this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Pretty much what I predicted last year
Last year I published my first stock watch based on my preseason team ratings and schedules and compared them to the Vegas preseason projections to identify teams that I thought would be outliers from the consensus opinion on preseason predictions. While I had some mixed results, all three of Michigan’s main rivals were flagged as potential outliers and my numbers differed from most preseason projections.
Here are some quotes I wrote prior to last year’s season:
It pains me to admit it but this Buckeye team could be very dangerous…The Buckeyes are set up for Urban to get credit for an upswing they probably would have had anyway, but it will probably take some significant first year growing pains to keep Ohio from a great theoretical bowl game.
For once in their football life the Domers could actually be underrated heading into this season…If the bounces go Notre Dame’s way this season they have a shot to be a top-10 team. Their biggest hurdle is going to be a schedule that entering the season looks to be far and away the nation’s toughest…there are plenty of other reasons to be optimistic on the Irish roster.
I have no doubts the Spartan defense is going to be good. I just don’t think they are going to be great and I have major questions about the offense. With a new quarterback and nearly 90% of their receiving production gone, there is little history on their side that they can have a productive offense. Breaking in that many new players at skill positions has Sparty projected to be one of the worst offenses in the country this year, Le’Veon Bell or not. Their defense will keep them afloat but unless Michigan St breaks in a new crew on offense at an unprecedented rate, the offense will be this team’s limiting reagent.
I took the most heat for the MSU pick as several Spartans caught wind of this and told me how a first year quarterback and new wide receivers were nothing to be that concerned about and were highly offended about my prediction as one of the worst offenses in the country. 20 points per game later, I stand by my prediction.
After the big three, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I did pick Texas to contend for a national championship, Missouri and Tennessee to be mid-level SEC teams and Kansas State to fall back to the middle of the Big 12.
On the other plus side, I pegged LSU, West Virginia and Arkansas all dead on.
Overall the success was mixed but for Michigan’s three main rivals, I would put my preseason prognostication on them up against anyone’s.
This year my predictions for Michigan and its three rivals are dead on with Vegas heading into the season. Notre Dame should settle in to an average of the unlucky 2011 and the lucky 2012 (8.7 predicted versus 8.5 Vegas). Michigan State should see the offense get better and the defense get worse and compete with Michigan and Nebraska for the Legends Division title (8.2 versus 8.5). Ohio State should ride an easy schedule to double digit wins (10.7 versus 11) and Michigan is projected to another year of holding serve before the recruits start flooding into the starting lineup (8.6 versus 8.5). There isn’t any significant room between my predictions on these four teams and the Vegas preseason lines.
So who do I disagree on? Let’s look at the five major conferences.
The only title contender I have any major difference with the oddsmakers is in Wisconsin. My numbers are a big fan of new coach Gary Andersen and I have the Badgers nearly a whole game (9.8 versus 9) ahead of the Vegas number. Nebraska will have the inside track for the top record in the Legends Division thanks to an easy schedule. Michigan is rated as the best team, but consider the Huskers frontrunners thanks to a slate that avoids both Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Northwestern, Purdue and Penn State are the three teams I have the most disagreement on and I think they are all three overrated by at least 2 games.
No major differences for SEC teams. Alabama is obviously the favorite with Georgia and Texas A&M as my two leading contenders. Like last season, I still think South Carolina is a good but not great team.
2013 should be a fulcrum year for Texas and Mack Brown. After an amazing run in the 2000’s, the 2010’s have not been the brightest lines on Brown’s resume. If he has the capacity to turn it around, 2013 should be the season to do it. Texas’s roster is rated the highest of any team since the 2011 Alabama squad (based on recruiting rankings with upperclassmen weighted heavily). Several groups are also high on Texas, I have them projected at 10.6 wins, a full game clear of Vegas and everyone else in the Big 12.
By biggest sell team of the year is TCU. Vegas has them predicted at 8 wins and I don’t see them making it to bowl eligibility. Kansas and Charlie Weis could exceed expectations, I have the Jayhawks with an outside shot at bowl eligibility.
Like the SEC and the Big Ten, I think the Pac-12 has a clear-cut frontrunner. Even with the loss of Chip Kelly, I think Oregon is in line for 11 wins on average. I see USC as the biggest threat, I have them a game ahead of Vegas at 10.4 wins (in 13 games) versus Vegas’s 9.5. Stanford is projected at the same 9.5 but I have them as a distant third in the Pac-12 with only 8.3 projected wins.
