C’mon Fitz, Courage would have made the tackle there (Fuller)
1. The Six Factors
|Exp Score||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
Field position kept Michigan alive in regulation and a strong day of early downs helped offset what we know to be an abysmal third down stretch. The defense posted outstanding numbers across the board, holding Northwestern below 40% on early conversions while still generating a lot of long difficult third downs and that Northwestern did a below average job of converting. Michigan’s offensive day wasn’t very good until overtime, but you can see more positive signs in their day than you can in Northwestern’s.
2. Individual Game Scores
QBs: Opp. Adjusted EV, Win percent added (National Rank)
Devin Gardner: –7, +30% (99)
Kain Colter: –1, +21% (72)
Trevor Siemian: –6, –19% (94)
Derrick Green: –1, –5% (139)
Treyvon Green: +1, +11% (71)
Mike Trumpy: +0, +1% (96)
Jeremy Gallon: +6, +48% (61)
Devin Funchess: +3, +17% (163)
Devin Gardner had his easily his lowest rated game of the season with only 285 yards on 55 plays (all numbers with sacks removed). He was +4.3 in overtime though, adding 34% to Michigan’s win odds in the period. Northwestern’s quarterbacks equaled the ugly numbers with Trevor Siemian being the worst performer with a –6 on the day. Derrick Green’s –1 isn’t great out of context, but considering Fitzgerald Toussaint’s numbers have been some of the worst in the country, moving close to average is a major step forward.
3. Game Chart
6. +19% Gardner hits Jake Butt for a TD to open overtime scoring
5. +21% Gardner hits Gallon to set up the fire drill FG attempt
4. +24% Gardner runs it in for the 2 point conversion
3. –27% Gardner loses a yard on the big 4th down call
2. +27% Gibbons hits from 44 yards to sent it to overtime
1. –35% Gardner sacked for a loss of 13 on the final drive
Amazingly in a game this close all six of the biggest plays came when Michigan had the ball. Four of them were positive and two were negative. Overtime was unique in that even though it was triple overtime, Michigan was always in control. Scoring touchdowns when you go first will do that for you.
4. Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Some coaches are really stepping up their dumb punt game with the regular season nearing its close. Kent St saw a 4th and 5 with a 15 point lead in the fourth. Usually not a bad situation to punt in other than they were so deep in Miami (NTM) territory that a 14 yard turned out better than a touchback would have.
Sean Kugler, father of Michigan freshman Patrick was in a similar situation at UTEP. It was a ten point lead in the third and the Miners were facing 4th and 7 from the FIU 30. It would have been a classic no man’s land situation at the 40, but at the thirty? That’s practically punting from the red zone. It did work out for the Coach Kugler as the punt was downed at the four and resulted in a safety on the next possession. Ultimately having FIU as an opponent was more important than fourth down strategy as UTEP picked up its second win of the year.
Of course the Dumb Punt of the week just can’t escape Big Ten country, or Ron Zook’s previous employer for that matter. Normally punting on 4th and 13 from your own 17 is an automatic response. But what if there are only five minutes left and you are only down 12 to the team with the nation’s longest winning streak? Just like Gary Andersen did as Wisconsin played Ohio State, Tim Beckman puckered up and punted. Hoping to get the old stop, score on-side score again combination for the win. The Illini defense did half of their job well, getting the ball quickly back into the hands of the offense, unfortunately it was after allowing a 2 play 60 yard TD drive. Illinois then went three and out and punted again before allowing a one play 55 yard TD, turning a 12 point upset potential into a 25 point no-contest. Once again, Tim Beckman is your Ron Zook Dumb Punter of the week.
Bonus Pointless Field Goal of the Week:
Future B1G member Rutgers, got pasted by Cincinnati last week but they managed to cover the –35.5 point line by kicking a short 36 yard field goal with 16 seconds left to cut the lead from 38 to 35. Rutgers, getting their B1G on a year early.
5. Where Have All the Big Plays Gone
One of the stats I have started tracking this year is bonus yards which are defined as any yards gained beyond achieving a first down. Gain 11 on 1st and 10, that’s one bonus yard. 3rd and 1 play goes for 50 yards, that’s 49 bonus yards. It’s a measure of big plays that captures both quantity and magnitude. Michigan’s big play offense has been up and down but downfield success has been disappearing as Big Ten play has progressed.
The Indiana game has been removed because there is no doubt at this point that the results of that game were more about Indiana’s lack of defense than our presence of an offense. The last three games have struggled to crack 100 yards beyond the line of scrimmage after four of the first six games have crossed 140 yards. You can see it in the UConn game as well as early turnovers forced Devin Gardner into a safe place.
