Since Michigan's 5-2 win over LSU on February 4th, the Wolverines have endured two tough losses. The February 11 road trip to Seattle ended poorly for #28 Michigan, who dropped the doubles point and all but one singles match en route to a dismal 6-1 loss at the hands of #26 Washington. Designated 1 court #6 Evan King lost in straight sets to #15 Kyle McMorrow, 6-3, 7-6. Only Barrett Franks on 5 court held on to win his singles match over Max Manthou, 7-6, 6-7, 1-0. As an added bonus, we got an awesome picture of Barrett courtesy of MGoBlue.com.
Look into those eyes. No pity lurks there.
The worst kind of loss is a rivalry loss, and Michigan's 4-3 loss to #30 Notre Dame at the Varsity Tennis Center February 18th was truly heart-rending. The match came down to 3 court featuring freshman Alex Petrone of Michigan versus Sam Keeton of Notre Dame. The match ended 3-6, 6-5, 7-6 in favor of Mr. Keeton, who dominated the third-set tiebreaker with five straight points en route to the win.
However, some positives came from the match as well. Michigan doubles again dominated, winning all three of their matches. Alex Buzzi had a nice win on 6 court, winning 7-5, 7-5. Evan King dropped the first set but ended strong, winning 1-6, 6-3, 7-5. It is unfortunate that Petrone did not come through in the clutch for Michigan, but he is only a freshman. Petrone and Zhu have nowhere to go but up, and the whole team is still young. Thank goodness we have another year with Evan King! He's so fun to watch play. In fact MGoBlue has some fairly detailed video coverage of the M-ND match available for free, if you are interested.
So, I'm sure everyone has seen the sign that OSU has in their football building comparing the majors of Michigan and OSU football players. The list seemed awfully small and incomplete to me, so I decided to look into the numbers myself. I got my info from the Sugar Bowl Media Guide and from OSU's 2011-2012 Football Information Guide (strangely enough, OSU's website listed no media guide from their losing effort to John Brantley in the Gator Bowl). You'll be unsurprised to learn that "Baseball America rated [Joe Bauserman] as having the best changeup in the Pirates' farm system." I would've thought it was his knuckeball, but changeup is pretty hilarious too. You really can't make this stuff up.
|Major||# of players|
|Afro-American and African Studies||4|
|Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science||2|
|Arab, Armenian, Persian, Turkish and Islamic Studies||1|
|Business Administration - Ross School of Business||1|
|Cellular and Molecular Biology||1|
|Master of Social Work||1|
|Masters of Accounting - Ross School of Business||1|
|Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering||1|
|Physics and Mathematics||1|
I didn't break up Kinesiology School students, but if I did it'd be a split of about 65/35 between Sport Management and Movement Science, with maybe one Physical Education thrown in.
|Major||# of players|
|Sport and Leisure Studies||7|
|Family Resource Management||7|
|Management and Industry||4|
|Construction Systems Management||1|
|Fisheries and Wildlife Management||1|
|Middle Childhood Education||1|
|Real Estate and Urban Analysis||1|
A couple of notes. First, the hilariously named "exploring" is apparently not a major but a way for undeclared kids to take a survey of a variety of courses. Sounds eerily similar to a General Studies major, doesn't it? Second, Joe Bauserman is your Fisheries and Wildlife Mangement major. Third, "famiy resource management" isn't as much of a joke as it sounds like, appearing to be basically a watered-down finance or financial planning degree that tells you how not to lose all the money, cars and tattoos that you accrue.
I was going to make this a diary (and still might) and try to add to the discussion started by Ramzy's take, but I've got stuff to do. All I'll say for now is that I'm pretty sure the reason you don't see more business or engineering students on Michigan's roster is the incredibly difficult admissions standards of those schools.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Previsouly: Parts 1a, 1b, 1c
I have done a terrible job of branding this series. The idea behind it is that football has changed and coaches haven’t. The game used to be about managing down and distance, putting yourself in a makeable third down, and hoping your defense can win with 17 points. Now offenses are more sophisticated at both running and passing. Third downs that used to be virtually out of reach are still tough but more possible and the upsides of going for bigger chunks of yardage on first and second down have begun to outweigh the risks of longer third downs. This changes how both offensive and defensive coaches need to think and how they allocate resources and personnel. Some pieces are now worth more and others less.
