I did not make this headline up
A few weekends ago I did some analysis that tried to answer the question: “Do good defenses need experience?” In short, if experience is vital to a team’s performance, then we expect to see a positive correlation between a team’s experience and performance. Instead, the correlation was very weak, indicating that experience is not a major factor in defensive performance.
However, there were a number of major caveats with the approach I took, so I’ve redone some of the comparisons with the hope of addressing some of the issues. I’ve also added the same comparison for offense.
I’ve changed the approach to help eliminate some of the caveats to my last analysis. Many people pointed out that players who never see the field probably skew the results. I’m now scraping data from the depth charts on rivals.com, to eliminate that bias. Not every team has a depth chart listed, and some were in a different format that I did not take the time to parse, but the data includes 97 teams (essentially the ones with a themed team site on rivals.)
As a bonus, rivals includes information on redshirts, which were left out of the previous analysis. I calculate an experience score from the player’s academic year (Freshman = 1, Sophomore = 2, Junior = 3, Senior = 4, Grad Student* = 5, Redshirt = +1) so a player’s score is roughly the number of years they’ve been on the team.** Then, because each team has a different number of players on their depth chart, I take an average. The resulting team score has the advantage of being easily interpreted as the average number of years the players who make up a unit have been on the team (assuming they started on the team as a freshman). I’ve split players by position, so each team will receive an offensive and defensive experience score. Finally, I matched up the defensive and offensive FEI scores from Football Outsiders (which takes strength of schedule into account) with the experience scores and use linear regression to test for correlation.
Of course, there are still some big caveats to this approach. The data still does not include injuries and transfers so this may be unfairly attributing experience to teams in some cases. The analysis also doesn’t account for talent (recruiting guru rankings) in any way. Finally, we’re trusting Football Outsiders to provide realistic performance measurements. If their rankings aren’t accurate, none of this analysis will be either.
Lets start with something new: the offense:
In the graph, each point is a team. Its offensive experience score is on the x-axis and its offensive performance score (Football Outsiders Offensive FEI) is on the y-axis. Larger numbers are better for FEI, so good teams are at the top. The results are almost the definition of no correlation. Experience is not a significant predictor of offensive performance (p = 0.18) and R2 is a miserable 0.02. We can only conclude that there is a lot more to offensive success than simply experience.
The blue lines cross on Michigan’s point. Despite the sophomore quarterbacks, Michigan fielded one of the most experienced offenses, with over a junior’s experience on average. Performance-wise, we’re in good shape with the second best offense in the nation.
The maroon lines cross on Mississippi State’s point. They have significantly less experience than Michigan, averaging ~ 2.5 years. They’re also performing much worse; many teams with the same level of experience have better offensive output.
Moving on to defense – I’ve multiplied the football outsiders defensive FEI score by -1, so good performances are again towards the top of the graph.
Again, the correlation is not significant (p = 0.5) and the R2 is very low (0.04). This is actually different from the previous analysis, where we saw a significant positive correlation with a tiny effect size.***
Again, the blue lines cross at Michigan’s point. Again, Michigan has one of the more experienced units, fielding over juniors on average. Mississippi State (maroon lines) fields a lot less experience, with about 2.73 years on average. However, despite the relative lack of experience, Mississippi State turned in a much better defensive performance this year than did Michigan.
Update - I've added a line for Michgan after the following player substitutions: Patterson for Watson (sr rs +1), Vinopal for Emillen (fr -1), and Demens for Jones (so rs +1) , removed Floyd (which I'm iffy about since he did play much of the year) (-3) and add in Avery, Christen, and Talbott (all fr +1). The result would be just below a junior's experience: 65 / 22 ~ 2.95. I've added the dashed, verticle line for that experience level. If you want to check my math, I posted the raw data for Michigan in the comments.
One final note – the pattern of elite units (either offense or defense) having middling experience holds for both sides of the ball, i.e. the top right of both graphs is empty. The NFL draft is probably the simplest explanation for this.
I am surprised by the nearly complete lack of correlation in the data.
Is it possible that we need more variables to make sense of this data? (Any stat experts know whether you can underestimate an effect by having too few variables?) It’s also possible that an interaction between several variables might provide a good explanation for our data; for example we might need experience, NFL-worthy talent and great coaching to produce an elite defense, but none of the three alone will do it.
