Last month I put together a new way of looking at down and distance and some new metrics. Like the four factors that have become prevalent in basketball, here is my shot at looking six factors for evaluating a football team. There are two key areas that aren’t included. Turnovers, which are critical to explaining past outcomes but poor at predicting future outcomes. The second is special teams. As Brian noted in the previews, special teams are funny because a lot of the value is derived by the presence or absence of big plays. Like turnovers, these are obviously key plays, but they make predicting future performance a challenge because they show up in very inconsistent ways.
The Six Factors
You could call him a factor (Fuller)
|Field Pos||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Offense||25.4 (19)||49.2% (39)||107 (51)||7.2 (59)||+28% (4)||7.0 (1)|
|Defense||19.2 (55)||44.1% (30)||40 (10)||11.2 (2)||-6% (37)||3.0 (9)|
The first week is going to have some big outliers, with not a lot of competitive games, so the rankings should smooth out over the next month or so.
The defense was really outstanding against Central Michigan. There were almost no big plays, they put the Chips in awful third down situations and limited them both times the offense set them up in good position to enter the red zone.
The offense wasn’t really great in early downs but was exceptional in high leverage situations. Bonus yards (although possessions were limited) and first and second down plays were below NCAA average for the first week but third down and red zone performance was outstanding.
Field Position: A team’s expected points based on where a team started its drives
Early Conversion: The percentage of first downs' that are converted prior to a third down play
Bonus Yards: All yards gained after the first down marker
Average 3rd Down Distance: Average yards to go on third down
Adjusted 3rd Down Conversion: Rate of conversion for a team on third down, adjusted for the standard conversion rate based on yards to go, 0% is average
Red Zone: Points per red zone trip (TD’s counted as 7 regardless of PAT)
All categories except field position are based solely on plays in competitive situations (all first half plays and any second half plays where the drive begins or ends within two scores). Only games against FBS opponents are included, but after last week maybe I need to reconsider that.
Individual Game Scores
It’s just week one so we won’t kick in opponent adjustments for another month. I also included all garbage time plays in the totals since there were so many new players getting touches in the second half.
Devin Gardner: +16.4 (12.2 in the first half)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: +3.1
Derrick Green: +4.4
Shane Morris: +2.2
Deveon Smith: –0.8
*All numbers are PAN, Point Above Normal, a representation of how many points a player adds or subtracts from the team’s final score as compared to an average player/team
If you’re on twitter or look at stats at all, you’ve probably experienced the NCAA stats overhaul that happened this year. In general, it’s awful, but now has auto-play video ads. From the play by play they have stripped out first names of players (so this week we won’t be able to differentiate between Cam and Thomas), no longer list the starters for a game, removed tackler information unless it is a sack, provide no description of a penalty, removed targeted receivers for incomplete passes and removed all yardage detail from punts and kickoffs. It’s pretty awful.
The one slight benefit is they did add directional information to plays. So we can look at how Michigan performed over each side of the line. When running here is how Michigan performed (scrambles and NORFLEEEEET removed):
Left: 5.9 YPC, +2.7, 14 plays
Middle: 3.2 YPC, +5.3, 18 plays
Right: 3.0 YPC, +1.4, 4 plays
Running left was Michigan’s most successful direction but all the benefit was in big play generation. Michigan yielded 50 yards on its two big runs to the left, but was under 3 yards per carry on all other plays to the left.
Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Dumb punts typically fall into two different types,
1. Punting on short yardage deep in opponent territory for “field position” reasons, even if the values to field position are highly debatable.
2. Punting while trailing in the fourth quarter when future possessions are highly limited
There were 13 punts last week (excluding mercy punts with large leads, not that Hoke would care). 4 of the 13 came from current or future B1G members. Mark Dantonio and Michigan State are the only ones to do it twice. Dantonio wanted to start the year off right so before midway through the first quarter he had twice punted on short yardage from Western Michigan territory. The first time on 4th and 1 from the 41 and the second time on 4th and 3 from the 48. #B1G
27 times teams punted in the fourth quarter within two scores of the lead. Georgia, New Mexico, California and Fresno State all punted from opponent territory with no more than 7 yards to go for a first down. Northern Illinois and Iowa combined for four 4th quarter punts while trailing or tied in their matchup.
And the winner is…Mark Richt and Georgia. The Bulldogs punted twice while trailing in the fourth quarter. The first was on 4th and 7 from the Clemson 40 with about 12 minutes left, trailing by 3. Clemson would take the ball 87 yards for a touchdown to go up by 10. On the next possession, Georgia was facing a tough 4th and 15 on their own 43 but now there were only 6 minutes left and they were down 2 scores, and Clemson had scored 38 points on them. Richt still chose to punt away. Georgia got the ball back down 10 with less than 2 and half minutes to play. They did get a quick score but failed to recover the onside kick.
