“The player development is the main thing I like (about Michigan),” Williams said. “You can see that they develop their players. They get them in the gym and they work them hard. And their hard work pays off.”
I thought it might be an interesting exercise to evaluate the “behavior” of the passing game this season, if you will, by comparing the individual game numbers to the running average as it would have been at the end of a given game. To see what this would look like, I took a look at five major metrics and then made a sixth chart which simply compares passing touchdowns to interceptions so it is possible to see what the “behavior” was producing.
First, I looked at the NCAA overall QB rating for each game’s passing statistics versus what the cumulative line would show for a rating. In eight games out of twelve, Michigan’s QBs maintained a rating above what the cumulative statistics would have dictated at the end of that game. In a couple cases, it was barely above the cumulative rating – against Purdue (coming off ND), and against Ohio State (because of 2ndhalf).
The charts for yards per attempt and yards per completion do somewhat mimic one another for obvious reasons, and it was my curiosity that led me to make both of these admittedly. That being said, they do not exactly follow each other during the games in which Gardner started. There is a steady decline in YPC from Minnesota to Ohio State, but the YPA is somewhat erratic in comparison.
Interestingly, the chart for completion percentage follows a somewhat similar track to the one for yards per attempt, although there are some noted differences. It is almost possible to say that the more vertical our passing game was getting, the more successful it tended to be. Without having done the correlation calculations, of course, I don’t know what the strength of that relationship would be.
The chart for passing yards per game is interesting and tells a bit of a story, I think. Discounting Alabama only because one number is its own average, of course, we can see the following. When we were above the current average in a game, we were 5-0, and when our passing yards in a given game were below the average as of that game, we were 3-3.
Here is a quick look at the progess of passing TD and INT totals as the season progressed:
I read Seth’s post today and spent this morning running through the every snap video uploaded by DGDestroys. The RPS nature of that one play made me question my harsh take on the OL performance in that game.
This play is well blocked… it just doesn’t comprehend the safety.
Good point Seth. Good job OL. Maybe there are more RPS losses than OL misses in this game (I thought to myself…)
So I downloaded the Game stats for the year; adjusted the rushing output for line yards following for the most part Football Outsiders technique to decipher how much the OL contributed to the rushing stats so far. Hit the link above for the run down on Adjusted Line Yards but here is the short story.
…the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:
Losses: 120% value
0-4 Yards: 100% value
5-10 Yards: 50% value
11+ Yards: 0% value
I started to normalize and pull the RB yards – but it’s not what this morning is going to be for me. Instead I thought I’d post this the rough run down because I need to go and get MSS chores done.
The concept here is that yards over 10 are due to shake and bake and WR blocking while <10 yards are more or less on the OL. A good RB skews this up… a bad one down but the idea is in general a good one.
Stats are from http://www.cfbstats.com/. It looks like sacks are counted as rushing attempts. I didn’t doctor this data – it’s straight from their rushing chart. I could tinker with this but I’m not sure how much value it would add. The comparison is straight up.
Ohio is a significant shift in OL performance in terms of Line Yards.
It’s difficult to pull out OL stats. The play that Seth pulled this morning is comprehended in the Stat pull and analysis I did just now as an OL miss – but it wasn’t as I take his analysis. In general, I think the Adjusted Line Yard stat is a good one though to begin to tease this out.
I have intentions of looking at this further (Power Success/RB Yard/2nd Level Yards/Sacks and Sack Rates) with comparisons by and to conference and by coaches… but I’m not sure I will get back to this. In the meantime I think it’s worthy to share this season run down.
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Now that the regular season is over and we can now say for certain that our season came down to Denard’s ulnar nerve and a maddening loss to the Huskers, I wanted to take a retrospective look at what proved to be the key personnel decision on offense for Michigan this season; moving Devin Gardner from quarterback to wide receiver. Of course, there’s been numerous threads debating the wisdom of having Bellomy as the back-up to Denard over Gardner, but what really hasn’t been looked at is where we would’ve been in the first 8 games without Devin at wideout. This is my rudimentary, George Bailey analysis of such a scenario. I apologize up front for not having the Mathlete’s ability to take statistics and convert them into revelatory truths, but here we go.
