"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
2013 will be remembered as "The Season of Infinite Pain" for me, and for many others, I suspect. High expectations have a way of making even good seasons frustrating; 2013 has been well-below "good." Not only did we fail to compete for a B1G Championship, we had our expectations boosted after a magical performance against Notre Dame, only to be crushed by consecutive weeks of struggling to beat two of the worst programs in college football.
I was going to wait until after the bowl game to write this diary, but this lull is killing me and let's face it--the BWW Bowl isn't going to change much.
This series is something of a follow-up to my diary re-ranking players based on Rivals ratings. Reading the beginning of that diary will help explain the player's rankings (as well as the Rivals ranking system). Additionally, I've added letter grades, which are explained more thoroughly at the end of the post, so that we can get down to business with the first position group in the series:
Season Grade: C+ Overall, it was a less-than-stellar year on the defensive front. My pre-season predictions said the fate of our season rested on the offensive and defensive lines, and I believe that turned out to be the case. The D-Line produced just 13.5 sacks, and only one player on the line had more than 2.5. The "right to rush four" was never earned, and the season suffered because of it.
That said, there were some positive signs. Frank Clark showed marked improvement, and Willie Henry emerged as a viable option to replace either QWash or Black in 2014. Wormley started to emerge in limited snaps, and other young guns like Ojemudia and Charlton showed flashes.
Big things were expected of Frank Clark in 2013
Season Grade: B+ To say Frank Clark made a big jump this year would be an understatement: he had 17 more tackles, 3.5 more TFLs, and 3.0 more sacks than in 2012. More importantly, he played much more consistently and held down his job as the WDE all season. He led the team in TFLs by a whopping 5.0, and many of those came against some strong opposition (2.5 vs. Iowa, 2.5 vs. MSU).
That said, the off-season hype and reports of him besting Taylor Lewan in practice pushed expectations to a probably unreasonable level, and he did not come through. I predicted that we would need at least eight sacks from Frank Clark if our defense was going to get the requisite amount of pressure on opposing passers to make 2013 a successful (B1G Champs) season. Not only did he fall far short of that number, his five sacks all came in three games: UConn, Penn State, and Indiana. In hindsight, we sure needed those sacks against UConn and PSU, but they weren't enough to win the game. His pass-rushing was pretty quiet--even though he deserved a few more QBH's, he only finished the season with seven (which led the team), and had just three in B1G play.
2014 outlook: It says here (again) that without significant production from Frank Clark (or a surprise at WDE), the whole 2014 team's ceiling is limited. It is vital for every 4-3 team to be able to produce consistent pressure from their front four, and the WDE is the guy with the best opportunities in our system. If Clark can't get to eight sacks in '14, we'll once again find ourselves in the middle-of-the-pack (#67 nationally in 2013 with 23.0 total) in sacks. That is not a good place to be.
Jibreel Black will be missed
Season Grade: B Jibreel Black is the kind of player you like more every time you see him play. I believe he was our most consistent performer on the line this year, even plugging-in at NT despite his 278 lb. frame. Black, by far, produced the most pressure from the interior of the line, and probably produced the most consistent pass-rush of anyone on the team.
Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough. He was tied for second (Cam Gordon) on the team with 7.5 TFLs and third (Chris Wormley) with 2.5 sacks. On the defensive line, only Clark and Willie Henry had more tackles. Yes, he was a productive player, but this needs to be the baseline for DTs if we are going to achieve our potential as an elite program. For Jibreel Black, I see a guy who maxed his potential and deserves to be remembered for his worthy contribution. But I also see a guy who stood out more than he should have because of pretty poor production by the D-Line as a unit.
NFL draft outlook: Black is a fringe prospect, IMO, with a minimal chance of being a FA pick-up.
Quinton Washington's 2013 was a bit of a mystery
Season Grade: C+ I call shenanigans. QWash finished the 2012 season strong--he had ten tackles in our last three games and a sack in the Outback Bowl--and appeared poised to be one of the team's most important pieces in 2013. While no confirmed injuries were reported that I am aware of, I believe there were some physcial issues that held him back this year. But that's just speculation.
What is certain is that his season was just mediocre. We needed him to eat blocks and make a few plays each game; he didn't do enough of either, registered zero TFLs on the season and just five solo stops. Expectations probably hovered around 35 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, and 3.0 sacks; he was far short of all of those marks. Sure, part of it was that we frequently had smaller DL packages out there, but if QWash had been playing up to his potential, I don't think Mattison would have kept him on the sideline. He was serviceable while he was in, but that's about the best I can say.
