Quarterbacks!: In 2011, quarterbacks were responsible for 19 of 21 turnovers. In 2012, quarterbacks were responsible for 23 of 25 turnovers. So far in 2013, quarterbacks are responsible for 8 of 8 turnovers. Any improvement in giveaways is squarely on Gardner's shoulders. If Michigan does not correct the turnover problem, it is likely that turnovers will be the primary cause of 1-2 losses this year.
Synopsis: Michigan's TOM for the game was – 2 and for the year it is now – 2 (– 0.67 per game) which is ranked #96. Turnovers were not a primary factor in determining which team won the game. In fact, the game would have been very close even without the turnovers. Michigan suffered a net disadvantage of just 2.72 expected points due to the – 2 turnover margin (see details below in section on Expected Points).
Countess picked up his third interception of the year and Wilson got his first. The Michigan defense has a total of 5 interception takeaways and is ranked #33 for interception takeaway percentage at 3.9%. Gardner threw three interceptions and now has 6 for the year. M is ranked dead last (#125) for interceptions thrown percentage at 8.3%. Devin also lost his first fumble of the year.
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).
Expected Points: The impact of each turnover depends upon the down, the spot the turnover is lost, and the spot the turnover is gained. Although Michigan had a –2 TOM, two of the turnovers occurred on third down. None of Akron's turnovers occurred on third down. As you can see in the table below, both of Akron's turnovers were very costly with an EP of nearly 6 points each. Michigan had one turnover that was very costly at 5 EP, one at 4 EP, and two at just 3 EP. The result is a net disadvantage to Michigan of just 2.72 EP.
This chart shows Expected Points for various yard lines.
This chart shows the basis of EP calculations for each turnover.
There’s been a lot of talk about who or what to blame for the Great Akron Tire Fire of 2013. Is Akron actually good or are we actually not that good? Were we “outcoached?” Did Hoke, Borges and Mattison spend the week watching reruns of A-Team instead of film? Did Devin Gardner just have an off day? Why was this almost The Horror: Part Deux instead of the blowout every single one of us expected?
I don’t see a single culprit, but rather, a coincidence of factors—each of which had a negative effect on the outcome. No single one can, in my estimation, account for a 28-24 near loss to Akron, but each contributed in the way that rubber, oxygen and sparks contribute to a real tire fire.
The point of this diary is to try to determine the importance of the various factors involved, relative to one another. This is a qualitative analysis, but I’ve jazzed it up with some numbers to make things more fun. First I looked at the final score, 28-24, and the fact that there were a total of 52 points scored. I then decided (for the sake of pseudoscientific modeling, of course) that in a perfect game, we score all the points. Against Akron, that would be 52-0 us. Working from this assumption, every element of our near-loss should contribute some discrete number of points away from 52-0 and towards 28-24. I then looked at the one factor that can be quantified—points off of Gardner’s turnovers—and determined the points and approximate percentages attributable to other factors relative to that.
Without further ado, then, here’s what I blame, along with the percentage of blame I think they are accountable for, and why. I’ve also included an “adjusted score” to show what the final might have been like had this one factor not been a factor (and everything else held constant).
1. Akron – 15% [7 points.]
Adjusted Score: 31-20
Clearly Akron played better than we thought they were capable of—their 2 stars, walk-ons and JUCO transfers did nearly as well against us as Notre Dame’s parade of heralded 4 and 5 stars. It’s the coaching: Terry Bowden and Chuck Amato are unusually experienced for the MAC, and have enjoyed success at the highest level.** They weren’t intimidated, and clearly did their homework. As bad as they have been in the past, on this specific day they played better than anyone expected—appreciably better than, say, Central Michigan did a couple weeks ago. And it doesn’t hurt that they figured out our snap count. Of course, that probably would not have mattered had it not been for our…
2. Complacency – 40% [21 points]
Adjusted Score: 42–17 or 35-10
As much as Akron’s gameplan execution exceeded expectations, ours failed to live up to even the minimal standard. In some ways, the game resembled a bastard hybrid of Carr-era and Rodriguez-era demons—ultra-soft defense, conservative play-calling and a languid approach to an early-season opponent tied to soul-crushing turnovers, missed field goals and inexplicably stalled drives. Though I don’t know what went on during the week, it sure seemed like everyone, from the staff on down, figured this one would wrap up by the end of first quarter. We were content to line up with our most vanilla defense, expecting to get pressure from our front four against a max protect blocking scheme. Instead, Pohl had a lot of time to find the gaps in our soft zone. The offense was better, but there were too many DeBord-esque obvious runs on obvious running downs right into 9 dudes for -2 to 2 yards. That might have worked when we had Mike Hart or Chris Perry running behind a more experienced O-line, but we don’t, and so it did not. We could have gone more to the zone-read—when we did, it worked like a charm. But we didn’t.* The players don’t get a pass here either. A lot of guys just looked lazy and/or disoriented out there—guys who are pretty decent, like Michael Schofield, Joe Bolden, Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile. Maybe it was a “hangover” effect from last week, or simple overconfidence. I lean towards the latter—this was a team that wasn’t prepared for adversity, and consequently, wasn’t putting in much of an effort. Even when it was clear that more effort was needed, we were sloppy.
