I know you feel, John…
Worst: Totally Meta
To let you in a bit on how the sausage is made with one of these posts, I usually sit down with my laptop during the game and play around in the liveblog while taking some really cursory notes. While I’m sure I could figure out how to watch lineplay and defensive adjustments intricately in order to make really astute observations about particular players, there are lots of people here at MGoBlog who do a great job with that level of detail and, frankly, I doubt I’d be able to add much. No, the Best and Worst is all about a layman’s observations of a game, with (I hope) a bit of humor, some fun long-form ideas, and insufferable references to wrestlers and 90’s television shows.
Well, usually my notes take on a bit of a narrative as a game progresses; I inevitably start ordering comments into Offense, Defense, Special Teams, Coaching, etc. buckets, so by the end I’ve got my talking points, as they are, laid out. Given the opponent, I figured they’d be succinct and pretty general; it’s hard to derive too much from a blowout.
Well, by the last 4 minutes of the game, my notes spanned 2 pages typed and, if my keyboard was both sentient and possessed the necessary funds to file documents with a court, would be Exhibit A of a battery suit brought against me. People joke about how typing “OMFG” or “ROFL” negates the emotion you are attempting to convey, like telling someone how funny something is instead of actually laughing. But part of the reason you use these shorthands, though, is because “nfsakjf528095353u55b25jewrnijrggrehjigh3u04u-421” followed by your dog fleeing the room is hard to convey in words. So yeah, based on my notes…
Worst: Goliath has Fans Too
I’m usually not one to complain too much about announcers except if they go full Spielman and openly root for one team over the other, but the announcers were extremely excited about the possibility of Akron beating UM. And that got me thinking; seemingly everyone loves the David vs. Goliath matchups that end with David victorious. At first blush, it totally makes sense; David represents the everyman, overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds with character, ingenuity, and guile. To root for David is to root for the human spirit and the impossible dream. Rooting for Goliath is like rooting for the house in blackjack.
But here’s the thing; being “Goliath” is not free of context, nor is it purely a “you vs. them” dynamic wherein everyone agrees how the story should end. In other words, Goliath has fans too, and in most cases they don’t view themselves as the bully, the victor, the unstoppable force OR the immovable object. Goliath is just a guy who is blessed with some physical advantages that he honed with rigorous training and passionate loyalty to a cause. In the eyes of Goliath, he’s entering into fair combat against another warrior who just happens to be smaller than him and who wields a slingshot. He’s not Razor Ramon or Vince McMahon, “heels” personified who want nothing more than to ruin the face’s day. No, He’s not the “bad guy”, unless “being tall and strong” and winning most of the time are dastardly traits. He is the Big Bad because the only lens used to view him is as the seemingly unattainable or antithesis model, the personification of David’s shortcomings.
So saying you love David vs. Goliath games is really saying you like to see the big guy lose not necessarily because you have a rooting interest in David or against Goliath, but because you don’t want to be reminded that not everyone has David’s problems. On some level, you hold Goliath’s strengths and accomplishments against him, believing something must be cosmically wrong to explain his winning ways, and that a loss will somehow right this off-kilter universe.
But that really isn’t fair to either party; Akron is just a bad FBS program trying to find its footing and UM is the winningest program in college football history. UM has all of those wins because, for most of its existence, it has fielded talented, well-coached teams that beat other ones on the football field. Akron, not so much, but that isn’t because of something UM did. And, humorously, the tables are turned in the other “football”: Akron has been one of the best college soccer teams for years now while UM is the “upstart” that scored a major 1-0 upset over the Zips a couple of years ago during an otherwise poor season.
I’d say millions of people partook in today’s game in some way (live, TV, radio, internet, etc.), and a significant number of them are probably fans of UM football. They wanted to see UM win for any number of reasons, and few if any thought Akron winning would be a “good thing”. Russians certainly didn’t think losing to the US at the Olympics was a good idea, nor are Phi Slamma Jamma fans clamoring for Lorenzo Charles (RIP) memorial jerseys, and I’m guessing Lloyd Carr isn’t sending Armanti Edwards holiday cards. Had Akron pulled off the win, it would have been heralded as a huge upset both for the year as well as historically, and people who “like” upsets would have another moment to cheer about. But for the fans of Goliath, David is just the guy who got lucky, and no amount of culturally-endorsed schadenfreude will change that.
Today’s game ended with Goliath winning, though it was obviously closer than expected. The narrative is that Akron gave UM all they could handle, and that in a game of inches UM got lucky that Akron came up a bit short. But it was a game that both teams had a chance to win, and this time Goliath benefitted from a missed opportunity; history hasn’t always been so kind. I’m certainly not going to complain.
