We'll start off on a lighter note, with TATEisGREATyo's image "The Adventures of Denard" (seen at right). I'm not sure what it is about the Michigasn fanbase that makes us so MSPaint-centric.
Resident graphic designer Six Zero shows he's not a one-trick pony, and flexes his interviewing muscles for the MGoProfile feature. First up was TomVH:
What is the one thing you'd like us to know about your work with the recruits?
I'm not sure if there's anything that is important to know. A lot of people ask me how/why I got into this. This all really started because I took a well paying job out of college that I eventually hated, and realized that money wasn't going to keep me interested, or happy.
Growing up, I always thought that sports could be a job, and somewhere along the way, got away from that. I took a step back, and put together a plan that could get me towards a specific goal that I wanted. I thought about what niche I would be able to fit in that would play into my strengths, and this seemed to be a good place to start. I'm sure everyone can tell that I'm not as gifted with the pen (or keyboard) as Brian, Tim, and a lot of the MGoCommunity.
Next came resident baseball (and volleyball?) expert formerly anonymous:
You probably post more content second to only Brian himself. How did you get involved with MGoBlog?
...I actually started the blogging thing with Maizenbrew. I covered the Big Ten Tournament two years ago in pretty solid depth, and had a volleyball post or two as well, just nothing consistent. In the spring of last year, I started my previews at Maizenbrew, but was then picked up by Varsity Blue. Paul and I go back a few years, and they thought it would help give them content during the long, dreary off season. That's when my content started gettting a bit more in depth.
MGoMerger would happen over last summer, and that brought me to MGoBlog as a contributor.
Volume 3 featured Misopogon, scribe of the impeccable "Decimated Defense" opus (about which more later):
How long does it take you to put one of these posts together, especially with all the recent updated graphs and even Photoshop and/or Godfather work?
It totally depends on the content. With something that takes statisticating, like DDII and DDIII, it usually starts with me goofing around making spreadsheets. There's plenty of spreadsheets I've made while screwing around that never make it to a Diary. Eventually, one hits a critical mass of information usefulness, and I go to Misopogal to hash out a rhetorical theme to attach to it...
The actual writing of the diary usually comes much later. With this most recent one, the spreadsheet was something I had been playing around with since the week before signing day. The last changes were made over a week ago. Once I get going, it's hard for me to stop...
The amount of time that goes into making them has been growing because I feel like I've established a ridiculous level of quality with the previous diaries, and want to maintain that level.
How does a typical Shredder piece evolve from an idea to a front page bump?
Most of my ideas just come from pop culture. I just try and think how I can blend some sort of pop culture with what’s going on at Michigan. I always just make a quick scribble of it on paper or if I have my laptop I’ll do a quick “sketch” in MS paint... However, there are many things I have MS painted that don’t make it to the board, and they usually just stay on my laptop or get uploaded to Midnight Maize only. I felt the jerseys were a Midnight Maize only post and then I figured what the hell. So you just never know what people will respond to. Some people might love something I find not that great and vice versa.
Previous Featured Diarist The Mathlete came up next:
I’ve always been impressed not only by your talent for gathering and analyzing large amounts of information, but also your ability to present it in a way that the common reader can understand. Is that a challenge? Or, should I say, how much do you hold back to keep it accessible for the masses?
My goal is to provide something that is as accessible as traditional stats but more valuable. Sometimes it’s difficult to bring it around, but I am still approaching it all
as a football fan first.
So you admit to being a gambling man... So then, what’s your secret? Any leads you want to share with us going into next season?
Of course, I'll admit to being a gambling man. I just admitted to running numbers, smoking pot and hanging out with hookers. So, yeah, I am also a gambling man...
Excellent work, and very interesting who are interested in the MGoBlog community, and not just the posts that make it to the front page. For that, Six Zero, you are the diarist of the... month.
The Women’s Water Polo team earned a sixth place finish at the NCAA tournament. The team opened with a 12-8 loss to California, then defeated Pomona-Pitzer 11-3 before falling to UCLA 9-6 in the fifth place game.
The Men’s Tennis team fell to Ohio State 4-1 in the second round of the NCAA Championships.
Going all meta- in his two-post series, Coach Schiano looks at the sheer volume of content posted over the existence of MGoBlog. Here it is, visualized in articles per week:
In part 2, he looks at which words have been used the most often.