3. Devin Gardner’s Gameday Psychology – 25% [14 points]
Adjusted Score: 35-17
It’s apparently feast or famine with Rich Rodriguez-recruited quarterbacks, and in this sense Devin Garner appears no different than Denard Robinson or Tate Forcier before him. All have the ability to dazzle you with their improvisational skills on one play, only to crush your hopes and dreams will their gun-slingin’ ways on the next. In this game, Devin made four crucial, head-scratching errors. The fumble came because he couldn’t decide whether to keep or pitch on a speed option. The pitch was open for a TD, but instead he just sort of didn’t protect the ball and—whoops—there it went. And the INTs…oh dear—one returned for a touchdown and the other two almost converted into field goals. His turnovers accounted for 14 points, and nearly for another 6. And that’s not even taking into account the drive-killing throws to Tacopants. Despite what I said earlier, this is Akron. A MAC team. Put in the same position, Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio all make more than 14 points out of 4 turnovers.
4. Lack of Skill and/or Experience at Key Positions - 20% [10 points]
Adjusted Score: 31-17
We all worried about this in the offseason, but then against Notre Dame, it suddenly didn’t seem to matter. Well, it does. We missed an interior O-line that can get a push against an undersized and less-talented defensive front. We missed being able to get a pass rush with the front four. We missed Jordan Kovacs. We missed Jake Ryan. We missed having a reliable run game from the running backs. Still, we have enough talent and skill, distributed evenly enough and bolstered by good coaching, that this should not have greatly affected the outcome against Akron. Northwestern, Sparty or even Iowa, maybe, but not Akron. Never Akron.
What This Means Going Forward
Sometimes a bad game against an inferior opponent exposes certain flaws that will become unavoidable as you move to league play. Other times, it’s just one bad game—embarrassing, certainly, but not necessarily indicative of season-long trends. The two low points of the past 20 years of Michigan football are undoubtedly the 2007 “Horror” against Appalachian State and the 2008 “Nameless Embarrassment” against Toledo. The Horror was emblematic of the latter—sure we stank the following week against a very good Oregon team, but we did recover. We won 8 of our last 10 and then beat Urban Meyer’s Florida in the Capital One Bowl. By contrast, the loss against Toledo was pretty emblematic of who we were that year, i.e. the worst Michigan team since the 1960s, if not longer.
The good news is that, since we won this one, we will eventually forget it ever happened. I mean, how many of us remember that we had to come from behind to beat San Diego State in 2004? I didn't until I looked it up. By contrast, I will never forget losing to App State and Toledo. So there’s that. What really worries me, though, is that this one is more like the 2010 near-disaster against UMASS, or Ben Chappell’s one game Heisman performance of 2009—wins that expose fundamental flaws that will haunt us down the line.
I believe the evidence is unclear on this—certainly, the game did expose our weakness on the interior offensive line, as well as our inability to get pressure without blitzing. It also reminded us that creative, improvisational quarterbacks almost inevitably have off days, when the split-second, seat-of-your-pants decisions just don’t go your way. I imagine that we will have more days where our O-line can’t get a push and our D-line gets pushed. I also imagine that there is at least one more game left where Gardner’s penchant for turning the ball over puts the outcome in jeopardy.
The good news is that these are areas where we can improve over the course of the season. Kalis is a guy I expect to be a lot better by the end of the season than he is now—the talent is there; it’s just that the experience is not. Young, talented guys can learn from this embarrassment—Ojemudia, Clark, Bolden, Ross, Thomas, Hollowell. And Jake Ryan's return should help considerably.
The bad news is that improvement over the course of a season is often negated by injuries and often lost in the transition to better and more consistent competition. The young starters will almost certainly have another bad game before the season is done. Probably on the road, though as this game proves, it can happen at home too.