NFL draft outlook: Not happening. He appeared poised to be a late-round pick after last year, but a completely lackluster senior season seems to have erased that possibility.
It's remarkable that we never established a starter at SDE. Keith Heitzman was the presumed and nominal guy, but only started seven times and didn't even play in one of our games. Brennen Beyer is currently listed as the starter at SDE, and he spent most of the season playing SLB with his 250 lb. frame. It is not good that he is our best option at that position. Chris Wormely showed signs that he can play up to his lofty potential, but did not produce consistently. Matt Godin was sometimes on the field.
Willie Henry figures to start at either DT or NT in 2014. Despite playing in only nine games (and missing stat-boosters CMU and Akron) and starting just five, Henry racked-up 28 tackles and 2.5 TFLs. 13 of those tackles came in the final three games. QWash's 2013 fade gives me pause, but I will go ahead and predict a big 2014 for Henry anyway, in the 40 tackle range with about 10 TFLs. Tom Strobel (whom I wrongly predicted would have a breakout 2013) will also figure into the rotation here, and perhaps Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst.
Beyer is the presumed starter at SDE, and, as Brian says, will likely fulfill his Roh 2.0 destiny. He will add 20-30 lbs. in the off-seasn and be solid but not spectacular, just as he has been this year. He will be reviewed again in the LB wrap-up.
Ondre Pipkins will probably be our starting NT if he can get healthy; that is a big "if" for a 300-plus pounder who's had trouble staying in shape when his legs worked properly. If it's not him, please feel free to panic as Richard Ash is currently listed as the #2 option at NT. After that? Ryan Glasgow is the only other guy with the requisite size (and the aforementioned Henry, which requires plugging someone else in at DT) to play the position. Perhaps Hurst will become a NT; Bryan Mone will be a true freshman and is likely to get some snaps.
Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton represent what I believe to be the most talented group of back-ups on the roster, and I expect both to contribute. Charlton may very well be big enough to play SDE and even DT on passing downs, and I hope we find a combination of players that can get pressure on third down without blitzing, which may put Ojemudia at the SDE.
The line will lose its interior starters in Qwash and Black, but both are replaceable. Henry is likely to be an upgrade at either position, and in the other spot...well, we may miss Jibreel Black if someone doesn't step-up. At SDE, I expect Beyer to be an upgrade over the platoon this year. Even if he's not, I'd expect Wormley to be an upgrade.
To be an elite defensive front, we need our line to produce around 20 sacks. That's 50% more than this year's group could manage. While I believe Clark will take another step forward, Beyer will be solid, and I am excited about the future for Henry and Wormley, 2015 is when Hoke's recruiting will have the D-Line up to snuff. I expect a "B/B-" season in 2014...quite a bit better than this year, but not yet elite.
- A+ Consensus All-American. One of the best players in the country regardless of position.
- A Likely Second-tem All-American/First-team All-B1G. A hugely impactful player that affects every snap for which he is on the field and is one of the better players at his position in the country.
- A- Likely All-B1G selection. A play-maker that forces other teams to adjust their gameplan.
- B+ An impact player who is a big factor in the team's success.
- B "The expectation for the position." At Michigan, this means you are doing your job well enough to get us to at least 10 wins and to challege for the B1G title.
- B- Not quite up to par. A player who may start, but an upgrade would be helpful.
- C+ Significant snaps for a C+ player will hold the team back from achieving its goals: 10 wins and a B1G championship.
- C An average college football player on an average team. Picture an average starter at Washington State.
- C- A player that is consistently unproductive and should only be on the field in an emergency situation or for garbage time.
- D+ A player whose performance hurts the team.
- D A player that should not be on the field for any reason at Michigan.
- F Pure disaster.
Please note that these grades are NOT representative of what I believe to be a player's future potential. I am not assuming anyone with a low grade will turn out to be an unproductive player at Michigan.
All stats can be found at USCHO.com
|Team||(First Place Votes)||Record||Points||Last Poll|
|2||Ferris State||(12)||14- 2-3||914||4|
|4||St. Cloud State||( 4)||11- 2-3||855||1|
|5||Providence||( 2)||11- 2-3||834||5|
|7||Boston College||10- 4-2||688||6|
|13||Notre Dame||10- 7-1||364||13|
|18||Lake Superior||10- 7-1||152||17|
|20||Minnesota State||11- 7-0||67||NR|
In this week's poll Michigan stays at #3 and still does not receive a first place vote. Ferris State jumps the Wolverines to go into the break at #2.
