to play football, not to play trumpet
After seeing a couple Thanksgiving messages on the board this morning, I was a bit hesitant to post my own, but I did want to point out some of the things that we as a community of highly engaged fans do have to be thankful for.
As we walk towards our game with Ohio State, who among us at this time last year – when we were playing this game merely to be bowl eligible – would have thought that now we could be 9-2 and #10 in the CFP rankings in this week? I am going to assume that not many of us – probably none of us – thought this was a possibility. The future was cloudy indeed.
The occurrence for which most fans of Michigan football are undoubtedly most thankful for in this past year came about a month after that game, in a winter that for us would be quiet, without a bowl but on the blog, full of “CC threads” and understandable hand-wringing about what laid in store for the program once Brandon and Hoke had been removed. Oakland was not in play, and Jim Harbaugh came home to Ann Arbor.
Even so, after that introductory press conference, the future was brighter but now the timeline was uncertain. Many of us thought 2015 would be another transitional year – perhaps a bit bumpy, but necessary – and over the summer, numerous prediction threads amounted to cautious optimism for 2015. In the background, however, we could see the rapid transformation of the program into something far more familiar to many of us. It was transformed – again – into a program which lives “The Team, The Team, The Team” and preaches competition and accountability, not only to the staff but to teammates and the university and its traditions.
We assumed the cultural changes would lead to the on-field success down the road, but I don’t know how many of us in the MGoCommunity thought we would see the cultural transformation change the on-field performance that rapidly, and not just in the sense of being 9-2 right now. The team has bought and is emulating the message of Jim Harbaugh and it is translating into a ruthlessly efficient, never-quit team that has improved itself in every conceivable way.
Now, we walk into the Ohio State game with a considerable chance of winning it, being 10-2 and going to a New Year’s Six bowl after a season where we went 5-7 and watched others go bowling in December and January. We shall see how it shakes out at about 3:30 PM on Saturday and then so on into the final CFP rankings, but that we can do it is an amazing feat for this staff and team indeed.
Thanks to Jim Hackett for refocusing the athletic department in general – not just for football – on the things that are indeed part of the department’s stated mission, which is to serve its students and its supporters. Thanks to Jim Harbaugh for coming home and beginning a new chapter in Michigan football in which possibilities are seen in places where we were beginning to doubt they existed. Thanks to the MGoCommunity for keeping itself somehow glued together – albeit elaborately and with what seemed like the psychological equivalent of Elmer’s at times – and sharing now in this much brighter future.
Before I forget, thanks to Brian and the paid staff here for providing a place for us to ruminate about all this and share statistics, ideas, strategies and information in a quantity that I don’t think you’ll find on many college sports blogs. The MGoCommunity is different – not merely fans, but extra nerdy fans who can remember down, distance and formation on specific plays in games played long ago and write treatises on whether it was or was not the best call. That’s part of the Michigan difference, and it is on display here.
Further, thanks to my fellow mods for helping to maintain this place as one of the better-run, most readable boards out there. Even if we struggle with the amount of content at times, we do our best to pick through it as much as possible and streamline it for everyone. Thanks to my parents as well, for if I weren’t raised by such obsessive people, my obsession with Michigan athletics and everything Michigan might not have come into my makeup.
Finally, thanks to the MGoCommunity for allowing me to give back and help manage the place and for keeping me sane in moments that have been trying throughout the last few years. It means much.
Have an excellent Thanksgiving.
Here's the Advanced Statistics Schedule Rundown for UM as of the end of Week 12, and despite the Buckeyes intentionally throwing that game against Sparty, the chart is still including a B1G Championship Game since UM still has somewhere in the range of a 10:1 to 4:1 chance to play into it. Iowa, of course, is a lock for Indy even if it dumps the Nebraska game, so they're the de facto opponent. Here's your embiggable chart:
The race in terms of fancy stats has taken a slight turn in M's direction on account on the heels of essentially dominating performance of PSU, which has effectively rekindled the S&P+ romance with M. OSU's debacle didn't help its position, which pretties things up nicely looking into The Game. Of course, the same can't be said for MSU, but overall as of this writing, MSU still sucks. What follows below is a discussion of some of the details and week-to-week fancy-stat trends of M, OSU, MSU, PSU and Iowa.
