things go poorly
After Michigan's 4-0 start the offense skidded downwards into mediocrity and inconsistency, gradually erasing the early giddiness around these parts. Early in the year, I said "the question is not whether this will be Michigan's best rushing offense of the decade, but by how much," which… well… Alan Greenspan has something to say about that.
Still, for anyone who actually watched the team this year and last, the idea that things didn't improve is laughable. The favorite tool of folks who like to claim this is Michigan's scoring offense in the Big Ten. Check this pre-OSU Michigan Monday for an example. Okay, actual scoring—despite being the point of everything—is is kind of a wildly unreliable metric, especially when your quarterbacks are freshmen and very, very turnover-happy. But when a tempo-free aerial says basically the same thing when it comes to yards per attempt…
…the offense has not exactly reached juggernaut status.
Still, it did improve significantly. All of this focus on conference play ignores that last year Michigan was 1-3 outside the conference and lost to a 3-9 MAC team because it scored 10 points. Against Notre Dame the net offensive output was probably negative because of five horrendous turnovers. This year the MAC snacks were swatted away and Michigan was one of many teams to scorch TAH-NOO-TAH's blitz-mad ways. They were in the ballpark of crappy, and this represents a step forward from last year, when Michigan football was the Indiana basketball of the Big Ten: too terrible to even fit on the scatterplot. To repeat a theme of late, this is progress of a not-very-fun variety.
There is noise yet in the scatterplot, though, as it makes Northwestern's dink-mad offense look worse than Michigan's when it wasn't. Let's take away all the noise caused by varying numbers of drives, varying average drive start, and opposition offenses, and just look at how efficient Michigan was on a drive-by-drive basis.
Brian Fremeau maintains a rating that does this called the Fremeau Efficiency Index. It's similar in concept to the numbers the Mathlete has posted here over the last year or so: find the average success rate in Situation X and measure teams by how far above or below that break-even line they are. Fremeau has many numbers; we'll look at a few. OE is "offensive efficiency" and is just a measure of how much you score relative to the D-I average. It's a tempo-free stat roughly equivalent to Points Per Possession in basketball. The second, FEI, is this in the words of its author:
College football rating system based on drive-based Game Efficiency data that rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams.
I couldn't find a more specific definition of what exactly this means; IMO, this is less interesting as a performance measure than it is an attempt to make the ratings more plausible to human eyes looking for a ranking system. So the focus should be on the raw numbers.
100% Awesome Mediocrity
Raw and adjusted, your results:
|Year||OE||OE Rk||Off FEI||OFEI Rk|
(This rating excludes I-AA games, as all serious attempts to quantify college football do.)
So there you go: from one of the worst teams in D-1 to totally mediocre. Totally mediocre seems acceptable, or better, when you're graduating four starters, have a freshman quarterback, play most of the year without your best offensive lineman, don't get to use your senior tailbacks all that much, and suffer from another epic turnover plague.
The Unfortunate Flipside
The other side of the ball is sort of horrifying:
|Year||DE||DE Rk||Def FEI||DFEI Rk|
…but a little less horrifying than i expected. Michigan's defense under Scott Shafer was actually sort of good-ish, but submarined by terrible field position and a ton of drives faced because of the offense. FWIW, I don't think this reflects poorly on Robinson yet; one year doesn't tell you much of anything. Also, Michigan's two best defensive performances of the year (relative to the opposition) were against Minnesota and Northwestern, after Shafer was basically fired. (And, yes, after Michigan's disastrous attempt to switch to the 3-3-5 cost them the Purdue game.)
Improvement + implosion = ?
Your net numbers in efficiency: Michigan went from 85th last year to 62nd this year. In FEI terms, Michigan went from 71st to 56th. That is almost exactly in line with what I believe is a reasonable take on the team: it was terrible last year and significantly better this year, but the amount of progress was disappointing not just relative to expectations after 4-0 but relative to those in the preseason.
Attempting to downplay the real improvement that was obvious to anyone watching the offense in something other than the fetal position is silly, and a sign they're about to bring up the Braylon Edwards #1 jersey "controversy" as further evidence that Rodriguez should be fired.
It gets pretty wild in slots 10-20. Let me tell you. The rest at CBS Sports.
|WHAT||#36/31 Michigan v. Boston College|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
December 2nd, 2009
|THE LINE||Michigan -5.5*|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
The travel schedule for the Old Spice Classic makes it difficult for the Wolverines to prepare for a big game the following week, with only Tuesday to practice. That's the way of the Thanksgiving tournaments, however, and it's basically the same for every team. The team's weekend was disappointing, but they are young, especially in the backcourt, according to John Beilein. Darius Morris is still learning about the responsibility of being a D-1 point guard, and will only improve over time.
