TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
(Click the image to view full size)
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and at least every
Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out our newest feature,
Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on current Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
As I was reading through fellow fans' reactions to recent recruitment news, someone had mentioned that 'recruiting doesn't really matter.' I'd read that several places, and in the back of my mind I probably didn't believe it. So, I decided to see if the quality of the class as measured through the eyes of a scouting site really did matter.
Turns out, it may not really matter. (Note: This isn't an end all be all of an analysis, and I'm not an expert on Statistics, Recruiting or Women. I also only looked at the top 12 as this takes a lot of time, plus it afforded me another opportunity to disrespect Ohio.)
What?! How dare thee suggest class rank doesn't matter! I'd kindly refer you to the table.
What is this table that thee speaketh of? Uh, chart?
|2011 AP||Team||Average Class||Difference||2011 Rank - 2007/8 Class||2012 Class||2011 Class||2010 Class||2009 Class||2008 Class||2007 Class|
Alabama and LSU have consistently strong classes, and the oversigning debacle probably helps them out some more. They along with USC seem to perform commensurate with expectations.
Some of the interesting items are the massive difference between expectations and results for a few select schools: Boise St, Michigan St, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma St and Notre Dame. You can see for yourselves, but Boise St rocks it with classes that are rarely in the top 50%. Their average class is sitting at 70. Texas and Notre Dame have the opposite problem.
You clearly need to have quality players. However, strong coaching, an eye for talent and knowing how to use and motivate that talent go far. Also, it may suggest that these recruiting services "one size fits all" approach to ranking players and classes is largely irrelevant to a team's performance. There's a long list of 5* failures and world beating 3* guys.
I didn't do a regression analysis as I'm a) lazy, b) not The Mathlete and c) things seem fairly obvious after perusing the data. Also, any laser focus on a single aspect of a team's record will probably miss the forest for the trees, but I'm just trying to provide some evidence on this point specifically.
Let's talk data sources and definitions. I used the final AP Ranking for this past season. The class ranking data is from Scout. I imagine it would be easy enough to bump this against some of the other scouting services to see what they say, as well as perhaps the Coach's Poll and whatnot, but I my imaginary army of minions was busy doing something else. So, this is what we're left with.
The "Average Class" is the class average from 2007 through 2011. I felt that the 2012 rankings, while somewhat finalized, aren't really part of this equation, yet. More just a "that's kinda interesting" rather than a "I think there's something there."
The "Difference" is the difference between that aforementioned "Average Class" and the final 2011 AP Ranking.
The "2011 Rank - 2007/8 Class" is the 2011 AP Ranking minus the average of the 2007 and 2008 Recruit Class.
So, what do you think?
'Intelligence is important, but a great work ethic can overcome much of what some players lack in natural "smarts."''He [the QB] should know exactly how his coach thinks and be able to regurgitate it verbally at the drop of hat.'
"Keep in mind that the quarterback does not look over 6' 4" and 6' 5" linemen. He is seeing and throwing through windows in the pass rush."
Last May, I read some tea leaves in anticipation of the 2011 football season. After careful analysis, I concluded that our defense was likely to go from terrible-to-average, and our offense from great-to-good. In all likelihood, it was thought at the time, that we'd go 8-4 or 9-3, with a signature victory over either Li'l Bro or Ohio. A dreary, depressing repeat of 2010's 7-5 was considered the second most likely scenario. All things pointed to "kinda, sorta better...but not really that much better." In other words, not necessarily better than Rich Rodriguez would have done in a hypothetical year 4, though qualitatively different.
Then, at midseason, I read some more. We'd made it to East Lansing undefeated--with 1 more win than we had when we played them in 2010, and 2 more than we had when we played them in 2009. Things looked pretty good. Though 9-3/good 8-4 was still considered the most likely scenario, now that gleaming city on the hill, a 10-2 regular season record, seemed attainable. Imaginable. Plausible.
Then we did it: we went 10-2. Then we did it some more: we beat Virginia Tech in a BCS bowl. In doing so, we accomplished a few things we hadn't done in a while, such as:
Winning 10 games for the first time since 2006-7.
Winning a bowl game for the first time since 2007-8.
Winning a BCS bowl game for the first time since...1999-2000.
That, deserves a big round of applause, doesn't it? So I'd like give it up for Team 132, Brady Hoke and the rest of the coaching staff for exceeding my, and most people's, expectations for the 2011-12 football season. Huzzah!
That Sugar Bowl victory was a funny one, wasn't it? We didn't look like the better team most of the team, and our opponents looked like, well, they looked like the another team with really fast DEs and LBs and a moving rock at QB who can kinda sorta run and kinda sorta pass, but excels at shredding us for big gains. That's right, the Mississippi State team that beat us 52-14 in the 2010 Gator Bowl. Yet, somehow, this time they only scored 20...and we scored 23.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, captures the difference between 2010 and 2011 like the difference between our bowl performances. In 2010 we ran all over the field but couldn't score against good defenses when it mattered, while pretty much anyone with a pulse could score on us at will. In 2011, we sometimes struggled for yards, but scored as much against the good teams as the bad (excepting, of course, Minnesota). Good teams couldn't really put the ball in the endzone on us either, even when they picked up yards. We were good when it mattered; no, we were better when it mattered.