Gardner’s game-time psychology is an equal, if not bigger factor, for the simple reason that we ask him to do so much, and to paper over so many structural weaknesses in our roster. Of the three Rodriguez-era quarterbacks I mentioned above, Devin, I think, has the highest ceiling. He showed us that against Notre Dame, as well as last year when he filled in for Denard. In his weekly diary, Bronxblue pointed out that Devin is more than a bit like Vince Young—a supreme athlete who eventually turned into the most dominant individual player I’ve ever seen, but who first struggled with consistency in the passing game. Devin’s passing is actually better than Young’s was at this stage in his career, but he does have that problem with turnovers, and it’s a big one. As much as I love this coaching staff, it’s unclear whether they will be able to work the turnovers out of his system—Denard, as we all know, regressed in the INT department in the shift from 2010 to 2011. Since Devin better fits the Borges mold, I think they'll have better success with him on this front, but it’s still too much of an open question for my liking.
All that said, complacency was the biggest single ingredient of this tire fire, and I do not think this will be a problem again. Hoke and company dodged a bullet on Saturday, and do not think anyone will be looked past or given short shrift going forward. Take that out of the equation, and the next tire fire looks to max out at 60% of this one.
The bottom line is, we are unlikely to play this poorly against anyone else left on our schedule. Unfortunately, the rest of the teams on our schedule are all better than Akron. Still, if we can fix the complacency and preparation issue and halve the turnovers, that should be enough to win more games than we lose from this point forward. Unfortunately, this game also shows us that we're not quite ready for the big time yet. The saving grace is that we play in the Big 10, where arguably no one else is either.
*We did have some success under center, but my impression is that shotgun formations were more consistently successful. I’m looking forward to the UFR to see if that’s correct or not.
**EDIT: And let's not forget Jim Tressel, who unfortunately knows a thing or two about winning at Michigan Stadium.
The Big Ten had a bit of a rough weekend overall, as you undoubtedly know.
That being said, when the conference was winning, it was winning rather handily as the average margin of victory was almost 18 points. When it was losing, it was losing by a reasonably competitive 8 points on average. The best and worst performances when it comes to margin of victory – quality of opponent notwithstanding – belong to Michigan State and Nebraska respectively.
SCORING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
Three games into the regular season, there are six Big Ten teams still averaging over 40 points per game on offense, including Michigan (sixth in the Big Ten at 42.7 points per game). Bolstered by its initial outing, Indiana still leads the way at 50 points per game on average. The worst performer here, again “bolstered” by its first performance, is Purdue.
When it comes to points against, Nebraska and Purdue are having strangely similar luck in not stopping anyone from scoring as they essentially share the worst track record after three games. Wisconsin, whose average includes two shutouts, has the best statistics here.
Here is the average point differential. Purdue currently is the only team that runs at a deficit.
TOTAL OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
Over three games, Indiana, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Ohio State have all managed to average over 500 yards of offense, with Michigan coming in a respectable sixth here at 449.3 yards per game. Only three teams are below 400 yards of offense per game at this point (small sample, opponent strength, disclaimer…).
On the other side of the ball, there is a clear leader here – Michigan State. Michigan sits in the middle of the conference here and Illinois owns the worst statistics here at nearly 500 yards per game given up. Indiana and Northwestern are right up there as well.
YARDS PER PLAY DIFFERENTIAL:
Three teams in the Big Ten actually have negative YPP differentials right now:
RUSHING OFFENSE & DEFENSE:
So, as you might expect, the team still getting the most out of its ground game is Wisconsin, and you have to go all the way down to the ninth spot in the conference to find Michigan’s average rushing yardage on offense.
That being said, we do a decent job of stopping the run typically, so at least this is not Indiana.
PASSING OFFENSE & DEFENSE:
Indiana and Illinois are the most prolific teams when it comes to attacking defenses through the air right now, both averaging over 300 yards of passing per game. Michigan sits at fifth in the conference.
As for defending against the pass, this is where we didn’t do ourselves a lot of favors this past Saturday. We are seventh in the conference in passing defense, tied with Purdue of all teams.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS:
I’ll let the conference stats speak for themselves here, but with regards to Michigan, we are very good at getting them so far, but as you’ll note, we’ve given quite a few up. The average differential for Michigan, in fact, is 6.7%.
Here is kickoff return and punt return information for the conference:
Warning - long post but I think it's important to lay out the facts of our DL, so have tried to place a thought process that can do so below. If this is the wrong place to post a long piece, mods please move to "diary".