The team is still figuring out who plays the best in the zone defense, and Alabama did some things that the Wolverines hadn't seen before against the zone defense. There won't be mass personnel changes this week, but playing time will be adjusted for individual players.
The biggest woe for Michigan at this point in the year has been shooting. The Wolverines have a 46.6 eFG% at this point in the year, after reaching 50.3 last year. Part of that is getting Zack Novak more shots, according to Beilein, but a big part of it is the shooters just getting enough good looks, and stroking them with confidence.
Boston College is 4-2 so far this season, with both losses coming in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, to St. Joseph's and Northern Iowa. The Eagles beat South Dakota State in The Jam, and also beat Dartmouth, St. Francis, and Providence, with only the last coming away from home.
Boston College has been snake-bitten so far this year, suffering through numerous injuries. The biggest yet would be Joe Trapani (pictured above), the Eagles' leading scorer who has been suffering from flu-like symptoms this week. He currently leads the team in minutes played and points, and is second in rebounds and blocks. Coach Al Skinner says Trapani will likely be a game-time decision. Dylan of UMHoops adds on Twitter that the Eagles definitely won't have Rakim Sanders, and will probably be without Tyler Roche.
John Beilein wasn't so concerned with personnel losses for Boston College, noting that their team is 10 men deep, before adding, "I'll believe they're not at 100% when I see it."
It's far enough into the year that tempo-free stats might mean something, so here's the first tempo-free breakdown of the season. If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Boston College: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Boston College Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. BC Def eFG%||220||165||B|
|Mich Def eFG% v. BC eFG%||226||75||BB|
|Mich TO% v. BC Def TO%||4||330||MMMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. BC TO%||33||66||M|
|Mich OReb% v. BC DReb%||259||68||BB|
|Mich DReb% v. BC OReb%||310||12||BBB|
|Mich FTR v. BC Opp FTR||253||20||BBB|
|Mich Opp FTR v. BC FTR||5||155||MM|
|Mich AdjO v. BC AdjD||137||206||M|
|Mich AdjD v. BC AdjO||133||13||BB|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
It's hard to read into Boston College's numbers as a predictor too much, since they have so many players either out or less than 100%. Still, they look like the slightly better team coming into this contest. I'd imagine Michigan's shooting improves at home, and the home crowd will play a factor as well.
If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution. The season is winding down, as only 5 commits were still playing coming into the week, and all but the Louisiana guys wrapped up their seasons over the weekend.
New Commit PA CB Cullen Christian
Penn Hills went 4-5 in the regular season, and bowed out in the second round of the playoffs to Gateway. I couldn't find individual stats for Christian.
MI QB Devin Gardner
Last week: Fluff. Pregame fluff. Inkster falls to Lowell in the State Championship Game 6-27. Gardner finished 9-17 passing for 134 yards, but his offensive line got him killed all day, and he rushed for -26 yards.
This week: Inkster (9-4) loses the State Championship, and their season is over.
|Devin Gardner 2009|
|East Kentwood||L 33-52||19||30||389||3||1||63.33||12.97||10||102||2||10.20|
|St. Edward||W 14-7||1|
|Highland Park||W 27-22||9||16||127||2||2||56.25||7.94||11||74||2||6.73|
|Bay City Central||W 27-20||7||13||132||1||0||53.85||10.15||15||95||1||6.33|
|Muskegon CC||W 34-19||4||9||110||0||0||44.44||12.22||99||1|
|St. Ignatius||L 20-49||1||0||1|
|Edsel Ford||W 51-19||4||7||51||2||0||57.14||7.29||6||98||2||16.33|
|De La Salle||W 12-3||7||16||75||0||2||43.75||4.69||5||34||1||6.80|
SC QB Conelius Jones
Conelius Jones paced Spartanburg, completing 10 of 19 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 39 yards on 20 carries.
This week: Spartanburg (5-9) has seen its season come to an end.
|Conelius Jones 2009|
|Boiling Springs||L 35-39||1||0||77||1|
|Rock Hill||W 41-28||0||0||0||0||0||-||-||18||110||2||6.11|
TX RB Tony Drake
This week: Skyline (12-1) Has been eliminated from the State Playoffs.
|Tony Drake 2009|
|Plano East||W 45-19||15||167||1||11.13||0||0||0||-|
|Lake Highlands||W 42-27||19||226||2||11.89||1||6||0||6.00|
|W.T. White||W 62-3||4||50||1||12.50||0||0||0||-|
|Cypress Woods||L 21-28||22||78||0||3.55||1||-1||0||-1.00|
LA Slot WR Drew Dileo
Last week: Parkview Baptist beats Patterson 33-21.
Drew Dileo and Brandon Johnson each rushed for 114 yards.