Of the seven teams in the new ACC projected to win at least 7 games by Vegas, I am within a half game in my projections for all of them except Virginia Tech. Like TCU from the Big 12, I think Virginia Tech is vastly overrated this year and am only projecting them at 5.2 wins for the season.
As noted above, I am mostly in line with the Vegas line of 8.5 wins for this Michigan season, but barring a Gardner injury, there is definitely more upside to downside. Michigan has 8 games where they should be a solid favorite. At their projected level, odds are that one of them finds a way to get away, but if they can win all 8, that leaves coin flip games against Nebraska, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. If Michigan is better than expected at all, those 8 games should move to virtual locks and make a double digit win season a very real season. Without a major change event, there is a very solid downside firewall in place for this season, at least if you think, like me, that Penn State and Northwestern are generally overrated entering the season.
I will start this diary by saying that, with the right data, it is possible to get the actual mean yards per play on offense (actually, if you really wanted to spend the time, it is right in the box score), but as most people generally don't more than skim when they look at box scores, it dawned on me that it might be possible to approximate yards per play from other information in the box score, and indeed, I believe it is.
So, what is the minimum information that you might need? Again, if you wanted to spend the time, you could glean everything you need right from the detailed stats, but what if you wanted a quick calculation?
I share this because it is something that I honestly had not thought of before when looking at relationships within the statistics, so if it is well-known (there are people that know far more about this than I), then I will apologize for the redundancy.
I did one of my standard data dumps for this one – I took 10 seasons of Division I offensive data by season and then began searching for a few things that correspond well to yards per play. I wanted to try and keep this simple, so I was hoping to see perhaps two other stats that might be good candidates. As it turns out, there are a couple – yards per carry and yards per pass attempt. Respectively, the R-values for each are 0.720 and 0.835. This is over a fairly large sample (n=1,189).
The next challenge was simply charting these and seeing how well they did in fact trend with one another. Below are some examples from the Big Ten:
So, they track each other fairly well. Indeed, they track each other well enough that it dawned on me that yards per play could be approximated by the average of the two statistics mentioned above, so this is became the next step. Could it be that offensive yards per play can be approximated by the average of yards per carry and yard per pass attempt? It would make total sense if this were true, of course, as these cover most offensive plays, right? It is important to note that the sum of yards per carry and yards per pass attempt correlates very well with yards per play – the R-value here is 0.930.
It seems you could get pretty close just based on those two numbers, at least typically. The average difference between estimated and actual yards per play on offense for all of the Division I data turned out to be only 0.12 with the mean error being all of 1.94%, so even though it is discount certain things which do happen in the course of a game, you can get a decent handle on how effectively the offense is advancing based on these numbers. It is important to note that the estimate tends to be over, but this is not necessarily accounting for things such as plays for zero yards, plays for negative yards (TFLs, sacks, etc…) the marked imbalance of some teams when it comes to rush vs. pass plays, as well as some other things.
Some comparisons from the Big Ten data specifically:
Again, this is something I never really thought of looking for within the stats, but to see that you can get a reasonable approximation of offensive yards per play from two other numbers in the event you didn’t know the exact number of plays run on offense for a team (or just weren't interested in a lot of math or a minimal amount of searching)
In any case, this data comes from historic season statistics, so the next step here is to test it at the game level, which I plan to do this year. It would also be interesting to see if a similar approximation could be constructed from yards allowed on defense, but I shall save that for perhaps the next diary.
Have I found anything particularly profund? Probably not. It’s a way to possibly estimate a number that, if you were studious and carefully studied the box score, you could simply calculate (or if you didn't have all the information at your disposal). This is more about an interesting manner in which different statistics correlate and can be applied, but those relationships are always interesting to discover even if they are not necessarily profound or novel.
OBLIGATORY (in honor of a fate my own cats will suffer in a few short weeks):
Heading into the 2012 season there was much concern over the lack of size of the interior DL. Spring Practice has us convinced that undersized Jibreel Black and hopefully breakout player Will Campbell would be manning those spots and we would survive.
Cut to 2012 Fall Practice and seemingly out of nowhere Quinton Washington emerged as the surprise starter. He went on to have a very good season and hopefully will continue this trend for 2013.
