Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
THE BLOCKHAMS ARE COMING.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ is an online comic strip devoted to the life and culture of Michigan fans, as told in the adventures of one multi-generational family and their loyalty to the maize and blue.
Created by soon-to-be outed MGoBlog user "Six Zero," THE BLOCKHAMS™ is to be an ongoing series, with two editions published per week. Every Tuesday it will run on the pages of www.mgoblog.com, the web's premiere Michigan athletics blog and information portal; and every Thursday will see a new strip on the site's own domain, www.theblockhams.com. For the sake of archiving and full catalog reading, each Tuesday strip will also be posted on the official site as well.
Despite previously teasing a January 1st start date, series creator Six Zero has opted to hold the series launch until January 3rd, the date of the team's actual bowl game and pending destruction of the Virginia Tech Hokies. As such, www.theblockhams.com will not be activated until its official launch date.
Although the surname 'Blockham' is obviously a not-so-subtle reference to the familiar 'Block M' brand that represents Ann Arbor's exceptional institution, the series is not affiliated in any way with the University of Michigan and/or its athletic department. The series' creator invites anyone to pronounce the name "Blockham" however they would like, but he phonetically says it as "BLOCK-ums."
At its best, THE BLOCKHAMS™ will be a fun distraction to anyone who loves comics, but it should certainly be understood that the series is a strip about Michigan sports for Michigan fans created by a Michigan fan. There will be inside jokes, obscure trivia and references, and even the occasional criticism. And it will show little mercy to Sparty and Ohio.
For more information on the upcoming release of THE BLOCKHAMS™, please keep a close eye on www.mgoblog.com posts by Six Zero. Business partners interested in advertising opportunities should express an interest on related posts, and further arrangements will be made for direct contact.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ arrive on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Go Blue!
Nothing is more frustrating for a football fan (especially a math/logic centered one) than to see coaches blow basic strategy elements to the game, many of which are black and white. I can be forgiving on a lot. As a 100-and-nothing-pound Mathlete growing up, I knew I wouldn’t do any better out there on the field but I knew a lot of times I could do better at some of the basic decision making and strategy. Coaches learn a lot about football as they progress through careers, but game-theory type strategy seems to be a common blind spot for many coaches to gain the hidden advantage. Luckily Michigan has a coach that had a pretty sharp first year in this regard, hopefully all the other Zookers out there don’t read this (yeah right) and catch up.
Some of what follows will be backed with hard data from my database, other will be solid and based on strong logic without play data backing (I don’t track timeouts in my database) and some will be things unprovable but backed by 30 years of watching the game from a different vantage point.
Issue 1: How to use your timeouts when you are trailing
Always take your timeouts on defense if there are less than 2-3 minutes left, you are trailing and the opponent is running out the full play clock.
Announcers always like to have have those final timeouts in your pocket for that last drive or to get the kicker out there one last time. Although that is a good to have, saving the time up front is a much better option for end game strategy. If your opponent is working to run out the clock, every timeout you take saves you about 38 seconds. On offense, if you have a reasonably efficient 2 minute offense, each timeout is probably worth 10-15 seconds. One timeout on defense is as valuable as 2-3 on offense. The other advantage you have on offense is you are in control of the play, you can restrict your plays to passing, sidelines and first down distance plays that assist in stopping the clock.
A final note on defensive timeouts, never take them immediately after the offense gains a first down. The clock stops to reset the ball and you will have three more opportunities to stop it later. Taking it after the first down is good for about 25 seconds, waiting will give you nearly 15 seconds more savings.
Issue 2: Should you ever use them when you are ahead
If the opponent is in the red zone pressing for a tying or go-ahead score, don’t be afraid to use your timeouts to ensure a chance to retake the lead.
Once the opponent is inside the 20 (and definitely inside the 10) in the final two minutes, losing the lead is a near certainty (especially if a field goal will do the job). If the opponent is drained or nearly drained of timeouts, all the better for you to use yours. They won’t be able to stop you from taking a knee if you do get a stop and you will have more time to come back if they do score on you.
The flip side is also true. Even if you are trailing but driving, if the opponent is already in a position to run out the clock if you are stopped, first priority is obviously scoring, but second should be not rushing to be faster because the goal is to make your drive the last drive. If it fails the game is over either way, if it succeeds you want to minimize the opponent's chance to score. Even if you started as a two-minute offense, if you get to the red zone fast enough it can make sense to slow down a bit. It will likely be your last possession no matter what, any time you are saving is for them and not you.
Note, this situation also applies to a tie game.
Issue 3: How to use your timeouts when you are tied
Tread lightly after first and second down but pull the trigger fast after third down.