And we conclude with some word counts that we noticed "coincidentally" ended up at the same frequency. Or did they?????
64 lansing 64 oops
123 hopson 123 mistakes
128 harbaugh 128 mom 128 penetration
These results probably mean nothing. But if true about Harbaugh, it may be a more difficult road for him to climb if he wants to coach here someday. Just sayin'.
Excellent work, from a "blog-as-subject-matter" perspective.
If you're looking to dispel the notion that scrambling QBs get injured more often than pocket passers, look no further than MCalibur's diary. The money graph:
For an explanation of it, and the conclusion (cliff notes version: there isn't enough data to support a correlation in any direction), head to the diary.
The Mathlete continues his streak of killin' it in the diaries, including an analysis of whether teams are more efficient passing or running, and the implications it has for their play calling. Quoting a portion wouldn't do it justice, so just go read the whole thing. He also looked at the overall effect of sacks and interceptions on offensive and defensive performance, frontpaged earlier today.
Tom From AA hopped around town with his camera earlier this week, and brings back some pictures of construction around campus, including Michigan Stadium, the Player Development Center for basketball, and even North Quad:
There are a ton of pictures in his post (in easily-consumable lightbox form), so be sure to check it out.
BlazeFire laments the decline of local media coverage (and homerism) as the climate shifts to a more ESPN-centric layout. UMdad encourages positive fandom, because please, think of the children. Kman23 talks about the NFL implications of running a shotgun-based offense. wildbackdunesman says that not only are the stereotypes of the Big Ten being behind the times untrue, but the opposite is the case. wolfman81 talks reasons for optimism next year. Drill says "Hello" to that other Chris Rock. jonny_GoBlue pleads for M fans to not use the term "Big Blue" (a cause I can certainly agree with).
The final couple posts I won't quote because they both made it onto the front page, but Misopogon's Godfather-themed conclusion to the "Decimated Defense" is easily the single-best diary I've seen on MGoBlog (it features a UFR and a THE KNOWLEDGE. reference... at the same time!). Following up with his excellent production, The Mathlete's special teams exploration and look at fourth down also reached page one, along with his post exploring whether we should expect more offensive improvement from the Wolverines in 2010. He doesn't get to win the "Best Diarist" Award, because it would be unfair for him to stockpile all of them.
[Editor's note: frontpaged for obvious reasons. A scheduling mix-up with Brian caused this to get buried earlier, so I'm bringing it back near the top. [How much] Will Michigan rue the loss of Brandon Graham? - Tim]
[Note: I have 2006 fully loaded into the database now and will be included in all future multi-year studies along with 2007-2009.]
We can all agree that sacks and interceptions are good things for the defense and bad things for the offense. But how does a viable pass rush or a ball-hawking secondary affect the performance of the opposing offense on plays where there isn’t a sack or a pick. Likewise, what is the correlation between an offensive line that gives up sacks regularly or a mistake prone quarterback?
Sacks and interceptions have very similar direct impacts on games. From 2006-2009 in games between two D1 teams in competitive game situations (the “universe” for this and most of my analysis) the average defensive unit produced 2.3 ppg worth of sacks and 2.0 ppg worth of interceptions. Sacks have a slightly higher direct value than interceptions (interceptions returns and fumble returns on sacks are not included) but does either of these correlate to a better defensive performance overall.
Chart time? Let’s make it a double.
Not entirely surprisingly, the better a defense is at producing sacks and interceptions, the better it is on downs where neither occur.
For every point per game that a defense generates due to sacks, the overall pass rush generates 1.2 ppg of additional value. Interceptions are also powerful, but not as much so. Each ppg of value a defense generates through interceptions is worth 0.9 ppg of additional value.
This analysis serves to confirm what most football fans already know. Teams that can create interceptions and sacks are good going to be better defensive teams. Whether a strong pass rush/secondary creates pressure on other downs or if strong pass rushes and secondaries are a common occurrence on great defenses is irrelevant. As most of you probably know, defenses that are good at these two things are also good on other downs. So why is this interesting…
The story becomes very different when you look at offenses. The conventional wisdom that was supported for defenses is largely blown up on the offensive side of the ball. Sacks and interceptions may be indicators of great defenses, but they are not symptoms of bad offenses.
