to play football, not to play trumpet
I believe this photo was taken before the game (Upchurch)
Let’s try this again after accidentally deleting the original version.
1 The Six Factors
|Exp Score||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
Gave up a few points in field position, that could be worse…
Actually did better getting early conversions than MSU, that’s encouraging…
Lost the bonus yards, that’s a bit troubling…
Oh wow, that average third down distance is awful…
And that adjusted 3rd down conversion is after adjusting for the 12.7 average…
At this point the red zone doesn’t even matter.
When it went bad on Saturday, it went really bad. Take out the final two drives and my prediction of holding the MSU offense a touchdown below field position is about spot on. Michigan State owned the world when Michigan had the ball. The 12.7 average is the third worst number on the season for any team in any game. It was not good.
2 Individual Performances
QBs: Points Added (opp. adjusted), Win Percent Added (Weekly National Rank)
Devin Gardner: +2, –4% (43)
Connor Cook: +1, +12% (54)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: +0.2, –3% (n/a)
Jeremy Langford: –1.5, +3% (72)
Jeremy Gallon: +4.5, +11% (101)
Bennie Fowler: +7.2, +16% (32)
[Game chart of impending doom followed by doom, follwed by more doom.]
This diary was inspired by the following tweet:
Under Hoke, U-M is 23-2 in games in which it is the favorite. U-M is 2-7 in games in which it is the underdog. (cc: @justcoverblog)
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) November 6, 2013
I decided to look a bit more closely at the data because this seemed so striking to me. [EDIT: Hallett is incorrect: I have UM 24-2 when favored, 1-7 when not. This makes it even more striking!].
First, I compiled a spreadsheet of all results in the Hoke era, which looked like this:
|Year||Date||Opponent||Location||Result||UM score||Opponent score||Line||Cover?|
(The lines were taken from MGoBlog game previews.)
Results are fairly interesting. First, the losses:
- All losses (9) were away or on neutral fields. (We know this because Hoke is undefeated at home, but still worth restating, I think).
- All losses, with two exceptions, were in games where Michigan was the underdog. Those exceptions were, of course, at Penn State (2013) and at Iowa (2011).
- When Michigan loses, it doesn't cover the point spread, with one exception: the Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina. Of course this is partly a function of the fact that when Michigan is an underdog, it is only a slight underdog (average +5.125, compared to an average of -14.6 when we are favored).
Second, the wins:
- We are undefeated at Michigan Stadium in the Hoke era.
- We have five away wins (out of 25 wins total). In three of those games, we were favored by more than a touchdown (@UConn 2013, @Minny 2012, @NW 2011). In two, we were favored by a FG or less and we blew the other team out (@Purdue 2012, @Illinois 2011). (Note: we were only favored by 1 @ Illinois in 2011. I double-checked this and it's accurate).
- Hence, I think it's fair to say that we have not got a signature win in an opponent's stadium in the Hoke era.
- We have only one win in which we were the underdog: ND in 2011, a game that Brian descibed as "delirious because of the many improbable events stacked on each other" before adding that "Michigan has to fix some stuff—lots of stuff—by the Big Ten season."
- We have five wins in which we were favored by less than a touchdown: @Illinois 2011, @Purdue 2012, the 2012 Sugar Bowl, Nebraska 2011, and ND 2013. In all of those games we covered or pushed (the Sugar Bowl).
Third, the expectations. I looked at games where there was a big difference between the expectation (i.e., the gambling line) and the final score.
The biggest letdowns, where there was a two touchdown difference between the line and the final score, were:
- 2013 Akron at home. We were favored by 38 and won by 4, for a sads score of -34.
- 2013 MSU away. We were 6 point underdogs and lost by 23, for a sads score of -17.
- 2013 UConn away. We were 18 point favorites and won by 3, for a sads score of -15.
- Other letdowns (between -7 and -14) were: Alabama , Air Force , @Iowa , @Nebraska , @MSU , MSU ).
- The biggest happy victories, where the final score was two touchdowns or more than the gambling line, are Minnesota , @Purdue , Nebraska , Illinois , Central Michigan , and Illinois .
The big take-away for me is that this confirms the general impression that Michigan under Hoke wins the games that it should, generally speaking. That's good. On the other hand, we have only one win in which we were the underdog, and two losses in which we were favored, and we don't have a signature away win. I think that sample sizes are small and Hoke is still recovering from the RR era, etc., so this doesn't concern me much.
More concerning is the fact that the three worst letdowns (final score vs. point spread) all occurred this year. Two were wins against teams that Michigan should have destroyed, one was the Michigan State game. This is a reasonable explanation, I think, of the present malaise of Michigan fans.
