"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
Bear with me this week as I test out some format tweaks to FFFF—please let me know what you think of the new format/features in the post, as I got some good feedback last week about needing more structure for these. This week, I'm breaking down film from the Northwestern/Illinois game from last weekend, which ended in a 38-35 comeback victory for the Illini. The show? It's on...
First, the newest feature, in which I give a very brief overview of the general structure of a team on each side of the ball. For the offense, there are a few basic questions:
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Also known as zone or gap blocking—in Northwestern's case, they run almost exclusively zone.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Dan Persa, without speculating on injury status, is about a six. Kain Colter, his backup and part-time slot receiver, is a seven.
OVERVIEW: Northwestern utilizes a run-heavy spread offense with a strong emphasis on zone read and inside zone plays. Their passing attack is mostly limited to short, quick passes to Jeremy Ebert or running back screens, in large part due to the fact that their offensive line is terrible in pass protection. While Persa, at least before he left the game after feeling discomfort in his injured ankle/foot, looked relatively mobile, he wasn't able to establish himself as a real threat on the ground.
When they scored points, it was on long, drawn-out possessions or after getting the ball with a short field—it doesn't appear that the Wildcats have much quick-strike ability. The running game, especially without injured tailback Mike Trumphy, is pretty ineffective—even after sacks are removed, NW averaged just 3.2 yards per carry on 47 attempts against Illinois. This team needs to be able to chew up yards on the ground to be a big threat, but with a less-than-100% Persa and no deep passing game, their efforts to power their way down the field were mostly fruitless, with the team averaging just 4.9 yards per play.
PLAY BREAKDOWN: This first clip was one of Northwestern's best runs of the day, a simple inside zone in which their left guard and center combine to get a great block to seal off the middle and open up a gaping hole:
This is Northwestern at their most effective, as their zone read game is still hampered by the injury to Persa—who gained just 14 yards on five carries with sacks removed—and Colter doesn't provide enough of a passing threat to keep defenses from keying on the run. The Wildcats were most successful running the ball on the inside zone, despite the fact that their offensive line wasn't opening up many holes—instead, they did a solid job of holding their ground and not letting defenders through, giving the running back time to find a crease inside or bounce the play outside if the defense didn't keep contain. The key for Michigan will be to get penetration in the middle—Mike Martin, I'm looking at you—while maintaining leverage on the outside.
Hit the jump for the rest, including offensive formations, defense and a brief note on the special teams.
After about a week we had just over 3000 responses, 2983 of them male and 120 female. We are all dudes.
- high school or younger: 16
- undergraduate: 287
- 22-34: 1874
- 34-49: 760
- over 49: 166
- Student: 283
- All or almost all games: 659
- A few games a year: 1173
- Every once in a while: 920
- Never: 68
If anyone wants the full dataset it is available as a csv here.
Graphs? Graphs. I had to shorten some of the Qs so they'd fit on the axis.
Piped In Music: If And When
AFTER THE JUMP: DO PEOPLE LIKE POP EVIL OR NOT?
Not much to see on the Win Probability Chart this week. Michigan was a heavy favorite and shut the door early. After adjusting for the spread the chart imagines a conversation like this:
GopherBoy1960: Hey Chart, do we a shot to get the jug back today.
Chart: I wouldn’t get your hopes up. We are talking about single digit percents here.
GopherBoy1960: So you’re telling me there’s a chance.
LloydBrady: Hey, that’s my line.
Chart: Technically you have a chance but oh wait, just turned the game on and your chance is now zero. Hope you enjoyed your two minutes of hope.
GopherBoy1960: I miss Glen Mason.
Biggest plays of the day (from the unadjusted numbers)
1. Fitzgerald Toussaint rushes for 35 yards on the fourth play of the day, +7%
2. Denard scores from 9 yards out to push the lead to 14, +6%
3. Denard goes for 18 yards to the Minnesota 3 to set up Michigan’s first score, +5%
Worst plays of the day (and there weren’t many)
1. The first appearance of Fritz loses 4 yards, –4%
2. Michael Shaw loses a yard to set up 3rd down inside the 10, –2%
3. Dan Orseske boots a 64 yard punt with no return after Minnesota goes 3 and out, –2%
After the jump, projections, rankings, and a Northwestern preview.