St. Cloud State drops to #4 after their series loss to Union, and Minnesota regains the top spot after losing it a week ago.
The third Big Ten team in the poll is Wisconsin who moves up 1 spot to #14 after sweeping Colorado College.
|#||Team||RPI||W-L||Win%||W-L Rank||SOS||SOS Rank|
|4||St. Cloud State||.5968*||11-2-3||.7812||4t||.5272||11|
In the RPI rankings Michigan, Ferris State and St Cloud State have fallen below .6000.
The Wolverines two losses have this season have come against #10 UMass-Lowell and Nebraska-Omaha. UNO has been up and down this season but one loss to a .5268 RPI team isn't the end of the world.
Our best win is #7 Boston College (.5759). While the Boston University (.5097) win isn't as good as we thought, they're hanging on as a TUC team right now.
The state of Michigan has four teams below .5000: Michigan Tech (.4914), Western Michigan (.4818), Northern Michigan (.4731) and Michigan State (.4545).
Big Ten Standings
|Team||Big Ten||W||L||T||SO||Win %||PTS||GF-GA||Overall||W||L||T||Win%||GF-GA|
The Big Ten is almost what we thought it would be coming into this season.
Penn State and Michigan State have not beaten a team above .500 this season in regulation. Ohio State skates hard but they're not ready to compete for a Top-3 spot in the conference.
The difference between preseason and now is Wisconsin. The Badgers have beaten all of the bad teams on their schedule and lost to most of the good teams. They're talented, experienced and play like a team of individuals.
Michigan is the clear #2 in the conference. Right now they aren't on the level of Minnesota, so a few upsets will be needed to challenge for the Big Ten Title.
Now that the regular season has ended for football we can spend the next couple of weeks reflecting on the various decisions and outcomes. I’m sure smarter people than I will analyze coaching and schematic decisions. Instead, I’ll address another topic that comes up often on the blog: the subject of red-shirting players. This post will look at the freshman class in the context of which ones were able to redshirt and which ones weren’t. Then we can debate these outcomes with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.
What makes this season so unusual was the significant number of close games. I suspect that after the first two wins over WMU and Notre Dame that the coaches were planning to give some young players some garbage time minutes against Akron and UConn to see if they would be viable rotation players later in the season. We all know how that turned out – with no other “blowout” wins the rest of the season except for Minnesota (how did that happen again?) and thus limited snaps for players who had seen garbage time minutes at the beginning of the season. You have to wonder how some players would have developed (Dymonte Thomas for example) had they been able to play more significant minutes early in the season.
Before we begin, let’s discuss the philosophy we’ll use when analyzing these players. You have no doubt heard Brian talk about the need to redshirt any player who isn’t an active member of the two deep. A classic example would be his man-crush – Dennis Norfleet. Instead of playing him a handful of snaps his entire freshman year, why not redshirt him and gain the benefit of a fifth season? In general I would agree with Brian’s philosophy – a healthy program redshirts as many players as possible, especially in the trenches. Wisconsin and Michigan State are good examples of this right now. However, I will cut the coaches some slack because I think Michigan is trying to build a program and dealing with limited upper classmen in the depth chart. If someone can help on special teams or with more practice time in the two-deep, we need them to play to make sure this coaching staff is in place when they are seniors (especially considering the recruiting success thus far under Hoke – more good players are on the way). Likewise, there are some recruits that may have a limited ceiling and may help the program the most in a limited role – picture Royce Jenkins-Stone – and getting them on the field for four years rather than five likely has a limited effect overall.
Now on to the 2013 freshman. I think we need a CHART. What you’ll see here is a list of the redshirts* and my assessment as to whether the correct decision was made by the coaches. Obviously the coaches know best and this is just one man's opinion of the redshirt status, but it should generate some interesting discussion in the comments.