Comparing Performance to Expectations (and 2011 to 2010)
To finish off the diary series, I thought I'd look back at the previous sets of predictions and see how they fared. The initial prediction of 9-3/good 8-4 was predicated on certain concrete ideas about how much we'd improve vs. our performance in 2010. So let's get compare those to what actually happened:
Initial Prediction: A major improvement from wretched (ranked in the 100s) to average (ranked in the 60s-40s).
Midseason Preduction: These guys might be a top 30 defense.
Postmortem: To put it mildly, the defense exceeded all expectations. We weren't an average defense, as predicted back in May, or even a somewhat above average defense, as predicted at midseason. Rather, we were the #17 defense and #6 scoring defense. That's up from #110 and #107 last year.
Or, to put it in more objective terms:
Initial Prediction: A moderate decline in total yards and scoring.
Midseason Prediction: A moderate decline in total yards, but no decline in scoring.
In objective terms:
...and there you have it. We gained fewer yards but scored more points on offense. We allowed fewer yards and even fewer points. Oh, and we kicked a few field goals, thanks to the Brunette Girls of the world.
For one thing, we now know that Mattison is a Defensive God. He, Hoke and the whole defensive staff pulled off something I previously thought impossible...turning a laughing stock into a top-tier unit in exactly 1 year. If we doubted that the problem was coaching before, we know it was now. This unit was the best we've had since 2006-7, and didn't have nearly the talent that defense did.
For another, we now know that Borges can roll with the spread, and will tailor his schemes to what he has around him. Looking forward to 2012 and beyond to the Devin Gardner year(s), this will serve us well. He might not be the offensive genius Rich Rodriguez is, but he's a crafty fella who knows how to win. Should work even better in the Shane Morris + deadly line of maulers era.
Finally, we can dig into the stats a bit and see that one of the underlying constrasts was in Time of Possession. I
t used to be common sense that you tried to dominate ToP, and then the revisionists came around and said that there was no evidence slow offensive teams did better than fast offensive teams. Now, instead, you were supposed to jettison the possession game and score quickly. Or not. Because it didn't matter.
What I learned this season was that ToP may not matter in many cases, but it sure does when you're exactly the kind of team that has close to zero depth on defense. Then you really should keep them off the field if you can. Oregon can do the uptempo thing because they have lots and lots of depth on defense. They may not be Alabama, but they have a legion of solid dudes they can substitute in and out, and that's exactly what they do.
In 2010 and 2011, by contrast, we had an uneven group of starters, and wisps of smoke behind that. Brady Hoke's decision to slow things down paid off for us in 2011, even if it meant losing a little razzle-dazzle in the process. Going uptempo or playing the possession game is a choice you make based on your personnel, not an ideological question with a "right" and a "wrong" answer. In 2011, we chose the right course for that roster, and it made a world of difference.
- 1998: 4
- 1999: 2
- 2000: 4
- 2001: 4
- 2002: 2
- 2003: 3
- 2004: 3
- 2005: 2
- 2006: 5
- 2007: 6
- 2008: 6
- 2009: 5
- 2010: 3
- 2011: 2
- 4 is enough for now (given the MWC and WAC just got raided)
- B12 needs to get up to 12 teams
At this point we'd have 6 BCS conferences with at least 12 teams and each conference having a title game. That leaves you at the end of the regular season with 6 conference championships and history suggests that normally at least 2 of the confereces will have be having off years and can be eliminated via polls. As I mention above this also makes the conference championship games a round of the playoffs. It as also makes the regular matter. Consider the years when a 4 loss team won the Big East. I don't really feel they should have a shot at the national championship. So discarding teams like that ensures that no one will slack off in the regular season. Also if conference winners autobid in, it creates scenarios where you pull your starters when playing teams that aren't in your division, since all you care about during the regular season is winning your division.
The 4 team playoff becomes this weird animal where up to 12 teams can have a shot at the playoffs going in to the title game weekend (assuming B12 gets back to 12). 6 will lose and go off to bowls. 2 will be eliminate by polls and go off to bowls.
History shows that all 6 BCS conferences rarely produce elite teams at the same time. To get to six elite teams for a playoff you need the MWC and WAC producing talent. Those conferences have just been raided (either for coaches or for entire programs) and it seems unlikely we'll see elite talent from the non-BCS conferences for a time period. So if we're seeding 6 every year, we run the risk of having to seed really unworthy teams for #5 and #6.
Basically 4 means you're killing two teams via poll voting and that can at times present problems. 6 teams means you're letting inferior teams many years, but avoiding having the polls as the headsman.