Just when I thought I was I out, they pull me back in!
I don't know why I am such glutton for punishment, but I am finding this topic interesting (and not just in football sense, but statistically as well). I want to contribute one last time.
Many people on the threads have pointed out that just counting the class experience (basically age) is not enough, you need to count the actual games started as well.
I agree, games started should be part of this analysis.
AmazinBlue pointed out that Phil Steele has published a convenient list of all the games started by the players on the roster before the season began (http://www.philsteele.com/Blogs/2013/JUN13/DBJune08.html). Since the data is so handy, I figured I would go ahead and combine both sets of data and make a handy dandy XY Scatter chart. X-axis is the total combined number of Class Experience (i.e. Frosh=1, rs Frosh = 1.5) and Y-axis is the total number of previous games started.
As you can see from above, Michigan is in a better place than at least four teams (Auburn, UCLA, LSU, and Texas Tech), and surprisingly not that far away from Alabama.
Statistically, Michigan is within one standard deviation from the mean on Total Games Previously Started and just .16 away from one standard deviation for Total Class Experience. That, by definition, says Michigan o-line is not an outlier.
Again, the data says Michigan o-line is young, but not "outlier" young. There are other teams in top 25 who are just as inexperienced and a few who are even in a worse position. Blaming all of our woes on o-line experience does not paint the entire picture.
I try to do something nice...
Let's face it. The biggest whine around here outside of Fire Borges! Fire Funk! is moaning about how young our offensive line is. But is our o-line really exceptionally young compare to others? In order to figure out exactly how young our offensive line is against other top programs, I went and created a list of all starting offensive line and their class designation.
Trusting fellow that I am, I went to the most prominent depth chart list online - Rivals. I took the info from their nicely formatted charts and posted it here.
Little did I know, Rivals does not have the journalistic integrity of New York Times. Their depth charts were of varying quality, fact-wise.
So, here I am again, starting from scratch and wasting 3 hours of my free time for all you ingrates. I hope you find it educational and somewhat useful.
This time, I went to every OFFICIAL school websites and got the class and high school graduation information from them. If I still have wrong info, well, thems the breaks.
One more thing, some of you on the other diary pointed out how no one else had as young players as we did between the tackles. I think this is a specious argument. Schofield is going to be a guard in NFL, it would be to his benefit to play guard during his senior year. However, the coaches have determined that it is in our best interest to have him outside. If having experience in the middle is more important, Schofield would be playing guard, not tackle.
One more one more thing. I am not implying that having one Frosh and One Junior is the same as having two Sophs. The average (median is useless with such small samples) is used because it gives the best indication of the overall experience level that you can use to compare. The actual class info is posted so you can determine whether or not ours is young in comparison to others in your own criteria.
I went and looked up bios of all 125 starting offensive linemen for AP top 25 teams. As I was browsing through, I noticed that quite a few of the headshots in the bios featured mad flow. Let me share a few of my favorites.
#3. Best Dreads - Cyril Richardson, Baylor
#2. Most Unlikely Flow - Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
#1. No Explanation Necessary - Max Copeland, Missouri
As before, Freshman = 1, Redshirt Freshman = 1.5, Sophmore = 2, and so on
The average experience for all top 25 teams combined: 3.3
The average experience for the top 10 teams combined: 3.46
The top three teams with OL experience: Ohio (3.9), Oklahoma State (3.9), Oklahoma (3.8)
The teams with average experience of 3.0 or less: Auburn (2.5), South Carolina (2.9), LSU (2.5), Texas A&M (2.8), UCLA (2.2), Notre Dame (3.0), Texas Tech (2.9)
Is Our O-Line Really That Young?
Not really. Yes, they are younger than average at 2.8, but would be 3.3 (exact average of Top 25) if you replace Bosch and Kalis with Bryant and Miller. Even as is, there are about 1/3 of the teams in Top 25 who have equivalent or younger (in a few cases, SIGNIFICANTLY younger) offensive lines. I really don't think lack of experience explains away how Akron and UConn DT's pushed our OL around.