|QB||Shane Morris||No||Necessary||Given that he played only one useless series against MSU and a single play when Gardner lost his helmet after the WMU game, it is tempting to say he should have redshirted. Unfortunately, the Bellamy injury made it necessary to develop him and he probably should have seen the field more to give Gardner a rest – we just couldn’t open up the lead enough. Tough call – he probably had to play.|
|RB||Derrick Green||No||Good||He got a fair number of carries and considering the struggles of the running game he probably should have gotten more.|
|RB||DeVeon Smith||No||Good||Given the promise he showed in limited carries and the struggles of the offense you can’t argue burning his redshirt, but you can argue they should have used him more. Prior to the Northwestern game I was advocating for him to have a mysterious back injury like Devin Gardner to reclaim his redshirt since he went weeks without seeing a carry. But in hindsight, he should have been given more carries, not a redshirt.|
|FB||Wyatt Shallman||Yes||Good||Given the depth at the position and his previous injuries, it was the right decision.|
|TE||Jake Butt||No||Good||Excellent decision as he was the only useful TE on the roster this year and should be a major contributor next season.|
|TE||Khalid Hill||Yes||Good||Considering how poorly the TE’s played for much of the season, it is tempting to have thrown him out there and see what you have. But remember that blocking was their issue and undersized freshmen are not going to be good at blocking…unless they come from Pahokee, FL.|
|WR||Da'Mario Jones||No||Poor||When your only notable play from the season is accidentally touching a muffed punt, a redshirt was probably warranted. If the coaches weren’t going to play him on offense but like his future, why not redshirt him?|
|WR||Jaron Dukes||Yes||Good||Hardly any young WR got significant snaps, wise to redshirt.|
|WR||Csont'e York||No||Questionable||Given that on paper neither Dukes or York project to be significant contributors with more heralded recruits at their position on the way, why not put one of them on special teams instead of Jones?|
|OL||Kyle Bosch||No||Questionable||When a guy starts multiple games you figure it was the correct decision to burn his redshirt. On top of that, this OL class had a full six members to it so splitting up their eligibility isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But given Bosch’s struggles and the fact that he ended up losing his job, you have to wonder if someone else (Kalis, Bryant, Miller, Braden, Bars) could have performed just as well.|
|Yes||Good||Had Kugler been healthy you have to wonder if he would have been the next man up in the revolving door that was the OL this season, but it was the right decision to keep all of these redshirts and hope for the best next season.|
|DL||Taco Charlton||No||Good||He made little impact, but he did end up a part of the rotation late in the season so it is hard to fault his playing time. Next season he should compete at WDE and SDE so the experience should help.|
|Yes||Good||Interior defensive linemen rarely contribute as freshman and you should try to keep their redshirts if at all possible (*cough* Will Campbell *cough*). Both could be in the rotation at positions of need next season and emulate the emergence of Willie Henry.|
|LB||Ben Gedeon||No||Good||When you have three viable LB in the rotation along with another playing significant snaps on special teams you would hope to redshirt a guy like Gedeon. But he was forced to play due to injury and actually did reasonably well.|
|LB||Mike McCray||Yes||Good||As a “tweener” linebacker with a lot of depth in front of him it was good to keep his redshirt.|
|No||Good||They had their struggles at times and you have to wonder if Hollowell could have emulated their performance, but you didn’t need to redshirt all of the freshmen. Their snaps were actually pretty high and they shared the “first DB off the bench” title this season. The two of them will compete for the nickel, safety, and dime positions next season.|
|Yes||Good||We had a glut of unheralded corners on the team this year so it was good to redshirt at least a couple of them.|
|DB||Dymonte Thomas||No||Good||He represents the biggest difference between expectation and performance of anyone in the class. That probably isn’t fair to him since our expectations were likely inflated, but it is a reality. The five star recruit was expected to be a major part of the rotation and instead barely played. He had an amazing blocked punt to start the season and then vanished until late when he struggled in a cameo at nickel back. His development next season will be very interesting as we desperately need help at safety, yet two of his classmates have passed him at nickel back and Peppers joins the squad in a similar capacity. Having his athleticism patrolling at free safety sounds intriguing, but he has a long way to go and lots of other DBs ahead of him on the depth chart.|
|DB||Delano Hill||No||Good||He was a constant presence on special teams and looks more like a linebacker than a safety out there…impressive for a freshman. Considering we need to find a starting safety for next season, getting game experience for a physically mature freshman isn’t a bad thing.|
|LS||Scott Sypniewski||Yes||Good||He’s a long snapper….|
If you look at the overall results, only D’Mario Jones jumps out as a major miss by the coaches. I would count Bosch, Morris, and York as questionable. Bosch and Morris were almost forced by the depth chart and injuries. York probably should have kept his redshirt, but his fifth year likely has limited value considering the incoming talent and depth at the position. That is a better result than I expected when I started this so I guess I have to applaud the coaches for their overall success in this area.