Alabama -Devin had only the one reception in this game, but it was a 44 yard touchdown, so that’s nice. Of course, it didn’t matter because, oh yeah, we’re playing Alabama. Why the BLEEP are we playing this game? Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Air Force - This is easily Gardner’s best game at WR. He had 5 receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Ironically his performance gets overshadowed by the debut of Funchess. Still of his 5 catches, 1 of them converts a third down which is followed by a 30 yard touchdown pass to Funchess, another is his TD catch and his final reception is a 20 grab on first down on a drive that ultimately yields a field goal. Of all the games where Gardner appeared at receiver, this game sticks out as the one where he made a difference between Michigan winning and losing. Impact: MAJOR
UMass – Gardner snagged 2 receptions for 48 yards including a touchdown, which doesn’t really matter because Michigan is playing UMass and it’s not 2010. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Notre Dame – Devin hauled in 3 receptions for 40 yards, which was 2 less than the Notre Dame defense hauled in on what was probably Denard’s worst game as a starter at Michigan. Two of his receptions came on a drive that ended with an interception, with the other converting a 3rdand 10 that lead to Michigan’s 2ndfield goal. His biggest play in this game, though was probably the 40 yard bomb he dropped late in the 4thquarter with Michigan still trailing by 10. Of course, after this game, Borges begins to adjust the offense to emphasize the run more than the pass. Impact: MINOR
Purdue – Gardner had 2 catches for 31 yards and another touchdown, which is a lot considering that Denard threw only 16 times in this game. Still Michigan blew out Purdue the old-fashioned way in this game, by running the football. Impact: MINOR
Illinois – Gardner only got one catch for 17 yards in a game where Michigan didn’t have to do much to whip the Illini. His grab converted a 3rdand 10 on a drive that ultimately resulted in a punt. The only thing of note in this game is that Denard leaves the game with an injury to his throwing arm in the third quarter. Bellomy comes in at QB and hands off a lot until Denard returns. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Michigan State - Gardner tallies a single catch for 13 yards on a drive that ends with Michigan punting. Devin actually has a pretty poor game here running some sloppy routes and not making some big catches due to some poor footwork. Still, Michigan wins despite his lackluster performance because Drew Dileo is the mother-fucking threat. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
Nebraska - Devin had no receptions from Denard before DOOM. His sole reception for 15 yards from Bellomy is described by Brian as “Inexplicable Laser to Devin Gardner”. Once Denard is out, the only way Devin can help Michigan in this game is by going back in time and prepping to be the back-up for this game…argh. Impact: NEGLIGIBLE
So….what does this tell us? Well, I guess if the hope of the coaching staff was for Gardner to come in and become Hemingway 2.0; ummm… that didn’t happen. It’s pretty easy to argue that Gardner only played a decisive factor in just one game as a receiver. I don’t think any of us at this point would hesitate to trade a loss to Air Force for a win over Nebraska and a spot in the B1G CG. Granted, without the benefit of hindsight back in September, under this scenario, the board meltdown after an Air Force loss and 0-2 start would’ve been epic.
Still I believe the decision to move Gardner to wide receiver is pretty defensible because getting your 11 best athletes on the field at the same time is usually a pretty good idea. The decision in my mind becomes a little less defensible after the ND game only because Borges seemed to shy away from a balanced passing attack with Denard helming the offense. Of course, the Denard-lead offense and the Devin-lead offense were two completely different things, which may explain why Devin was never really considered for moving back to QB until absolutely necessary. In the end, Borges and Hoke pushed all their chips in on Denard staying healthy and crapped out.
The takeaway from all this for me is to follow the advice espoused by Magnus. You take a QB in every recruiting class. Make sure you have a viable alternative at the QB spot because you never know when you’ll need that guy. Hoke and company learned that lesson the hard way this year.
At pre- and mid-season, I read some tea leaves. I suggested two schemata for understanding our performance during the regular season: Star Wars films and Indiana Jones films. Here's how we fared.
