During the past few summers when college conference expansion was all the rage, all I could think about was how the maneuvering and backstabbing going on was similar to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I tweeted about it a long while back, but forgot about it until recently when I read an article comparing soccer teams to the great houses of Westeros. I figured with it being a quiet off season and HBO’s version of a Game of Thrones currently in its second season, I should revisit the idea and look at the Big 10 and some of college football’s other teams as if they were great houses. I’ve excluded Nebraska because they are too new to the Big 10 and have tried to avoid spoilers for people who have not read all the books. Feel free to add more in the comments. Enjoy!
Michigan: House Stark. Michigan is one of the oldest teams in the country and can trace their lineage back to the First Men (to play football). Like Winterfell, their keep is one of the oldest and largest in all the BCS Kingdoms, and like the Starks there must always be a Michigan Man in the Big House. One of the defining characteristics of House Stark is their dedication to honor, a trait that Michigan shares as well. Many other houses look upon this as folly, for it puts both Stark and Michigan at a disadvantage when dealing with other Houses who have no such restrictions. Both the Starks and Michigan share sigils of ferocious creatures that do not actually live on their lands. They are The School in the North.
Ohio State: House Bolton. If there is any house that can match the Starks in the North, it is House Bolton. While the power of Michigan has waned in the past years, Ohio State’s has risen under the watchful eye of their quiet leader, Jim Tressel. Like Roose Bolton, Tressel looked like a model banner man and Northerner, honorable and loyal, but deep down he only cared about winning. And win he did, dispatching Michigan and becoming the new Warden of the North. House Bolton is seen by many to be brutal and untrustworthy, but there is no denying their power or the intelligence of their leadership. While the rest of the North floundered, they flourished. Both Ohio State and Bolton now are dealing with new heirs who many people think are basically the scum of the earth.
Wisconsin: House Umber. While not the most powerful House, the Umbers have made a name for themselves for being brave warriors and immensely strong. They could never match the power of the Starks or the Bolton’s, but individually they are perhaps the strongest warriors in the BCS Kingdoms. Their sigil is a chained giant, and the men of the house look the part, simply overpowering any foe who stands before them. One of the members of House Umber is nicknamed “Whoresbane” which sums up Brett Bielma nicely.
Penn State: House Manderly. House Manderly was never originally from the North, instead they arrived a 1000 years ago after being chased away from the South. While they were accepted by the Starks and have lived in the North for some time, they are still viewed by many as outsiders, and not considered true Northerners. While this may not seem fair to Penn State, who have proven themselves time and again to be loyal subjects, it is the case regardless. Whiteharbor is the only port of size in the North and is the portal through which the rest of the North gains access to the fertile lands of the South. While Penn State is not the only way the Big 10 gains access to the East Coast, it does play a similar role.
Michigan State: House Karstark. The Karstarks are an offshoot of House Stark, started by a youngest son who would never have inherited anything. They are proud, but not particularly powerful in the grand scheme of things. No matter what they do, they forever live in the shadow of their more powerful, pure blood Stark cousin’s. And if they get out of hand, you can bet that big cousin is standing there ready to lop off their head.
Minnesota: House Mormont. Both Minnesota and House Mormont are exceptionally proud and incredibly poor. They hardly seem worthy of being part of the BCS nobility, seeing as they live in a wooden fort on an island with no resources, but they are. Their sigil is a bear which kind of looks like a gopher.
Iowa: House Reed. House Reed lives in a swamp far away from civilization. Iowa can be found in a cornfield far away from civilization. Every once in a while they do something interesting, but mostly they just sit far away from civilization.
Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana: House who cares. Seriously, no one cares about the minor houses in the books and no one cares about these teams.