I wanted to end with my two-cents on Shane Morris. We can shake our fists at a variety of circumstances that prevented his redshirt this season, but let’s talk about next year. I’ve seen several comments on the board about trying to redshirt him next season. This is an interesting idea and has its upside. Certainly if Gardner plays 95% of the snaps next season you’d want to redshirt him and use Bellamy for emergency situations. But I don’t agree with that strategy. I think you need to take the opposite approach – Morris should play as much as the situation allows. Just to be clear, in no way am I advocating benching Gardner. What I’m actually suggesting is that the coaches should be trying to get Gardner out of the game more often to keep him healthy and get Morris snaps. We will need a starting quarterback in 2015 and getting real snaps can only help. Obviously we need to be able to get ahead to afford us the opportunity to pull Gardner, but I think they should also be more comfortable giving Gardner a series or two off so he can pick rib cartilage from his jersey.
Assuming Morris plays next season, he’ll have two years as a starter after Gardner leaves with Bellamy and Speight behind him. When Morris graduates you’ll have Speight as a junior ready to take over the spot and 2-3 more new recruits from 2015 and 2016 filling out the depth chart. The only scenario where I think redshirting Morris next season makes sense is if you think Bellamy is your second best QB and he is a legitimate contender to start in 2015. Otherwise I want Morris ready to step in right away if Gardner gets hurt or when he graduates.
* Note – There are a couple of players that I was a little unsure of so if you have conflicting information, post in the comments and I’ll update the chart.
There seems to be a contrast of expectations that are somewhat contradictory, the aims of short-run success versus long-run program reputation
When it comes to a power program like Michigan, what evidence should be used to judge the job performance of coaches? There are the usual types of milestones and accomplishments thrown out (division titles, conference titles, BCS games). But I submit that by examining the make-up and changes in winning percentage is the main indicator in the way in which a coach should be judged. The ancillary rewards such as conference championships are rewards for wins and with a high enough winning percentages, those correlated accolades will accrue as the winning percentage increases.
The longer the sample, the less the impact of any one record from any given year would change the program success. On the other hand though, a large change from the program’s winning percentage prior the arrival of that coach to the five-years after his arrival would signal a “great coach” who could “bend the curve of a program’s trajectory”. I took the last six coaches for Michigan and looked at what the evidence shows in terms of success or failure.
If the last three years of the previous coach were poor records wise, then it is likely, the standard set of criteria for success would be, “Has this coach exceeded the results of the last coach?” For most programs, an affirmative answer to this question would result in the coach gaining the confidence of the fan/alumni base. But with Michigan (and other power programs), the next set of criteria would be, “Has the coach matched or exceeded the winning percentage of the program overall?”
When it comes to Brady Hoke, he has clearly met the first set of standards. Rich Rodriguez started from a nearly .700 winning percentage from Lloyd Carr’s tenure. He took this base and promptly shit the bed. By the empirical evidence of winning percentage, Rich Rodriguez is likely the worst coach in modern Michigan football history. The program was in better shape when Bo took over from Bump, so Hoke did not have a high bar to clear to clear the short-run collective memories of Rodriguez. In fact, Hoke’s increase in winning percentage of nearly 28 percentage points is second only to Bo, so he’s clearly a positive over Rodriguez.
The next, more macro set of standards is where the ennui with Hoke begins to set in. Examining the winning percentages on a season by season basis helps to simplify the overall trends and trajectory of a program with attempt to eliminate some of the randomness which can occur on a game to game and even season to season set of events which may limit the overall explanatory capability of the statistic. The power program and winning percentage are a gift and a curse. The gift is that the history helps with the overall great program sell and helps to perpetuate that this school has always been good therefore it will continue to be good mindset. The curse is that if the coach does not meet the historical standards set, he is considered a failure.
This presents a problem because a standard set over two different types of measurements is sure to create disappointment. In the case of Hoke, he has already met the short-run standards, which is a good thing. In his mind he can point to the crater which Rodriguez left and he has begun to fill it in and erect a new statue of success. But since this is a power program, Hoke’s success is relative. Hoke is currently less than the overall winning percentage of the program, .682 (depending on the results of the Copper Bowl) vs. about .735 (using stats from 1892 forward), this is better than the gap between the first few seasons of Bump and RichRod, but it falls short of Carr, Moeller and Bo. In fact, Hoke’s track record indicates that he is somewhat of a slow starter when it comes to his early coaching record versus the overall program’s record.