1. Star Wars: what was predicted vs. what happened:
Scenario: A disappointing year where we don’t see enough improvement from Denard in terms of interceptions and
/orthe D-lineO-line and /ort hose things are fine butsomeone really important named Denard gets injured. There are, however, some redeeming factors. Like Natalie PortmanJake Ryan and kid Boba FettDevin Gardner.
Record: 8-4. Losses to Alabama and ND, plus
2 out of 3 among MSU/Nebraska/OhioNebraska and Ohio.
Probability: (p = .19) Is this possible? Yes. With a likely downgrade of performance on the
D-lineO-line, we might have some problems with the smashmouthy, max-protect MANBALL + occasional play-action offenses that proliferate in our conferencethe 5 competent defenses we play this year, and went 1-4 against them. Without much depth on the O-line and at other key positionsat quarterback, we are an injury away from experiencing Molk-in-2009 2.0. On the other hand, is this probable? No. It’s not. We are returning so many starters that I have a hard time seeing us lose this many games. Plus, second year of system, etc.Yes.
Analysis: I clearly overestimated the difficulties Mattison would face turning a rag-tag band of washouts, role players, former walkons and underclassmen into an all-conference defense that did its best to win 3 of the 4 games we lost, but couldn't do it alone. I also clearly underestimated the difficulties Al Borges would face turning an all-conference offense returning 7 starters and a senior quarterback (with a chance to break a number of NCAA records) into an all-conference offense. Some of this can be blamed on chance--I mean, does anyone think we lose that Nebraska game if Denard gets up and plays 4 quarters? But OMG that second half against Ohio. I will have nightmares for months about rhythm-breaking, too-obvious Denard run packages and trying to get 3 yards up the middle when the middle = DEATH and the edges = LIFE. Sorry, Al: I like you but that was mean.
Verdict: Attack of the Clones
2. Indiana Jones: what was predicted vs. what happened
Scenario: We end up in a chaotic place where evil ones eat monkey brains and pull the hearts out of still-living captives. We make it out alive.
Record: 8-4. Racist stereotyping aside, this was an okay film. Rephrased, we could say an 8-4 season is “adequate but problematic.” That’s a good way to describe a scenario in which we lose 2 of the 5 losable games (
probablyat Ohio plus one we-should-have-taken-them loss, at Nebraska), but still get to a decentish bowl game. Maybethis year it’s evennot good enough to get to the conference championship, and a clear path to the Rose Bowl (where we’d getNebraska gets to play any one of the several Pac-12 teams that are currently ranked higher than we are). It would also be a disappointing, but not too disappointing, end to the whole spread-option experiment, which is exactly what it is.
Probability: (p = .40). This is what the math and the Mathlete think is going to happen. It’s
probablythe most rational prediction at this point, given our high-ish ceiling in a mediocre conference, but also our occasional, sometimes-inexplicable regression to the mean. If you are a betting man/woman, and like to make your bets cautiously, put your money here.
Analysis: Well, that was basically on the money, aside from a too-optimistic view of what other teams would do. Nebraska beat us to the Big 10 Championship Game.
Verdict: Temple of Doom
An Imaginary Interview that Clarifies Everything
Temple of Doom is a much better film than Attack of the Clones. How can we be both at the same time?
Well, imaginary interviewer, the reason for that is simple: my expectations were higher, and less realistic, pre-season. After the sobering beat-down against Alabama and the excruciating interception/fumble-fest at Notre Dame, 8-4 went from "unlikely but possible" to "among the most likely scenarios" in my mind. So yeah, I didn't have the same rosy outlook, so to speak.
But let's be honest, an 8-win season isn't so terrible, historically speaking.
There's some truth to this. We won 7 in 1994, and 8 in 1995 and 1996 (all years in which our regular season had 11, not 12 games in it). Then we won the national championship in 1997. On the other side of the coin, we would have been extremely happy with an 8-win season under Rich Rodriguez.
What's the big deal, then? Why are we either a really crappy movie or the 2nd-worst out of 4?