As Bret Bielema and Bob Stoops found out this year, you have to be very careful on this one. Taking one after first down is the riskiest. At least Bielema took his with a Sparty offense facing a 2nd and 20. With two more plays left a lot can happen, unless the opponent is backed up deep in their own territory, it’s best to not get greedy after first down.
After second down can still be a bit risky, but at this point you have a much better idea on what the opponent is faced with and what their strategy is. The worse shape and more conservative the opponent is, the more a timeout makes sense.
After third down in a tied game is usually a straightforward decision. Unless their is a chance the other team will attempt a fourth down conversion, use the timeout right away, it’s your last chance to maximize the value of that timeout.
Issue 4: How soon can you take a knee and run out the clock?
Depends on your opponent timeouts,
0 left: 2 minutes and 6 seconds
1 left: 1 minute and 24
2 left: 46 seconds
3 left: 8 seconds
If there are a couple more seconds than this it gets dicey. If you lead by more than 2 points, you can always have your quarterback sprint backwards and run around to burn some time and take a safety if need be.
2 Point Conversions
Rule #1 of 2 point conversions is don’t even think about them until the fourth quarter. No exceptions. Do not chase points, there is too much variability left in the game to give up a point to get to a “nice number” or even worse to “get back” a point from a missed/blocked/botched PAT. Just don’t do it.
Two point conversion rates are hard to get a true number on. The best numbers I can get is somewhere between 40-45% success. This is backed by a limited sample on actual two point conversions and verified by 43% success on 3rd or 4th and goal from the 3.
Situations to go for 2 any time in the fourth quarter (margin before TD is scored):
Down 22: Prior to scoring this you were down 22, 3 touchdown, and 4 PAT points. That can come as 1/1/2 or 0/2/2. Going for two here is the only way to get even but still leave the door open. Make it and its 14, miss and it’s still a two possession game.
Down 15: In the fourth quarter possessions are limited. Forcing the decision early gives you the information on whether its a one or two possession game. Waiting till the second TD can leave you with a false sense that you are playing a one possession game when you have a less than 50% of hitting the 2 point conversion and may be out of time. Going for it after the first score allows you to make more educated timeout, on-side and fourth down decisions. Waiting may make you feel better about it still be a one possession game, but as Brian has said, it’s only a 40% chance of being a one possession game.
Down 14: This is the genius one. Fail and you still have a chance to get it back on the second TD, just as if you kicked it like a risk-averse NFL coach. But if you make it, you are not playing for overtime but the win. Depending on the 2 point conversion odds, this increases your chances of winning by 10-30% (not percentage points, you were down 2 TD in the fourth quarter, your odds are never great). At a 43% success rate this strategy is a 14% improvement of odds. With a good offense at 50% conversion you jump all the way to 29% improvement by going for 2 on the first TD.
Only if there are 2 or fewer possessions left for each team
Down 8, Down 5, Down 1 and Up 6: Same as above, with 3+ possessions left this is probably a no go but with a possession or two each to go. It’s now a one possession game and with very many possessions left there is too much that can happen to risk giving up the point too early.
Only if your opponent has one possession left
Down 2: You hear there’s no difference between 4 and 6 but there is if there are multiple possessions left. Field goals can really mess with this situation; take the point unless the opponent only has one shot left, in which case you might get a little insurance for a missed PAT if you can make yours. Even in this situation I don’t condone going for 2 when you were down 12 to make the deficit 4 or 6. Chances are your opponent is going to be conservative and a field goal is probably the best case scenario for them. Don’t let a FG end your game with an unnecessary risk.
Wanted to break things up a with a little Mgoblog favorite, a chart.
Outcomes from first possession of overtime period.
|Outcome||Win||Loss||Another OT||Win Odds|
|Fail to score||0||32||3||5%|
|Touchdown + PAT||33||4||31||73%|
This data comes from every overtime period from 2007-2011. What you don’t see here is the strong preference this overtime method has for winning the coin flip. There is a lot of talk about the NFL and its 59-60% advantage for the coin flip winner, but in college the coin flip winner holds a solid 56% advantage for getting to go second and knowing what you have to do.
A touchdown on the first possession puts you in great shape. A field goal attempt is OK if necessary, but you better be confident you can make it. Although there is obviously a greater chance of winning with a TD versus a field goal, the odds don’t support a highly aggressive fourth down strategy, especially inside the 10. Even though the temptation is higher close to the goal line, for most teams going for it on 4th and 1 or 2 make sense. Anything beyond that and the best bet is to give the ball to the kicker. Now a great offense or questionable kicking game quickly changes the calculus, but in close, the odds say kick it. Where it is a bit more interesting is on the first set of downs in the game. The odds actually favor a more aggressive 4th down strategy on 4 and 5 or less from the 16-20 on the first set of downs. At this range most college kickers are good but far from automatic; an aggressive play here can pay out.