In contrast, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer and Les Miles have met or exceeded the program long-run average at nearly every stop they have been at (Saban at MSU has a similar profile to Hoke at M vis-à-vis program avg.)
The mark of a good coach is that they made their teams better. The mark of a great coach is that they made their programs better. Both Saban (LSU and Bama) and Meyer (FLA and Ohio) took decent to good programs and made them better. Miles also built upon a strong LSU program and did not regress even with the pace that Saban had set before him.
The other remarkable evidence in recent times are made up of four coaches at three power programs and one decent/good program. Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Bob Stoops and Mark Richt all set examples of blistering beginnings that M should push to emulate in the next two years.
Carroll and Stoops in particular took power programs and strengthened their long-run advantages.
Hoke’s numbers so far look more like Mack Brown and John Cooper, numbers which are underwhelming to say the least. Mack’s CEO style relies on maintaining the advantage of the program to pull in the best recruits. From Tulane to North Carolina and finally to Texas, Brown’s numbers are not earth-shattering, but they do offer a model for program consistency, if not extreme short-run success.
So, that leaves the questions which is the title to this diary, how many wins does Hoke need to keep his job (using the power program winning percentage as a central metric). Assuming that Hoke does win the Copper Bowl, to maintain the program's long-run success factor, Hoke must win 20 games in the next two seasons. This may sound unreachable sitting here today, but it could be 9 in 2014 and 11 in 2015, the distribution of the wins in a particular year does not matter, but Hoke needs those 20 wins to run his type of program.
This record assumes 10 wins evenly in both years. The power program strategy that Hoke is utilizing relies on the belief that that M is indeed a power thus attracting the recruits who want to be at said power. If that belief is lost, there could be a feedback loop whereas the loss of prestige eats away at the base which believes in that prestige and the entire program continues on this plateau of blah.
DEFENSIVE SUMMARY FOR 2013
In this particular diary, we shall give the defense a similar treatment to the offense, which was dissected in a diary last week.
One thing that I will say right now, however, is that when you look at the numbers in isolation, you wouldn’t necessarily have too much to really criticize, at least not terribly harshly. There were a couple “off” performances if you will, but many good ones as well. On a yards allowed basis, per the NCAA site, Michigan would be 38thin the FBS, which is perhaps not what we would have hoped at the beginning of the season, but in my mind, being in the upper third on the list means you’re at minimum above average to good in most of the more important metrics. If nothing else, games were kept manageable.
AVG. COMP. %
AVG. YDS PER COMP.
AVG. YDS PER ATT.
AVG. YDS PER CARRY
AVG. NO. PLAYS
AVG. YDS PER PLAY
The above table is the summary breakdown of performance on defense. As mentioned, we were 38thoverall, but that includes being ranked 28thin rushing defense and 60thin passing defense. One thing about these numbers - and it will be discussed a little more in-depth later – is that they are also good for 33rdin pass efficiency defense.
WHAT WE ALLOWED:
This graph below is similar to one that was in the offensive summary, showing you yards per play allowed with yards per rush and yards per completion overlaid onto it. You may note the relatively close relationship between yards per play and yards per completion. I believe it ties back to the difference between pass defense and pass efficiency defense and how the two can be quite different for teams.
So, what you see here is nothing new – there were two notably subpar performances against Indiana and Ohio State. On a yards per play basis, there were some notably good performances against Central Michigan, Northwestern and Connecticut. There was a lot in between, but mainly very good work overall by the Michigan defense in limiting the success of opponents enough to keep games within reach.
The relationship between passing yards allowed and overall yards allowed will look somewhat similar. Actually, here is the normalized graph for rushing, passing and the total.
Save for the Ohio State game, they tend to trail each other. Our success on defense was very much predicated on our success stopping teams in the air.
POINTS PER PLAY AND ITS UPS AND DOWNS:
There is some debate about the overall usefulness of points per play as a metric, but I happen to think it gives a rather good 10,000-foot view of how hard you’re making a team work to score against you. Here is what that looks like for our defense this year:
The trendline doesn’t say much given the R-value, but it doesn’t tell a terrible tale overall (again, two games stand out as no so great performances). Indeed, we had eight games where this number was 0.40 or less, so we weren’t doing a bad job of making teams work to score.