So I pose the question Who will be the surprise breakout starter/contributor for the 2013 season? Here are the candidates:
RB Drake Johnson
Spring Practice was the time for another RB to emerge as Toussiant was still on the shelf and all of the practice reps and carries were there for the taking. Aside from Justice Hayes grabbing the 3rd Down RB spot it didn't seem like anyone else had separated themselves. I was expecting to see more "OR" in the RB depth chart but surprise we see Johnson has used Fall Practice to clearly pass Rawls and the freshman. Speaking of the freshman I think this spot at the depth chart doesn't represent contribution ability but rather the best utilization of eligibility years. Touissant is the clear starter and Hayes should take the majority of 3rd Down plays, leaving only "breather" and "garbage" carries for the other RBs. Better to use Johnson than Green or Smith until and unless either of them show they are ready to take primetime carries.
LG Graham Glasgow
Glasgow had been in a battle with Miller for the Center spot for the Spring Practice and it seemed most of Fall Practice. Only recently did we start hearing Chris Bryant was going to start and almost just as quickly that he had been passed Glasgow. Hopefully Bryant still troublesome knee was not the reason Glasgow took the spot, but rather that once Glasgow got consistent snaps at LG he beat the guy would could have started in 2012. Hopefully this is not similar to 2011 when Barnum was the starter at LG but was injured, making us believe he would be good in 2012.
SLB Brennan Beyer
We have continuously heard praise for Cam Gordon's athleticism and playmaking ability while the only think I remember reading about Beyer that he is a good run defender. Yet he started the Spring Game and remains the co-starter. Here's hoping he has shown significant improvement and all his "hype" has been swallowed up by Fort Schembechler.
My choice for the 2013 Surprise Fall Contributor is Graham Glasgow. Really the only knock against him was his underwhelming recruiting profile, which history has shown means little when dealing with lineman.He is a third year lineman with the size and strength to be a very good player at LG.
This was initially a response to the front page post "Preview 2013: Quarterback". Not in an effort to claim such high self-importance, I do believe the response deserves it's own thread so people can digest it properly. What it amounts to, in principle, is that Devin Gardner still has a long ways to go to becoming a great QB for Michigan, but it's due to subtle things, reps and practice, footwork and trust in his eyes, more than any major overhauls. What I also want to emphasize with this is just how impressive this makes DG's performance last year. He is still raw and is still learning, but has shown great potential for his future. When he starts to improve these small aspects of his game, he'll go from whipping on bad defenses and struggling against faster defenses, to being that QB that can lead you to victory against any defense. Oh, and no trolling from me this time.
Devin tends to make the correct reads... eventually, but he still has a long way to go to make the correct reads timely. This is something that is extremely difficult for young QBs, as the rate at which you digest the fast moving info in front of you is a very complex thing, as you can imagine.
Right now, though, he stays on his initial read or initial progression too long. This also gets into his footwork issues. Footwork plays a large role in throwing power and throwing accuracy; it also plays a huge role in timing. Let's look at this example:
Here, Gardner should drop (off of PA), hitch step, throw to first read or hitch step to second read, throw. Instead, he drops, hitch step, hitch step, hitch step, second read, hitch step, throw. It's at least two hitches too long. The pass play and routes are designed to keep the deep passer and shorter pass nearly in the same throwing lane, meaning when Gardner hitch steps to his second read, it's a very subtle move to the outside and throw. But because Gardner is late, because he isn't trusting his eyes to process the reads quick enough or his feet to take him to his next read, he can't make up the ground with his reset. A reset so deep to the sideline would be difficult anyway, you're asking the QB to get his shoulders, hips, and foot about 40 degrees over and then step accurately (rather than flaring open and throwing across body as Denard often did because of poor footwork) to make the throw accurately, which isn't likely.
Instead, if Gardner trusts his eyes and feet, on the second hitch it's probably less than 10 degrees of a shift in body. This means his mechanics are still under control, his weight is still correct, his eyes still see the field but now at a faster rate. Delivering the ball on time gets him at least 12 yards on the accurate pitch and catch and then probably at least 8 YAC. That's a 20 yard gain wiped out because of not being completely up to speed and not trusting his feet to take him through progressions.
Again, this is something that takes a lot of time and reps. You hope to see it this year if his footwork is as improved as what we're hearing. These subtle things will greatly improve timing and accuracy for Gardner. They'll make it so this is a 20 yard gain, so his pick against Iowa doesn't happen, so his pick toward the end of the Northwestern game doesn't happen, so the slug-go route isn't late to Gallon and instead of a long gain it's a TD. But that's the huge difference something extremely subtle makes. That's reps and trust in your reads and feet. That's where DG wasn't yet last year. If he makes that step this year: watch out.
Now, to those worried about Borges's ability to begin to develop QBs, it's important to see that DG has, as early as last year, made subtle changes to his footwork to improve his ability to throw. He is improving, it's about consistency.
