a terrible blight on our fine country
Inspired by this post on Football Study Hall, I decided to evaluate the B1G (+Rutgers and Maryland) using the advanced FEI statistics (which are explained here). These statistics take strength of schedule into account (raw numbers are here).
The figure below (click to embiggen) plots offensive F/+ on the y-axis and defensive F/+ on the x-axis. Good, balanced teams are in the upper right-hand corner, and bad teams are in the lower left-hand corner.
You can see that Indiana sticks out as a good-offense, bad-defense team, whereas MSU is a good-defense team that is average offensively. Only five teams are above-average on offense and defense: Northwestern, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
From a Michigan perspective, perhaps these numbers are encouraging. Despite all the problems with the running game, our offense is above average, both overall and within the B1G. So too is our defense, which will only get better as Jake Ryan works his way into the lineup. Unfortunately our upcoming schedule is difficult. We only play one more team that is on the negative side defensively (Indiana), and its offense ranks very highly. And of teams left on the schedule, only Iowa and Michigan State, both good defensive teams, have below-average offenses.
Is Borges TRYING to do this on first down?
Much has been made of Al Borges using first down much like the CFL uses fourth down. I wanted to know exactly what has been happening to us on first down this year. Is the play-calling really that bad, or is AB hamstrung by a turnover-prone QB? How stubborn is the play-calling? Are we a bad passing team on first down?
What's open for debate is whether or not Hoke is mandating the first down MANBALL attempt. What's not open for debate are the results:
Chart? Chart of 1st down rushing attempts. NYP = Negative Yardage Plays
This is the story you know. For me, it was even worse than I thought in one respect (NYP%) and better than I expected in another (YPP). The 3.5 YPP feels high, but that's because nearly one in five times we go backwards. And, 11 more times, we gained nothing. That means that 27.3% of the time--more than one in four plays--we end-up in 2nd and 10 or longer. Those are drive killers.
But that average still feels high...what's brining it up? Glad you asked. Gardner has only had one NYP on his first down attempts, and averages 4.9 YPA when he runs it. When you add in the WR runs with DG, the YPA jumps to 6.6. What this means is that if you remove the 21 attempts by non-RBs on first down, you end-up with 2.9 YPA. That's more like it.
So, 59% of the time, we're running our RBs on first down, and averaging 2.9 YPA. Even that sounds good (isn't that three yards and a cloud of dust?) until you remember that only TWO of the NYPs happened between the QB/WR carries, and there was one bad snap. That leaves 22 NYP out of 110 RB attempts--an even 20%--that we go backwards with our RB on 1st.
Want me to make it hurt more? Okay. Add-in the zero yardage plays, and it's 33/110 (30%) NYP. Yep. We have a 30% chance of ending-up in 2nd and 10 or longer when we run with a RB.
Should we be passing more? I really wasn't sure about this. Can we trust DG to be throwing on first down? There's only one way to know...
THIS! This is much, MUCH better than I thought it would be. In fact, it's TOO good (I'll explain in a moment). We only pass 29.4% of the time on first down, but man, does it work. We average a ridiculous 12.6 yards per play (this includes scrambles), have only 14 incomplete passes (25%), and DG is MUCH less turnover-prone, throwing INTs at a rate of only 3.6%. There have been only three negative plays (sacks or TFLs).
It is obvious that our tendencies set us up for big passing plays on first down. But is it worth it? To end-up in 2nd and 10 or worse 30% of the time we try MANBALL? We end-up at 2nd and 10 (or worse) 34% of the time when we throw (including INTs), so the risk is almost exactly the same. The reward is more than four times better. That's a good investment.
The reason I believe these numbers are too good is that they indicate that our run tendencies on first down are so strong that there is wide open space to be had in the passing game. I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know, but now it's quantified into a ridiculous 12.6 YPP.