First let me say I am a Michigan fan and alum so while you may feel free to downvote at will, most of what I present below will be facts, even if they are taken as negatives. Second, this is only partially driven by the Akron game so it's not a knee jerk response as much as a view of what has transpired these first 3 games; notably the 1st and 3rd but after watching Purdue's DL do quite well with Notre Dame until it wore down in the 2nd half, it also is driven in part by the Notre Dame game.
The knee jerk reaction is its on the players here. Obviously both our lines are substandard versus what a championship quality team has. I am not speaking "champions of the midwest" which nowadays is like crowning a junior varsity beauty queen, but something similar to what would give UM a fighting chance first a top 2-3 type SEC team (or Oregon or whomever is a great team that year). I am hearing the "fire Funk" chants by some on these boards but the talent of UM's offensive line is in the 2012-2013 class outside our 2 elder tackles. Funk may be great, poor, or a very average coach. I don't know. He will have a ton of raw clay to work with and his work will become clear in 2014-2015 when these kids hit the field en masse. The pedigree of the OL kids of 2012-2013 classes is very high, so we will see what the staff creates out of them ... but not this year as only the first wave (Kalis) has hit the field. Miller is a 2011 kid, and Glasgow fergodsakes is a walkon. But if you are the one(s) denouncing Funk's coaching for the OL, you should be equally denouncing 2 of the 3 biggest names on the staff for the DL - that is Mattison and Hoke. Arguing for one to be dismissed for the lack of production without equally arguing for the other 2 is a bit silly when both units are a fail versus championship quality. My larger point is it is WAY TOO SOON to judge either.
Now on to the talent portion. After these tough outings by our 2 respective lines, I am looking to the future and wondering what we have. And how it compares to our 2 Midwest football power peers (insert Midwest football power joke here) - ND and Ohio. Again, the OL classes of 2012-2013 look to have a lot of talent and while surely some will not pan out, there is a lot of raw clay to work with. But on DL? We have issues. These are young players. When young players are very good they flash. I am not looking for Mike Martin or Brandon Graham as juniors. I am looking for a "hey player ABC looked a lot like Brandhon Graham on that play... oh snap player ABC just screwed up on the next!! oh well he is a RS freshman". We can see that sort of thing happening with Kalis because... he is Kalis. We see that sort of thing happening with J Ross because... he is good. I have seen no one do this of the younger players on the DL. And that makes me worried.
Stars matter to a degree. More important to me really is offer sheets. When other powers come for a kid, that means that kid is really showing. This is where you insert the JMFR meme - yes we all know every so often you hit on a 3 star (or 2) and he blows up. We wave our muppets and every time another 3 star arrives we say MIKE HART! JAKE RYAN or heck Kovacks of walk on fame. But let's be real, if hoarding 3 stars with the hope 70% because JMFR was the way to go, this would be Alabama's way. You need to hoard 4 stars and try to get a 5 star every few classes to build a championship (even Big 10 championship team) contender that has staying power*. *=Wisconsin. With that said the long a$$ preface of this post is over and I offer you a comparison of what OSU is recruiting and has in house on the DL versus our DL. And yes I know DL has been their strength in recruiting but aside from a few kids like Strobel, Pipkins, Wormley - we are nowhere near their level. (Mario and Taco are good midwest recruits but still below what OSU is recruiting). Some of our kids have what I'd call "MAC+" offer sheets: MAC teams + Illinois or Purdue or Indiana etc. Maybe one will turn into Jake Ryan, but asking a bunch to do that is silly. So before we get on Hoke and Mattison's case - consider the clay they have to work with. Compare it to OSU's clay... or what Funk has with the OL. It's a major issues. p.s. I did not do as extensive of a look at Notre Dame but did look at 4-5 of their players inclusive of Nix and Tuitt and the offer sheets mirror OSU.
This is where you give me the meme about how OSU's defense is not impressive and giving up tons of points to Buffalo and Cal. To which I say, OSU's defense is as young as ours. The entire DL is brand new. They have some experience in the LB (less than ours) and DB (about same as ours) They will only get better. And scary better if recruiting (stars!) matter in the coming months and next year (at the DL).