This is a throw to the opposite side of the field and perhaps the best throw Gardner made all year. This is honestly an incredible throw for a college QB to make, far hash, 12 yards down field, with correct timing and perfect accuracy.
But look at his footwork. Gains depth on second and forth drop step. Closes down on step 6 and 7. Step 7 isn't a straight step back, notice how he subtly moves back at a 45 degree angle, pulling his momentum to that sideline. By the time he plants that 7th step, he's in a position to immediately step into the throw, he's balanced with his momentum pulling him to the sideline, and he steps into the throw with good weight transfer to hit the out route.
This is a progress that will take time. But it is happening. There is progress.
I had the opportunity to create the HTTV book cover artwork again this year. I chose to retain the format of the 2012 cover but added a dramatic Michigan Stadium backdrop and replaced Denard Robinson (sniff) with Taylor Lewan. You might recognize the stadium backdrop from my 2011 'All That Glitters' wallpaper.
For the first time, I'm releasing a series of three schedule wallpapers on the same day (wow, that sounds a little self-important). All three wallpapers are based on the new HTTV cover artwork. Photos provided by MGoBlog. The images below are previews only. You can get the widescreen, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
Part 1 - Brady Hoke
I like to imagine that we've caught Coach Hoke in his short sleeve shirt in 40º weather, without his headset and deciding to go for the win instead of the tie.
Part 2 - 'Michigan's Man Up Front'
The Michigan Marching Band is an important part of the game day experience; more important than the final score according to former athletic director Bill Martin's game day experience survey. I had a request from a current Michigan Marching Band member for a band-inspired wallpaper and I'm happy to oblige.
Part 3 - Taylor Lewan
Follow me on Twitter @thearttheart for updates.
I am a sinner who’s probably gonna sin again. Lord, forgive me. Lord forgive me things I don’t understand.
I confess: I care about the national championship more than orthodox Michigan dogma allows by, like, a lot. I think I understand what Bo may have meant; 1973 must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The split baby in ‘97 was crap, too. Actually bringing home the hardware often requires a bunch of rhetoric just to get the opportunity. Less so recently than in Bo’s day but there still some arguing that is needed. And, If people still need to be convinced with words that you’re worthy after all the games are over, how good are you really? Relying on the scruples of seemingly unscrupulous individuals is a bad idea so a “to hell with them” mentality is totally understandable. I believe that Coach Schembechler would have won one if he cared to do so. Define your own worth and all that but there is another way, isn’t there? Make it your goal to kick everyone’s ass and you’ll accomplish all viable goals anyway. Am I wrong? /WalterSobchack.
Times they are a changin’, amen, but I think the current system actually benefitted Michigan (and others) in many “just ‘cause” ways. For too many teams winning all of your games, though difficult and unlikely, still isn't enough to get a shot at a national title. Teams in the Hegemony don’t have to worry about that and can often afford to lose a game if its to the right opponent. The playoff system improves the situation but I suspect that there will still be some jostling to get a golden ticket. What does a team need to do to maximize its control of its own destiny?
To the Stat Cave!
The preceding chart is the basis of the revised Blue Moon Model, discussed and applied in my last diary. Hollow red circles (right axis) represent how many teams fell into each bin used in the lumping process. Scan this dusty diary for discussion of the lumping maneuver. The solid blue diamonds is the average win percentage (left axis) for each bin. See how the blue diamonds start getting out of line when the binned sample size drops into the muck? That’s the “low sample size” criticism we are all so familiar with. But note that it doesn’t take that many samples to get a reasonably well behaved average—getting 10 is usually enough but more is always better. The hollow blue triangles are the focus of this diary. Those are all of the teams that have played in the BCS title game since 2000. In terms of Net Yardage Differential, there is quite a spread ranging from 45 to 275 ypg.
In pre-school most of us learned that a good way to identify differences is to ask ourselves “which of these things are not like the others?” We also learned to mock the weirdoes because why else would you go through the trouble of identifying them in the first place? The preceding charts make the MNC and B1G contending weirdoes stand out pretty well. Go forth and mock them.
Championship game losers are included because they had destiny by the bit. The mountains meet the sea at least 130. The typical team showed up with a yardage differential of about 165.
In the B1G, the Mendoza line is 100 ypg in yardage differential. What’s interesting to me is that it looks like there was a sea change in the B1G around 2005 with most of the teams underwater showing up before then. The only Michigan team that could pass muster as a national champion is the 2003 squad. Season summary:
- Lost @ Oregon by 4 with a net turnover margin of –3; ‘nuff said.