The disparity between measuring pass defense in terms of mere yards allowed versus efficiency, which takes into consideration things like touchdown and interception percentages, has always been an interesting talking point, I think. Here is what passing yards versus passing efficiency looked like for Michigan’s defense:
Again, the trend tells a story you probably knew. Throughout the season, teams threw less, but the strikes were increasingly more surgical in their nature. The R-values are again low here, but there is a vague tendency in both cases. It could have something to do with the styles of the passing offenses we faced, but what it does say is that we were doing a good job of making opposing QBs look relatively inefficient most of the time, but when they connected, it was probably a play that stung.
THE CONTRIBUTIONS ON THE GROUND AND IN THE AIR:
The next two graphs show the relative contributions of passing and rushing to yards allowed. In summary, as the season wore on, teams began to throw a little less and run a little more in relative terms, but relating it back to the id of efficiency, it shows how much the plays that were successful meant perhaps to the outcome of the game.
Here is the frequency of rushing and passing against Michigan:
Again, this is more or less presented without comment as many of my diaries are, but overall, the defense does deserve credit for what it managed to achieve all the same this year.
1. The Six Factors
|Exp Score||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
*All TD’s counted as 7 points, regardless of PAT outcome
Michigan finally got what it wanted on offense. They found the big plays, stayed out of bad third downs, converted the ones they had. Unfortunately that was paired with the defense flipping the script. After being a bend but don’t break unit, they mostly broke against the Buckeyes. The 71% early conversion was the second highest number of the Big Ten season behind only the 74% Ohio State achieved against Purdue.
2. Individual Game Scores
QBs: Opp. Adjusted EV, Win percent added (National Rank)
Devin Gardner: +23.9, +91% (2)
Braxton Miller: +18.9, +63% (3)
Derrick Green: –0.8, –3% (91)
Carlos Hyde: +7.4, +26% (3)
Jeremy Gallon: +12.9, +32% (6)
Jake Butt: +8.0, +29% (39)
Drew Dileo: +7.4, +26% (44)
Devin Smith: +5.5, +13% (88)
Although it was painful to watch Carlos Hyde abuse the interior of the Michigan defense again, it should be noted he is having an extremely underrated season. Hyde is currently +5.4 on the season, the best season average since 2003. Reggie Bush is the only other player to crack +5 in a season and only JJ Arrington and Melvin Gordon have been +4. It is very difficult for a running back to create significant value, especially over a large number of carries, but Carlos Hyde has done it at a level not seen in the last decade.
Jeremy Gallon finished the year first among all Big Five receivers nationally at +8.5. His omission from the First team All Big Ten was appalling. Devin Funchess finished the year fourth among all players listed as tight ends and 83rd for all players with a +4.6 receiving.
Devin Gardner’s season has certainly been up and down, but he currently holds two of the top six opponent adjusted games on the season (Ohio St and Indiana) and 3 of the top 50 (including Notre Dame). If Michigan can shore up its offensive line and Gardner can protect the ball, he should be in line for a big step forward, even though this season nearly cracked the top 10 for quarterbacks.
There are three key ways I evaluate quarterbacks, EV+ which is an opponent adjusted look at how many points per game a QB is worth versus the average offensive play, WPA which is a measure of when those plays occurred and their contribution to the game result and point versus team replacement which is a measure of taking one player’s plays and replacing them with the average play that didn’t go through them. Devin Gardner was one of only two players to rank in the top 15 in all three metrics, Johnny Manziel being the second.
Devin’s EV+ for the season was +7.0, 12th in the country (Petty +12.3, Winston +10.9 and Manziel +10.4). His total win percent added was +440%, 3rd in the country (Carr +510%, Manziel +450%). His points versus team replacement was 103 points which was also third (Gilbert SMU +168, Schroeder Hawaii +127). Devin Gardner has his rough moments but there aren’t more than a handful of players this season I would trade his output for, let alone his perseverance.
3. Game Chart
6. +13% Gardner to Gallon for 84 yards
5. –13% Miller to Smith for a 53 yard touchdown on 3rd and 10
4. +15% Gardner hits Jake Butt for to tie the game at 35
3. –15% Braxton Miller runs for 33 yards on the opening play of OSU’s final drive
2. +21% Gardner to Toussaint for 29 yards to set up the final touchdown
1. –35% Michigan’s two point attempt fails
4. Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Last weekend, Hawaii punted from the Army 31 and it may have been the right call. Facing a 4th and 3 with about 30 seconds left, Hawaii held onto a 7 point lead in what would end up being their first win of the season. A first down would have ended the game, but after starting 0-11, Norm Chow’s Rainbow Warriors punted away, giving Army a 95 yard field and 24 seconds to try and tie the game. Most of the time this would get a dumb punt of the week, but we’ll give Hawaii a pass after this season.