Speaking of talent, yes, that information is not included here, and probably should be. However, we aren’t looking for a perfect correlation. If experience accounts for a significant fraction of a team’s performance, we ought to see some kind of correlation, even a weak one, with an R2 that indicates experience explains some portion of the variation in the performance variable. Instead, there’s almost no correlation at all. This really makes it look like performance comes down to coaching and recruiting, and not so much experience, at least in terms of years on the team.
An alternate explanation, put forward by MCalibur in the comments on my last post, is that the concentration of experience on the field is more important than simply gross experience. Perhaps coaches can hide some freshman mistakes behind solid play from battle-hardened seniors. Michigan’s true-freshman filled secondary might leave the coaches with no place to hide their players inexperience. If I continue to pursue this, I’ll try breaking experience down by position.
Update 2 On Steve Sharik's suggestion I repeated the comparison with the median. It cleans things up a little bit, but there still isn't good correltion.
* Don’t worry, there are no redshirt grad students, I checked.
** I got a number of excellent suggestions from bighouseinmate, MCalibur, expatriate, tpilews and probably others, that a more relevant measure of experience would be years as a starter as opposed to years on the team. I agree completely. Unfortunately, that information is not consistently available, so I’m sticking with academic year as a proxy for that until I can find a reliable source for that data.
*** Perhaps most surprisingly, we now see a negative (!) correlation between defensive performance and experience, which, if it were significant, would mean that as your team gains experience it turns out worse performances. However, these results are so close to random, the sign of the correlation should probably be ignored.
Where's Waldo (i.e. The Offense)?: Yikes – 7 points?? An average of just 20.7 points over the last 3 games. Because of poor execution and unforced errors, the offense slowed to a dismal pace (20.7 points per game would rank #104). Let's hope all they need is a few weeks rest.
Synopsis: Looking at Conference Only game stats, the offense ended the year at #4 and the defense at #10 (thank you, Indiana). Last year the offense was #9 and the defense was #11 in conference only games. A comparison of national rankings for 2008 – 2010 is below.
I use scoring stats because yardage stats are inherently flawed. According to the FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index) rankings at Football Outsiders, Michigan ended the regular season ranked #44 overall (4.8% better than the average FBS team) with a SoS ranking of #66. The offense is ranked #2 and the defense is ranked #103. Field Position Advantage is #91 while Field Goal Efficiency is #120.
For the Gator Bowl, a rough calculation of the FEI has Mississippi State favored by 4 points. Using the Sagarin Predictor, MSU is favored by 5 points. Vegas has MSU favored by 5.
DETAILS: Here are the FEI numbers ( FEI Forecasts and Football Outsiders FEI ). FEI is a weighted and opponent adjusted season efficiency and is expressed as a percentage as compared with an average FBS team. The average team will have an index of approximately 0.00. Teams below average have negative index values.
Note that FEI completely excludes all non-FBS data (the W-L record is only for FBS games, etc.). Therefore, you need to add 1 to FBS-MW to get the final predicted wins for M this year. Or, if you use FBS-RMW, you need to add 1 to the current W-L record to get the final predicted wins for M this year. BTW, the difference between FBS-MW and FBS-RMW is the number of FBS games each team would have been expected to win to date.
The FEI is a drive based analysis considering each of the nearly 20,000 drives each year in college football. The data is filtered to eliminate garbage time (at the half or end of game) and is adjusted for opponent. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams (win or lose) and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams. I've included the GE basic data so you can see the impact of adjusting for opponent. (See: Football Outsiders Our Basic College Stats )
Here are the Sagarin Ratings.
Sagarin uses two basic ratings: PREDICTOR (in which the score MARGIN is the only thing that matters) and ELO-CHESS (in which winning and losing only matters, the score margin is of no consequence). The overall rating is a synthesis of the two diametrical opposites, ELO-CHESS and PREDICTOR.
Per Sagarin: ELO-CHESS is “very politically correct. However, it is less accurate in its predictions for upcoming games than is PREDICTOR”.
Here is the basic data for Michigan (each individual week followed by totals and then average per game). I've included Total Possessions for Offense & Defense along with the calculated data per possession. Number of possessions do not include running out the clock at the half or end of game. Offense Plays and Defense Plays are better indicators than Time of Possession.