This is a problem because it means that defenses are staying in stacked fronts against us and betting we simply won't even try to pass. We aren't good at run-blocking, but we're REALLY bad at run-blocking against stacked fronts. Against both Akron and UConn, the running game took off when the defenses backed out of their stacked fronts when they had the lead late.
And what about those two INTs? Both were on go routes way down the field. AB dials-up bombs on first down, which is fine, but I think it's clear there's room for some short-to-intermediate stuff.
Furthermore, if you want your QB to stop turning the ball over, stop putting him in 2nd and 3rd and long--ALL of DG's INTs have come with distances of 5 yards or more to go.
TL;DR - While passing more on first down is likely decrease its effectiveness, it is still FAR better than running with our RBs, and it should open-up some space to be better at that.
Get ready for a pretty cool, cloudy, rainy day, and a bit breezy too! A cold front is pushing across SE Michigan and will make it into Canada/the Ohio Valley Saturday afternoon. Although that system will clear our area, a mid-level system will keep rain in the forecast for game day. While as of now most of the rain looks to fall in the morning and become more scattered in the afternoon, I'd bring along the raincoat just in case. Let's send those Hoosiers home with a loss in their pocket!
Probably not a morning for the iced coffee! Temps remain in the low 40s through sunrise-about 8am. Cloud cover has increased during the overnight and we're waking up to mainly overcast skies and passing rain showers. A light breeze out of the WSW will start the day, but winds will pick up throughout the morning and into the afternoon. By mid-morning, winds are out of the WSW at about 10mph (small leaves and twigs blow about). Heading into lunchtime, they're up in the low teens, and we begin to get gusts around 15mph (small trees sway, papers blow about). Lunchtime temps will be nearing 45 degrees, but with the winds expect it to still feel like the low-40s. Cloudy conditions prevail, with light showers across the area.
Sweatshirts on for this one - 46 degrees at the kickoff! Happy mid-October Michigan! Still feeling a bit of a wind chill in the low 40s. Winds are out of the WSW at about 12mph, with gusts in the mid teens possible (you'd see some white caps on the water, it's a moderate breeze). Any bits of sun will be few and far between - lots of clouds hanging around and a light passing shower is possible too.
Might be time for some hot chocolate! Still hanging on to the mid 40s, some of the clouds, and the chance of rain. Still relatively breezy, with winds staying out of the WSW around 10mph or so. The wind will die down more and more during the later part of the game.
Walking out of those gates with a win - and probably headed for somewhere warm, even if it's to grab a cold one! Temperatures will be dropping quickly throughout the evening. Looking at about 45 leaving the game, 43 by the end of dinner, 40 for your late night activities, and into the upper 30s for that walk home after closing time. Winds will begin to calm during the end of the game, falling to about 7mph, and staying between 3-5mph the entire evening and into Sunday. A decent amount of the clouds will stay with us, and a slight chance of rain will hang around until we head into Sunday morning. Go Blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
1. The Six Factors
|Exp Score||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
Holy cow those were a lot of ugly third downs. Michigan averaged 11 yards to go on third and Penn State was nearly as bad at 9. Michigan had a huge advantage in they converted a lot more before third down than Penn State. Plus, both teams were bad at converting, even when accounting for the miles to go.
So Michigan won field position, bypassed third down more often, had more big plays and was slightly more terrible on third downs. That is a pretty outstanding line for the defense. I would take those numbers across the board in any game. Everything except the field position number. Some of that is four overtimes ratcheting up the expected score, but it’s not all of it. The offense as we have discussed forever at this point was either really good or really bad. Call the good stuff, get first downs, call the bad stuff and end up in third and Philadelphia.