Vanderbilt trailed Wake Forest by 3 early in the second half when the Commodores faced a 4th and 3 from the Wake 38 and opted for the punt over the try. Vanderbilt went on to win and Jim Grobe stepped down after the game. It’s hard to give the dumb punt to a winning team except in the most egregious cases.
Looking west, Colorado has hit on hard times of late, but 4 wins this year is actually a step forward. This weekend they trailed Utah by 14 and faced 4th and 2 at midfield. With seven minutes to go, down 2 scores, a makeable distance, going is not that hard of a call, right? Colorado decided that they didn’t want to risk it and punted away. Three minutes later they got the ball back, still down 2 scores, at the same spot. They got best case scenario and cost themselves 3 out of 7 minutes left.
Colorado gets your Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
5. The Shutout Streak
I raided Brian’s mailbag for a question:
Drew Hallett's blogpost about the non-shutout-streak mentions that Michigan is the most recent team to shutout Illinois, Indiana, MSU, Minnesota, OSU, and PSU, which is a neat stat.
I was wondering if there was any easy way to find which D1 team is the holder of "most recent shutout of the most other teams"? Seems like an interesting trivia answer to compute. Any idea?
Michigan’s six last shutout number is second in all of football. The fact that none of the six were against cupcakes makes it even more so. When the divisions switch next year, Michigan will have the last shutout against all four division foes from the 2013 Big Ten.
After crawling through the sports-reference.com archives, I found that the six team total is the second highest. Alabama currently holds the record with nine, tied at six against conference foes and adding three cupcakes to the total. Eight of the nine have come while Nick Saban was the coach.
For those looking in the rear view mirror in case Michigan gets shut out, the longest other active streaks in terms of dates (I didn’t bother to go to games) are:
Florida vs Auburn, 10/29/88
TCU vs Texas, 11/16/91
Air Force vs Ole Miss, 12/31/92
Ohio St vs Michigan, 11/20/93
Michigan has a full four year head start on Florida, but if both of the two teams survived this year’s offensive woes, it seems like the streak could last for a while. A few other observations:
- Ohio St, Michigan St, BYU, Texas, Mississippi St, Army, Oklahoma St and Auburn were all goose egged by rivals
- Four teams have their last shutout in a bowl games, besides LSU in the championship game all three others were on NYE games. Watch out if Michigan ends up playing on 12/31, it’s apparently the bowl day when offense’s take the whole night off.
- Behind Alabama and Michigan, Oklahoma has five last shutouts, followed by TCU, Ohio St, Nebraska and Florida St with 4.
- The median shutout is Tulsa’s 45-0 loss to Oklahoma on September 19, 2009
If you are curious how recent shutouts have occurred, here is a histogram of the season of the last shutout for every team in the FBS:
1997 and 2000 were apparently really good year’s to get shut out.
6. Prediction – Big Ten Title Game Edition
|Exp Pts||Conv Rate||Bonus Yards||Red Zone|
|OSU Off||27.0 (63/5)||81% (10/1)||185 (11/1)||5.5 (29/3)|
|MSU Def||22.7 (9/1)||59% (2/1)||90 (6/2)||4.0 (7/2)|
|MSU Off||29.4 (18/1)||70% (78/10)||113 (98/11)||4.4 (113/12)|
|OSU Def||22.8 (11/2)||72% (67/9)||115 (24/5)||5.3 (83/10)|
As much as I don’t want to watch this game for Michigan related reasons it fascinates me for other reasons. Elite shut down defenses aren’t built with three star defenses. It’s been done on offense, but rarely on defense. Michigan State has crafted their defense into an elite offense strangulation machine. They have not played a dynamic offense like Ohio St yet this year.
While the Michigan St defense’s attempt to shutdown Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde will be the matchup everyone will be watching, I think the game will be won on the other matchup. Ohio St’s defense is an OK unit, but the Michigan St offense still isn’t great. They are in the bottom three in the three key offensive metrics and while the Buckeyes don’t have Michigan State’s defense, they should have enough to keep things in check. I think the Spartans would need to go at least +2 in turnovers/special teams swing plays to pull this one out.
Ohio State 28 Michigan State 20