Worst: It’s a Win? (as said in the voice of Ron Burgundy)
Yeah, I’m not going to be one of those people who says it would have been a better “learning experience” if they had lost; I’m a results-based grader so a win is always better than a loss. That said, this is up there with narrowly beating Indiana and Illinois under RR and a turrible 10-7 win against 5-6 Utah in 2002 (a game I attended and apparently blocked from my memory until now). And unlike those games where you could at least point to one element of the performance being a positive, it isn’t really hypoerbole or “ESPN talking head”-ole to say UM was beat in all three phases of the game.
Best: It’s a Win
But it’s a victory for UM, and 3-0 is 3-0. Just ask MSU, whose offense finally eclipsed the defense is scoring 3 games into the season. Teams have bad games, and for all of the hell the players are likely to have rain down on them by the coaching staff this week, it would be immensely worse if Saturday’s game had ended with an “L” on the schedule. This game probably ratchets down the expectations a notch if you saw UM as a top-5 outfit, but otherwise it was a close shave for a team with top-15 talent. Given the number of massive upsets this year, it could have been far worse.
I know the Internet is the ultimate echo chamber for cynicism, and this blog’s particular composition only accentuates that property, but just like was a need to pump the brakes a bit after the ND game, this game doesn’t not necessarily mean you need to stock your panic room quite yet.
Best: I don’t want…your life!
One of the more underrated moments in Varsity Blues is the “hungover” game played by the West Canaan Coyotes after Mox, Tweeder, Billy Bob, Wendell, and Lance spent a night at the Landing Strip Gentleman’s Club*. Hungover and clearly off their game, they lose in embarrassing fashion and Bud Kilmer turns to threatening Mox about his scholarship to Brown if he doesn’t shape up and fall in line.
In no way am I insinuating that UM’s play against Akron was caused by every starter heading off to Deja Vu in Ypsi Thursday night, but it clearly looked like a team that was out of sorts from the outset. UM did force a 3-and-out on Akron’s first drive and followed it up with the long TD by Funchess, but for most of that first half the offense looked lost and the defense held tough but couldn’t generate much of a pass rush. And once the 2nd half began and Akron made some adjustments offensively, the defense struggled to keep them off the field. Plus, Gibbons missed his first kick since Purdue and Matt Wile shanked a couple of punts, resulting in an average of 33 yards per kick despite “booming” one 54 yards. As a couple of people noted (including Ace), if it was against any other team but Akron, UM probably would have been run off the field. But still, just a disorienting performance.
Of course, Notre Dame also had a pretty off performance against Purdue, so who knows where everyone was last night.
* I know this is saying a great deal in a movie where James Van Der Beek is a Texas QB, literally every play is either a bone-shattering tackle or a 50-yard TD (seriously, watch the clip and you’ll see 4-5 NFL Blitz-style flying tackles), and a HS team is allowed to basically coach itself once Jon Voight leaves at halftime – you’ll notice no assistant coaches take over or are even on the screen, but the most unbelievable part of that movie is a HS health teacher moonlighting as a stripper in a city of, oh, 10,000 people in Texas and NOBODY notices until some HS kids see her act. I mean, that club looked packed on (I’m guessing) a weekday night, and early on the movie establishes that Miss Davis must be making decent money from her dancing in order to afford a Mustang convertible, so it is clearly a popular place. Yet her double life remains a mystery both before and after this night. Simply unbelievable.
UM averaged 5.5 ypc* and 8.3 ypa** while holding the Zips to 3.6 ypc*** and 6.3 ypa**** which look good on paper, but as the astute reader might have picked up, those little *’s aren’t just looking for a party to crash; they are massive caveats. First the rushing: Gardner averaged 10.3 ypc on his 103 yards, showcasing the game-breaking speed that can turn a collapsing pocket into a 36 yard TD. Fitz recorded 71 more yards on 19 carries, but didn’t crack 4 ypc against the #80 rushing defense in the country. And while I initially thought he was the recipient of some bad luck out there due to penalties on runs, the only one apparently was a holding penalty by Gallon on a 3-yarder. Of his 19 carries, 7 were for losses and 8 were for minimal gain (though one was the TD). He recorded 65 yards on 4 other carries, and added a nice 27 yard reception to goose the numbers up a bit. On most runs he was engulfed in the backfield or had trouble locating holes either because they weren’t there or a momentary hesitation closed them too quickly. I’ll get into my feelings about the line play later, but this was not a banner day for a guy who has played reasonably well this year given the obvious issues in front of him.