Other Great Houses:
Notre Dame: House Targeryen. House Targeryen is not aligned with any of the old kingdoms, having arrived from Vallyria with dragons and conquering everyone. For centuries they lorded over the other BCS people as the undisputed kings, but recently have fallen on hard times. Inbreeding has basically left them insane, and a series of horrendous leaders have left them running around in the wilderness with no shoes eating horse hearts. One Targeyen named Viserys even got a pot of melted gold poured over his head. Like Targeryen, Notre Dame is not really seen as a threat to anyone, but there is a great deal of power still in the name. A capable person could turn them into a mighty force.
Texas: House Baratheon. Both are big, powerful, and pretty much assholes. They don’t really work with others, instead just tell them what to do. They were kings for a while, but recently have utterly collapsed, and aren’t really a force to be reckoned with. Baratheon’s sigil is a horned stag, which is similar to Texas’ Longhorn.
Alabama: House Lannister. Everyone hates the Lannisters/Alabama, but they are probably the most powerful force in the world at the moment. They have the money, don’t really play by the rules, and treat everyone like the peasants they are. When they play you, they don’t so much want to beat you but kill you, kill your family, and erase your names from the history books. It seems that every few years some sort of horrific scandal is coming out of Alabama/House Lannister, but people soon forget it after they crush some new foe. As far as leadership goes, both House Lannister and Alabama have the privilege of having a genius and bloodthirsty dwarf in command. While the sigil of House Lannister is a lion and Alabama has an elephant, House Lannister’s colors are gold and crimson, which fits in nicely for the Crimson Tide.
Oregon: House Baelish. House Baelish was a speck of a house on the ocean that had no great history or wealth. But through the genius and possibly ill-gotten wealth of one man, that has all changed. Oregon was nothing before Nike founder Phil Knight began making it rain dollars in the Pacific Northwest instead of, you know, rain. Through a combination of absurd wealth and some backroom deals, both Oregon and Baelish are now knocking at the doors of the elite. Plus, both have adorable birds as sigils.
Florida State: House Tyrell. Both Florida State and House Tyrell think they are royalty, but really both found themselves in very fertile grounds and got lucky. It is hard to fail when you have the richest lands to draw from; large populations on those lands, but surprisingly both Florida State and Tyrell seem to fall apart with some regularity. They have neighbors in Miami and House Florent who fell that they are superior and deserve the top spot, but no one else thinks so.
The Big East: The Iron Islands. You could look at individual teams and compare them to individual houses, but what’s the point. Both the Ironborn and the Big East live on the coast and like to think they are powerful and deserve respect, but most people ignore them until they get beaten. And when that happens, they turn around and smack them in the mouth until they run away. Both the Big East and the Ironborn like to claim great swathes of land, but have no hopes of actually holding on to any of it. It is tough to be surrounded by far more powerful kingdoms who could crush you with a sneeze.
WATCHING THE REPLAY... AGAIN
(Click the image to view full size)
Oh, come on. You know you've done it too.
And probably more than once.
OnThursday we'll see Sparty's take on, well, pretty much the same subject matter.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and at least
every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out our newest
feature, Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
[Ed-Ace: Brian (knee) is day-to-day, though he did prepare some content that will be posted this afternoon. Post-Burke-return hoops stuff and a Spring Game primer will appear later this week. In the meantime, enjoy some Mike Hart.]
In honor of Michigan’s all-time leading rusher’s birthday yesterday, a look at one of the unique careers in college football.
Since the 2011 season completed, I have been re-loading 9 seasons worth of games (6,063 to be exact) to update my database to include 2011’s new feature of Win Percent Added. In doing so, something immediately popped out at me. No running back added more wins to their team than Mike Hart did for Michigan.
Sometimes when you are looking at advanced stats you are surprised by how counter-intuitive results can be and sometimes you are surprised how well the data fits the existing narrative. Mike was the back who wouldn’t go down, always got the extra yard, killed the clock and never fumbled. Those are all the things that factor highly in Win Percent Added, especially the 4th quarter capabilities. Burning the clock in the fourth quarter is a key requirement of a successful running back. Especially a Michigan running back. No one did it better than Mike.