Notes from around the NCAA
- You may not have heard but Michigan State’s offense was kind of bad last week. With defensive touchdowns and other big turnovers, an average team would have scored 41 points given State’s field position. They were one of the worst offenses in the country in both early conversions (38%) and adjusted third down conversion rate (-15%).
- Alabama won easily over Virginia Tech but the offense did not look strong. The Tide generated only 24 bonus yards, only four teams were worse.
- Three games saw both teams generate over 200 yards past the first down line. Georgia-Clemson, Northwestern-Cal and Vandy-Ole Miss were some of the most exciting games of the week with big plays on both sides. Oklahoma versus Louisiana-Monroe was the worst, with only 75 yards combined from both teams.
- All the Texas A&M talk was around The Manziel “controversy” train but the A&M offense was amazing on early downs. It’s hard to be good at both converting early downs and limiting third down distance. The Aggies did both, tops in the country with 1.7 average yards to go on third down to go with a 59% early conversion rate.
Notre Dame 6 Factors
|Field Pos||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Offense||13.8 (68)||49.2% (39)||278 (2)||5.4 (26)||+1% (37)||7.0 (1)|
|Defense||10.9 (11)||52.5% (60)||91 (32)||8.1 (19)||+14% (75)||3.5 (18)|
If you watched any of the Irish game on Saturday, it’s not too hard to see where things went right for their offense. 278 bonus yards was second only to Georgia for the week, and Notre Dame did it in only 7 drives. Notre Dame looked like they were playing NCAA Football on the peewee difficulty setting with the way they broke out the big plays.
With so many big plays and with the opponent being an overmatched Temple squad, I don’t know that we know a whole lot else about Notre Dame’s offense from Saturday’s results. On defense the Irish mostly held serve. The Owls were faced with limited field position, expected to score only 11 points based on field position for the game. Notre Dame allowed over 50% early conversions and was awful (75th out of 88 teams) on third down.
With both Michigan and Notre Dame putting up easy wins against overmatched opponents in week one, I’ll have to revert to preseason rankings for a prediction. Going into the season I had Notre Dame at #15 and Michigan ranked 17th, essentially tied. With the game at Michigan I think they will have a slight edge. If they can keep the turnovers and big plays even, I think it’s a clear advantage Michigan.
Michigan 24 Notre Dame 21
Here is a link to the mini-program for the ND game. if anyone is unfamiliar, this is designed to be folded into one of those lanyards for quick reference during games or just to keep with you on your couch.
the one for Central was done, i just didn't get around to posting it. the link is provided if you are a miniprogram completist.
let me know if there are any corrections to be made.
NOTE: Apologies for posting this here, but my posts in the forum no longer show up for some reason.
I am going to have to miss UTL2 and I would like to record it on my computer. I have verizon FIOS and there I can play TV channels on my computers. My plan was to record the whole game using a screen-recording software like Camtasia (triggerred by a windows task based on a timer)but have run into a snag. A 2 minute video is coming out to around 500 MB!
I have tried everything I could think of...reducing screen res to 1280x1020, making the window small and recording only small portion of the screen, using compression settings etc. Not making a big dent. I just don't get it. My files usually from camtasia are of the order of 20-30MB for a 2 minute capture. My guess is the super fast transitions of video (as opposed to me recording a tutorial on how to do something on a computer) bump up the amount of data that needs to be stored.
I still do not understand how people like Thorin do it. Please help!
Michigan basketball standout Tom Harmon [Bentley online library]
When I dropped off copies of HTTV to thank the Bentley Library they offered me a tour of the stacks. Among the unbelievable treasures they've accumulated in there one was several shelves worth of just-donated Tom Harmon memorabilia. Boxed as it was it was hard to get a sense of what was in there—war artifacts, lots of tape of his career as a broadcaster, a fake Michigan helmet somebody made for him, phone numbers for every beautiful starlet of the 1940s…
|Michigan war hero Tom Harmon [Bentley]|
That has now been sorted through and made into an exhibit. Press release? Press release:
Harmon of Michigan
The Bentley Historical Library is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibit, “Harmon of Michigan” focusing on the life and career of University of Michigan football legend Tom Harmon. The exhibition, in conjunction with the "unretiring" of Harmon's famed number 98 jersey this season, highlights Harmon’s college career at Michigan, both as a student and an athlete. Using archival documents, photographs, and artifacts, including material recently acquired through Harmon’s son, Mark Harmon, the exhibit traces Harmon’s career as the University of Michigan’s first Heisman Trophy winner, World War II pilot and war hero, and a pioneering radio and television broadcaster. The exhibit is curated by Greg Kinney.