The traditional running game used to be the focal point of this philosophy. The traditional running game is the best football tool for limiting variance on a down by down basis. The quarterbacks job is to hand the ball off, throw a couple of beautiful play action deep balls a game, bail out a third down or two, then feed words like "focused" to the media.
As I spent the last several years combing through nearly ten years of play by play data, I kept coming back to the same question: Why do teams run the ball so much? I parsed the data time after time to try and find something I had missed and I couldn’t find it. Of the top individual PAN seasons among QBs and RBs since 2006, only 3 running backs (Boise St’s Ian Johnson in 2006 and Montee Ball and Trent Richardson this year) cracked the top 100. But PAN doesn’t take into account burning the clock at the end of a game. So I switched to WPA (Win Percent Added) which accounts for the clock. Under WPA rankings, Toby Gerhart in 2009 is the only running back to break into the top 200 seasons. 199 quarterback seasons and only 1 running back season.
Now this isn’t to say that a running game isn’t valuable. Of my ten highest rated offensive seasons noted below only Oklahoma, Hawaii and Houston didn’t feature prominent rushing attacks. In fact of the ten, I would categorize 5 as rushing spreads, 3-4 (Baylor is tough to categorize) as college passing spreads and Wisconsin as a traditional run-first offense.
The running game is alive and well but the traditional running back is harder to justify.
The Wisconsin Case
Montee Ball had an outstanding season and along with Trent Richardson clearly a top 2 back in the country. But was he the most valuable player on his own offense? Here are the traditional numbers for Ball and Russell Wilson
307 att, 1923 yards & 33 TDs rushing (NCAA record 39 overall TD)
225/309, 3175 yards & 33 TD & 4 INT (NCAA record 191.8 pass efficiency)
and the advanced metrics
+6.1 PAN and 0.10 WPA/Game
+11.4 PAN and 0.37 WPA/Game
The Wisconsin offense was a thing of beauty that could have been a national title contender if their –1 defense didn’t lead them to three losses while scoring at least 29 points in each of them.
So who was more responsible, Wilson or Ball? Wilson averaged more yards/play, had almost no turnovers and significantly higher advanced metrics. But let's dig down a bit and compare the two.
Nearly half of all Russell Wilson’s plays (rushes and passes) went for 7 yards or more. Ball had 28% of his plays go for the same distance. For negative plays, they are nearly even with sacks and all Ball without. The area were Montee Ball’s plays went was in the 0-3 yard range, i.e. the manage the down and distance range. This obviously wasn’t a bad season for Ball, it was a great season and he was still dominated by his quarterback in terms of output.
Now this take into consideration down and distance considerations so I put together a similar slide with EV.
Montee Ball had 15% of his plays go for at least a half standard deviation above average. Russell Wilson’s number was twice that at 30% with minimal negative offset.
Looking at a second way, here is there play EV value ranked.
As good as Montee Ball was last year, the offense should have even gone to Wilson, more.
RIP Running Back?
Obviously not as a position but as a premiere position I have a hard time justifying the running back’s historical position as at nearly the same level as the quarterback. Even at their best great running backs at similar value to decent quarterbacks. Two offseasons ago I did a study on returning starters and found that of all positions on the field, returning starts by running backs had the least effect of any position on future team success. Before signing day when I looked at the value of recruiting ranking to future team success, running back recruiting was one of the lowest correlations to future offensive success.
It’s not that running backs can’t be valuable. Montee Ball’s +6 PAN is outstanding. It’s more that a big upside for a running back is rare, hard to predict and is still less than you can get from a quarterback. Of the 29 QB’s and RB’s that were +3 or better last year only five were running backs, the rest were quarterbacks. Running back has become a low marginal production position.
Wrapping This Up Next Week
There is a good argument to be made that Wilson’s success is a byproduct of the attention paid to Ball. It obviously didn’t occur in a vacuum and I have no doubt that Wilson benefited from the attention paid Ball more than vice versa. In next week’s final part of this series we’ll look at how teams can adjust their strategies on both sides of the ball to maximize the new realities.