Thoughts on Denard’s improvement? “We worked on it pretty good, you know. And he took it to heart. He was stressing that he wasn’t throwing well. He’s a better passer, I’ve told you that before. Like I said, part of it is we had to get him some throws that he could make early and then he got into rhythm, and it was lights out after a while. Yeah he was feeling good. But his fundamentals were so much better other than two throws, okay -- there were two throws and both of them were pocket movements to the left where I think he didn’t get turned very well, and part of that was protection. But he got his screws in the ground pretty good and transferred through most of the throws, and he was pretty much on the money. And he touched a few balls nice, too. He dropped a couple balls in, and the key to passing is it’s a finesse art.”
How did you come up with the diamond thingy and what can we expect to see from that in the future? “Well I’m not going to tell you that. But it’s something -- Devin Gardner’s a talented kid, and we just wanted to give him a chance to feature him a little bit in a couple of deals. [With] Big Ten play, we’ll empty the drawer more as we go now. Our first four games, we’re still learning the offense. That’s still a work in progress. We’re going to have our deals. They’re not all going to work. Some are going to be good, some of them aren’t. But that was just one of them.”
Is it based off anything or did you just kind of pull it out of thin air? “Well, it goes way back. There was a series [that the] Chargers ran back in I think was the 80s or early 90s with Buford Jordan, where he was a quarterback in college and we took a piece of that and expanded it a little bit. I think Dan Fouts was playing back then. Part of that’s kind of old Ernie Zampese would have done that. The other piece is that we just kind of built some stuff off it that they didn’t do back then. The option part of it was a piece from the past.”
(more after the jump.)
Brilliance is brilliant even if it's not yours. Via the comments of The Only Colors:
This is not a criticism of Brady Hoke. Brady Hoke went for it on fourth and two. Hoke uber alles.
Fleming many places. The AV Club has launched in Ann Arbor with a few stories, one of them focused on the response to Patrick Fleming's death not only at Michigan but around the marching band world:
A group of representatives from the Ohio State marching band drove from Columbus to Ann Arbor just so they could say a few kind words during Wednesday’s practice. And MSU posted a YouTube recording of their entire band playing “Amazing Grace” as a tribute to Fleming. (The band’s version of the song, by the way, is just the way it should be: proudly, wonderfully loud and brassy.)
style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt">The goodwill doesn’t stop with the Big Ten. If you go to the MMB’s Facebook page color=#000000>, you’ll see condolences from members of seemingly every college marching band in existence. Notably, there are a fair amount from the University of Massachusetts, the roles reversed from when their band director George Parks died last year while his Marching Minutemen were en route to Ann Arbor.
The goodwill doesn’t stop with the Big Ten. If you go to the MMB’s Facebook page, you’ll see condolences from members of seemingly every college marching band in existence. Notably, there are a fair amount from the University of Massachusetts, the roles reversed from when their band director George Parks died last year while his Marching Minutemen were en route to Ann Arbor.
How much money again? Via the magic of FOIA, AnnArbor.com reveals the finances of next year's matchup against Alabama, but they are not specific enough about a critical detail:
In addition to $4.7 million, U-M will receive 200 tickets, two luxury boxes and one field-level suite. The U-M marching band will receive free entry and reserved seating. U-M cheerleaders, dance team and mascots will also receive free entry.
Officials will provide approximately 25,000 tickets for Michigan to sell.
Does Michigan buy those tickets to resell at basically no gain or do they get them for free? The difference there is huge. If it's the former that $4.7 million makes this a negligible financial gain. Michigan made $41.3 million from spectator admissions last year, or about $5.2 million per game. They have to write checks for bodybag games but if bowl trips are any indication the cost to ship the team and the band to Dallas will be at least as much as half-million or so Michigan is hypothetically making if it's just the 4.7 million they're banking. If they're also flogging 2.5 million worth of tickets that's a big bump.
There are also some quotes from Brandon than make this seem awesome because it's like "a regular season bowl experience," by which he means a crappy environment thousands of miles away from either school run by a guy in a blazer. I'd rather play Alabama than San Jose State but Michigan playing in Dallas against a team from Alabama just reinforces how fan-screwing college football has become.