The exhibit runs from September 3 to December 20, 2013.
Exhibit Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.
If you're wandering around campus on Saturday with not a clue what to do with yourself since the game's not until 8, wander up to North Campus and the Bentley for a special event.
|Michigan broadcaster Tom Harmon [Bentley]|
Special Event: September 7, 2013, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
On September 7, the day of the Note Dame game, at which Tom Harmon will be honored, the Bentley Library will have special exhibit viewing hours. There will also be repeated showings of the 1965 television program “One Saturday Afternoon.” Produced on the 25th anniversary of Harmon’s Heisman Trophy win, the program was hosted by Bing Crosby. “One Saturday Afternoon” includes archival footage of Harmon’s Michigan football exploits, interviews with Michigan coach Fritz Crisler and teammate Forest Evashevski. The program also features some rare footage of Harmon’s early days as a television broadcaster and variety show host.
The Bentley Historical Library is located on the University of Michigan’s North Campus at 1150 Beal Avenue.
Campus Bus - North Commuter, Bonisteel Boulevard and Beal Avenue stop.
For further information contact the Bentley Historical Library by phone at (734) 764-3482 or contact Greg Kinney at email@example.com.
Now go argue about whether they should retire 98. My feeling is if you're going to leave just one alone it should be that one.
Besides starring in multiple other sports, defeating the Nazis, and many years of success in broadcasting, people sometimes forget Harmon was a decent football player too. [Bentley]
Why Bother?: In Brady Hoke's first year, Michigan was +1 in games where TOs were a primary factor. Last year Michigan was –1 in games where TOs were a primary factor. The difference between 10-2 and 8-4 was basically due to turnovers.
Recap of Last Year: Michigan ended 2012 with a Turnover Margin (TOM) of –0.67 per game ranked #101 nationally. Using Expected Points (EP) as the basis, TOs were a primary factor in one win (MSU) and two losses (ND & Ohio). Interceptions were THE problem with M ranked #123 in percentage of interceptions thrown and #75 in percentage of passes intercepted. Fumbles were NOT the problem with the offense ranked #27 in total fumbles and the defense ranked #50 in forced fumbles.
Once Is An Accident?: It's only the first game and, unlike many of the talking heads, I will not pretend any of this is a trend. That said, interceptions thrown percentage for the first game was just terrible, horrible, ugly at 14.3%! (Last year Int% was 6.0% and that was #123 nationally.) Watch this space to see if next week represents a trend and week #3 becomes a problem.
National Rankings: All rankings include games between two FBS teams ONLY and are from TeamRankings except for forced fumbles which is from CFBStats. The four columns with *** show the best correlation to offense and defense (per Advanced NFL stats).
In the aftermath of the CMU game, I’ve seen a few comments about running backs that go something like this: “If you took out X’s long run, his YPC would have only been Y, so he really wasn't that effective,” or variations thereof. This got me thinking a little about the limitations of using YPC to summarize running back performance, so I've put together a couple ways of looking at running back performance against Central.
First off, sample size concerns are rampant. Statisticians frown on many, many things, but they take particular umbrage when you do anything with a really small sample (read: less than 30). But, like our beloved coaches, we live in the real world where we have to make decisions based on incomplete information; so we continue on despite the limitations of the dataset.
Strength of competition is also suspect. We don't know for sure how good CMU will be this year, but we do know they were outscored by fifty points in the only game they've played this year. They may not be great this year.
Yards per carry is calculated by summing all rushing yards for a player and dividing by number of carries, making it an average (or sample mean). A sample mean is a very useful way of summarizing data with one nagging flaw: it is particularly vulnerable to outliers. The median, on the other hand, as the most central value, can be interpreted as a more typical expectation for a dataset. One extremely high or low value will have virtually no impact on the value of the median. Here's an example: Derrick Green's YPC for the CMU game was 6.1, 2 whole yards higher than Toussaint's 4.1. But Green's median carry of 3 is an entire yard shorter than Toussaint's 4. The YPC might lead you to conclude Derrick Green was a better bet for getting yards than Toussaint, but the median says at least 50% of Toussaint's carries went for 4 or more yards in comparison with Green's 3 or more yards. Since If you needed four yards for a first down, you may want to give it to Toussaint. That's potentially valuable information not contained in the YPC. Then there's the pesky fact that TD runs have a maximum length. If we're two yards out from the end zone, that's the maximum the player can get for that carry. This artificially lowers the YPC of a player who gets the ball over the line; in particular Toussaint's YPC would probably have been higher.
The table below contains a few measures of central tendency for the players who had at least 3 carries (three is still too small, but a line had to be drawn somewhere and Rawls' touchdown seemed to merit his inclusion in this list). Rawls gets no standard deviation because three is a small number.