Complete List of Offensive Line Starters in AP Top 25
|Michigan||LT||Taylor Lewan||2009||RS SR||4.5||2.8|
|Michigan||C||Graham Glasgow||2012||RS SO||2.5|
|Michigan||RG||Kyle Kalis||2012||RS FR||1.5|
|Michigan||RT||Michael Schofield||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Alabama||LG||Arie Kouandjio||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Alabama||C||Ryan Kelly||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Alabama||RG||Anthony Steen||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Alabama||RT||Austin Shepherd||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|FSU||LT||Cameron Erving||2010||RS JR||3.5||3.4|
|FSU||C||Bryan Stork||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Oregon||LT||Tyler Johnstone||2011||RS SO||2.5||3.4|
|Oregon||LG||Mana Greig||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Oregon||C||Hroniss Grasu||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Oregon||RG||Hamani Stevens||2008||RS JR||3.5|
|Ohio||LT||Jack Mewhort||2009||RS SR||4.5||3.9|
|Ohio||C||Corey Linsley||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Ohio||RG||Marcus Hall||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Stanford||LG||David Yankey||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Stanford||C||Khalil wilkes||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Stanford||RG||Kevin Danser||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Stanford||RT||Cameron Fleming||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Baylor||LT||Spencer Drango||2011||RS SO||2.5||3.7|
|Baylor||LG||Cyril Richardson||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Baylor||C||Stefan Huber||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Baylor||RG||Desmine Hilliard||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Baylor||RT||Kelvin Palmer||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Clemson||LT||Brandon Thomas||2009||RS SR||4.5||3.5|
|Clemson||LG||Kalon Davis||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Clemson||C||Ryan Norton||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Clemson||RG||Tyler Shatley||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Clemson||RT||Shaq Anthony||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Missouri||LT||Justin Britt||2009||RS SR||4.5||3.4|
|Missouri||LG||Mitch Hall||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Missouri||RG||Max Copeland||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Missouri||RT||Mitch Morse||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Auburn||LT||Greg Robinson||2011||RS SO||2.5||2.5|
|Auburn||LG||Alex Kozan||2012||RS FR||1.5|
|Auburn||RG||Chad Slade||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Oklahoma||LT||Tyrus Thompson||2010||RS JR||3.5||3.8|
|Oklahoma||LG||Adam Shead||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Oklahoma||C||Gabe Ikard||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Oklahoma||RT||Daryl Williams||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Miami||LG||Jon Feliciano||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Miami||C||Shane McDermott||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|South Carolina||LT||Corey Robinson||2010||RS JR||3.5||2.9|
|South Carolina||LG||AJ Cann||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|South Carolina||C||Cody Waldrop||2012||RS FR||1.5|
|South Carolina||RG||Ronald Patrick||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|South Carolina||RT||Brandon Shell||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|LSU||C||Elliott Porter||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|LSU||RG||Trai Turner||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|LSU||RT||Jerald Hawkins||2012||RS FR||1.5|
|Oklahoma State||LT||Parker Graham||2009||RS SR||4.5||3.9|
|Oklahoma State||LG||Brandon Webb||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Oklahoma State||C||Jake Jenkins||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Oklahoma State||RG||Chris Grisbhy||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Oklahoma State||RT||Daniel Koenig||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Texas A&M||LT||Jake Matthews||2010||RS JR||3.5||2.8|
|Texas A&M||LG||Jarvis Harrison||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Texas A&M||C||Mike Matthews||2012||SO||2|
|Texas A&M||RG||Germain Ifedi||2012||RS FR||1.5|
|Texas A&M||RT||Cedric Ogbuehi||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Fresno State||LT||Austin Wentworth||2009||RS SR||4.5||3.4|
|Fresno State||LG||Alex Fifita||2012||SO||2|
|Fresno State||C||Lars Bramer||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Fresno State||RG||Cody Wichmann||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Fresno State||RT||Justin Northern||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Michigan State||LT||Donovan Clark||2011||RS SO||2.5||3.3|
|Michigan State||LG||Blake Treadwell||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Michigan State||C||Travis Jackson||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Michigan State||RG||Dan France||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Michigan State||RT||Jack Conklin||2012||RS FR||1.5|
|Northern Illinois||LT||Tyler Loos||2010||RS JR||3.5||3.5|
|Northern Illinois||LG||Aidan Conlon||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Northern Illinois||C||Andrew Ness||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Northern Illinois||RG||Jeared Volk||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Northern Illinois||RT||Matt Krempel||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|UCLA||C||Jake Brendel||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|UCLA||RT||Torian White||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Louisville||C||Jake Smith||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Louisville||RG||Kmran Joyer||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Louisville||RT||Ryan Mack||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|UCF||LT||Torrian Wilson||2010||RS JR||3.5||3.7|