As for that 8.3 ypa, that is .7 ypa below Akron’s 114th-ranked pass defense, and came with a 53% completion perctange and 3 INTs, including a horrible screen-ish pass that was returned for a TD. Nobody other than Gallon caught more than 2 passes, and while Funchess had a nice day on paper with a TD and 65 yards on his two catches, one was a 48-yard TD run that was aided by some poor angles and tackling by Akron, a theme they continued on Chesson’s only catch (and first of his career) on the day, a 33-yard TD where he was pinballed toward the endzone by an Akron defender. Criminally underused Drew Dileo was held without a catch, so hopefully this week Brian will be able to release that particular Kraken.
The defense did marginally better, holding Akron to about their season average rushing and about a yard less passing, but those numbers were put up against UCF and the zombified remains of the 4th President of the United States, er, eponymously-named FCS James Madison University. And Akron had 4 drives longer than 45 yards, including two 11-play drives that ended with a TD and the final drive, as well as a 5-play drive that ended with Wilson’s INT in the endzone. UM could not get Akron off the field in the 4th, including giving up a number of long completions and “they only need 5 yards for the first down, let’s give the slot receiver a 10-yard cushion” plays.
So yeah, statistics should be trusted only as far as they can be thrown, which against UM’s defense today is apparently both quite far and with minimal coverage.
Okay, okay, that’s a little mean. But it was pretty bad out there.
Worst: Push it!
So you know how earlier I mentioned that statistics sometimes lie? Well, a big reason why UM’s running game struggled was the continued inability of the offensive line to consistently block for anyone. Against Akron, Fitz had 15 carries that resulted in either lost yardage or minimal gains, and a significant number of them were because one or more Akron defenders were in the backfield rather quickly. It remains a team that is strong on the edges (though both Lewan and Schofield missed a couple of blocks) and “maturing” or “weak” (depending on your viewpoint) in the middle. Akron didn’t seem like it was doing anything special defensively, yet they always seemed to have the number’s advantage at the point of attack. And while they only recorded a single sack, Gardner was harassed most of the day by the line without excessive use of blitzes or disguised coverages. I’m not expecting major changes on the line next week, but this is a team that can’t consistently get 4-5 yards a pop on the ground without the QB getting involved, and that is not a sustainable situation during the conference season unless Devin remains healthy throughout, which would be a minor miracle.
As for the defensive line, to say the “Right to Rush 4” mantra needs to be redefined would be an understatement. A unit with a decent amount of hype heading into the season failed to register a sack on 49 attempts, though the defense was credited with 8 QB hits. Still, it took an all-out blitz to get pressure on the QB to end the game (reminiscent of the Points-a-Palooza some years back), and when your undersized tackle (Black) is your most consistent pass rusher against a MAC team, that isn’t good news. I guess the jury is still out on Frank Clark, but at this point the judge expects to hear a verdict by the end of lunch. It certainly didn’t help that Mattison seemed reticent about using more than 4 linemen to get pressure, and as a couple of people noted in the Liveblog the stunting was glaringly obvious, but again you shouldn’t have to overly gameplan for a team coming off a 1-11 season.
Best: Times are Changing
Now, I know I just spent a couple of sections dumping on Akron and minimizing their influence on today, but they deserve quite a bit of credit for playing UM to a standstill. Maybe 25-30 years teams like Akron are just happy to be playing in the Big House and are overwhelmed by the moment, but in today’s college football ecosystem everybody believes his team can beat anyone else. For even with Akron’s fallow history, it is still an FBS team with D1 players on it, and given the exposure and resources available to virtually all such programs nobody should be surprised they didn’t just wilt as soon as The Victors played. Terry Bowden may have looked like he ate his daddy Bobby before the game, but he’s still got a career record of 142-75-2 (including 47-17-1 while at Auburn), and certainly knows how to beat teams like UM. They played solid, largely mistake-free football and took advantage of UM’s miscues. They played like a major college football team, and this game should be yet another reminder that “MACrifices” isn’t a reality in today’s football landscape.
Best: Tackling, and the Lack Thereof (part deux)
Last week I mentioned how refreshing it was seeing the other team (in that case, ND) miss some crucial tackles while UM largely wrapped up quickly. Well, count both Funchess’s and Chesson’s TDs as beneficiaries of some dodgy tackling by the Zips. By comparison, UM typically tackled guys at contact, though Jourdan Lewis had a pretty bad “tackle” of Pohl as he rushed for a first down late in the game. There were also the coverage issues with the corners and linebackers, especially in the middle of the field where D’Orazio was seemingly open all day. This definitely felt like a gameplan limitation, at least initially, but it was troubling that late in the game receivers were able to get open in the secondary with players trailing them by 2-3 yards.