For his career, Mike Hart was responsible for 4.4 Wins running the ball. Reggie Bush edges him out if you count receiving WPA, as well, but those are tainted wins. It’s not just longevity and playing time that pushed him to the top. His per game average of 0.11 is fifth, behind two players with only a single season in the database and two more with two seasons at non-BCS level schools.
At this point, writing about Mike Hart is a daunting task. What is left to write that hasn’t been written? He joined the team in the 2004 class as a 3 star recruit. He nearly set the national high school rushing record but wasn’t even the highest ranked running back in Michigan’s class. He would have been the fifth highest rated running back in Miami’s (YTM’s) recruiting class. He saw his first quality action in his second game of his career against Notre Dame in the second week of the season. By week three he was over 100 yards and posting a +5 EV+ and a crucial .36 WPA as Michigan held on for a 24-21 win over San Diego St.
Hart would go on to string together three straight 200 yards games in Big Ten play, including a 0.26 WPA in the Braylon Edwards game. His EV+ was always strong for a running back but where his EV+ was strong, his WPA was Herculean. Mike Hart made all the plays to win the game but none of them to lose them. By the end of the 2004 season true freshman Mike Hart had gone from anonymous three star to posting a per game WPA of 0.15, still my best recorded number in the Big Ten.
Injuries killed a large portion of the 2005 season. Kevin Grady, Max Martin, Antonio Bass and Jerome Jackson all took carries but none could come close to the production from Mike Hart. Kevin Grady was the only one to surpass a +1 EV+ in his absence, and that was mostly unnecessary against Indiana. Jerome Jackson did have a solid 0.14 WPA on 11 carries in an overtime win against Iowa, but that was limit of the success when Hart was out. In five full games of action Hart averaged 0.23 WPA which if replicated across an entire season would have given him the second highest (Reggie Bush, 2005) WPA average in a season for any running back since 2003.
It’s hard to think about what could have been with a healthy Mike Hart. Three carries in a seven point loss to Notre Dame, a DNP in a three point loss to Wisconsin eight ineffective carries in a four point loss to Ohio. There’s a very real chance he swings those three games and Michigan shares a Big Ten title with Penn State and spends its holiday taking on Florida State in the Orange Bowl rather than getting screwed over by the refs in the Alamo Bowl.
With fewer games coming down to key fourth quarter possessions in 2006, Michigan didn’t need the fourth quarter machine Mike Hart. He finished the season with a profile almost exactly like Chris Perry’s 2003 season. With not much in the way of close games, he didn’t have any massive, WPA pushing games like he had in his first two years, but 10 of 13 games would finish at .07 or better. For the year Hart ended at .09 WPA/game, his third top 20 Big Ten WPA year in as many tries. John Clay is the only player to have even 2 top 20 finishes.
For the second time in his career, injuries would derail an outstanding Mike Hart season. After surviving The Horror and somehow managing a strong WPA in the follow-up beating by Oregon, Hart was on track for a season to along side his junior year. An ankle injury in mid-season cost him a couple games of action and a couple more of effectiveness. 2007 would be his lowest rated season but still crack the Big Ten top 50. He would finish the year with enough quality carries to become Michigan’s all-time leading rusher and set the then non-existent WPA record.
When I talk to people about how much more valuable quarterbacks are than running backs they usually point to running out the clock in the fourth as the unquantifiable equalizer between the two. When I first developed the Win Percent Added I was anxious to see how true it was. If you properly value the ability for a running back to keep the clock running and close out a game, what happens to the value relationship between quarterback and running back. After I crunched the numbers I found that the fourth quarter benefit was largely overstated. Until I looked at Mike Hart. There are very few running backs whose value is truly magnified by the little things like the narrative claims.
Mike Hart is the narrative.