Expectations, my friend. Given what we accomplished last year, our returning offensive talent and the weak conference we played in this year, most of us thought we could do better.
So what happened?
Other than Alabama, who were clearly a lot better than us, the other teams who beat us were not better than us. This is what feels so supremely frustrating, to me and to others. In a sense, it comes down to "should have, would have, could have." We "should have" beaten Notre Dame, but shot ourselves in the foot with a plethora of ill-timed and boneheaded turnovers. We committed 6 and lost by 7 points...excruciating. We "would have" beaten Nebraska if Denard hadn't gone down, and possibly if Devin Gardner had been practicing as a QB as well. Of course, it might not have gone down that way (see: Notre Dame), but it sure looked like it was trending that way. Finally, we "could have" beaten Ohio if our second-half playcalling on offense hadn't been so predictable and stubborn. I mean, if a specific package made it 99% obvious to me what play we were going to run, you can rest assured it was 99.9% obvious to Luke Fickell. And why on earth would we come to believe that, out of nowhere, we had a power running game? On the other hand, with all that frustration, it's easy to forget that Ohio outgained us by a good chunk of yardage. But at least, with 1) better 3rd and 4th down play calls; 2) some outside short passing to pull defenders out of the box; 3) less obvious Denard-is-about-to-run plays; and 4) such as having both Denard and Devin in the backfield at the same time; we would have had a chance to win The Game.
How do you feel? Are you okay?
Yes, I'm fine. Sort of.
What about next year?
We'll be replacing 3 out of 5 on the O-line--with the real possibility that we'll be replacing 4 instead. Our recent recruits are talented but will be young and inexperienced, and after this year, my confidence in our offensive coaching has significantly declined. On the other hand, Devin looked sharp in relief of Denard, our defense should be as good or better and our schedule looks, for the most part, easier than it was this year. I don't think we'll be great, but I don't think we'll be terrible either. That will be the last year of the (mostly painful) post-Carr transition started in 2007. Then we'll be a big, angry team of maulers with an aggressive-minded coach in a larger and diluted conference. So long-term good, short-term "meh."
See you after the bowl game :)
I have been a member of the community since January 4, 2009. I did, however, read off and on beginning when I was in Afghanistan in 2007. ( Found the site by searching about who the next coach would be). Needless to say, over time, I have read some great stories, epic meltdowns and comments that did make me legitimately laugh out loud.
The reason why I decided to post this is to shed light on the postives that can come, individually, from other readers to another. I saw an add just a moment ago on here about curing Cystic Fibrosis. That took me back to March 26, 2010.... or you can just read here. http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/ot-reason-4-billion-hate-ohiovery-personal
The helpful attitude and well wishes that were given that day gave me and my G/F(who ended up being my wife) the motivation to not take no for an answer. As several readers noted in the content, we were able to get our feet in the door at the lovely university of Michigan health system. While going through all the workup for the transplant we were engaged and eventually married on the day of the Big Chill or 12-11-10.
Sadly, while trying to get her health better my wife went into the hospital to gain weight on May 24, 2011 and suddenly became even more unhealthy until her eventual passing on July 3, 2011. The moral of all of this is that this blog is more to me than just sports and although I know some readers and contributors may not like the way the blog has turned lately I can still look back on its immense positive contribution to my life.
There was another specific night that that MGoBlog made better. The wife was very hungry(CF patients are tiny, but not for lack of appetite), so we were going to go out to eat. However, we had to wait for oxygen supplies to be delivered to our place before leaving. Long story short, they missed the drop off time by multiple hours. The only saving grace that night was MGoBlog, and more to the point, CRex's stories about the Korean in laws. Those great stories put a smile on her face and were a memory she'd reference from time to time until her passing.
Just remember, that although for the most part you may think you're unheard/seen your positive and educated responses can change someone's day and potentially life for the better. Even though she wasn't able to get the transplant, it was because of this blog that we were given idea, and in turn given a chance.
Thank you MGoCommunity
MODS- As always, if you feel this doesn't need to be on here feel free to delete.
Her and I about 3 months before she passed.