Worst: Hitting Reset
Last week I waxed poetically about Gardner being a modern-day unstoppable video game QB, UM’s answer to Michael Vick circa Madden 2004. He was like UTG Trevor Siemian crossed with a mongoose, and it was glorious. Like Vick in the game, it just felt unfair to have him on your team, and to talk about him in front of your vanquished opponent is to welcome scorn and possibly some shoving.
Well, against Akron people saw the other side of the videogame analogy: when the computer “cheats” and everything that could possibly go wrong does. Suddenly, your all-world QB can’t complete a pass except to the other team, your RB can’t get a yard beyond the line of scrimmage, you are getting called for penalties on any positive play, and even digital Texas’s GERG thinks you are playing too soft defensively. By the time a defensive end houses an interception off a screen pass, you’re diving for the reset button while cursing Alan Turing and his stupid face.
Of course, in real life that’s just the third quarter of the game, and you still have to watch and hope that somehow, someway your team figures it all out enough to pull out a victory. Against Akron, Gardner and the offense did just enough in the end for the win, and on a seemingly snakebitten game they can lick their wounds and give it another shot.
Best: Even YMRMFSPA had Bad Games
So the Vince Young analogies have been trotted out for Devin since his game against Northwestern, and with his improvisational skills, strong arm, and galloping strides it is hard not to see a bit of the college star in him. Unfortunately, Gardner also showed the same characteristics that drove Texas fans crazy early on in Young’s career, with 4 turnovers, including a TaINT, and some happy feet that resulted in missed receptions and poor throws. If you check out Young’s gamelog from his first full season, you’ll see the same tantalizing mix of promise and growing pains: 5 TDs against no turnovers against Texas Tech following 8/23 for 86 yards against Oklahoma and 3/9 with 2INTs against Missouri. After those games, people we calling for Chance Mock to play at QB, and if that name doesn’t ring a bell it’s because he didn’t do anything to make people forget about Young. People in A2 forget this because of the game Young had against the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl, but Young finished with a 12:11 ratio on the season and had some tough performances even in wins. The next year he emerged as a breakthrough player and led Texas to the title.
I’m not saying Gardner is going to do that, but this game was a reminder of how fickle and infuriating the maturation process can be at times, and that the same player can have a stinker like today AND a performance against ND without there being anything wrong with him. I suspect he’ll play better next week, but regardless of his performance it won’t change this past game or how the future plays out. Every game is another data point, and sometimes you don’t realize there are outliers until time and distance it provides have given you some perception. Gardner wasn’t a Heisman winner after last week and he’s not a bum after this one, but instead a work in progress like the rest of the team.
I’m wheeling out my extra-tall soapbox now, so if you don’t want to hear my complain about fandom in general and UM followers in particular, feel free to skip to the next section.
What has always driven me crazy about the fandom in sports is the moralizing and dime-store psychoanalysis people place on players’ motivations. A team plays well and people lionize the “heart” shown by the winners while questioning that of the loser. Every down and distance becomes a Greek tragedy played out with a pigskin, and we want to equate higher meaning with 3rd-down conversions and missed blocks. But that’s the thing – it’s just a game, and teams win and lose, players play well or poorly, for reasons that have nothing to do with their moral fiber or ability to “lead” men.
Both during and after the game, there was a contingent of fans who tried to make the game a referendum on these players. They questioned the leadership displayed by Taylor Lewan apparently not getting the line “up” to block, as if Kalis, Miller, and Glasgow would have held their blocks if only they had cared more. Gardner threw INTs not because he made a bad read or had a bit of bad luck, but because he wasn’t a leader out there and his receivers didn’t have confidence in him. And in the postgame, when both Lewan and Gardner said they promised a better effort next week, people on the blog questioned their motives and suggested they had “heard this before” and UM still lost, proving that fans shouldn’t operate heavy machinery following a game because their blindness will undoubtedly cause accidents.
Sports were oftentimes used as stand-ins for battle both in real life as well as in narrative devices; we speak of “warriors of the gridiron” and its bond with iconography of good vs. evil and right vs. wrong is hard to ignore. But in the end, sport is just a game, with winners and losers according to the rules of the contest. To try to derive some greater meaning from it, to look deep into a man’s soul on a 3-yard run at the end of the game and hope to identify his humanity, is a foolish exercise. I know people will continue to act this way long after I’m cold and in the ground, but I still hope that one day sports will be treated as the athletic contests they are, not the day of reckoning some yearn for them to embody.