|UCF||C||Joey Grant||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|UCF||RT||Chris Martin||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Arizona State||LT||Evan Finkenberg||2009||RS SR||4.5||3.7|
|Arizona State||LG||Jamil Douglas||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Arizona State||C||Kody Koebensky||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Arizona State||RG||Vi Teofilo||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Arizona State||RT||Tyler Sulka||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Notre Dame||LT||Zack Martin||2009||RS SR||4.5||3|
|Notre Dame||LG||Chris Watt||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Notre Dame||C||Nick Martin||2011||JR||3|
|Notre Dame||RG||Steve Elmer||2013||FR||1|
|Notre Dame||RT||Ronnie Stanley||2012||SO||2|
|Wisconsin||LT||Tyler Marz||2011||RS SO||2.5||3.5|
|Wisconsin||LG||Ryan Groy||2009||RS SR||4.5|
|Wisconsin||C||Dallas Lewallen||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Wisconsin||RG||Kyle Costigan||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Wisconsin||RT||Rob Havenstein||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Texas Tech||LT||Le'Raven Clark||2011||RS SO||2.5||2.9|
|Texas Tech||LG||Alfredo Morales||2011||RS SO||2.5|
|Texas Tech||C||Jared Kaster||2012||SO||2|
|Texas Tech||RG||Beau Carpenter||2010||RS JR||3.5|
|Texas Tech||RT||Rashad Fortenberry||2009||SR||4|
The weekly edition of my ongoing diary evaluating the B1G using the advanced stats of the Football Outsiders (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/feiplus). Here is the chart:
Following suggestions, I've rotated the chart 45 degrees so that the better teams are at the top of the chart and worse teams are at the bottom. Teams that are better on defense are on the right (e.g., Michigan State), teams that are better on offense are on the left (e.g., Ohio State).
- Michigan is migrating towards the clump of okay B1G teams: Iowa, Northwestern, and Nebraska. These games are certainly winnable but they are looking less and less like gimmes (per the advanced stats, of course).
- The B1G ten is currently dominated by Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
- Purdue is worse than Akron.
- That Penn State loss is not looking any better.
What does cute baby have in common with our offense vs. MSU? They both suck!
Al Borges is easily the most hated man on the Michigan staff. Darrell Funk may be gaining some ground in that department, but he has a long way to go. Even Brady Hoke--the man who has delivered Michigan's best recruits in over a decade--is facing some heavy criticism.
I get it. Saturday was painful in so many ways. It's hard to watch your QB run play action from under center and get sacked almost before he turns around. It's hard to watch your team's championship hopes vanish in game that wasn't a contest. It's hard to know you can't beat the best, or even the very good.
Every story is made better with a villain. This is our national mode of thinking now--in politics, in business, and in sports. It's just so much easier to blame someone than to actually look at the complexity of an issue.
And to be sure, Al Borges does deserve blame. As does Funk, and, yes, even Hoke. Coaches are responsible for the product on the field. Period. Our product sucked with the fury of a black hole (yes nerds, I know they don't actually "suck") on Saturday, and it's natural to want bastards to pay for that.
But, just for a moment, let's look at how we could have attacked that MSU defense, instead of focusing on our complete inability to do anything resembling offense on Saturday.
This is right off of Brian's picture pages. It is a very typical alignment for MSU, although the field (don't want to argue about strong/free) safety is a bit deeper than usual at ten yards; it's often closer to eight. Michigan is in a pretty standard 3WR Shotgun look. Sometimes, that slot LB is actually a LB, sometimes it's a LB/S hybrid. Doesn't really matter.
How do you attack this defense? Let's examine a few possibilities:
- Quick pass/extended hand-off. Outside press coverage eliminates this possibility for the X and Z (outside receivers). You could look to the H (slot), but that LB or LB/S thingy is definitely close enough to tackle almost immediately. As soon as DG turns his head there and Funchess turns to catch the ball, that LB is in KILL! mode. He knows he has safety help over the top if he's wrong, so there's very little risk form him. He would attempt decapitation. Even if Funchess can shake him, that safety is there--and this assumes the TE blocked the middle LB. So basically, this option sucks.
- Slants/hitches/crosses. We're going to assume this is man coverage, since that's what MSU runs most of the time. First of all, it's terribly difficult to beat press coverage on a three-step drop, especially when the corners are as accomplished as Waynes and Dennard. This is made even more difficult by the fact that their corners are playing "inside technique," meaning they are a half-step inside the WRs, trying to force them to the outside. But let's assume, just for fun, that our guys beat their guys. The WR on the left side is now running right into that slot LB, who is reading the H. A common antidote to this would be to send the H on a flat route, attempting to pull the LB with him. That might actually work. The problem, though, is that MSU's safeties use a technique called "pattern reading." Basically, they are watching the first few steps of those slot/TE types, and reacting. If the slot/TE dudes don't stretch the field, the safety crashes down to try and help in coverage. MSU's safeties will make this ready quickly. A best-case scenario is a perfectly executed slant that gets thumped by the safety after a five or six yard gain. But this is a high-risk play: if the LB reads the QB's eyes and sinks, it could be a pick-six. I didn't mention the hitch, but it's real tough against press man, and the crossing routes are even MORE susceptible to LB INTs, which MSU does well.