Another hotly debated overtime question is going for 2 to win after the other team has scored and kicked. 10 out of 44 teams faced with this proposition have gone for it, their record is 4-6, about in line with the 40-45% 2 point conversion expectation. This would seem like a losing proposition but at 45% the odds would be in line with the chances in the next OT since you have to be on offense first. Not really a clear cut answer here, but either way can be justified and the presence of a great offense from either team can quickly make the decision to go for 2 a good one.
Surprise On-Sides Kicks
Do them more.
OK you need more than that? Advanced NFL stats ran the numbers for the NFL and found that success rates for onside kicks are 20% when expected and 60% when not expected. I found a similar spread for college. Out of 663 expected onside kicks in my database, 23% were recovered by the kicking team. Only 146 (about 1 per week) surprise onsides where tried but 64% of those were recovered. The break-even success rate needed for a surprise onside kick is 46%, the market for surprise on-side kicks is definitely undervalued.
Punting In Opponent Territory
One of the many reasons that punting in opponent territory is dumb is that it is usually couched on the assumption that “we’ll pin them deep.” There are two key problems with this assumption. The first is that 36% of punts from opponent territory result in a touchback or never reach the 20, and that’s before any returns are factored in. The second is that it’s pretty tough to actually down it close to the end zone, and unless you are at the 1 or 2, there is no special advantage.
As discussed previously, it is in an offense’s best interest to go super conservative at the 1 or 2. Outside of that it is nearly business as usual. There is only an 8% chance a punt from the opponent's territory is downed at the 1 or 2. It’s over four times more likely to not even pin an opponent inside the 20 than it is to force the offense’s hand by pinning them at the 1 or 2 yard line.
Another problem with an opponent territory punt is that it’s tough to get an even exchange. Punting into the short side of the field limits the best case scenario and assuming you can force a punt from the opponent, gives them a lot of positive variance opportunity. A long bounce going in brings the ball out to the 20, a long bounce kicking out can quickly turn into a 60-yard punt and a total flip of field position.
And of course, you give up a great scoring opportunity punting in opponent territory.
Red Zone Play-Calling
On a first down Red Zone play, teams are more likely to score if it’s a run than a pass if they are at the 8 yard line or closer. Anything between the 9 and the 20 favors a pass on first down. That doesn’t mean that 100% pass is the optimal strategy, just that the play calling should favor the pass (or run inside the 9). For goal to go situations after first down, second down is the ultimate OC’s choice. From anywhere 10 and in on second and goal running and passing have nearly identical touchdown percents. On third and goal, the run still holds up strongly. A called run is more likely to score a TD on anything from the 6 and in than a pass, which owns 7 and up. Again, not saying the strategy should be 100%, but there is real value to favoring the run inside the 7.
Never take a touchback on a kickoff you don’t have to. The expected starting field position on a return from 9 yards deep is still the 21, plus the opportunity for a big play easily offsets the times when you start from the 10-15, which isn’t a big cost for the opportunity.
In a trash tornado game, the biggest value for the wind goes to the team that has it in the first and third quarters, not the fourth. When the wind is strong it usually takes a possession or two for the field position to level back out. Those possessions occur at the beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters, essentially giving the team with early field position the wind for about 2/3 of the game.
No numbers on this one but unless it's fourth down, stretching out the football is an extremely dumb move. At the goal line you can make a case for it if its 2nd or 3rd down, but there are very few situations where an incremental yard (nearly worthless) can be offset by the fumble risk of stretching the ball out.
Anything I may have missed here that you want to see, hit me up on twitter or in the comments and I’ll find a spot to address in a future article. I intentionally skipped fourth down decision making for this article. It’s too big of a topic. I previously wrote about it here and have an update to the article coming sometime this offseason.
May your holidays be filled with surprise on-side kicks, fourth down attempts and three wise timeouts.
Tons of movement this week as Ohio State jumps Notre Dame, Penn State falls behind Wisconsin, and teams start filling up their classes as we near signing day. Action since last rankings:
12-5-11: Minnesota picks up Briean Boddy.
12-6-11: Barrington Morris and Tyren Hills decommit from Minnesota.
12-10-11: Minnesota picks up Lincoln Plsek.
12-11-11: Purdue picks up Bilal Marshall. Indiana picks up Ralphael Green. Ryan Frain decommits from Illinois.