QB Devin Gardner wins the YPC sweepstakes with a blistering 7.4 YPC bolstered by a median carry of 6 yards. I would advocate getting this man some more carries, but that's a) already happening and b) potentially troublesome for our passing game. Regardless, Gardner does a good job here no matter what metric you use: no negative yardage, a great longest run and two touchdowns on only 7 carries. At least for this game, our shiny "more passing-oriented" quarterback was our most effective running back, which speaks a bit to the value of athleticism at that position.
Among the running backs, Toussaint and Green duke it out for maximal effectiveness depending on which measure you use. Green wins on YPC, longest run, and least negative minimum run. Toussaint had a higher median, most touchdowns, and most carries. Rawls has the highest median of the RB's, but since he only had three carries, sample size tells us to pay no heed.
____ Yards and a Cloud of Dust
Hearkening back to the days of Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust (TYaaCoD), I wanted to know who was more reliable if you need three yards every time you rush. The table below contains the percent of carries the player achieved at least three yards, embodying the spirit of slightly-in-jest Schembechlerian Michigan Football.
Personally, though, I find three yards slightly lacking. If you run three yards every rushing play and you rush every play, you end up facing 4th and 1 every series. Our Fearless Leader would still go for it on fourth down every time (Heil Hoke!), but it's not an optimal situation to find yourself in. What you really want is someone who can pick up 3.5 yards or so every play, so you get a new set of downs after every three. The play-by-play is unhelpful in this regard, however, only listing integer values for yards. So I also calculated the Four Yards and a Cloud of Dust (FYaaCoD) metric, which is how the table below is sorted. If you get four yards every carry, you can go on rushing forever.
I did make a slight modification to the success rates of both metrics: I counted a touchdown as a success regardless of how many yards the play was because there is no further to go.
|Row Labels||Total Yds||Carries||TYaaCoD||FYaaCoD|
For TYaaCoD, you would want the following players rushing in order: 1. Green 2. Gardner 3. Rawls 4. Toussaint 5. Smith 6. Johnson. All players are between 50% and 75% successful at getting 3 yards against CMU, which is heartening. Moving to FYaaCoD, you would want 1. Gardner. 2. Rawls 3. Toussaint 4. Green, 5. Johnson 6. Smith.
There's some shuffling when you move to FYaaCoD: Derrick Green drops from first to fourth, and Smith falls to sixth at a slightly disappointing 29% success rate. Rawls still has only three carries, but two of them pass the FYaaCoD test, so he has a terrific success rate of 67%. Almost as good as Devin Gardner, who had over twice as many carries. Devin's ability to scramble is probably for real. Toussaint's actual strength as a running back comes through a bit more on the FYaaCoD metric. On his 14 carries, he hit 4+ yards 57% of the time, and he often surpassed four. That increases the chance of success for future plays, as the distance to the first down marker is smaller.
I thought about running the same analysis with passing yards, but it didn't feel right since yards per catch vary widely based on the play. Your wideout running the deep route will end up with more yards per target than the slot ninja you toss the bubble screens to. That is more schematic than based on individual skill. It is true that running plays are also not all created equal. But every running play starts behind the line of scrimmage and heads as far as possible into enemy space, making comparison a reasonable exercise.
Any statistical summary is just that: a summary. We lose information when we look at average, median, min, max, total yds, TYaaCoD, FYaaCoD, etc. that is available to us in the actual dataset. Our lizard brains just can't process significant amounts of data in numerical form in any reasonably quick fashion. But there is one thing we are great at: reading charts. So I've assembled the information from each rushing effort for everyone with 3+ rushes in order from least yards gained to most. I've colored the touchdowns Highlighter Yellow™ so you can include/exclude them from your mental calculations as needed.
For recent time's sake, Drake Johnson. Fare thee well, 2013 Drake. We hardly knew ye.
A. We were completely misguided to push for Devin-Gardner-to-wide-receiver last year when his natural position is clearly running back. The fact that QB's get an extra blocker has no bearing on this.
B. At this exact moment in time, the staff's decision to go 1. Toussaint 2. Green 3. The Field. is pretty justified. We saw flashes of brilliance from both of them—maybe even more from Green—but Toussaint overall had a better day. If Green sheds a few pounds and picks up just a hair more speed in the process, though—and I think we all expect that to happen— he could become the clear #1 even by mid-October. De'Veon Smith is not yet ready for world-beating, but he did display that vaunted balance. Hold off on judgment on him at this point.
C. Charts are indeed fun to look at.
D. Norfleet had one rushing effort for 38 yds, which I didn't include in this analysis because dividing by zero is difficult and because his YPC would make Brian cry.