- Lost @ Iowa by 3 with a net turnover margin of 0 but: punted from the Iowa 35 in the first quarter, failed to score a TD after 1st @ Goal from the Iowa 8 in the second quarter, had a punt blocked in the third quarter leading to a 3 and out FG for the Hawkeyes.
Ah, memories / light the corners of my mind / misty watercolor memories / of the way we were … Memories / may be beautiful an yet / what’s too painful to remember / we simply choose to forget. Tell ‘em, Babs.
With the playoff system coming winning a National Championship is now harder for most. By most I mean everybody except for Nick Saban. Saban built a monster at LSU, handed off to Les Miles to terrorize for a while until he could get all three rings installed for his clown show, then came back to build an even badder monster at Alabama. Now Saban can be ranked as low as 5 and have the rhetorical juice to jump some teams. If he gets in, chances are, he will win. ‘Sall good though, dude is mortal…right? Um…maybe Kirby Smart is the real master mind??? Oh shit, do they have a succession plan in place?!? Madre de dios!!!
(Sorry about that. I actually think I’m doing well this time.)
Sure, Justice will be served more often because being undefeated and winning 1 game you have 6 weeks to prepare for aren’t enough to claim the throne anymore; now you have to beat two more teams that are pretty damn good and doing that is, like, hard. I support the cause for sure, but I recognize how much steeper that mountain is about to get. But, but, but, over signing! Look, man, you can’t blame a shark for being the baddest mofo in the ocean; you’ve got to blame the ocean. The whole over signing phenomenon that we’re seeing in the SEC may be distasteful to some but so are fried insects. I’ll walk this back: scout’s honor.
That’s a real picture of what is considered yummy street food in Cambodia.Also, I once ate Chapulines on a business trip to Mexico because I knew I wouldn’t die and it was a reeeally nice restaurant and I didn’t order it and “we’re closing this deal one way or the other, fellas” and “Yes, I’m this crazy, ese”. Also: tequila and yolo. Chapulines are fried grasshoppers and they don’t taste bad (wouldn’t say they taste good either) but its the texture and mouth feel that get you. Crunchy, gritty, all the moisture in your mouth runs for the hills…just all around nasty. I stayed cool and chewed them like a man but at a certain point I was all like “fuck this I’m swallowing” just to get that shit out of my mouth in the least ridiculous way possible and, after all, I had done this to my self. The legs, man, the legs. Those tiny little barbs aren’t meant for swallowing. Don’t judge me, man, I have lived. Thank God for Dos Equis.
Football, yes. Check it out: obviously, over signing isn’t against the rules. We don’t have to like it and we don't have to do it, but if you can choke it down -- or maybe you think its yummy with barbeque sauce -- NCAA enforcement says “bon appetit. Besides, top notch recruiting isn’t enough -- we know that first hand here at Michigan (also see Les Miles) -- you need to turn those recruits into great players and support them with great game plans and great play calling and great-never-ever-punting-on-the-opponent’s-35. Take away over signing from Alabama and Saban & Co will still kick everyone’s ass, probably.
To be a team the can get to the playoff and win the damn thing -- to be a champion’s champion -- you need to be “free to roam the plains, your majestic rippling muscles trampling over mascots that dare oppose you” as Brian once said. You must leave a barbaric path of destruction in your wake. You must leave only the lamentations of their bloggers to tell your tale. Being above 130 in NYDS since 2000 has meant you were, on average, in the top 8 nationally in that category.
There is a limit to how good your defense can be: the number 1 team in NYDS averages out with a Defensive YPG of about 270. The best team in the country in DYDS averages 230 ypg allowed. The best defense I have on record is Alabama 2011 at 183 (jeepers). Seriously, there are typically 13-ish possessions per game so you could score at TD every time and allow 107 ypg and still not get cored on. I guess you could try for onside kicks too but … what an asshole! The typical team “worthy” of a national championship has a defense that yields 315 ypg.
If you read my last entry, you should be encouraged to see that championship defense isn’t much better than what Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison have been able to field since their arrival on campus, even with all those roster issues we’ve come to know so well. Today, the roster is better and improving. It’s not easy to have great defense, but these guys know what they’re doing.
The mantra of defense wins championships isn’t [baloney], it’s just not enough. See, defensive performance is so hard to predict. With offense you have a reasonable shot at summing up the parts to get to OYDS. No such luck on defense. Proxy analysis can give us an idea of how good our defense could be but you will never know what you’ve got until you see it perform.
Football is not a math test.
I think I can see how Michigan can get to 100 NYPG this year….130 isn’t that far away.