Best: Quick Hits
A couple of points that aren’t really worth their own sections:
- I thought the secondary played okay, though the middle of the field was open seemingly for days at a time. They also seemed to line up yards off receivers that didn’t seem able to really beat them in a race. And to Akron’s credit, a couple of long receptions were the result of good throws; the one where I believe Taylor was beaten down the sideline in the 4th quarter by Smith was a great throw as much as any failure by the coverage. That said, surprised Lewis got the nod over Stribling out there, especially given the size differences.
- Al Borges called a decent enough game in my opinion, though he seemed afraid of running the veer too much early on even though Akron had no answer. The inability of the line to run block certainly didn’t help; when UM needed yards late in the game they ran directly behind Lewan, which was obviously a positive but not great news for your inside running game.
- I remain puzzled that Hoke did not go for it at 4-and-1 on UM’s 45 early on in the 4th quarter. The numbers say putning is the right call, but one yard with Gardner in the gun seems quite doable. I’m not a big fan of “momentum”, but getting a yard there gives UM a fresh set of downs and doesn’t put the ball on the foot of your admittedly-skittish punter who proceeded to shank the ball anyway. Plus, I believe this was right after Akron nearly blocked the last punt.
- Norfleet appears to have lost return privileges at least on punts, with Dileo back there in the second half. That feels about right; I know Norfleet has shown great potential, but he continues to make the routine catches scary and still doesn’t seem to have a great sense of how to handle returns. And with Dileo back there, it allowed the BTN announcers to talk about how he can run in space. Because if there is one element of Dileo’s game we can ALL agree on, it is his blazing speed in space.
Best: Release the Hounds
The good news is that the UConn Huskies are an absolute tire-fire and UM should be rather motivated heading into the Cabella’s parking lot er Husky Stadium next week. I hope for everyone’s sake it is a short game and next week’s recap is “Best: Everything.”
Who's ready for a game without any chances of rain? High pressure is making it's way from Illinois into the Ohio Valley today. This will result in a chilly morning, some sunshine, and a bit of a shift in the light winds we'll have throughout the day. Our next system will approach for Sunday, causing cloud cover to gradually increase-but if you're staying out late, Saturday night will be much more mild. You may need a long-sleeve shirt early on, but not by the time you're leaving the game!
Well hello fall! It's feeling a lot more like football weather! Foggy conditions this morning - if you're headed out-n-about real early to pick up some... doughnuts? ;) you may need to take it a little slower and keep the low beams on! Some areas are down to half a mile in visibility. By mid-morning the fog will burn off. The other thing you'll notice stepping outside? Brrr! Grab the jacket because low temps this morning are in the 30s! Sunrise is about a quarter after 7, and by the time we hit 8am we'll get to 40 degrees. Wind will be out of the NW at about 5mph (leaves may rustle). Just a few clouds to start the Saturday, and the sunshine lets us warm up quickly - up into the 50s throughout the last half of the morning!
Couldn't really ask for a nicer fall start to a game! 60 degrees with lots of sunny skies at noon. Winds will be extremely light and we'll just barely start to see them shift. Winds are out of the WNW at 2-3mph (you'll just barely feel a breeze at all), and will continue to shift westerly for the first half.
Still nice and comfy for the half! Just a few clouds roll by and we've jumped up to 64 degrees. Winds have continued to shift as high pressure passes to the south of us. They will be out of the WSW, but still very light at 3-5mph.
Hitting the day's high of 66 degrees around the time you're walking out of the stadium. Although we'll have some thin clouds in the area, still under lots of blue skies and plenty of pleasant weather for strolling around town for the rest of the afternoon. Winds remain very light, around 5mph, but will shift more and more southerly. By the time we hit dinner, they'll be out of the south - and remain that way overnight, bringing us much warmer air than what we saw this morning. Low 60s for dinner, then falling into the mid 50s by 10pm, and about 50 for when you're walking home at close. Cloud cover has continued to slowly increase during the evening, giving us partly cloudy skies at night. Go Blue!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for NBC/ABC in Traverse City, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
too late to be included in the friday roundup, but still it exists. questions and comments are always appreciated, unless they are about how late this is.
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Amazing. Words fail to describe the weekend I had in glorious Ann Arbor. Met Marlin, Perry, Braylon, even David Pollack. And now I'm stuck back in Pennsylvania like a desperate heroin junkie with a condition that can best be described as an addiction for the Michigan Difference.