As currently constructed, this is Michigan’s only chance at generating offensive output. The offensive line struggles have made drive crimpling lost yardage a regular occurrence. If Michigan is going to get the offense to hold up the defense at all, I think it’s going to have to come in the form of big plays downfield because 12 play drives just aren’t going to happen.
|Exp Score||Early Conv||Bonus Yds||Avg 3rd Dist||Adj 3rd Conv||Red Zone||Total Conv|
|Mich O||29.7 (24)||47% (38)||158 (37)||8.7 (125)||-3% (88)||4.9 (74)||70% (75)|
|Iowa D||24.3 (30)||35% (3)||115 (25)||6.2 (110)||-2% (39)||5.0 (58)||64% (14)|
|Iowa O||26.7 (64)||41% (85)||114 (96)||5.7 (4)||-3% (88)||4.7 (83)||70% (76)|
|Mich D||30.1 (106)||43% (34)||113 (22)||6.9 (73)||0% (67)||4.5 (25)||67% (28)|
QB EV (National Rank/B1G Rank)
Devin Gardner: +6.2 (13/2)
Jake Rudock: +1 (70/??)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: –3 (160/19)
Damon Bullock: –0 (85/11)
Mark Weisman: –1 (120/17)
Jeremy Gallon: +8 (7/1)
Devin Funchess: +5 (52/6)
Iowa: No receivers in top 250 nationally
I feel like this season has turned into a broken record. Michigan’s defense should be in position to hold an average offense to a modest score relative to field position and the offense will then be tasked with finding away to put some points on the board. That may or may not happen. Iowa’s offense is just like Michigan’s defense, bed but don’t break. They aren’t great at big plays or early conversions but they are outstanding at staying ahead of the chains and managing third downs.
Can Michigan’s offense generate any big plays? That is the question at this point. The idea of consistently stringing together first downs seems so failed at this point. Too many negative plays, too much lost yardage. If Michigan can regain its big play swagger then they should be able to score some points but absent of that it should be another ugly Big Ten slog of a game.
Iowa [7 field goals] Michigan [5 field goals and a safety]
THE BIG TEN IS PUT OFF BECAUSE OF STORMS
For those that were wondering where this diary was this week, it was in my head. By this, I mean that I had every intention to do it as normal, but because my life goes to hell when the weather goes to hell due to my real-life job, things like this get put off until the next available moment. Indeed, that moment did not come until this morning as the storms from Sunday did a good amount of damage around southeast Michigan.
This week’s entry will be somewhat abbreviated, however, so if there is more specific information that anyone would like, I can produce it.
SCORING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
At this point in the season, it seems unlikely that anyone will catch Ohio State and their 49.4 points per game average, but Michigan does sit in the next tier, if you will, with Wisconsin, Indiana and Nebraska as teams that can put some points on the board. In our case, we have 34.3 points per game on average and that is good for fifth in the conference. When it comes to giving up points, Michigan sits in the middle of the conference approximately at 25.2 points per game allowed. By leaps and bounds, the most generous teams are Illinois, Purdue and Indiana. I doubt that changes now.
TOTAL OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
Last week, it was mentioned that our attempts at forming an identity on offense were creating a bit of a muddle when it came to our average yardage differential. Despite how the Northwestern game may have looked, no harm, no foul this week – we still sit there with a slightly positive differential. Wisconsin and Purdue are the extremes in the conference, one because of their rushing attack and the other because of their ability to crater themselves with a mere thought.
RUSHING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
At this point, it is well-established that we have some issues with the when, how and why of rushing, and our rushing offense is still twice as productive as Purdue, which is good for 11thin the conference. Ohio State and Wisconsin have essentially made the most prolific rushing offense a two-team race this season, leaving the rest of us to try and catch up. However, we are still quite proficient at stopping runs overall, as you can see below:
PASSING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
We’ll start with defense here – we allow an average of 236.4 yards per game through the air, which is 10thin the conference. Interestingly, our pass efficiency defense rating is 117, which is third in the conference. So, we have our moments, but we’ve given up some good sized plays. That aside, Michigan is doing quite well on passing offense, as you will note below:
DOWNS AND DIFFERENTIALS:
In what has been a slow slide since the Michigan State game, Michigan is now in a rare position of having a slightly negative third down differential. As we know, that won’t make it impossible to win, but it typically makes it a little more difficult. It can be considerably more difficult actually, if the differential is well into negative territory. Michigan’s average differential is -0.80, which is not unrecoverable but it does speak to some of our issues with sustaining drives. If nothing else, we do average more first downs than our opponents, which does help some.
I’m not touching the play call itself. Most of have pretty strong feelings about it. Criticizing a failed play in hindsight is usually a pretty lazy thing to do, but Michigan has a set of plays this year that have a firm history of no success and should never be run in critical situations.