Using Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense National Rankings for the past 5 years (FBS AQ teams only), this table shows the percentage of teams that finish the season with a +WLM and a +5 WLM. For example, teams that finished in the Top 40 in both offense and defense had a 100% chance to be +WLM and an 82% chance to be +5 WLM (9-4 or better).
Each year, of the 66 FBS AQ teams, 65% (43 teams) end up with a + WLM and 36% (24 teams) end up with a +5 WLM.
I would assume that a certain percentage of us that would be sad to see RR go would also be very sad because it would mean Mike Barwis would leave. From the voice and attitude to the Brock story, he has been a huge positive at the University. One of the things that excites me about his program is the emphasis on replacing bad mass, fat, with good mass, muscle.
In interviews with him and players, it comes across that your first year with him is amazingly dificult. So I've always wondered, does the change take place? And, does this make playing young even more dificult? For a young player must not only learn to play the game at a higher rate with a higher level of sophistication, they must also do it while massively transforming their bodies. This could lead to big problems as seen by the defense this year.
So what follows is a big chart based on official team rosters 2008-2010. The % column is the percent body weight change, and the bottom is the overall % change for that position group that year.
I will preface my this by acknowledging that this is probably a terrible analysis. I once spent good time and money with someone with a doctorate trying to teach me an intro to stats. It did not go well, my future studies avoided stats classes.
In every position group besided WR, the overall % weight gain was larger in year 2 vs. year 1 under Barwis. Anecdotal evidence supports the first year being a mix of removing bad weight and putting on good weight.
Looking at the large changes taking place with OL, DL, and LB, it's obvious that these players should not be playing young. Or at least we should not be judging them so much based on performance in their first couple of years.
This also seems true with the smaller explosive athletes at RB and Slot. These players all underwent pretty massive changes. Shaw especially lost a good amount of weight and put it back on. I think he was noticeably a more powerful runner this year when healthy. This also goes for Vinnie, who not only had to recover from a massive injury, he put on a large amount of weight.
There is a lot more analysis to be done if this info was to be truly useful. I feel I need to adjust for age for example. But like I said, I'm pretty terrible at stats, so maybe someone else can use this info paint a clearer picture. Just wanted to share it and see what others thought about it and the idea of the dificulty of playing young under Barwis.
Since this is a cupcake game in the tradition of ESS EEE CEE schools only playing cupcakes in non-conference, there won't be a lot of to glean from this. And there might be a lot more random off topic comments
- I'm sick of these stupid text message polls. Polls are fun in and of themselves, but I hate that it says "message and data rates MAY apply". When it's more appropriate to say, "YOU DUMB BITCHES ARE GONNA GET CHARGED AT LEAST 400% ABOVE COST FOR EACH TEXT MWAHAHAHAH!"
- I think this is the first appearance of the wildcat with Relf split out and Bumphis taking the snap
- Relf can throw the 8 yard flat, but he often puts it on the wrong shoulder, if we had more experienced corners, we could get some tip drill type interceptions.
- On some passing downs, the 4 LB's are lined up in the gaps around the 3 DL. so all 7 players are in an alternating line of two point and three point rushers. So it becomes a guessing game for the O-line as to which 3,4, 5, or even 6! of them are actually rushing. Depending on where the backs are, the 2 guys who will take coverage actually start with a couple of rush steps before peeling off or dropping back.
- Russell is playing again after sitting the week before, looks pretty accurate but misread a quarters for a cover two and almost got picked off.
- SWEEEET, Alcorn's QB just broke a long one for a TD. #5 took a bad angle, #4 is not fast. That Alcorn kid can run. But so can Denard of course. (Dissected below)
- Alcorn is giving them soft corners, so MSU is throwing a lot of bubble screens.
- #8 WR, has good height, dropped an underthrown ball when he was wide open deep.
- When they bring heat, there will be people open, but we gotta be carefull about zone blitzes and dropping linemen. The hot routes probably need to be a little bit deeper to avoid interceptions.
- Ugh, Relf's passing seems to be improving, he threw a fastball in the redzone for their 3rd TD, and he threw a pretty good corner route on a double move, the guy was wide open tho'.
- #26 CB got beat on a deep fly, this could be good for us with the speed we have at that position. Have to see if we get much bump and run.