One other comment...if you let all conference champs always get into the playoffs... Giving any conference an autobid to the playoffs is bad for the regular season. Consider the following scenario. Michigan and Ohio State have both won their divisions and are about to play The Game (as in 2006). This means they will meet in the conference championship game no matter what happens in The Game.
If the conference champ of the B1G automatically makes the playoffs, you have a massive incentive to sandbag The Game. You want to the win the B1G Title Game, The Game is meaningless. You actually have an incentive to hide your playbook (since you're playing again next week) and pull players to avoid an injury. #1 OSU vs #2 Michigan is a lot less epic since the coaches care more about winning the following week. If Michigan loses The Game, but beats OSU in the Title Game and goes on to the playoffs we'd be a lot happier than if the opposite outcome happened.
If only 4 out of the 6 BCS Conference champs make it to the next level though that changes. Now you not only have to win your conference but also put together a resume that beats at least of the other conference champs. So then going 2-0 against Ohio State becomes more important.
Whew, it is finally done...
I walk away from this really feeling like we're in a situation where we can move forward logically. If you simply average the numbers for each year, you come up with a 4 team playoff working just fine.
However that ignores the fact that in recent years we had some seasons where 5 and 6 team playoffs were needed. On the other hand, the BCS conferences raiding the MWC and WAC may have put an end to that trend.
As it stands I would consider the logical action to be pushing for a 4 team system to be ready to go when the BCS expires. Install that system for a time period and then watch to if programs arise out of the MWC, WAC, and C-USA. If they do, when the 4 team expires, consider moving to a 6 team system.
Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's Prep junior Charlie Callinan is one of several wide receivers currently on Michigan's radar for the class of 2013. Callinan already holds an offer from Rutgers and his interest from several BCS programs in the Midwest and East Coast. The 6'4", 205 pound prospect is a member of the ESPNU 150 Watch List, while 247Sports ranks him as the #15 player in New Jersey and the #49 overall receiver among the junior class. Callinan has been in regular contact with Michigan assistant Curt Mallory, and I had the chance to talk to him last night about the recruiting process and where he stands:
ACE: How is everything going in your recruitment? Which schools are going after you the hardest right now?
CHARLIE: Everything is going pretty good. Right now, coaches are coming through, making their stops, just talking to me and watching us work out. I'm in contact with a bunch of coaches and schools, so it's been going pretty good. The [schools going after me the] hardest right now would probably be Rutgers, Michigan, Michigan State, Boston College, South Carolina, UConn, and Virginia.
ACE: Do you have any early favorites out of those schools?
CHARLIE: I don't really know about favorites, but I'm definitely interested in checking out those schools. I could see myself at every single one of those, and I've heard a lot about all of those schools. I don't really know about favorites, but all of those schools are pretty nice.
ACE: Talking about Michigan specifically, which coach has been in contact with you, and what's your impression of the coaching staff and the school?
CHARLIE: I've been talking to Coach Mallory a lot, Curt Mallory. He actually gets on a personal level with you, we'll talk a lot and we'll talk about how the week is going and stuff like that. He'll talk about the school and all that—he's a good guy and I heard a lot about him, I've heard a lot about the program, so I'll probably make it up there for a visit and check it out, and I'll see how it is.
ACE: How did you junior year go in terms of your personal performance? If you know your stats off the top of your head, feel free to rattle them off.
CHARLIE: It wasn't that good—we're more of a running team, so I don't get many looks at receiver. I'm still the number one receiver on the team. I had 35 receptions for 550 yards and five touchdowns.
ACE: If you had to scout yourself, what would you say are you biggest strengths as a player, and what are you looking to improve for your senior year and beyond?
CHARLIE: My strengths are [that] I can use my size pretty well, and I'm a pretty big kid. I'm about 6'4", 205, so I know how to use my size, and I know the game pretty well. I'll run really good routes and I'm just smart with the game, I can read coverages and all that. My speed is getting there, and I'm working on it, but next year that's what I'm mainly focusing on. I'm pretty fast now, but I really want just high-end speed. You can always get faster so I'll be working on that.
ACE: You mentioned Michigan as a possible visit destination. Are there any other schools that you're planning on taking a visit to at this point?
CHARLIE: Yup. On the 11th [of February] I think I'm going down to West Virginia for a visit, and then in the next coming month or so I'll be going down to Michigan State and maybe Virginia and UConn.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a potential timeline?
CHARLIE: No, I have no clue. A lot of my friends committed before the season, I know some kids who committed after, and they pretty much told me that you've just got to know where you want to go to school before you jump to any conclusions. When I realize what school I want to go to, I want to make sure it's the right school, check it out even deeper, then I'll make my decision. There's no really telling what it's going to be.
ACE: What's going to make you know that a school is for you? What are the factors that you're looking at when it comes down to picking a school?
CHARLIE: The environment around me, the team, how I get along with the coaches, pretty much the overall environment. I'm not going to go to a school where I can't really get along with the coaches—it won't be a fun four years or however many years. I'm just looking for a school where I can be successful, do well academically and just as well on the football field.