The slope of these two charts are about 20% of the gradient of the corresponding defensive charts and virtually flat. On offense, the amount of sacks and interceptions are largely independent of performance. There is obviously the immediate negative effect of the play, but giving up sacks or throwing interceptions show virtually no correlation to success or failure on other downs.
What it means?
For one of side of the ball it merely quantifies conventional wisdom. Good pass defenses get interceptions and sack the quarterback and teams that get interceptions and sack the quarterback are often good pass defenses, even on other plays. The value they create is roughly equal to value created by the big plays.
On offense, it’s a very different story. Interceptions and sacks will always be bad plays for an offense, but their rate of incidence is not strongly correlated to performance on other downs. In fact, if given the choice between a quarterback who threw a lot of picks the prior year but was generally successful otherwise and a quarterback who was very safe but not all that productive, my guess is you will be better of going for the quarterback with the picks.
Special thanks goes to Ty and The Lions in Winter who has been working on a similar line of reasoning for the Lions revamped defensive line.
Potential Future Diaries
Just some ideas I am kicking around or have half started. Let me know what you think about these or any other things you would like to see.
- A follow-up piece on fourth downs digging deeper into how the decision making changes based on the relative strengths of the offense and the opponents defense
- A broader look at “luck”, looking back over the last four years.
- When are extra yards not worth it. The secret dead zones of football.
- Probably not for several months, but a big season preview is in the works.
- Something Carr vs. Rodriguez, now that I have 2006-2007 seasons of data I have two years to compare the two more directly.
- How the best players of the last four years (TEBOW!!!) progressed over the years. Maybe a companion piece on Michigan defenders.
- Any other suggestions? An article a week means I need all the ideas I can get, I’m not afraid to beg!
I am out today, though Tim will drop a post or two in my absence and that Mathlete Diary will hit the front page if you're too lazy to click through. I have a Very Serious Professional Reason for this: I will be at Blogs With Balls in Chicago this weekend. There are tickets; if you are interested in getting a beer your best bet is crashing one of the official parties, which I do not endorse at all and shame you for even thinking of.
Via the miracle of technology, this is going to be streamed live(!) by Justin TV, including my panel, which is the first after lunch and will probably go on at like 1 or 1:30 or something. Orson is moderating, so it will be alcoholically entertaining. I cannot vouch for the other panels' sheer quantity of drunken magnificence, but Orson brings the wood.
Our panel is entitled "Democratizing Sports Media: How Blogging Players, Fans & Leagues Are Changing the Game," but these things tend to wander a bit from the chosen topic and various other things will probably pop up. I plan on pimping the Mathlete, Misopogon, MCalibur, Jamiemac, Six Zero, Tom, FA, Tim, and others as an example of how a popular blog sits on top of this vast community that can do amazing things if given space in which their effort can be appreciated.
As long as we're meta-ing it up in here, here's my Ignite talk from earlier in the year (click the first bookmark to go directly to my five minutes):
And here's this article by the Stack Overflow guy about what motivates people, how money isn't always helpful, and what makes communities go. If your model is hoping people do things for small amounts of money you're probably not going to be very successful and if you are it will be depressing. If your model is organizing it such that people will do things for free, you could be very successful and it will probably be pretty nice. The whole reason this site moved to Drupal is that I would get emails on a regular basis saying "hey here's my new blog!" and they'd post a couple times and then they'd go dead because it's hard out there for a blog. So: put 'em around here and you'll probably get a couple thousand views and a couple dozen comments and you'll be motivated to continue. Along the way we might get a definitive accounting of how much attrition Michigan has suffered relative to its peers or a post on fourth downs that gets linked a dozen places.
My plan for the site has been focused on making it as convenient, attractive, and easy to use as possible*—so no pagination, full feeds, content in and pipe that will take it, jumps only when they're warranted by a desire to cut down on clutter, increasingly high hurdles to clear for user-generated content, post-Illinois caterwauling lockdown. Doing so has increased the audience to the point where "Democratizing" sports media means that this place sits on top of grass roots instead of being a single shoot.
I'm back Monday.
*(With the single exception of the ads that provide enough revenue for the thing to be a job, which is kind of a requirement.)