Below is a side by side comparison with major offers from each player - I won't list all, but you should get the idea of caliber of teams recruiting each kid:
OSU just lost 3 DL players, 2 real studs + Garret Goebel
- Simon - ND, Nebraska
- Hankins - Bama, Florida, UM, Oklahoma, Wiscy
- Goebel - UM, ND, Tenn, Wiscy
Huge losses - this would be like losing Martin + Graham off the same line plus say a 3rd very good college level player. How do they replace it? Folks it's sick - this is essentially the 2 deep for the current OSU squad. And these are all Pipkins age - or younger other than Bennett.
- A. Washington - Bama, FSU, Miami, UM, ND, USC
- Noeh Spence - Bama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, UM - yada yada (think "Hand")
- Tommy Schutt - Florida, Miami, UM, ND, Penn State
- Jamal Marcus - Clemson, Florida, ND, South Carolina, Vandy
- Joel Hale - Florida, UM, Penn State (this is 1 of their 2 WORST recruits by offer sheet)
- Michael Bennett - UM, ND, Penn State, USC, Stanford
- Steve Miller - Florida, UM, UCLA, Nebraska (this is 1 of their 2 WORST recruits by offer sheet)
- Michael Hill - Bama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, LSU, UM, S. Carolina, Vanderbilt
- Joey Bosa - Bama, Auburn, Florida, FSU, UM
I call these all national offers - these would be MIDWEST powers (ND, UM, OSU + SEC offers. There are 2 - Miller and Hale who you could argue only have a SEC offer due to Urban and Florida... but that is it. The rest are not Midwest recruits but national top end recruits. If 3 fail to develop they still have an entiring starting DL + 1 extra that do.
Again please do not take this as a criticism but real recognize real. Here are our kids. Pipkins is a national recruit, and Stroblel is a bit behind. Wormley has a OSU offer but there is no SEC type offer.... then it drops to Taco + Mario... then it drops off the map. So if like OSU 3 of our players below don't develop... and it's the wrong 3, we essentially have a MAC+ type DL. One that can be neutralized by MAC OLs. Which frankly is what is happening. I did not include Ash, Q. Wash, Black or Frank Clark for obvious reasons as they are upperclassmen... or in Clark's case, recruited for a diff position. I also did not include Glasgow for obvious reasons but the mere fact he (bless him) is pushing for playing time is saying something. I know i know - insert Kovacks meme here.
- Pipkins - Bama, Florida, OSU, Oklahoma, Tenn
- Wormley - OSU, MSU, Illinois, Indiana (without the OSU offer for an in state kid, it is not as impressive looking)
- Strobel - OSU, Nebraska, Wiscy, Stanford, MSU, Vandy (a nice top end Midwest recruit...but lacking SEC interest outside Vandy)
- Ojemudia - Stanford, MSU, Illinois, Iowa
- Charlton - ND, Nebraska, UCLA, Tenn, Iowa, Illinois
- Heitzman - Vandy, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana + a lot of MAC schools
- Godin - Wiscy, MSU, Vandy, Missouri, Illinois
- Henry - Illinois, Louisville, Pittsburgh + a lot of MAC schools
Takeaways: Pipkins must hit. Realistically OSU has 6 Pipkins right now across their DL at ends and tackles. They have the luxury of 1-2 not hitting. We do not. Strobel must hit. He is the 2nd best recruit by offer sheet, but it lags behind all but maybe 1 OSU recruit. From there when you lay the offer sheets side by side UM lags, and not by a small amount. This is the current reality. Obviously coaches are addressing this in the current class - Mone and Marshall are nice starts but they are similar to a Strobel or Wormley offer sheet. We need to start hitting on the elite - the McDowell and Hand and down the road the Cornell and other similar.
Sorry for the length of the post but as I bang my head against the wall wondering why I am not seeing the flashes out of the young DL like I am seeing out of a James Ross or when I watch OSU give up tons of scores to Cal... but still see those flashes from their DL players, I resort to reality. The above is reality. We are way behind OSU's level of DL recruits. I can only imagine what Hoke and Mattison could do with the clay Urban has on the DL. We need MOAR high level clay. Otherwise I am worried our 2014 complaints won't be too different than our 2013 complaints.
Unlike Bronxblue, I didn't take any notes during the game. My thinking was, hey, we're playing Akron, how much effort do I really need to put into this? Unfortunately, it appears the entire operation - offense, defense, special teams, scout teams, coaching, the students, and the band* - felt the same way. The boxscore will tell you that this game was played Sept. 14, but it sure felt like it was still Friday the 13th.