- MANBALL. Run the ball, damn it! Well, even if we had a good O-Line, this is tough. A give to the RB means our six blockers are up against their six plus"two halves" in the box. That LB over the slot and the boundary safety are both on the edge of the box, ready to pounce on a running play. Even if we leave a backside guy unblocked, MSU will have numbers in the box very quickly, and our best-case is a three-yard gain (which we actually mustered a few times). BUT, even this will be inconsistent, because sometimes those LBs blitz and that safety crashes even before they know if it's run or pass, and in that case the slower-developing run from the shotgun is dead to rights. This, by the way, is why AB and Hoke want an under center game: your RB can immediately get to the business of running when the ball is snapped, rather than waiting for the snap to get to the QB and for the QB to handle the snap and then hand it off to a guy who is right next to him. From under center, the RB can (and does) start to move at the snap, and gets the ball closer to the LOS and with a some steam. It's not a huge difference, but it is significant and it is why RB runs are often more effective from under center.
- Option run. Yeah. We tried a few of these. You saw what happened. MSU makes quick, aggressive reads on almost every play. They blitz frequently, and they slant, stunt, and twist all the damn time. If even one of these guys gets free--which they almost always did against us--you're looking at a five yard loss. Even in a well-designed play (which Brian covered in the picture pages) the MSU defense collapses fast, gets off blocks, and gobbles-up your RB or QB. They get nine guys in the box (the safeties crash fast) as quickly as any team I've ever seen. Their DE's are also athletic enough to trouble the option on their own. All that said, a finely-tuned and perfectly-blocked option scheme would give them trouble, as it would anyone.
- Deep passing game. Without even the slightest doubt, this is where MSU is susceptible. IF Ohio beats them, it will be with big plays in the passing game, IMO, and perhaps some read/option stuff with probably the best running tandem QB and RB this side of Oregon. But, schematically, there is no doubt that this defense is susceptible to the deep pass, especially off of play action. You can get single coverage on your H (slot), your Y (TE), and your X and Z (outside WRs) against this defense. There are two problems with this: MSU's one-on-one coverage is really good; and MSU's blitzes and pass rush are even better than their coverage. I believe Denicos Allen is the best blizting LB in the country, and Bullough isn't far behind. Your QB needs a 7-step drop for these routes; your line needs to hold-up; and your RB probably needs to block (since that's one of the only ways to shut down the double-A blitz). We had open receivers against MSU. Other teams have also had wide open dudes. But when the QB's face is in the turf--or he's worried about his face being in the turf--it's awfully hard to read the defense and make the perfect throw required to beat the coverage (see Gardner's INT). Max protect should give you the time you need, but you still have to execute against an excellent blitz and stellar coverage, and MSU's safeties do a good job of reading three-man routes and helping their CB's where they can.
- Play action. For the record, I hated the play action calls. Having Gardner turn his back when his line can't block just sucks. But I understand why Borges calls them. MSU does read-and-react, and their LBs and safeties do hold a beat on play action. The run/pass conflict is there. That said, they are often blitzing a LB no matter what, which has the potential to blow-up your play before it gets started. So there's a bit of roulette there. But if you can block it, the opportunities for deep passes will be there, and pop passes to the slot from the shotgun or pistol (which we did) can be effective. That said, it's a slow-developing play that requires more blocking, and MSU is betting that you can't beat them in that department. Yet another reason to run play action is to set-up the run. Yep, you read that correctly. When a defense gets burned on a PA pass, they naturally slow their reaction to the run. This is why you might run a PA pass before you run the base running play. There is yet another reason Borges calls these PA passes and under center runs: he's preparing the team for the future. If we don't run under center until we're good at it, we'll never be good at it. Borges would get (rightfully) bashed for bringing out the 2015 team and expecting them to run under center stuff if they'd never done it before. Like it or not, it's part of our future, and we need experience doing it some, even if we suck at it.
TL;DR - MSU's defense is really good, and very difficult to attack. When you can't block their blitzes, you are left with few or no good options. This is not an excuse for the coaches--they need to get their kids to block. But the two best strategies against this defense require good, sustained blocking, and they are the only way to open up the running game.
We simply aren't good enough to execute against this defense. And that falls on the coaches just as much (if not more) as it falls on the players. Better play-calling couldn't have helped much.