Mike Hart, Seasons
Mike Hart, Games
|Year||Week||Vs||EV+||WPA||Rush EV+||Rush Att||Yards|
|2004||3||San Diego St||5||0.36||5||25||121|
[Ed-S: Gee golly willickers this guy knows his hockey. Bump Elliott'd]
I know it's not about Trey Burke... but Brian suggested I post it Monday night:
Hockey Special Teams 1: Power Play Basics
Brian recently asked me “What’s wrong with Michigan’s powerplay?” Since that is a complicated answer, I’ll answer it in a 3 part Diary. This one focuses on the Power Play, the next will be on the penalty kill, and once I’ve explained those basics I’ll dive into Michigan’s specifics. There are many situations that can lead to a power play during a hockey game:
First, my hockey resume: I’ve been playing hockey for 20 years. I tried out for the club team at Michigan and was told I was the 2nd best goalie trying out, but they were only taking 1 that year (they might have told that to all the goalies). I played on Sunday nights at the Cube from 2006-2009, so if you played in that student league you probably played against me. I’ve done some coaching since graduation but had to take a break from that when I changed jobs. OK, enough about that. There are plenty of better hockey minds on the board (JimLahey comes to mind) who will hopefully chime in and add to what I’ve put together here.
All powerplays have 3 parts:
1. Establish possession in the offensive zone
3. Profit! Er. Score.
In this Diary I’m mainly going to focus on #2. In my diary on the penalty kill I’ll talk more about #1 (and how to stop it). The obvious advantage of a powerplay is that you have an extra man. The objective becomes taking advantage of that extra man and getting him a scoring change in space. It comes down to spacing and angles. Forgive the Word Art, but a basic offensive zone powerplay formation is the “Umbrella”
In this formation you have 3 players high in the zone, with one in the middle. This formation works best if the man on the left circle is a right-handed shot and the man on the right circle is a left-handed shot as seen here:
Right now the wing players are on their “opposite” sides, which allows them to be open to a pass from the middle and one-time the puck right away. We used to teach our “Quarterback” – the player at the top of the umbrella – to shoot it right away the first time he got it and establish himself as a threat. You make the PK commit to the middle player and he’ll have options on either side. In the above frame against Western, the WMU penalty killer approaching the puck is doing so after challenging the QB up top.
If you’ve got 5 minutes, this video does a good job of breaking down the Umbrella:
In the frame above, Michigan actually ran a different set off an umbrella look that lead to a goal. Rather than just cycling the puck among the top 3 guys, Michigan flipped the puck low and took advantage of what Western gave us. The same principles apply here though – get a scoring chance to a guy in space.
Another powerplay set up I learned as the “Swedish” play. This works well if you want to have 2 defensemen on the ice for the powerplay (like Red does) and you don’t want to have them switch sides (right D man is on the right side)
Again, forgive the word art. This set up lulls the defenders to sleep and sets up a quick one timer for one of your defensemen. The play starts at the top middle with a right handed defenseman. The puck should move between the top 3 players for a while until the play starts. The top defenseman passes to his partner, who passes down the wall, who passes to the man in the corner – who should be a lefty in this case. As the puck works around to the corner a few things can happen depending on what the defense gives you. The player in the corner can drive the puck to the net, look for the man directly in front of the net, or drive hard around the net and find the crashing defenseman for a one-timer. This works because the puck has been busy rotating on the right for a while, and your top left penalty killer can be caught sleeping when the defenseman crashes. Again, creates a scoring chance in space.
Those are 2 basic powerplay set ups. Now for some general powerplay non-bullets:
You have to establish possession in the offensive zone
I mentioned this above, but that is really where Michigan struggled this year. This isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds, as I’ll try to show you in the upcoming “Penalty Kill” diary. It’s a lot like breaking a press in basketball. There are a lot of different neutral zone kills, and the offsides rule really helps the defenders out.
The powerplay is a lot like football plays – constraints are huge
This will come into view with the “Penalty Kill” diary, but depending on what the offense is doing, the defense does something and vice versa. There are ways to break kills, kills designed to stop specific powerplays, etc.