12-12-11: Tommy Schutt flips from Penn State to Ohio State. Se'Von Pittman flips from Michigan State to Ohio State. Indiana picks up Justin Rayside. Minnesota picks up Martez Shabazz.
12-13-11: Minnesota picks up Antonio Johnson.
12-14-11: Iowa picks up Anthony Morgan.
12-15-11: Notre Dame picks up Ronnie Stanley. Minnesota picks up Damarius Travis. Iowa picks up Tevaun Smith.
12-17-11: Purdue picks up Kingsley Ike.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
*ESPN doesn't rate JuCos, so they are counted as unranked recruits for the sake of consistency (trust me, it makes sense when you look at the spreadsheet).
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
On to the full data, after the jump.
UPDATE II: Re-uploaded.
1. c-sick - chicago juke anthem
2. jensyao - test beat 9
3. jensyao - test beat 11
4. c-sick - instrumental
5. jensyao - exam
Judging from his youtube subscriptions, I'm guessing jensyao a local kid. These tracks were recommended to me by the guy who did the Denard eating videos.
UPDATE: Had to delete as the audio matched third party content. I'm re-uploading with different tracks now.
Short junior highlight reel above, longer sophomore highlights here.
2013 Youngstown (OH) Cardinal Mooney ATH Marcus McWilson has flown under the radar in his recruitment, garnering only an offer from Youngstown State thus far, but if his highlights and interested schools are any indication, he should burst onto the scene in a big way in the near future. McWilson—a three-star and the No. 268 overall prospect on 247Sports—visited Michigan for the Ohio State game, and also has interest from Cal, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, and West Virginia, among others. I chatted with Marcus last night about his recruitment, and here's the full transcript:
ACE: First of all, just wondering where the basic status of your recruitment is right now. What schools are you looking at, and where do things stand right now?
MARCUS: I guess things are going pretty well. Some of the schools are still coming up and talking to me. I had an offer from [Youngstown State] earlier. The schools that are looking at me right now are YSU, Pitt, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, West Virginia, Georgia, and Georgia Tech, and some others.
ACE: You visited Michigan for the Ohio State game. How was that visit experience for you, and what impressions did you get from Michigan based on that visit?
MARCUS: It was a good visit. It was nice to go down there and see how things work and everything. The coaches were real nice, the players seemed humble and everything—it was a real welcoming environment. After the game, everyone was welcoming then after they won for the first time in I think seven years, and they were happy about that. I talked to Coach Montgomery and also the defensive coordinator. They want to get me down there for another visit and hopefully get me down there for more in a couple years.
ACE: Is Coach Montgomery your main contact at Michigan?
ACE: Did you get a chance to talk to any of the other recruits who were at the game?
MARCUS: Some of them I talked to—some of them were in my grade, and one of them I know, he's actually my cousin, [2013 OL] Shaquon McWilson, he goes to Campbell. That's about it.
ACE: For people who may be unfamiliar with your game, can you describe what you bring to the table as a football player?
MARCUS: I would say a little bit of everything, because my coach plays me all over. I play everything from running back to receiver to safety, I come down sometimes as a linebacker, play kicker and punter, and I also do kick returns and punt returns as well.
ACE: Man, you're doing everything. [Marcus: Yeah.] Reading up on it, it sounded like you had quite the performance in the state title game. How would you say this year went for you personally, and also your team, coming away as state champs at Cardinal Mooney?
MARCUS: I would say I played pretty well throughout the season. I've got progressively better from week one and the offseason, just never letting it rest and getting after it. I keep working hard even when we don't have to, watching film and looking over our assignments to do things right. The rest of our team, we were all in there in the weight room the same way, and conditioning out there on the field. We all got better and had more chemistry, too, together as a team, which also definitely helps. We're all practicing out there. If someone's feeling down we're going to boost them up. It was a good season for us, and we're definitely happy with the state title we've got right now. It's a good feeling.
ACE: Going back to your recruitment, you named a long list of positions that you play in high school. Is there a preference that you have in terms of where you want to play at the next level?
MARCUS: A lot of schools are looking at me for safety and receiver, and either one of those I'd definitely be okay playing—I'd even play punter (laughs), I don't mind it. They're all good positions to play.
ACE: Has Michigan said anything specific about a position that they're looking at you for? I'm assuming, talking to Coach Mattison, that they're looking for you on defense.
MARCUS: Yeah. They want me to play safety.
ACE: What are you looking for in a prospective school to go to? When you're looking at a college, what are you looking for there?
MARCUS: I'm definitely looking at what profession I'm trying to get into. I'm still trying to figure that out, but I want to be an engineer, so I'm looking for a good engineering school and a good graduation rate. I'm want to also be able to play, of course, not just sit on the bench—I know I have to beat people out and everything, but I'm willing to work for it. [I'm looking for] a good team, and I'm a pretty coachable kid—I'm willing to work.
ACE: What are your plans for the offseason. Are you planning on visiting any schools over the summer, doing any camps, anything like that?
MARCUS: I'll be at a few camps in the summer. I'm looking at some junior days, I'm going maybe to the Michigan one and the Ohio State ones, there's some in January and February, so I'm going to see if I can get to some of those. I'm definitely still working hard in the offseason and just getting after it—I'm just a junior and in another year I want to get back-to-back state titles.
ACE: Do you have any favorites right now among the schools that have taken a look at you, or is it still too early to pick out favorites?
MARCUS: I would say it's a little too early to pick favorites. I'm not really leaning towards anyone right now, just looking around, so no favorites.
ANN ARBOR, Michigan (AP) -
University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon unveiled a brand new look for the Wolverines football team in preparation for their January 3rd Sugar Bowl appearance against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The announcement caused a firestorm of controversy amongst boosters, university officials, and unemployed arm-chair blog-critics alike.
The audacious uniform design features a University of Michigan student known in fan circles as Lloyd Brady. Brady is screen-printed prominently above the familiar block M logo, holding a spoonful of sugar in rapturous delight to celebrate Michigan's BCS berth.
Ryan VanBergen models the new Wolverines designs and pensively contemplates suicide.
"This is all about extending the Michigan brand," said Brandon in front of an assembly of visibly shocked press correspondants and fans. "Lloyd Brady is an emblem of the plugged-in, 24/7 blogosphere. We worked hand-in-hand with Adidas to make sure he is presented in full splendor. These uniforms harken back to the great traditions of the past while looking forward, boldly, to the coming day when the tail of internet fandom will inevitably wag the dog."
When asked how the idea began, Brandon detailed a wild night of inspiration. "Well, the nebula of the idea started one evening at a local bar with Jim Brandstatter. Beers led to shots, shots led to harder stuff, and, well... Let's just say cocaine played a role. Jim was keyed up, to say the least. Rambling on about Michigan Replay, about how the spread offense was really an outgrowth of the homosexual agenda... lots of wild ideas. I saw his white, powdery mustache and made a comment about how apropos it looked in light of our sugar bowl appearance. Once we got on the subject of sugar, the rest is history."
From there, a team of over three-hundred Adidas designers set to work creating a Sugar Bowl uniform worthy of the annals of Michigan history. "I think, clearly, we're entering a new era in sportswear," said Marty Tisdale, senior game apparel supervisor at Adidas. "The front of the uniform makes a bold statement. This isn't your father's Michigan Wolverines, no way. This uniform is the sportswear equivalent of social media - it gets people talking. In fact, the uniforms are outfitted with smart chips and keypads sewn into the fabric. During timeouts, players can tweet messages, via voice recognition, to fans in real-time with the push of a button."
The eye-catching uniform backsides are sure to turn heads on Jan. 3rd.
"The front of the uniform is really the tip of the iceberg," said Tisdale. "The backside is where we really pushed the envelope. The forty-two block M's on the back represent Michigan's forty-two Big Ten championships. As you can also see, we've tastefully adorned the uniform with a ghost-twill, sweat-wicking logo decal of our marketing partners, Domino Sugar. We hope the fans will appreciate the surprising blend of unrestrained whimsy and soul-crushing corporate fellatio."
When asked what he thought of the design, head coach Brady Hoke muttered something indistinct, then caught Brandon's stern gaze. He then offered, rather half-heartedly, "Well, you know, I think they're... tremendous."
The only coach who didn't seem on-board with the design was offensive coordinator Al Borges, who missed the press conference. He walked into the Schembechler Hall after his lunch break, took one look at the uniform concept, and turned away. After minutes of staring blankly out into the distance, hands in pockets, he said, "What have we done? God in heaven, what have we done?"
Brandon pays no mind to criticism, however. "The future is a scary thing to some people. I mean, think of the first facemasks. At the time, the guys wearing them looked pretty faggy. These are the next step in that evolution."
If Wolverine fans are unhappy with the Sugar Bowl uniforms, they can take heart; they are not permanent. Brandon also announced plans to wear different uniforms for each and every game next season, a total of twelve unique Adidas Tech-Fit designs. "Right now we're experimenting with different looks. Brandstatter and I like black-on-black, maize-on-maize, really eye-catching stuff." Then, with a furtive snort from a rolled hundred-dollar bill, Brandon added, "And of course, there's always white-on-white."