Before we wring our hands, gnash our teeth, rend our garments and run around screaming in panic-mode, let's remember what this game was: the classic letdown game. I don't understand the psychology of "playing to the level of your opposition," but I've seen it enough times to know it's real. Michigan played down to Akron's level, and the Zips did their best to seize the opportunity. We were just one play and one yard better than them on this day.
*Before BandoCalrissian gets up in my grill, where was Beyonce?
Burst of Impetus
* There were surprisingly many plays where the momentum changed hands. The 2nd quarter turnover-fest was wrought with impetus changing plays. The key moment in the game to me was late in the 2nd quarter, with Akron driving. Pohl lofted a beautiful pass headed right into the hands of his receiver, only to have a beaten Jourdan Lewis swipe at the receiver's arms moments before the ball arrived. The flags remained in the officials pockets. Akron ended up missing a 45 yard field goal and we went to half up 7-3. Those three points would end up being huge as Akron got down to our 1 on the last play of the game, but needed 4 to tie instead of 3 to win. I think the other big thing about that play is it let Akron know that their WRs could beat our non-Countessian corners 1 on 1, and they would go back to that twice in the 2nd half for huge gains. Akron drives in the first half went for 12, 26, 4, -2, 33, 47, and 0 yards. In the 2nd half, they had drives go for 75, 59, 67, and 71 yards. Pohl was only 5 of 14 for 60 yards at half, but was 20 for 35 for 251 yards in the second half. Clearly, they made adjustments on offense, and I think the biggest were challenging Lewis and Taylor, and getting O'Dorizzi matched up against our linebackers.
Unit Desperately in Need of an Identity
* 23 players showed up in the defensive stats section, but not for the reasons I would have guessed before the game. Five of those were offensive players, due to the turnovers and possible special teams play.
* I get it that the D-Line doesn't normally get involved in a lot of tackles, and Akron was throwing the ball quite a bit, but they still ran the ball 30 times. Our D-Line was led by a reserve, Ojemudia, with 4 tackles. The starters ended up like this: Clark 2 assists, QWash 0, Heitzman 0, Black 0. Did they even play?
* For the folks bemoaning our lack of a pass rush, we did end up with 8 QHs. For as long as I've tracked that, which is not long, that strikes me as a big number. We didn't get any sacks, but what is the right number of sacks to get per game? Is it 2 or 3? So if they get the 2 or 3 sacks, is their job done? Of course not. I'm more worried about the other ~70 plays during the game. I contend that QHs and QB completion percentage are also valuable metrics to look at. 8 QHs and ~50% completion percentage suggest that the line's performance wasn't all bad.
* JR3 was the defensive leader for the game with 10 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass broken up.
* Countess and Wilson each had an INT, making a profit out of Magnus. I bet Stribling would have gotten the third INT if he had been in there instead of Lewis.
* Gardner was responsible for all four turnovers. Yes, the INT to Funchess deflected off of his hands, but that throw was into traffic and shouldn't have been made. I was hoping the turnover problem was going to go away with Denard and his inability to see over the line. It's still happening. So at this point, we have to say it's systemic, which gets to coaching. Are the coaches asking Devin to do too much? For example, on the option play, he should have pitched to Toussaint. But how often does Devin practice that play, considering all the under center, shotgun, pistol, read-options, power, zone-blocking, and inverted and extroverted veers he's asked to run? He certainly didn't look comfortable on that play, even though it was the perfect audible and play to run against that defensive formation.
* Gardner was 16 for 30 for 248 yards and 2 TDs passing. His long was 48 yards to Funchess, but that was the result of YAC. As numerous posters have pointed out, we didn't test Akron deep all day. My self-annointed deep threat from game 1, Joe Reynolds, caught one pass for 1 yard.
20 Pound Cheeseburgers
* We ran for 177 yards on 32 attempts, better raw numbers than the ND game, but I thought the performance against ND was better. Why? I'm sure we all remember Barry Sanders. He could make an amazing run, but then be stopped for a 5 yard loss on the next play, trying to make something happen. So, would you rather have a back who goes for 20, 3, and -5 yards (total = 18), or a back who goes for a dependable 4, 4, and 4 yards (total = 12). I'll take the fours, because it keeps drives alive. We only had 10 third downs in this game, and went 3 of 10 on them. Had the line held up better and eliminated all of the negative carries for Toussaint, we could have MANBALLED Akron. Instead, they ran 79 plays to our 62, and never let us get in a rhythm offensively.
* Fitz had 19 carries for 71 yards, and Gardner had 10 for 103. Green, Chesson and TEAM had 1 carry each. I thought we had 5 or 6 RBs on the depth chart.