In the S&P+ ratings, M improved its standing in Offense again over last week's results, moving up one position from #42 to #41, while MSU climbed from #32 to #29. OSU plummeted from #16 to #23, PSU dropped from #66 to #68. On S&P+ Defense, M took an impressive stand against PSU, particularly on the DL, and moved back up from #3 to #2. Putting Taco on the end and moving Hurst over appears to have been the proper remedy in lieu of the approach attempted at IU – so this bodes well for The Game. Moreover, the rating improved by 0.3 points from 12.0 to 11.7. Likewise, the PSU & MSU defensive units continued to register improvements. PSU moving up slightly from #13 and #11, and MSU significantly from #35 to #21. OSU dropped one spot from #7 to #8. Overall, M and OSU swapped order in the rankings: M now at #4, and OSU at #5, with the spread opening once again by 2.0 points to M -3.8. Despite yet another win, Iowa dropped again in overall S&P+ rank from #28 to #29, with the net spread vs. M increasing by 0.6 points to M –7.5.
As for the FEI Ratings, it appears M has managed to turn around its retrograde Special Teams play, moving back up from #15 to #14 – but still a far cry from having been #1 just 3 weeks ago. Giving up a blocked punt were probably neutralized by Lewis' fabulous KOR as well as the fumble recovery on the botched fair catch by PSU. The next closest teams are Iowa and OSU at #33 and #40, respectively. As for MSU and PSU Special Teams ... they continue to wallow in the lower echelons.
FEI warmed slightly regarding M's offense, which improved its rating while holding its rank #39, thanks yet again to a gritty, workmanlike performance by Jake Rudock. The running game is what it is, but at least coupled with an array of screen passing schemes and some solid pass protection, it can be sold off enough to make play-action effective. This is a situation where scheme is everything, and it appears by virtue of M having gotten this far on that basis, M's coaching staff are schemers extraordinaire. MSU also held its rank at #19, as did PSU its middling performance, shifting from #75 to #76. OSU meanwihle dropped by a good chunk from #31 to #38 – just one ahead of M! On the other hand, Iowa popped up from #32 to #24, so good for them. Wouldn't it be interesting to see a matchup of Rudock and C.J. Beathard in the B1GCG?
Carrying on with the trend from last week, the most alarming aspect here is the FEI Defensive numbers, which sees M continue retrograde movement from #7 to #11, while OSU stepped up from #11 to #8 – a remarkable reversal. MSU also popped up from #31 to #24 however, PSU and Iowa's defenses continued to slip from #14 and #36 to #17 and #44, respectively. As such, the FEI and S&P+ characteristics for offense and defense are largely congruent.
FEI Overall rankings show M held steady at #10, while OSU gave MSU the #6 spot while retreating to #9. PSU continues to wallow in mediocrity, sliding back from #48 to #51, and Iowa slipped a good bit from #19 to #24.
Rolling the S&P+ and FEI numbers together, Connelly & Fremeau come up with the F/+ Combined Ratings, in which M swaps places with OSU, moving into the #5 spot, while OSU drops down to #6. MSU advances significantly from #15 to #10, but is still not as highly regarded as two teams from whom they've managed to steal games. PSU drops from #36 to #40, while Iowa continued its decline as well from #23 to #24.
Last but not least are the Football Power Index (FPI) ratings from ESPN. Here as well M reversed last weeks trend, moving up by 0.5 points from #17 to #16, while OSU held onto its CFP placement at #4, but with a 1.0 point lower score. As with S&P+, the total spread moved 1.5 points in M's favor from M +3.7 to +2.2, not a bad trend going into The Game! What's more, the spread between MSU and PSU, at MSU –5.4, is also within one score. Now, if Hackenberg can just get enough time to put a deep ball in the seam between MSU's safeties, they might still do what OSU did not.
Yours in football, and Go Blue!
after a long hiatus, got a chance to put one of these together this week. long story short is that my boss sits a couple desks behind me know, so its been a little complicated logistically...
in past years, when enthusiasm is down, so is interest in this feature, based on scribd's data. i think enthusaism is up a bit this year... let me know if there are any things that need to be changed, might have a chance to get to it this week.
hoping to be a little more on top of this for the next games and next season, so if you have any suggestions about other information to include, i can see what i can do.
Decided to upload the Hate Week wallpaper I made. Hopefully some will enjoy.
Direct link: http://i66.tinypic.com/n65ac8.jpg
A boy is born with the potential to be everything. He comes out a squealing, reddened, water-logged thing for whom virtually every plot on the vast human distribution chart is plausibly attainable. Whom he's handed to and where will narrow that down some, and within a few years of that handoff a personality will start to emerge that might suggest a direction.