We now return you to your commitments in progress
Hoke: NEED MORE RECRUITS! Shane, do your thing!
Shane: I got you, coach. On my way to campus to watch us beat Ohio.
Bosch: I’m in.
Shallman: Me too.
Lewis: Sounds like a party. I’ll bring the backfield skills. My teammate and I are planning on coming together.
Dawson: I’ll be there.
Hoke: Basketball team, BEAT OHIO!
Basketball Team: Done, Coach.
Chris Fox: This looks like too much fun to pass up.
Taco: Oh yeah. I’m comin!
Hoke: OK, let’s get some sleep!
Butts: Wait for me!
LTT: Spots are filling up, let me get a seat!
Hoke: Great job, Shane! Welcome to Michigan, boys!
Shane: No problem. I got a date with Erin Andrews.
THE END...for now.
Today we look at the scoring breakdown from the NMU series. 7 goals in a series makes for a pretty long post.
Our first goal of the game came on a blown clear by the Wildcats, Epp is fighting for the puck at the corner boards while the rest of the team is trying to breakout.
Even after a second Michigan player comes down the Northerners still leave Epp by himself to fight, since the other Wildcats are still in position for a breakout no one is there to cover Di Giuseppe.
Goal #2: Powerplay
Nothing special here on the powerplay, but it became obvious early on that anyone in a Michigan sweater who wanted to screen was not going to be challenged.
The shot is off the mark, but anyone who has watched Alex Guptill play this year can tell you that his timing on redirects is outstanding.
The space given is all he needs and the puck is in the net.
I predicted that Jon Merrill would have a bounce back series after last weekends MSU fiasco. The thing that has always separated Merrill from others is his hockey I.Q. You either have it or you don't, things like this can't not be taught.
This play starts out as a regular clear for the Wildcats, nothing special just a puck sent out of the zone.
Head up the whole way Merrill gets the puck from Moffie and finds Deblois cutting through the middle.
The Northerners are all kinds of confused, obviously since the blueliner has closed his legs like he's in shot blocking position.
As you can see they are caught way out of position.
The only play left for NMU is to go for the hook, bring him down and try your luck on the PK. Deblois does a great job of keeping the puck and staying on his feet to finish the play off.
Goal #4: Powerplay
Another Wildcat special teams brakedown. Once again Michigan is not doing anything special with the powerplay, but all four penalty killers get caught down low and can not get back into position.
This is another example of Jon Merrill and his hockey intelligence. He gets this puck at the point and walks it up, with a free screener in front of the net everyone is thinking shot.
He sees Moffie the whole way for the one timer, the no look pass is just icing on the cake.
No chance Ellingson can get over in time as Moffie buries the shot
Series two: Goal #1
After NMU failes to clear the puck out Moffie gathers and brings it over the line.
Moffie connects with Glendening who maybe takes an ill advised shot, I feel like the separation gave him the chance to get closer.
But it doesn't matter because his wrister beats the goaltender clean to the glove side for our first goal of the game.
Goal #2: Powerplay
We begin this powerplay with the puck along the sideboards, once again another screener having his way with the Wildcat defense. This is basic hockey, they don't even try to move him.
Merrill sends it across to Moffie
And back to Merrill again.
Once again we see another example of something you can't teach. Not everyone can play the point on a powerplay, in fact some guys who are great hockey players are awful at running point.
A lot of times what you will see is from a bad the point man is either quick pass or quick shot, which usualy results in a broken up pass or a block. His shot is not there, so instead of forcing it he holds, and holds and waits until the lane that he wants is open.
And we have our second goal of the game.
Along the blueline is Mac Bennett, who sends a long pass across looking for Di Giuseppe.
He overshoots him on the pass and the puck is gathered by series whipping boy Wade Epp.
We don't know exactly what he was trying to do here, he's either trying to bounce the puck off the boards out of the zone or he was expecting his man to be behind him.
Either way he throws the puck right at Luke Glendining, who throws a beautiful pass across to A.J. Treais.
We send our Seniors out with a win.
Torrent: Michigan - Ohio 720p MP4 [fixed]
Burke to Morgan:
More Burke to Morgan:
Douglass & Novak: