I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
As I sit here working through the middle of the second pot of coffee, watching my kids enjoy the plethora of gifts that now litter the family room floor, I would like to share something with my virtual MGoFamily – I consider this blog perhaps one of the best gifts to any fan of Michigan athletics, and the best part about it is that it indeed keeps on giving throughout the year.
I would like to thank Brian for the gift of MGoBlog.
My wife and I actually didn’t do gifts for ourselves this year. We decided to focus exclusively on the kids, but I began thinking about this blog last night and how I have been a member for nearly a year, and as strange as it sounds, it occurred to me that a place to express my passion for Michigan sports and, really, all things Michigan and Ann Arbor has been my gift.
Up or down, left or right, win or lose, I like to think that, for the most part, we’ve all been here to share, report and inform, and I believe that we do this at a level above and beyond any other sports blog out there. There are not many sports blogs that are as rife with intelligent references to everything from Mel Brooks films to Faust, where an article about the trees on the Ohio campus precipitates a detailed discussion on the origins of the Second World War, or where a near meltdown after a loss is so quickly curtailed with wisdom and humor. Things like this demonstrate the class and education of merry band of Wolverines, and they place this site on a different plane, in my opinion.
As we begin to get out of bed, open gifts, eat breakfast, or what have you this morning, I submit that those of us who spend time here already have opened one of our gifts simply by clicking on a link which I am sure is on most of our bookmark bars.
I have enjoyed my first year on this site, and I intend to hang around for many more.
Yes, MGoBlog, I have already opened you this morning, but not before I had to literally unscrew a toy truck from a box. Really, modern package design?
This is my first diary post, incidentally, so hopefully you enjoy it.
Out of the many fine alumni who have posted or visited this website over the years, I consider myself privileged to have been lucky enough to study a major, clarinet performance, that called for me to spend most of my time on North Campus. Many words have been said about the fine night life, restaurants, and other amenities available on Central Campus. This diary is not about those parts of the city. I'm talking about driving up Division for a little ways, crossing the bridge, and heading further north past Maiden Lane and experiencing the fun times to be had there.
For one thing, North Campus has trees, and snow, and snow and trees. Walking to class is like walking through beautiful parkland. There are many hills and valleys which helps make the walk more physically demanding. There are paths through the woods where frequently groundhogs, deer, squirrels, cats, and other creatures can be seen prowling around. I had a garden senior year and took pride in clearing out brush and improving the property bit by bit, even if only temporarily. One winter the trees on North Campus were completely encapsulated in ice and glittered in the sunlight like living icicles.
In the summer these same trails are great for biking and running, or during the winter if you bundle up well. I and my friends would run through the engineering campus, Northwood III and beyond, and bike up Nixon into farm country. The hills at the Huron Parkway golf course are great for sledding in the winter, and Qdoba is just a little ways further down the road. There is also the North Campus Recreational Building (NCRB) behind Bursley for anyone with an Mcard and a desire to pump iron or play raquetball.
In May the pools open at Huron Towers and Highlands, the two main apartment complexes closest to North Campus. As long as you play it cool and know some of the residents at the respective apartment complexes it is OK to swim in the pools, and the pools are well-maintained and deep. There is also a large athletics complex on Fuller Road where intramural soccer and softball are played.
When not traipsing through the woods, North Campusers love to get together for parties both tame and wild. One great way to meet people was coming together for a game of Mafia and wine before carpooling out to play laser tag and video games. I met some of my friends that way. We also took advantage of whatever DVDs or downloads were available—The Office, Dexter, 30 Rock, Family Guy—and bonded over those shows while serving up soup and sandwiches. My Nintendo 64 skills never got better than they got in college.
Not everyone is an engineer, a musician, or a visual artist. But for those Michigan students lucky enough to spend an extended period of time in North Campus, I consider the experience second to none, and I hope to see some of you “up north” soon.
[Ed-S: Festivus Bump!]
In modern football, there are 2 popular base defensive sets. Most teams run either a 3-4 Base or a 4-3 Base.
The quick explanation of these defenses is that the first number (“3” in a 3-4) is your number of Down Linemen (literally people who line up with their hand on the ground in a 3 or 4 point stance on the line of scrimmage) and the second number (“4” in a 3-4) is your number of linebackers (people who line up in a 2 point stance, behind the down linemen).
This diary will discuss the 4-3 Under, its similarities to a 3-4 set, and make sense of our defensive line recruiting. For the purposes of this diary I’m ignoring the secondary. You need corners and safeties. They’re all similarly sized players, get fast ones. The front 7 is where you need guys over a 100lb range and some more major differences show up.
Here’s a base 4-3:
Here's a base 3-4:
Both of these defensive base sets have advantages and disadvantages, and both lend themselves to different styles of players. When it comes to what Michigan is running as a base defense, the 4-3 Under, recruiting starts to make sense if you look at it as a 3-4 defense.
The 4-3 Under:
First, look at the D Line from the middle out. In a 4-3 Under you have a defensive tackle on the Nose, in a 0 or 1 Technique (NT) (Technique definitions:
You then have 2 players lining up at the 3 tech (DT) and 5 tech (SDE). Then you have 2 players further out on the line, at a 7 tech (WDE) and 9 Tech (SAM). Finally, you have 2 linebackers off the line of scrimmage (MIKE and WILL).
Now, compare these positions to the 3-4 Base. You still have a huge space-eating Nose Tackle (NT) who lines up at the 0 or 1 tech, 2 Defensive Ends over the guards, tackles, or in between (4 tech... hmmm, just a slight shift from the 3 or 5 tech...) and 2 people outside of them near the line of Scrimmage (OLBs). Finally you have 2 linebackers off the line of scrimmage (MIKE and WILL).
If you look at these two defenses, the only main difference is one of your 3-4 OLBs has his hand on the ground. That’s it! There are minor shifts on the line and other intricacies, but big picture the 4-3 under has personnel requirements very similar to a 3-4.
For the 4-3 Under OR the 3-4 in your front 7 personnel you need:
- 3-Tech DT and SDE (5-Tech)
- WDE and SAM
Michigan is recruiting the right numbers for the scheme they run. These are 17-year-old guys we’re discussing with recruits. Some will get bigger, some are maxed out. Some of the WDE/SAM types will be better at coverage and will play SAM. We saw Frank Clark and Beyer make this switch this year, one was a LB, one a DE in High School, and they switched at Michigan. Some will be better pass rushers and will drop into coverage less at the WDE.
The “Glut” at SDE doesn’t exist since the 3-Tech DT is a very similar position in the 4-3 Under, so some of these guys will play there. The coaches know what they need to run the 4-3 under, and hopefully this diary provided some insight into the personnel requirements so we can somewhat understand the method to the madness.
A very observant MGoUser (I can’t remember who it was though) mentioned in a thread about the Sugar Bowl Jerseys that ALL of Michigan’s athletics jerseys now sport a Block M, across all sports. This wasn’t always the case. The Block M just found its way onto the “normal” home and away football jerseys this year (on the neck)
Not just with Football Jerseys, we’ve seen Block Ms appearing all over campus like never before. No longer is the “split M”
Acceptable, at this point, it’s Block M or Bust.
Old Scoreboard front:
Old Yost Scoreboard:
Now this isn’t a rant, and I’m not trying to criticize Michigan for the proliferation of the Block M. In fact, Michigan is just following current marketing and branding trends. All over the corporate world the trend is towards the simple. Get rid of words, use symbols, and use them everywhere. Simplicity is king.
A few examples of the corporate world:
Michigan is just following industry trends at this point with the Block M. One simple symbol. Everywhere. Get used to seeing this, it’s not going anywhere.
“The Game” has come and gone, the good guys prevailed, and our collective mindset has mostly reoriented to the future, as visions of Sugar Bowls dance in our heads. So is there any reason to rehash the already much-debated issue of the Toussaint Touchdown Takeaway?
Of course there is, because such things live on in Michigan lore forever and sometimes, you have to beat a dead horse just for the sheer fun of it. Besides, I had an unsatisfied curiosity combined with some unaccustomed free time, so I set about to try to resolve the controversy once and for all.
This analysis may not appeal to you unless you are almost equal parts Michigan football fanatic and geometry geek, but in the end, I believe there is an important point to be made here. To discover my purpose, you will have to read on (or cheat and jump to the end).
The Evidence Speaks to Us
I start with Exhibit A below, a camera view that seems to suggest that Fitz planted his knee with the ball just short of the goal line. Almost certainly, it was this view that convinced the replay official to reverse the call on the field and overturn the touchdown. The shot appears to have been taken by a crane-mounted camera hovering about 10 feet in the air just beyond the goal line. It is not an ideal angle from which to make a definitive call. The knee may or may not be in contact with the ground and the relative position of the ball is distorted slightly by the angle. (Note: for formatting reasons, I am including scaled down versions of these screen shots; full resolution captures were used for the actual analysis. Click the photos for larger versions).
I use Exhibit A not to attempt to resolve the issue at hand, but to call attention to the item highlighted in magenta. There is a cameraman clearly visible in the shot and it is his footage that will provide the basis for further analysis. We don’t know his name (Abe Zapruder?), but we have a very good idea of the physical position of his camera. The dashed boundary line he is standing very close to runs 12 feet outside the sideline. By analyzing statistical data on the average height of college cheerleaders, we can fairly accurately estimate the center of the lens to be 5’ 4” off the ground. I estimate his standing position to be 11 feet east of the side line and 2.5 feet south of the goal line. These estimates probably place the camera position reliably within an error sphere less than 1 foot in radius. This is important as we move forward with the analysis.
Let us move on to Exhibit B, which was definitively taken before Toussaint’s knee fell to earth, and Exhibit C, a shot in which he is definitely down. The time interval between these two shots is presumably 1/60th of a second, given the parameters of 720p HD video. I will focus my attention on Exhibit C.
The time has come to let mathematics work its wonderful magic. Again, the viewing angle is not perfect, but because we were able to accurately determine the viewing position of the source camera, some surprisingly precise calculations are possible.
The dimensions and positions of the gridiron lines and hash marks are well known and presumably accurate. The only thing I am not quite sure of is the crown of the playing surface, which appears to be about 6-9 inches at midfield.
This allowed me to create a three-dimensional computer model of the playing surface and made it possible to determine the orientation of the camera (azimuth, elevation, zoom, and tilt) by matching the grid lines appearing within the frame with that of the rendered computer model.
Knowing this, we can now focus on the position of the ball within the frame. A more closely-cropped view is presented in Exhibit D. The projection of the ball in the frame spans about 40 pixels. Therefore we can determine its position within the 2 dimensional space of the video frame to an accuracy of about a quarter of an inch.
The real world has the inconvenient habit of being three-dimensional, so there is one additional parameter required to ascertain the position of the ball relative to the plane of the goal line. This would be the distance from the camera to the ball, or alternatively, the perpendicular distance from the near (Zapruder) sideline to the ball. By examining other angles from the game video and observing grid lines, hash marks, and end zone lettering, this can be determined to be about 90 feet, plus or minus 2 feet.
The final calculation will be slightly sensitive to this distance, so I went ahead and determined the corresponding position of the ball over a range of two foot intervals between 88 and 92 foot distant from the sideline. The plot below (Exhibit E) shows a top down projection of the ball’s position relative to the goal line over the range of possible values. Due to the near perpendicular viewing angle from just off the goal line, the error contribution from this uncertainty is quite small (.3 inches per foot of error) and yet this is the largest source of potential error. Any imprecision in establishing camera position is largely cancelled by adjusting angles to precisely overlay grid line positions within the frame. I won’t bury you with an avalanche of error sensitivity equations; suffice it to say that I am confident that the final estimate of ball position relative to the goal line is accurate to within half an inch.
Based on the best estimate of distance from the sideline (center ball), the results sadly report that Toussaint is holding the ball 2.5 inches short of the goal line with his knee clearly down. So, technically, the officials got the call right. Did the replay official have irrefutable evidence to overturn the call? Of course not! The ball was just inches from the goal line and he did not have the resources to make a definitive determination.
The play was so close that it was not humanly possible for an official on the field to make the call with complete certainty. The difference between touchdown and being down short of the goal line was a matter of inches and hundredths of a second. While the determination was ultimately correct, I think we can also safely claim that the replay official overstepped his authority by reversing the call on the field, based on the “irrefutable evidence” criterion and the limited technology available to him.
But my real point in all of this is to call attention to the fact that making an accurate determination is possible and current technology could accomplish this in real time, using techniques very similar to those employed to superimpose the first down line over the playing field, or track pitch trajectories in a baseball game. There is no need to put sensors in the ball or anything like that and accuracy within a fraction of an inch can be achieved. Higher frame rates and faster shutter speeds (super slow motion) improve the accuracy further.Multiple camera angles help as well. Cameras already have sensors to report their positions and orientations. I am calling on companies like SportVision that do enhanced sports graphics to develop the software to provide accurate ball positioning information to the fans and, dare I say, to the replay officials so that in the future, key plays like this can be accurately adjudicated.
THE KNOWLEDGE has soared all season long and basked in glory as every single "prediction" save one came true. it is now time for some of the followers of THE KNOWLEDGE to have their moment in the sun
as the end of year approaches, THE KNOWLEDGE would like to celebrate the holidays by awarding the TOP FRIEND award and the winner of THE QUESTION posed at the beginning of the season
The inaugural TOP FRIEND OF THE KNOWLEDGE is
Jim Harbaugh Scramble
mighty congratulations to JHS, who shall henceforth be referred to as THE TOP FRIEND on these very pages.
he has achieved the highest honor and greatest accolade awarded on this blog
the winner of the QUESTION (# bowl game suspensions for the Columbus Cheaters) is Trebor
congratulations to this person as well
unfortunately, the award of CO-SOARER of THE KNOWLEDGE is not claimed this year, as no one correctly guessed the MNC game participants
THE KNOWLEDGE shall soon make a posting on the review of the Sugar Bowl game (pointer: Michigan will win). In the new year, the first part of THE PROFILE will be revealed, followed by a look into Michigan's future - 2012 and beyond