But what about the decision itself to go for the 1st down. In the situation there were two possible choices and two possible outcomes for each.
|Kick the FG||Success/Failure|
|Go for the 1st||Success/Failure|
Each choice has an associated odds of success and each outcome has a resulting win odds.
Kick The FG
The safe, NFL worthy decision would have been to kick the field goal (“Take the points,” because field goals are never missed). In a low scoring game this probably gets you to overtime and there are no guarantees you get another chance or that you can take advantage of it. The downside is that with about 5 minutes to go, you are opening the door to give Northwestern the ball with plenty of time to drive the field and run out the clock.
A successful field goal means kicking off in a tie game with about 5 minutes left. In this situation, the team kicking off wins about 46% of the time. A made field goal would have made Michigan a slight underdog.
In the fourth quarter of close games, college kickers make 94% of field goals from inside the 5 yard line. Those are pretty good odds, but still a 1 in 16 chance that the kick is missed or blocked. A missed kick would have given Northwestern the ball at the 20 and dropped Michigan’s odds of winning to 23%.
Go for the First Down
Picking up positive yardage has been a challenge for Michigan the last month. Had they been able to convert for a first down their win odds would jump up to 70% (74% with a touchdown). Still plenty of time for a Northwestern touchdown, but definitely putting Michigan in the driver’s seat.
The failure to secure the first down left Michigan with a 34% chance at victory. Far from over but a lot of leverage on the play.
The Break Even Point
A field goal attempt would have given Michigan a 45% chance at victory once the small chance of a miss or block is factored in. With 70% odds with a first down and 34% odds if they failed to get the first down, Michigan would need to be able to have at least a 30% chance of success to break even on going for the first down. Michigan has had its troubles on offense but a 30% break even point is a low bar. 3rd or 4th and 1’s from inside the 5 are converted at 57% historically. So even if Michigan was half as likely as an average team to convert it still would have been an even decision with kicking the field goal.
If the numbers seem too high or too low there are a couple of follow up dynamics in play. A failed fourth down would have left Northwestern with the ball and the lead late. Coaching history as taught us that this is a recipe for most coaches to curl up into a ball and try and ground out the clock and if they’re lucky get a first down or two. Because of this often failed mentality, giving the other team back the ball with a lead can be more valuable than giving them back the ball with a tie where there is some pressure to push forward.
I think this was absolutely the correct decision to go for the first down in the situation even if the “execution” was less than ideal.
No Turnovers?: It is extremely rare in football when neither team has a turnover. The last time this happened to Michigan was three years ago in the Penn State game in 2010. The official stats for the game will document there was a turnover and will be misleading. It was fourth and 23 in OT and the game would have ended on that play with merely an incomplete pass rather than the interception in the end zone. But, Thomas Gordon will be happy and it does help Michigan's turnover stats.
Synopsis: Michigan's TOM for the game was +1.0 and for the year is now +1.0 (+ 0.10 per game) which improved slightly to #55. Turnovers were not a primary factor in determining which team won the game. In fact, turnovers have not been a factor in determining which team has won the game in any of Michigan's games this year.
Funchess had the one fumble in OT but recovered it himself. Thomas Gordon ended the game with his interception (his third of the season).
Michigan is +6.0 in TOM for B1G conference games which is second only to MSU at +8.0. And yet, M is a mediocre 3-3 in conference play. Perhaps the 2.3 YPA for rushing in B1G conference games has something to do with that (ranked #11 in B1G and 34% less than the next worse – Illinois at 3.5 YPA).
Versus Iowa: For the year, Michigan and Iowa are virtually identical for turnovers. Iowa has 1.6 giveaways per game ranked #57 and 1.60 takeaways per game ranked #75 with a 0.00 TOM per game ranked #61. But, Iowa is –0.20 TOM for home games. Michigan has a +0.3 TOM for home games and has a -0.2 TOM for away 3 games. For B1G conference games, Iowa's TOM is –1.0 and is ranked #7.
National Rankings: All rankings include games between two FBS teams ONLY and are from TeamRankings except for forced fumbles which is from CFBStats. The four columns with *** show the best correlation to offense and defense (per Advanced NFL stats).
This chart shows Expected Points for various yard lines.
This chart shows the basis of EP calculations for each turnover.
It's always such an honor to reach out to the UM fan base. I cannot thank you all enough for your continuous support throughout the years while playing at Michigan, in addition to the various endeavors I have been involved in since my basketball career ended back in 2009. To the MGoBlog staff and all the readers out there, I just want to say thank you.
Because of your support, and the support of many others, my cause-based fashion brand, Merit, has opened up its very first retail storefront right in the heart of the UM campus (1113 South University). For those of you that don't know, every Merit purchase shapes the fate of students in need and helps send them to college. Not only do we donate 20% of all our revenue to fund college scholarships for underserved youth, but our very own education enrichment program (FATE) increases access to college by providing the tools and opportunities necessary for our students to graduate high school.