V. Sinha Legends Jersey
* Gallon was one of the few bright spots, catching 6 balls for 66 yards.
* Funchess and Butt each caught two passes, but I suspect their UFR blocking numbers aren't going to be great. Folks think that our edge blocking is good because of Lewan and Schofield, but Akron attacked the edge with their defense because without Williams, we are left with two-undersized TEs who haven't mastered the finer points of blocking just yet.
* Dileo was held without a catch. WHY, BORGES, WHY?!?
* Graham Glasgow got a tackle, by falling on a guy who recovered Gardner's fumble. It's usually not a good sign to see O-linemen getting in the boxscore.
My boxscore has a Butt Cheek in it
* In addition to Jake Butt's two catches, Akron's Bryce Cheek had two tackles. Did anyone get a photo of the two of them standing side-by-side?
Norf and Souf
* Norfleet caught two passes for 20 yards. He only had one kick return for 15 yards and no punt returns. It's almost like Akron scouted us, or something. Imagine that. Meanwhile we had no clue what to do with D'Orazio and kept treating him like a tight end instead of a slot receiver. But why bother scouting Akron, AMIRITE? So you don't almost end up one play away from the Horror II. Like I said, I think it was a total team letdown, including the coaches, scouts, and scout team. If I can suggest an MGoQuestion for this week's press conferences, it would be, did they bother to scout Akron? and is that what Brady meant by the coaches not doing enough last week?
* Our special teams have not been special so far. We gave up more than a first down on every exchange of punts. That's bad.
* Gibbons missed his only attempted FG, but he was due to miss one. I just wish I didn't have that gut feeling that he was going to miss. It's just how the day went.
* The silver lining to the special teams cloud was that the kickoff teams were ~6 yards per kick better than Akrons.
I'm an international umpire
* They saved our bacon, as I pointed out in the impetus section. The pass interference they called on Butt's defender at the end of the game wasn't nearly as bad as Lewis' hacking across the arms of the Akron receiver.
* Akron's fans should be furious at the refs, but that raises an interesting question. Does Akron have any fans? And if so, why? Whenever the conversation starts about the smaller schools trying to compete with the football factories, Akron is brought up as an example of a school that should de-emphasize football. And yet, they almost beat us.
* Penalties were even at 5 apiece. The penalties on us seemed to wipe out bigger gains and were more consequential, but we deserved them.
* The attendance was 107,120. That's not a sell-out, but to be fair, when I was a student, that would have set the record for the largest crowd in Michigan history. The stadium has grown, meanwhile, the population of the state has decreased. We may have reached the limit on what the market will accept.
* Michigan came into the game with three impressive streaks going - Hoke's home winning streak, Gibbons FG accuracy streak, and the Team's redzone efficiency streak. We left the game with only one streak, but it's the most important one.
* Since our staff apparently didn't bother to scout Akron, I did a little research on them. They play in InfoCision stadium, which sounds like a novel surgery technique.
* In their last game, James Madison tallied 12 more first downs than Akron. They also sacked Akron 4 times, but had 0 QBH's.
* The attendance at their last home game was 19,653. So apparently, they do have fans, but I have to ask again, why?
* Akron's helmets have images of zippers running along the top. I thought "Zipperhead" was this guy:
but apparently, he's Eraserhead, and there is no "Zipperhead," except that's a slang term our GI's called Koreans during the Korean war, so let's just forget I brought this up. I've always been terrorified of Eraserhead, but I've never seen the movie. A question for the MGoCommunity, is that worth watching?
I had a great anecdote planned for this diary, comparing Dad to Forest Gump, but I'll save that for when we are in a better mood. Instead, I'll just leave you with one his sayings, "On any given Saturday, any given team can beat any other team." And that's why we play the games...
This piece was going to start with something about how fall is here and evoke images of pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice lattes but there’s a thread on the board about hockey practice jerseys that has double-digit comments so let’s get to the point; it’s almost hockey season. Also, you’re probably envisioning pumpkin pie or a pumpkin spice latte now anyway so mission: accomplished.
Twenty two days remain before the puck drops on the 2013-14 season, and even though it might seem like a good time to do a season preview* I’m not done writing about last year. There are two things that I could write about ad infinitum; applying advanced stats to college hockey and what went wrong during the 2012-13 season.This might as well be a Sports Illustrated expose because there just isn’t going to be a smoking gun that alerts us to the singular reason behind the 2012-13 collapse, but with advanced stats in the fold there are new ways to look at what happened.