Here's a fantabulous statement that should totally obliterate your opposition to players getting more of what they bring in:
Brandon said the 967-mile trip is a part of U-M athletics’ effort to rebrand itself.
In the past year, U-M has hosted its first night game, purchased and installed a $20 million pair of scoreboards and drastically restructured its athletics marketing arm to include more than a dozen marketing professionals, up from three at the start of 2010.
“Where we were before, I don’t know if we would have considered going off campus to play a game like that,” Brandon said of the Alabama-Michigan game.
Insert Lloyd Carr sneering "money" here. Guy was 150% right about the direction college football was going upon his retirement. Maybe I'm just watching baseball right now, but rebranding the Yankees would get you shot, and deservedly.
(Budget HT: cutter)
BONUS BONUS, and by bonus bonus I mean not bonus not bonus. Michigan just sent out a letter to everyone on the season ticket waiting list telling them "500 bucks or GTFO." The 500 bucks guarantees you nothing except the privilege of waiting for season tickets. The privilege of buying split-season non-guaranteed seats will run you $100.
This may be a good time to revisit next year's home schedule:
You could scalp half the season for the 100 bucks they're charging you just to be in line for tickets.
Hoover Street Rag on this development:
I've always wanted my own Michigan season tickets, and I was waiting out my opportunity. I've cobbled together season ticket packages from the Alumni Association, from the Athletic Department's general sale, from friends, from other means. So I have gone to my share of games, especially over the last five years. But the reality is simply that I don't have $1000 to spend on six games in 2012, especially if the highlights are Michigan State and Iowa. I suppose this is the new economic reality of big time college football, the middle class are being squeezed out of a stadium that can hold a medium sized Michigan city; the wealthy, those who can afford to donate to the athletic department, are the lifeblood of the program, the core customers to whom need to be catered, both figuratively and literally. Season tickets are not about having tickets for all of the games, but rather assuring that you have tickets for Ohio State or Michigan State, depending on the year. This is not new, but it's going to become more and more common with the ever escalating financial demands on the season ticket holders. The Athletic Department now faces a stadium for the Ohio State game which may lack an enthusiastic student section because of the post-Thanksgiving date of the game, and may lack the focused pro-Michigan crowd they want due to potential highest bidder ticket sell off by season ticket holders. Perhaps it doesn't matter to the Athletic Department. As long as the ticket has been paid for, it doesn't matter who is in the stands. The partnership with StubHub seems to indicate this line of thinking may have merit.
I wanted to quote a lot less of that just so you'd click through but there's at least twice as much discussion of this. During the season I don't have a lot of time to spend on this but I feel the papercuts incrementing. In the long run finding the exact breaking point at which your mostly-full stadium puts up with your marketing seems like a recipe for long-term decline.
Speaking of long term decline…
Ohio State business. There is more of it and it further tests the idea that there is anything resembling compliance or control within a 200-mile radius of Columbus. I'm wary of exposing myself to more homerderp statements in the aftermath of the NCAA not even bothering to charge failure to monitor, let alone lack of institutional control, in the aftermath of tatgate, but, like, seriously.
Even the intentionally bland ESPN Big Ten blog is beginning to ask WTF:
"These failures are individual failures, failures of individual athletes, obviously a previous coach," Smith said Monday. "It's not a systemic failure of compliance."
There's that line again. Just a few bad apples. Apple cart's fine. Nothing to see here, NCAA. Keep moving along.
"These individual decisions were made to go off the reservation," Smith said. "At the end of the day, it’s not a systems problem."
Remind me to ask Smith where I can find this reservation. Getting paid for not working? Sign me up!
"These were individual decisions by individual people," Smith said. "It's not 30."
It's getting close.
• A former head coach who admitted to (and was formally charged with) covering up major NCAA violations by multiple high-profile players for nearly nine months, including the entire 2010 regular season and the 2011 Sugar Bowl, even after said violations became public.