This week: Parkview Baptist (10-1) v. White in Round 4 of the State Playoffs.
|Drew Dileo 2009|
|Christian Life||W 60-14||1||50||1||50.00|
|Church Point||W 54-0||2||40||1||20.00|
|Port Allen||W 32-7||11||65||0||5.91||3||92||2||30.67|
|West Feliciana||W 23-7||50||1|
LA S Carvin Johnson
This week: Rummel (12-0) v. Westgate in Round 4 of the State Playoffs.
|Carvin Johnson 2009|
|East St. John||W 20-14||0|
|OP Walker||W 23-0||1|
|Brother Martin||W 13-7||0|
|St. Augustine||W 7-6||1|
|Archbishop Shaw||W 18-17||0|
|Captain Shreve||W 10-3||2||2+||2|
MI RB Austin White
Stevenson's (8-3) season is over after falling in the second round of the playoffs.
|Austin White 2009|
|South Lyon||W 37-0||8||173||3||21.63||0||0||0||-|
|South Lyon East||W 47-20||16||234||5||14.63||0||0||0||-|
|Catholic Central||L 0-38||10||75||0||7.50||0||0||0||-|
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
Marcus (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and Hopkins's senior season is over.
|Stephen Hopkins 2009|
|Plano West||W 35-25||28||128||3||4.57|
|Tyler Lee||W 17-7||22||118||1||5.36|
|Southlake Carroll||L 30-41||28||150||1||5.36|
|Flower Mound||W 63-39||21||217||2||10.33|
|Cedar Hill||L 17-41||20||50||1||2.50|
MI WR Ricardo Miller
Pioneer's (8-3) ended after a loss in the second round of the playoffs.
|Ricardo Miller 2009|
|Arthur Hill||W 58-20||1||20||0||20.00|
MI WR Jeremy Jackson
Huron's (5-4) season ended without a playoff berth. Jackson finished with 43 catches for 573 yards.
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Canton South (3-7) missed the state playoffs, and its season is over.
OH WR DJ Williamson
Harding (6-3-1) will not make the State Playoffs, and its season has ended.
OH OL Christian Pace
Avon Lake (8-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
OH DT Terry Talbott
Wayne's (7-4) season ended with a defeat in the second round of the playoffs.
PA DE Ken Wilkins
Trinity (4-6) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
Hampton (7-4) has been eliminated from the State Playoffs, and Paskorz's season is over. Coach fluff.
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Liberty (4-6) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
FL S Marvin Robinson
Lake Region (0-9) missed the playoffs, and their season is over.
OH CB Courtney Avery
Lexington (6-4) missed the State Playoffs, and their season is over.
OH CB Terrence Talbott
Wayne (7-4) has been eliminated from the playoffs, and their season is over.
WI P Will Hagerup
Whitefish Bay (5-5) has completed its season after a first-round playoff loss. Will named 1st-team All-State.
2011 OH CB Greg Brown
Ross (5-5) missed the State Playoffs, and its season is over.
|Greg Brown 2009|
|Benedictine||W 28-21 (OT)||6||99||1||16.50|
|Findlay||L 40-43 (3OT)||8||122||1||15.13||0||0||0||-|
|Marion Harding||L 0-21||0||0||0||-||4||13||0||3.25|
Last year, Glenn Winston put a hockey player in the hospital, costing him a whole year, and injured a second bystander. Neither victim did anything to provoke the violence, and Winston was fortunate to plea-bargain himself down to a misdemeanor and six months in jail. Mike Rosenberg on that:
Plus, people forget this: Winston was convicted of a misdemeanor. If anything, his sentence (six months in jail) was excessive for a misdemeanor. So I understood why Dantonio reinstated Winston this summer. Yes, it looks awful now. But it made some sense this summer.
"Excessive for a misdemeanor." Rosenberg is downplaying a scary, dangerously violent incident because he doesn't understand that a misdemeanor basically means the jail sentence can't be longer than a year. Six months in jail might be excessive for pot possession. It doesn't seem excessive for endangering someone's playing career.
Remember that Rosenberg wrote an "I'm just sayin'" column after Justin Feagin's situation, citing Rodriguez's decision to recruit linebacker Pat Lazear as evidence Rodriguez doesn't care about the character of his players:
The fact that Rodriguez was recruiting Feagin to West Virginia is telling because Rodriguez took considerable heat for some of his recruiting choices in Morgantown. Most noteworthy: Rodriguez signed linebacker Pat Lazear to a letter of intent even though Lazear had been accused of orchestrating an armed robbery of a Smoothie King store.
"That was a situation that was cleared up before he left high school," Rodriguez said Monday.
Well, that depends on your definition of "cleared up." Lazear pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and received a 10-year suspended sentence for his part in the robbery. He also was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest and 150 hours of community service. And in a previous incident, Lazear had been found guilty of using a stolen credit card.