I recently read about applying baseball’s quality start statistic to goaltenders (you can read more here and here). A lot of blame was heaped on Michigan’s trio of netminders last season, and while some of it may have been understandably levied I still believe that an unwarranted amount of criticism was given to the guys between the pipes and not enough was placed on those standing in front of them.
Quality starts are worth looking at because they are highly correlated with winning. At the NHL level, a team wins 77.5% of the games in which their goaltender recorded a quality start. There are, of course, some flaws to the statistics. First and foremost, there’s still not a good way to control for a poor defensive team. If a team gives up lots of breakaways and odd-man rushes then the goaltender’s save percentage is still likely to suffer. At the same time, quality starts are useful from a consistency standpoint. If a goalie fluctuates between shutting out teams and blowing up and allowing five goals then they typically won’t record as many quality starts as a goalie who consistently goes out and allows two or three goals per game.
A goaltender is awarded a quality start if they 1.) start a game and 2.) have a save percentage that is above the league average (or, in this case, above the DI average). In the context of a portion of a season we aren’t going to escape the problem of small sample size, but there are some nuances to what happened last year that we can glean from the stats available. As you can imagine save percentage and quality starts are closely linked. Steven Racine’s 89.9% save percent wasn’t exactly a revelation, but at the same time his improvement over the season did get Michigan within one game of another NCAA Tournament berth. This is where not just quality saves but the associated statistics become worth investigating and discussing.
A cheap win occurs when a goaltender records a save percent below the DI average but his team wins anyway. Conversely, a tough loss (or wasted quality start) is granted if a goaltender has a save percentage at or above the DI average but his team loses.
[QS= Quality Start, NQS= Non-Quality Start, CW= Cheap Win, WQS= Wasted Quality Start]
Steven Racine’s 2012-13 stats are featured in the table above. We’re going to look at his starts because he’s the only goalie on Michigan’s roster that started more than 15 games, and 15 starts was the cutoff for having one’s save percentage counted towards the DI national average. The DI national average turned out to be 90.2%, with 76 goaltenders being included in the calculation. As a quick aside, three of Adam Janecyk’s nine starts were quality starts and three of Jared Rutledge’s nine starts were quality starts. Having only 33.3% of your starts qualify as quality starts is just bad; the NHL standards at Hockey Prospectus state that a quality start percentage of 40% or below is considered very poor.
Racine fared better than his counterparts, with 12 QS out of his 22 starts. That means that 54.5% of Racine’s starts were quality starts, putting him relatively close to the 60% QS that Hockey Prospectus considers elite. While Racine’s QS numbers weren’t all obtained during the team’s nine game win streak that put them in the CCHA Championship game he definitely had a statistically better latter half of the season. Racine recorded five QS in his first twelve starts and seven QS is his last ten. Again, it’s hard to tell whether the shift from 41.6% of starts being QS to 70% of starts being QS is due to Racine settling in and adapting to the speed and angles of the college game or whether it’s because the team defense buckled down and started, like, defending but there’s no question that the increase in QS% was huge.
Five cheap wins in 22 starts means that 22.7% of the time Racine started in net he didn’t have a SV% that was at or above the DI average, with three of those cheap wins coming after the team’s nine game win streak started on February 22nd. That doesn’t surprise me that much, as you’d expect that a Michigan goalie is going to get some cheap wins when the offense is ranked seventh in the nation in goals per game.
Only two of Racine’s 22 starts were wasted quality starts, which is also indicative of having a good offense; in only 9% of his starts did Racine or the team perform well defensively only to watch the game slip away because they couldn’t put the puck in the net.
Tl;dr. What’s your point?
Michigan’s goaltending wasn’t as bad as it may have seemed, with 54.5% of Steven Racine’s starts being quality starts. The percent may seem low until you find out that having a 60% QS% is considered elite in the NHL. If Michigan can get their forwards to backcheck and forecheck and if the defense corps isn’t a punch of pylons or rovers then the 2013-14 season should go better than 2012-13.
While there are some obvious flaws to the QS stat, it should be interesting to track over multiple seasons. There will always be the huge caveat of shot quality being untrackable, but it’s definitely a better (and both more nuanced and interesting) stat than *shudder* wins.
*If you are looking for a season preview then perhaps ordering Hail to Hoops and Hockey would be a good idea. You get an actual preview from Brian, as well as an article by me about what went wrong last season. Wait, what do you mean there’s a theme to what I write?