- #5 got beat deep when he was unsure where to lineup at and was in man coverage.
- #9 Berry WR, starting to have more of an impact. Good size, hard to bring down for a WR.
- 35-16 at the half, Berry had a KO return TD
- #27 perkins also took a wildcat snap. Expect to see him take on most of bumphis's roles on trick plays.
- Relf will hold the ball longer than he should on passing plays if the coverage is good.
- Alcorn caused a fumble when the MSU left tackle picked up the blitzing OLB letting the DE get a free run and he hit the QB/HB right during the mesh
- Alcorn is having some success pressuring the left side of MSU's o-line, not sure if there're subs in the game.
- #90 DL is pretty quick off the ball.
- #34 with yet another batted ball on a blitz where he was dropping into coverage.
- #28 Ballard reminds me of MSU's rb's. Not a lot of change of direction, but if they bust through the second level, they're gone.
- 42-16 with 14 minutes to go, game over.
Alcorn's first TD
This is an encouraging play since it's something we run.
MSU is in a true 4-3 which they often do on 1st down or 2nd down if they expect a run. Usually they're in a 3-4, but with the way their DE's play, it's not much difference. Twin Flankers to the right, the safety is hanging back to invite the short pass or bubble screen. #10, the OLB is flexed out to take the TE.
But then they shift into a more aggressive defense to take that away. The safety rolls up even with the corner, and the OLB's shift into the line and now it looks more like a 5-2 with the blitzer in the left tackle/guard gap. They also have the short side corner in bump in run and the wide side playing softer as many teams do against the spread. The tackle picks it up and calls out the blitzer.
MSU likes to bring pressure off the edges. (We hope they will) And the blitzer is unblocked. The right tackle is pulling and he does an awesome job of getting just enough of the blitzer to put him down. This is a QB keeper all the way, even though there is the fake handoff.
Because the LG didn't pick up the blitzer, he's free to clean up the MLB. The Alcorn linemen are happy to let the DE's take themselves out of the play, and there's a huge lane inside of the pulling tackles block.
Once the QB gets past the line #50, and #4 have a chance to run him down, but they don't have the speed. #5 comes up at too sharp of an angle, gets juked, and gives up the outside.
And then he just outruns them all. It's nice to see that #50 and #4 don't give up on the play, but it's also interesting that they have about the same speed. #5 just could not recover or accelerate enough to stay with them.
The Big Chill was a success both on the ice and as a recruiting event for the football team. There were no commitments, but the overall feeling from the recruits was favorable for Michigan. Here's a few reactions from the visitors and some extras.
6'5", 320 lbs.
Chris has been on campus a few times now, but wanted to take an official visit to experience more of the social side of Michigan. He was hoping to get closer with the players and coaches, and see what it's like to be around them.
The visit was great. I got a chance to meet a lot of the players and really be around the coaches. Overall it was awesome. What stuck out the most to me was how cool the players were, and how highly they speak of the university.
Taylor Lewan and Patrick Omameh were Chris's hosts, and yes, Lewan did show off his mustache tattoo. Bryant brought along a few members of his family. They came away with the same impressions that he did.
My family liked the visit a lot, too. They really liked all the coaches and all the players.
Bryant is still unsure if he will take any more visits and hasn't planned out when he will make his final decision. It might be safe to say that he's just waiting to see what happens with the coaching situation to make those moves.
5'11", 180 lbs.
Richardson's name is a new one in Michigan recruiting. Though he's currently committed to SMU he wanted to check out what the Wolverines had to offer.
Overall the visit was great; they really laid out the red carpet for me. The coaching staff really stuck out to me. They seemed genuine when they were talking to me. They told me that playing time isn't guaranteed, but if I worked hard and did what I'm supposed to I could play. The hockey game was great. I've never been in an environment like that, and they said the football games get louder, so that's crazy.
James was accompanied by his mom and stepdad for the visit. While his stepdad wasn't worried about the distance, his Mom had some initial doubts about her son going to school so far away.
My mom was kind of nervous about it, but she fell in love with the place. She was worried about me being so far away, but she thinks the coaches would really take care of me up there. We were kind of worried about the weather too, because everyone told me to pack a bunch of layers of clothes. I wore five layers of clothes and I was sweating out there. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, so that's fine too.