Powerplays can be very mental and high pressure situations
You're supposed to score, you can press, you can play tight, and you can fail. Especially if a powerplay is struggling. Like THJ - when he was in his slump, everyone knew it, when he was open for a 3 he should make it, and stuff like that can become a self fulfilling prophecy. That's the mental part. The physical is more akin to the red zone or goal line football. Everything gets turned up a notch. Again, you're supposed to score and the defense turns it up too. Every little mistake gets jumped on - if you don't have a perfect clean pass the D pounces and you have to try to gain the zone again. As an aside, Michigan’s PK was dominant against Ohio State in Cleveland, we were on every loose puck.
A 5-on-3 is a goal one way or the other. Everything mental I just mentioned about a normal powerplay is turned up to 11. A goal is scored, either by the offensive team or by the team that shut down the 5-on-3. The momentum swing and huge boost is as good as a goal, and I am not exaggerating. Many teams will run their normal powerplay, just condensed. So rather than the umbrella being near the top of the zone, your middle guy is even with the top of the circles and your wings are closer to the dots.
A Good goalie can muck all of this up
A team’s best penalty killer is their goalie. A goalie can affect a series more than any other player in any other sport. Some nights no matter what happens you’re not scoring on a goalie. Sometimes this is awesome and Hunwick takes us far. Sometimes we run into the hot goalie and can’t do anything about it.
Powerplays can get too fancy
Just like a basketball team trying to get a pretty play on a 3-on-1 break, the powerplay can be over thought and fail. Sometimes you just need to make the smart pass, or throw the puck at the net. Dirty goals are still goals. On the powerplay often players will try to go for the beautiful pass for a seamless one-timer… when what they should have done is throw the puck at the net at crash it.
That’s it for my Powerplay Overview. I’ll try to get the penalty kill diary up within about a week, followed by a breakdown of where exactly Michigan struggles.
I am back from vacation, and so are the recruiting rankings. In this update, we see Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Penn State all edge closer to Michigan, which still is well ahead of the field despite not picking up a commit in forever, you guys. Changes since last rankings:
3-26-12: Notre Dame picks up Rashad Kinlaw.
3-27-12: Notre Dame picks up Corey Robinson. Penn State picks up Curtis Cothran.
4-1-12: Ohio State picks up Ezekiel Elliott and Jayme Thompson. Wisconsin picks up T.J. Watt.
4-4-12: Notre Dame picks up Devin Butler. Iowa picks up David Kenney.
4-5-12: Penn State picks up Greg Webb.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the three recruiting services (aka the previous three columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as one-star players. This may be a bit unfair this early in the process, considering there are many unevaluated recruits out there at this stage, but that's life.
On to the full data:
Glory, friends, sweet shining glory! Both Michigan tennis teams (men's and women's) have beaten Illinois in convincing fashion. On April 7, 2012, #15 Michigan women defeated #19 Illinois 6-1 at the Varsity Tennis Center. Michigan won the doubles point and all but court 5 of the singles court in a rout of their ranked opponents. 1 court and national #10 Emina Betkas needed three sets to win, 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. Michigan courts 2-4 all won in straight sets. With this win in hand Michigan women's tennis has improved to 13-5 on the season including a 6-0 mark in the Big Ten.
Michigan men's tennis played at Illinois' Atkins Tennis Center on April 6, 2012. The match was decided by a 4-3 margin in favor of Michigan. 1 court and national #10 Evan King won the critical fourth point to break a 3-3 dual deadlock over national #4 Dennis Nevolo, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3. 2 court Shaun Bernstein had a tough day, losing to national #31 Roy Kalmanovich 6-1, 6-2. Michael Zhu fared little better on 4 court, falling 6-2, 6-1. Suprisingly in doubles Petrone/Zhu lost their match; usually Franks/Buzzi is the doubles team more likely to drop their game. With the doubles point in hand thanks to the usual diligence of King/Bernstein and victories from Petrone and Franks(!) on 3 and 5 courts Michigan wrapped up another tough road win. Michigan is now 12-5 with a 5-1 Big Ten mark. With some luck in Columbus April 22 against #3 Ohio State (24-2, 6-0 B10) Michigan could win the regular season title.