2. Individual Performances
Devin Gardner: +9.1 EV+, +52% WPA, (16th best QB of the week)
Christian Hackenberg: +6.2, +10% (23rd)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: –9.4, –40%, (114/115 ranked RB of the week)
Bill Belton: +1.6, +43%, (36th)
Devin Funchess: +9.8, +25% (18th)
Jeremy Gallon: +7.7, +40% (41st)
Brandon Felder: +11.4, +34% (9th)
Allen Robinson: +6.2, +38% (74th)
Apparently there are factions of the Michigan community who think Gardner is the problem and should be benched. I just don’t get it. Yes, the bar has been lowered a little bit after last season and the first 7 quarters of this season, but that bar started as high as it gets. The turnovers are very frustrating but he adds so much value to the team.
The flip side to the equation is if you benched him, your best case scenario is Christian Hackenberg, and that is pretty much best case with a lot more downside. I think he’s going to be a player, but for this season, I’ll take Gardner any day of the week.
The good news is that Michigan now has two legitimate receiving threats if we get them the ball, and other than the back breaking grab at the end of regulation, Michigan help the Big Ten’s best receiver in check.
3. Game Charts
The Six Biggest Plays
6. +26.5%: Hackenberg incomplete on 3rd and 4 in the second OT
5. -29.3%: Pass interference in the end zone sets up Penn State’s final TD
4. –29.5%: Hackenberg to Robinson at the end of regulation
3. -32.4%: Gibbons field goal from 40 blocked in the first OT
2. +35.8%: Robinson fumbles to open the third OT
1. –38.6%: Gibbons misses from 33 yards in the third OT
What is left to say at this point, Michigan had the game in the bag at 3 different points. There are a lot of things to fix coming out of the game, but that loss had a ton of bad dumb luck.
4. Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Last weekend was one of the least dumb kicking weekends since I started following. No egregious punts from deep in opponent territory, no face saving field goal attempts down by 5 touchdowns. The worst offender was Georgia State. Trailing Troy by 7, they decided to punt the ball away with less than two minutes to play. With two timeouts left their best hope was to get the ball back with no timeouts and a minute left needing a touchdown to tie. Troy ground out the single first down they needed and Georgia State never saw the ball again.
5. State of the Stats
The six factors for all teams can still be found .
- Even with all his turnover issues, Devin Gardner is ranked the #12 QB so far this season, averaging 8.1 points a game above average when adjusted for opponents.
- With the struggles in MANBALL, his value is magnified even more. Replacing the plays where he carries or throws with an average play would result in a loss of 84 points for Michigan on the season, the fifth highest total for any player.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint’s carries are on the opposite side, plays where he carries the ball are college football’s least valuable. Replacing his carries for an average Michigan non-Toussaint play would be worth another 37 points. Solve for the equilibrium, Al.
- Jeremy Gallon is still at the edge of the top 30 and Devin Funchess keeps climbing, rising to #56 in national receiver rankings.
- Michigan’s overall ranking is still holding strong, I have the ranked 19th based on in season results only, 8 points above an average team with most of the value coming from the defense.
|Exp Score||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Mich O||31.0 (19)||50% (64)||155 (41)||7.6 (108)||-3% (79)||5.1 (55)|
|Ind D||25.7 (53)||50% (62)||149 (81)||5.8 (85)||+8% (103)||4.5 (30)|
|Mich D||31.9 (111)||49% (37)||98 (13)||7.6 (11)||+8% (103)||3.9 (15)|
|Ind O||24.4 (87)||53% (27)||168 (34)||6.4 (68)||+5% (24)||5.6 (27)|
This game should be some strength versus strength when Indiana’s offense goes up against the Michigan defense. The Michigan defense has moved into the top 15 in Bonus Yards, 3rd Down Distance and Red Zone. The biggest knocks are that they have been given awful field position to deal with and they’ve been poor once they get to third down.
At this point I think anything is possible with the offense, and for that matter this game. I could see this game being close and low-scoring, close and high-scoring or Michigan putting it together on offense for at least one game and looking strong.
If I go with the straight numbers:
Michigan 24 Indiana 21
no time for love, Dr. Jones.
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Drastic measures... and drastic drawings.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.