Did I mention, the product stands on its own? We've worked extremely hard to offer tees, hats, hoodies, henleys, and accessories that are incredibly fresh and provide amazing comfort.
All in all, we need your support. This is an enormous endeavor and we would like the chance to be successful and become a fabric of the UM/Ann Arbor community for many years to come. So if you can, come out and support our grand opening this Wednesday, Nov 20th at 6:30 PM. If you can't, come by some other time. Tell your friends and family too. We need all the support we can get. :) Thank you for your time and GO BLUE!
Merit Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; 12-8pm
Amidst all of Michigan's offensive struggles this year, the relative youth of our offensive line, particularly along the interior, has been a constant concern. Regardless of which side you fall on in the "Execution vs. Play-Calling" debate, you probably agree that having 6 combined years of experience between our three interior linemen is part of the issue. While the interior will hopefully improve next year with another year under each of their belts, Michigan will be losing it's two 5th year senior tackles.
With this in mind, I attempted to quantify the impact that an offensive line's experience has on a team's offensive success. Can Michigan expect to improve it's offensive output next season? How painful will it be to lose Lewan and Schofield?
I used depth charts from Rivals' database (they seemed more or less up to date) to get average experience (defined by academic standing) for each team in the Big 10's OL as a whole as well as split up by subgroup (T, G, C). I then drew scatter plots comparing those ages to overall YPA and rushing/passing YPA.
After seeing the initial results, I had to remove Purdue since they have the oldest OL and yet the worst offense by nearly two standard deviations. Some other teams were lesser outliers (Michigan, Indiana) but with such a small sample I didn't want to remove them too.
Michigan has a young, but not absurdly so, offensive line. Of course, they are helped tremendously by Lewan and Schofield. They have a very young interior though, with 6 combined years of experience. Iowa's interior is second youngest at 8 combined years, and their offense isn't exactly instilling fear across the nation either.
Purdue sucks. Wisconsin, OSU, and Indiana are really good. The rest of the Big 10 is mediocre. No news here.
Below are a series of scatterplots comparing the age of each Big 10 team's OL (and it's subgroups) to the offense's YPA (passing and rushing.
Overall, the age of the offensive line seems to have little to no impact on overall yards per play. In the Big 10, it has a slight positive impact on rushing yards but actually has a slight negative impact on passing yards. The negative impact on Passing YPA is mainly due to Michigan and Indiana, two teams with young OLs but high Passing YPA. In general though, these are pretty low R-squared values and don't seem to show much.
Tackles seem to have almost no impact on YPA, whether in the air or on the ground. This is probably largely a function of the sample, where 7 of the 11 teams have tackles with 7 combined years of experience. If I remove Indiana, the impact on Passing YPA becomes more meaningful, which makes sense given tackles' roles in pass protection. Michigan is wholly responsible for dragging down the Rushing YPA graph.
Again, guards' ages don't show much impact on YPA according to R-squared, although you can see an upward trend here at least. Even removing Michigan's young guards results in guard age having a negative correlation with passing YPA which is surprising. The rushing YPA graph makes sense at least, showing a relatively strong R-squared value.
Center experience shows by far the strongest relationship between age and YPA. This makes sense both because of center's importance to the OL as well as the complexity of the position requiring some experience to learn. The entirety of that influence comes on the ground, with center's age meaning nothing to passing YPA.
Before attempting to draw any conclusions, I think a few caveats must be stated:
- This analysis looks strictly at academic standing as a measure of experience. That means that a RS senior starting for the first time is viewed as more experienced than a true junior in his third year of starting.
- This analysis ignores all positions other than OL. As we saw last season at Michigan, for example, a dynamic QB can make up for a youthful offensive line. It also overlooks TEs, which in a system like Michigan's are also a vital part of the OL.
- The sample size is pretty thin. If I had more time, I'd like to do this for a large group - maybe the top 25 teams or something.
The above aside, I still think there are some interesting takeaways from this analysis.
- Offensive line experience matters in the run game. OSU and Wisconsin have the top two offenses in terms of YPA and 2 of the 4 most experienced lines. In particular, their rushing attacks average over a yard more per attempt than any other team.
- Offensive line experience does not seem to matter as in the air. While Indiana's passing YPA may be a function of it's system, Minnesota and Illinois have respectable averages with relatively young lines.
- Michigan's rushing game should improve next year (how can it get any worse...). Both guard and center experience correlate with rushing YPA. Losing their tackles doesn't appear to have much impact based on this analysis.
- Michigan's passing game is not necessarily doomed next year. The data doesn't show much one way or another, but tackle experience at least is not strongly correlated with offensive success in this sample.
Any thoughts/feedback are welcome.