Love that team. Love that place. And I love Meeshigan Football.
Finally, thanks to the MGoTeam for a really fun and unique experience on Friday.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.
I’ve been wondering lately about Michigan’s modern coaches (i.e., from Bo on), and how their winning percentages stack up when we consider the quality of the opponents they’ve played. Just off the top of my head, it seems to me that:
- Lloyd Carr was a much better coach against ranked opponents than we give him credit for, but lost more games than he should have to unranked teams.
- Brady Hoke thusfar has done well in winning the games he should win (i.e., vs. unranked opponents), or at least has done better than Lloyd Carr did.
- Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr went through an absolute gauntlet of a schedule in the 1990s.
But I wanted to see if those notions are actually supported by the stats. So I started looking at Michigan’s coaching from 1969 to 2012 against ranked teams. I should start out by explaining that “ranked” here means the AP Top 20, as the AP did not rank teams 21-25 until 1989. I’ve therefore disregarded all 21-25 rankings of opponents.
Here are our heroes’ (and anti-hero's) overall M records:
*All Hoke stats are through 2012 only, as we don't have final AP rankings for 2013 yet.
Here’s how U-M’s coaches have stacked up against teams ranked at game time:
|vs. AP 1-10||vs. AP 11-20||vs. Unranked|
|Bo||16-19-1 (.458)||21-12 (.636)||159-16-4 (.899)|
|Mo||7-5-1 (.577)||5-1-1 (.786)||32-7-1 (.813)|
|Lloyd||19-9 (.679)||19-11 (.633)||84-20 (.808)|
|RR||1-5 (.167)||1-4 (.200)||13-13 (.500)|
|Brady||0-2 (.000)||1-2 (.333)||18-3 (.857)|
Some obvious points jump out:
- RichRod and Hoke, and even Moeller to some extent, have small sample sizes. Keep this in the back of your mind for all that follows.
- Lloyd had a VERY impressive record against the AP Top 10. In fact, he started out on a huge roll. From 1995-2002, Lloyd was 11-1 against the Top 10 at game time.
- Lloyd lost a substantial number of games against unranked teams. Brady’s done pretty well against the unranked. Bo really killed the teams he should have killed.
I know, I know, pre-season bias in rankings, especially early. But let’s not completely discount game-time rankings. Though some of them, particularly early in the season, are just plain wrong, some might actually be good indications of a team’s quality as of the time you played. For example: some of Glen Mason’s Minnesota teams were pretty good as of Michigan week, but then plummeted through the rest of their seasons, perhaps from psychological issues, after losing their red-letter games for the Jug. Were those teams better when Michigan played them in week 5 or 6 than those teams’ final unranked status would indicate? Very probably.
But of course, rankings at game time, particularly early in the season, don’t tell the full story about the quality of the team you’ve played. The season’s final rankings are probably most illustrative (except for Minnesota-like situations as described above):
|vs. AP Final 1-10||vs. AP Final 11-20||vs. Final Unranked|
|Bo||6-25-1 (.203)||16-8 (.667)||172-15-4 (.911)|
|Mo||2-7-1 (.250)||7-2 (.777)||35-4-2 (.878)|
|Lloyd||10-14 (.417)||14-6 (.700)||98-20 (.831)|
|RR||0-8 (.000)||0-3 (.000)||15-11 (.577)|
|Brady||0-3 (.000)||1-1 (.500)||18-3 (.857)|
Final rankings may give you a better overall picture by removing most of the pre-season bias, but with final rankings a big caveat also applies: When you beat a team, its final ranking drops. When you lose to a team, its final ranking rises. Beating a good team makes it look worse to the poll voters. So in general, the coaches should have worse winning percentages against teams in the final rankings than they'd have against teams ranked at game time.
- Bo’s REALLY kicking ass against the unranked dregs (Mo and Hoke too), but not doing so hot against teams having great seasons. It makes sense that a coach’s record against the final Top 10 should not be great, but Bo’s was pretty dismal. All of the bowl losses certainly didn’t help him.
- Lloyd’s 10-14 against the Final Top 10 is still pretty darned impressive, and his combined 24-20 against the Final Top 20 is fairly impressive as well. But again, he’s lagging behind in beating teams having unranked seasons.
- RR of course was absolutely dismal against teams finishing in the Top 20. Wisconsin’s 2008 team was not able to crack the final Top 20 to put a single mark on the board for Coach Rod.