James is a three star corner with some smaller offers, but he's being compared to last year's sleeper from Louisiana—Carvin Johnson. It's probably not a coincidence that Carvin was the player host for James this past weekend. The players were a big part of why he enjoyed his trip.
I had so much fun with the players. I was with Carvin (Johnson), Denard (Robinson), and the corner they call Buc (Cullen Christian). I watched Denard all year, I thought he was going to win the Heisman, so it was cool to be around him like that. He's a really cool guy, really humble.
James plans to wait until after Michigan's bowl game to make his final decision, sometime in early January. He said he'll weigh out his options for SMU and Michigan, and also noted that Michigan has a better chance if Rich Rodriguez is still the head coach.
5'10", 170 lbs.
It was kind of a surprising when slot receiver Darius Patton said he would be going up to Ann Arbor this weekend. He does fit with Michigan's offense, but with Justice Hayes now in the class it doesn't seem like there's room for another slot receiver. Patton did come away impressed with Michigan, but maintains that everyone is equal.
There isn't too much you can't say about Michigan. Everybody knows that they pack the Big House, and their academic prestige. We all know what Michigan is about when it comes to academics and athletics, and their tradition. It was a great visit, they fit me offensively just like my other schools do. Everyone is equal right now with Michigan, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.
I got the impression from Darius that he was impressed, but may realize the depth chart at Michigan isn't in his favor. He may not have a commitable offer at the moment.
- JUCO DB Anthony Baskin will be at Michigan's practice this Friday. Originally from South Lyon high school in Michigan, Baskin said, "It's always been a dream to play in the Big House." Baskin has offers from Cincinnati, MSU, Texas A&M, NIU, Illinois, and Bowling Green.
- DT Darian Cooper told me yesterday that he has scheduled his official visit to Michigan on January 7th. I get the feeling from Darian that Michigan may be behind right now with his other schools. He will also visit Penn State and Iowa.
- S Roderick Ryles had his offer pulled from Arkansas, where he was committed. There's conflicting reports as to why the offer was pulled. I mentioned it in this thread, but I spoke with Chris Hayes from the Orlando Sentinel about this last night. Ryles told Hayes that it had nothing to do with grades, but he also said that Michigan is not in the running for him. I haven't confirmed this with Roderick myself, and this could change once the coaches talk to him about everything, so we'll see how that plays out.
This is the second in a series of wallpapers leading up to the 2011 Gator Bowl. According to the Mississippi State University official athletic web site, "the most unique and certainly the most resounding symbol of Mississippi State University tradition is the cowbell. Despite decades of attempts by opponents and authorities to banish it from scenes of competition, diehard State fans still celebrate Bulldog victories loudly and proudly with the distinctive sound of ringing cowbells."
Bulldogs fans have been bringing their answer to the Vuvuzela to football games since the late 1930s and you can bet that the world's second most annoying noisemakers will be freshly painted and nerve-gratingly loud at the Gator Bowl. Tip: if you're planning on attending the game, halt your New Year's Eve celebration a few glasses shy of a next-day headache.
On the spectrum of college football tradition awesomeness, the Mississippi State cowbell lands somewhere between "not at all awesome" and "yeah, right - what is your REAL most resounding traditional symbol?" This tradition deficiency is extra glaring in a conference that boasts 'Between the Hedges' (Georgia) and 'War Eagle' (Auburn) among others.
There are few things in this world which I genuinely hate; among them are people who hurt kids, wisdom tooth extraction and cowbells. A cowbell-themed wallpaper was a foregone conclusion, but I just couldn't get my heart into anything that involved showing an actual cowbell. So in the spirit of maximizing opponent mockingness, I offer a visual pun of dubious humor by combining the pillar of Mississippi State football tradition with the symbol of Southern beauty and femininity: the Southern Belle. This also reveals the range of my comedic abilities. On the spectrum of humor awesomeness, I land somewhere between "not at all humorously awesome" and "wait - are puns of dubious humor REALLY your only comedic angle?"
The image below is a preview only. You can get the widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
How it was made
I captured the creation of this artwork and sped up the footage to condense a little over 3 hours of design time into a little under 2 minutes of video. If you're looking to improve your consumptive ratio of "time wasting garbage" to "meaningful and enlightening" media, you should not for any reason watch this video.