• A starting quarterback who was initially suspended for accepting more than $1,000 in improper benefits, and later forced to leave the team amid reports that he a) Accepted tens of thousands of dollars more in exchange for autographing memorabilia, and b) Had been regularly accepting money from a businessman in his hometown, with whom the head coach kept in frequent contact, for more than two years after they had been specifically warned to cut all financial ties.
• Four other veteran players suspended along with the quarterback for accepting thousands of dollars in improper benefits.
• Two of those same four players suspended further for accepting more improper benefits after having already been suspended for accepting improper benefits.
• Three other players suspended for accepting small cash payments from a booster, apparently via a teammate who had already been suspended for improper benefits.
• A booster formally disassociated from the program for providing said payments.
That's what Ohio State has more or less owned up to, not including the discounted cars and other assorted freebies that have failed to progress beyond the "rumor/allegation" phase. That's what we can realistically say we know.
So... that seems sort of less than controlled, you know? Here's someone who agrees:
The fact that Smith has failed to notice Bobby DiGeronimo, an OSU booster who has apparently been secretly paying OSU athletes for years, or Edward Rife, the architect of the tat-gate scandal, to communicate with its athletes is embarrassing. Even after all that has ensued this offseason with the punishments and sanctions, athletes are still finding ways to get in trouble. For Smith to say OSU doesn't have a problem with their "system," is a joke.
That's Fox Sports's Thayer Eva—Wait… that's Eleven Warriors. What?
Etc.: Not one but two sets of excellent Northwestern wallpaper. The Illinois-Northwestern game in full. Five hours of Calvin Magee explaining the spread n shred three years too late. Shorter Houston Nutt: "a verbal commitment is a sacred bond; a signed letter of intent is for me to poop on."
Last time on Picture Pages we looked at a 35-yard iso on Michigan's first drive against Minnesota. A 35 yard iso means someone did something terrible on defense or your tailback did something ridiculous; Michigan was playing Minnesota so it was the former.
So Michigan scores a touchdown and gets the ball back and opens up with the same set. Minnesota again has both safeties rolled up.
On the snap the line pass blocks but the backfield executes a historical reenactment of The Battle Of Minnesota Sucks At Isos.
There's a gap in the line that Hopkins is thundering towards again and by the time it's clear Denard has the ball the three LB type substances have started moving towards the LOS:
When Hopkins hits the LOS the two guys who could hypothetically cover him are four yards from the LOS and stationary.
This is what it sounds like when doves cry.
Items of Interest
Constraint theory right here. Minnesota just got hit with a big iso and got chewed out on the sideline about it. They are hyped up to stop it, so when Michigan shows it again the LB and S suck way up and leave Hopkins open for a big gain over the top. This works not only because Minnesota overreacts to it but because of the omnipresent Denard threat posed in the shotgun. That means the Gophers are operating with essentially zero deep safeties.
This is what happens when you can force the defense to cheat. An actual opponent playing this way probably would have given up five, not 35, on the first iso, but that's enough to force them to cheat to it, whereupon bang.
This isn't unique or new. Literally every program in the country except Ohio State* tries to do this. Michigan's old-school waggle is an example. The hope with Borges is that he'll use them frequently to score lots of points instead of occasionally as part of a bler offense run by 70s thinking. Denard is a hell of a thing to try to stop without cheating, much more threatening than Michigan's four-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust running game was in the late 90s and early aughts.
This is the stuff you get in the shotgun even when Denard is not running because the zone read demands attention at all times. Under center Denard's legs mean waggle or Incredibly Surprising QB Draw, neither of which forces safeties into the box.
We saw a bucket of constraint against the Gophers. This is in part because the Gophers are so bad they have to cheat every play in the hopes of stopping the opposition.
I think it's also in part because Borges is finding his legs in this strange environment where your quarterback is one of the most threatening rushers in the country. Michigan tried the waggle a bunch earlier this year (and in spring) and got little out of it; against the Gophers that was ditched in favor of plays that use fear of Denard's legs as a major component of their success.
Hey man, nice touch. Denard floated a nice catchable ball to Hopkins about 18 yards downfield. He could do that because there were no safeties, so I've got no problem with the throw.
Let's see if Shaw can block this. Because this is a 75 yard touchdown if a fullback isn't running it. Also Hopkins almost dropped this.