So it looks as if my first two initial thoughts were generally right. Thusfar Lloyd was a pretty good big-game coach, taking his whole career into account (I’ll save comparisons of early career vs. late career for another piece). And Brady’s not losing to a lot of teams that he has no business losing to.
But what about the schedule strength? On average Bo faced fewer ranked teams in the days before 85-scholarship parity (in 1970 he didn’t face a single team ranked at game time or in the final rankings) and before the resumption of the Notre Dame series and the scheduling of Miami and Florida State. Also, even in some of his best seasons the Big Ten didn’t let him go to a bowl game. How many of their games on average did our coaches play against ranked teams?
Based on the game-time rankings:
|% of Games Played vs. AP 1-10||% of Games Played vs. AP 11-20||% of Games Played vs. Unranked|
Based on final rankings:
|% of Games Played vs. AP Final 1-10||% of Games Played vs. AP Final 11-20||% of Games Played vs. Final Unranked|
- It looks like Mo’s schedules were indeed murder, whether you look at the game-time rankings or the final rankings.
- Bo’s and Lloyd’s schedules got significantly easier when you look at the final rankings.
- RichRod’s schedules became brutal when you look at the number of teams he faced that finished in the Top 10. But again, if you lose games, the teams you play look better in the final standings. And of course it’s a small sample size; if RR manages to beat Utah in 2008, Penn State in 2009, Iowa in 2009, or Wisconsin in 2010, those numbers look different.
- Hoke hasn’t played a lot of high quality teams. Thanks, down Big Ten and watered-down non-con scheduling.
Given the disparity in schedule strength, let’s look at the coaches’ winning percentages as if Lloyd’s 13-year schedule is the measuring stick for schedule strength. I think that’s fair, as 13 years is a pretty good sample size, Lloyd had both some really good and some bad seasons, and Lloyd’s tenure was the time in which Michigan’s schedule entered into our current era of weaker non-conference scheduling and greater parity as the effect of the 85-scholarship limit has fully set in.
For example, we’re going to take Bo’s .458 against the Top 10 at game time and assume that he’d played as many games against the Top 10, on a percentage basis, as Lloyd did, and so on. How do our coaches’ career winning percentages stack up then?
Based on the game-time rankings:
|Actual Win %||Win % Adjusted to Lloyd's Strength of Schedule||Change|
Based on the final rankings:
|Actual Win %||Win % Adjusted to Lloyd's Strength of Schedule||Change|
- When adjusting for schedule strength, Lloyd suddenly looks pretty good. He’s only around 20 points lower than Bo’s storied/heralded/legendary career. A swing of just four games in Lloyd’s career would’ve put him above Bo. If Lloyd goes 126-36 instead of 122-40, Lloyd becomes the Michigan coaching king when percentages are adjusted for schedule strength. And that’s not too big a stretch at all. Think about it: if Michigan had gotten few breaks in the 2000 season (i.e., Hayden Epstein doesn’t miss an extra point and a 24-yard field goal against UCLA; Michigan scores more than a field goal in the second half at Purdue; the A-Train holds on to the ball at Northwestern), and if Michigan hadn't given up just one of the several fourth-quarter blown leads in 2005, Lloyd would’ve had a better career winning percentage than Bo, equalized for schedule strength. But more on this later.
- Again, Mo’s schedules were murder. His percentage rises when compared to Lloyd’s schedule strength.
- RichRod’s also up in the final rankings, again because of the many opponents he played that wound up in the final Top 10.
- Hoke doesn’t look so hot. But rebuilding and fusion cuisine and all that.
In the comparison of Lloyd to Bo above, we’ve adjusted Bo’s 1-10 percentage and 11-20 percentage to Lloyd’s frequency of playing in those games. But playing the national No. 1 is usually a much tougher game than playing the national No. 10, or even No. 3. I haven’t taken the time to adjust the winning percentages by frequency of playing every single spot in the rankings, but I have collected some info on how those guys did against the Top 2 and against the Top 5 at game time:
|Record vs. AP 1-2||Record vs. AP 1-5|
|Bo||3-6-1 (.350)||8-12-1 (.405)|
|Mo||0-3 (.000)||2-4-1 (.357)|
|Lloyd||3-3 (.500)||8-3 (.727)|
|Brady||0-1 (.000)||0-2 (.000)|
Those are some great numbers from Lloyd, but all of those games are 2003 or earlier, when he started 11-1 against the Top 10, aside from games against No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 1 Ohio State in 2006. For what it’s worth, U-M hasn’t beaten an AP No. 1 since Miami in 1984.