I guess you could say his situation was "cleared up."
Lazear has not been in trouble at West Virginia and is on the academic honor roll. That same column cites Feagin's high school coach saying that Feagin hadn't been in trouble there only to dismiss that. Rosenberg's thrust is that Rodriguez should have known better than to recruit Justin Feagin, and should never have gone near a guy with nothing on his record other than a dropped misdemeanor and some traffic tickets. If Rodriguez didn't know Feagin was a bad guy, it was because he didn't care to know. The upshot: Rodriguez is unethical.
Here's a similar conversation in the Winston case:
MARK DANTONIO: Are there any issues with this Winston guy?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, he beat up two innocent people, putting one of them in the hospital.
MARK DANTONIO: What's that? I can't hear you. You must be breaking up.
MARK DANTONIO: We're not talking on a cell phone. I am you. We're having a schizophrenic episode. You're talking to yourself.
MARK DANTONIO: I am very public about my faith!
And yet reinstating this guy "makes some sense." The double standard could not be clearer.
Is there any question that Rosenberg would be calling for Rodriguez's job if 15-20 Michigan players had beaten the hell out of innocent bystanders for the second time in two years? Michigan State has had 20% of its entire team involved in unprovoked violence against other students for two consecutive years.
Rosenberg can couch his eminently reasonable opinion in eminently reasonable columnist terms, but the bias is screaming. Mark Dantonio's got a hell of a jaw and a bible on his desk. He's also in charge of a bunch of thugs, and got a Michigan State student injured and, likely, his university sued. This is enough for Rosenberg to gently suggest that Dantonio might need to get his team under control—oh, really? Meanwhile, Rodriguez correctly judging the character of Pat Lazear and immediately dealing with the Feagin situation is enough for the "win at all costs" headline.
This is the fair and balanced person the Free Press thought they'd have investigate the Michigan football program.
More about this on the message board.
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge has been a one-sided affair in its 10 years of existence, with the Atlantic Coast conference emerging victorious in each of the first 10 years. With the Big Ten poised for a great year throughout the conference, there has been talk that this is the year for the midwesterners to emerge victorious.
The First Decade
|Year||ACC Wins||Big Ten Wins|
* Michigan State v. UVA was cancelled in progress in 2001.
The ACC's fluctuating membership is to blame for the different numbers of games played during different years. Still, that conference came out on top each year, regardless of how many games were played. So, that's how the Big Ten did in the first 10 years of the Challenge, but how did Michigan do?
|1999||@Georgia Tech||W 80-77|
|2000||Wake Forest||L 60-71|
|2003||NC State||W 68-61|
|2004||@Georgia Tech||L 68-99|
|2006||@NC State||L 67-74|
|2007||Boston College||L 64-77|
Before you lament the Wolverines' losing record (3-5) in the event, it's important to note that every single Big Ten team except Michigan State has a losing record in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. In fact, the Wolverines are tied for 3rd-best record in the event among Big Ten teams.
So, is the Big Ten a strong contender to finally break through in 2009? Let's take a look at the matchups (home teams bolded):
|Big Ten Team||ACC Team||Date & TV|
|Penn State||Virginia||Tonight, 7PM, ESPN2|
|Purdue||Wake Forest||Tues, 7PM, ESPN|
|Northwestern||NC State||Tues, 7PM, ESPNU|
|Indiana||Maryland||Tues, 7:30PM, ESPN2|
|Michigan State||North Carolina||Tues, 9PM, ESPN|
|Iowa||Virginia Tech||Tues, 9:30PM, ESPN2|
|Illinois||Clemson||Wed, 7:15PM, ESPN|
|Minnesota||Miami||Wed, 7:15PM, ESPNU|
|Michigan||Boston College||Wed, 7:30PM, ESPN2|
|Wisconsin||Duke||Wed, 9:15PM, ESPN|
|Ohio State||Florida State||Wed, 9:30PM, ESPN2|
Georgia Tech does not play for the ACC this year.
The Big Ten has home-court advantage this year, and strangely, the only two games that won't air on basic cable both take place in ACC arenas.
The ACC and Big Ten have already squared off a few times this year, with North Carolina topping Ohio State and Wisconsin beating Maryland. Things looked a whole lot rosier for the Big Ten prior to the weekend, where Michigan, MInnesota, and Michigan State all suffered unexpected losses. The Only Colors gave the odds for all the games, and it ain't pretty, with only Michigan, Purdue, and Ohio State favored to win. Still, with 11 games left to play, and the Big Ten as strong as ever, there's no reason to give up hope quite yet.
Preview of Michigan's opponent, the Eagles of Boston College, will be coming later in the week.