But it takes a lifetime, sometimes many lifetimes, to know what a boy will turn into. There's one boy who two thousand years hence has his name uttered by a third of the world when they want to represent the astounding extent of the human capacity for goodness.
Another boy, 70 years after his initial squall, would in the far smaller world of college football, come to represent the traits of intelligence, integrity, and loyalty. The boy, Lloyd Carr, was born exactly a week before a bomb named "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima. He played a sport where boys flung their bodies at other boys for a kind of fleeting, mostly useless greatness. He began coaching said sport when/because boys of his age and nation were being thrown indiscriminately at a barely understood war.
Through that sport Lloyd got to have a hand in shaping the distribution of hundreds of boys. I know boys born in places that would in most likelihoods see them either destroyed or shaped into destroyers of other boys, to people who didn't care which. Among Lloyd's accomplishments—and this boy's accomplishments an extreme outlier among men—the greatest are these boys he saved, and who now spend their lives affecting more boys than Lloyd or any man could alone.
It is for the things Lloyd did with his 70 years that all Michigan fans, and many non-Michigan fans, today are joining in mourning the loss of one. Chad Carr was born to Lloyd's boy Jason and Jason's wife Tammi, the third of such boys. It was the kind of start and they were the kind of people who open up the best parts of human capacity in a boy.
Chad died today, after more than the year he was expected to have after doctors learned he had brain cancer, less than a few weeks after he began hospice care, a day after he was no longer able to talk to his parents, and just a few short years after he learned to.
His brothers, his parents, and everyone who loved Lloyd and loved Chad because of it, had to just sit there the whole time, powerlessly, and watch this happen.
— Tammi Carr (@tamcarr21) November 23, 2015
The angels have too many of our boys. I don't know how much more potential the human race will lose, or how much money to research DIPG will be wasted on blind pursuits before a stab in this dark finds a way to stop losing boys this way. It is a certainty that all the money and all the being good and all that you can possibly do and pray for won't prevent this from being the last time a man will have to hold the lifeless body of a boy who'll never become a fireman or a football coach or a father.
But here's the link to ChadTough again if you want to take a shot anyway.
RPS Part Deux: Comparing MSU to Michigan Defending Spread or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb vs. Man Free
Caveat: Again, I just watched the beginning and end of the game, blah, blah, blah...
Note: I added a basic field background to help communicate vertical spacing.
Last week I wrote about how Michigan defended the spread in the IU game. Today I'll compare that to how MSU defended OSU Saturday.
First, let's revisit how Michigan aligned vs. a 2x2 H-back look:
Notice how we are a man short in the box. If you're also noticing how it appears we have only 10 defenders on the field, it's b/c I tried to show the vertical spacing of the alignment; i.e., you can't see the Free Safety (FS) b/c he's 15-20 yards deep.
Similar to how Michigan aligned, MSU also had man over man on the Wide Receivers (WRs). However, MSU's safeties were no deeper than 8-10 yards, especially 8 on non-passing downs (what Bill Connelly of S&P refers to as "standard downs"). In doing this, MSU essentially has 8 in the box. If the safety over the H-back gets a run read from that H-back, the safety is down hill into his run fit.
In the comments of the previous diary, we discussed how playing no deep safeties is a recipe for spread adjustments like bubble screens and smoke screens; i.e. quick throws to the WRs. These are essentially wide running plays. Michigan has been using this tactic with great success the entire season--I'd guess that the success rate on these throws have been at least 90% for the Wolverines in 2015.
To take these away and remain sound defending the run, the defense needs OLBs and/or safeties aligned in such a way as to have the ability to defend both run and pass. Basically, the defense wants to have a man advantage against the number of eligible receivers on each side of the ball. In other words, if there are two receivers on a side, the defense needs to have three players in a position to defend them.
To have even 7 in the box, Michigan places a defender (in this case, the Will linebacker [WLB or simply W]) in a position to only play run and not be able to help on quick perimeter throws.
As you can see, the Spartans have safeties close enough to not be undermanned against inside running plays, and are also aligned so they have one more pass defender than the offense has eligible receivers to each side.
Again, I hope that Michigan does something different schematically against the Buckeyes than it did against the Hoosiers. If not, Ezekiel Elliot is going to have a Carlos Hyde type performance.