So how often did the coaches play in really big games (using game-time rankings)?
|% of Games Played vs. AP 1-2||% of Games Played vs. AP 1-5|
So Bo played really big games just slightly more often than Lloyd did, and Mo’s murderous schedules are apparent here as well. I’m not sure this difference between Bo and Lloyd is significant. I’m still comfortable saying that Lloyd is only a touch behind Bo in terms of impressiveness of career. Sacrilege? Perhaps. But in terms of wins, losses, and quality of opponents, I think that’s a fair statement. Now, that's not saying anything about what Lloyd could have achieved, or how maddening it was to watch some of his games. Of course, Bo sustained that level of success eight seasons longer than Lloyd did, and there's something to be said for that.
What do we get from all of this? I think the stats support the wisdom of the ideas set out above: Lloyd Carr was pretty darned good against ranked teams, but not as hot as he should’ve been otherwise; blame the 85-scholarship parity era for that. Brady Hoke has generally won the games he should win. And the 1990s schedules, particularly Gary Moeller’s, were potentially the most brutal stretch Michigan has ever faced.
And don't worry, I'll say it for myself: Cool story, bro.
[Edited to correct Brady Hoke's 2-year record to 19-7 instead of 18-7. All stats accordingly corrected.]
Last week UMgradMSUdad went over B1G football against the spread for the first week. He had commented "But if anybody else is interested in doing it, I say go for it." So I did. If you'd like anything else tracked, let me know and I will consider it. Unless it's tracking the top-25, I don't believe I'll put time/effort into that. Any top 25 team that's relevant to Michigan will be tracked, given they're in our conference.
I Bet You $20 I Can Get You Gambling By the End of the Day
|Week 1||Week 2|
|Michigan||-34.5||-31.5||59-9 (CMU)||+18.5||-4||-5||41-30 (ND)||+6|
|Ohio||-35||-34||40-20 (Buff)||-14||-28.5||-28||42-7 (SDSU)||+7|
|Michigan St||-27||-28||26-13 (WMU)||-15||-24.5||-21.5||21-6 (USF)||-6.5|
|Indiana||-24||-25||73-35 (Ind St)||+13||-14||-12.5||35-41 (Navy)||-18.5|
|Illinois||-24||-17||42-34 (So Ill)||-9||+7.5||+8||45-17 (Cinci)||+36|
|Northwestern||-3||-6.5||44-30 (@Cal)||+7.5||-16||-17||48-27 (Syr)||+4|
|Penn State||-7||-8||23-17 (Syr)||-2||-24.5||-28||45-7 (EMU)||+10|
|Nebraska||-27||-31||37-34 (Wyo)||-28||-31||-28||56-13 (S Miss)||+15|
|Iowa||-3||-3||27-30 (N Ill)||-6||-24||-26||28-14 (Misso St)||-12|
|Wisconsin||-44||-44||45-0 (UMass)||+1||-45||-45||48-0 (Tenn Tech)||+3|
|Purdue||+7.5||+10.5||7-42 (Cinci)||-24.5||-17||-17||20-14 (Ind St)||-11|
|Minnesota||-14.5||-13.5||51-23 (UNLV)||+14.5||-15||-16||44-21 (N Mex St)||+7|
- The B1G went 8-4 ATS last week, improving on their 5-7 record from the first week.
- As you can see, Michigan has done very well ATS in their first 2 weeks, the best in B1G.
- Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Minessota are the only other B1G teams that are 2-0 ATS.
What about next week? Can't make money on past spreads...
Show Me the Money
|Michigan St||-28||-24/-26||NL||Young St|
- Hoke is 3-1 ATS when playing MAC teams at Michigan, with his only loss coming from beating EMU by 28 with the spread of -28.5.
- Michigan has covered 3 straight games at home.
- Hoke is 11-6 ATS at home.
- Gardner is 5-2 ATS & 6-1 O/U as the starting QB with the last 4 home games going over the total.
- Hoke has been favored at home by over 30 points twice, and covered in both contests.
- Terry Bowden & the Zips were 1-11 last year, but went 6-6 ATS and are 0-2 ATS this year.
- Before last week the Zips had went under the total in 8 straight contests. Last week they went over the total by 13.5 points; looks like they had subs, and it was crazy.
With a total of 57 and a spread of 37, the team totals project to be Michigan (47) and Akron (10). The limits on team totals aren't as lucrative, but I don't see Akron scoring 10 points. Or at least I don't want to see that.
If interested, here are past ATS records for the B1G:
What's your best bet?