Mike Lantry, 1972
I more or less c/p'd this from the comments of MCal's most recent post. Read it if you haven't, because it's great. He's great.
Anyway, I was just idly thinking about how Troy Woolfolk's injury in an instant dashed our Motor City Bowl dreams, worrying that 3 wins would be more humiliating than 4. But unless my method sucks, it looks like most college football starters simply can't do that much* to affect their team's chances.
Let's say on average the worst team in college football wins 1 game. Call that replacement level. Every school in college football has at least the talent level this worst team does. That means an average team has 5 wins above replacement. Football Outsiders breaks wins down using a 40/40/20 rule. That is, 40% of wins are attributable to defense, 40 to offense, 20 to special teams. So an average defense will be worth 2 WAR (40% times 5 WAR). If each player is about as important as the other (probably true on defense), then an average defense will feature a unit of ~.2 WAR players (2/11, rounded). Average defensive players are worth just 1/5 of a win above the talent of the worst college football team.
To round out that scale, we should still try to get some idea of how good the best players are. The approximate range for defense yards per game allowed is about 200 ypg to 500, with 350 about average. The difference between best and worst is twice as much as the difference between average and worst. As long as we assume that yards convert linearly to wins, it looks like the best defense (4 wins better than the worst team) would have on average ~.4 WAR players. Even the very best defenders are going to max out in all likelihood around 1 win above the worst players.
So Woolfolk in himself won't mean the end of the season...unless we can't supply replacement level players. And given our depth, maybe that could be problematic? On the other hand, as MCal pointed out, are we really going to be worse than various other terrible outfits around the country? Northwestern and Indiana are always dealing with these kinds of problems. Achieving replacement level should not be a significant hurdle.
On the other hand, let's look at what we can expect from the defense this year given what we now know. The offense last year was about average. Special teams were above. Exactly how bad was the defense? Wholly average teams get 2 WAR from defense, 2 from offense and 1 from special teams. So let's say we got a full 2 WAR from offense and 1.25 ST wins. If we were a true talent 5 win team (i.e. Michigan won 5 games because they weren't unduly lucky either way), that means 1.75 wins from the defense. I think we can probably assume BG was worth .75 wins in himself. Martin, RVB, Roh, Brown, Woolfolk, Warren were varying degrees of not horrifying. Kovacs, Floyd, Ezeh and Mouton were all near replacement level. In fact, let's run with that. 1 win split among the actual contributors (Martin et al.) still means slightly below average talent in that group. If BG's dominance was not so great, they'd come out better of course. This isn't the most robust analysis ever, but I think most observers would paint BG's season as seriously that good.
And if there's one thing we're sure of, it's that losing one dynamic player isn't that big a deal. Depth can absolutely make up for a lack of stars at the top end if all you're trying to achieve is competence. I happen to think the offense will be well above average and ST will be fine. The question, I think, comes down to how dominant the DL can be and, after that, finding guys who can do a couple things who maybe have some flaws in their game. Moundrous may have trouble walling off a slot receiver on a vertical, but if he can stuff the run he'll have value over Ezeh last season. And then maybe Demens can do the pass drops/blitzes on passing downs. Piece by piece, use everybody. That's the way we'll have to do it. And just maybe we'll see a bowl game this year.
*Exceptions granted for quarterbacks and, in case Brandon Graham is reading, Brandon Graham.
Try to do this yourselves. When I do it, I can only find one configuration that works for me at all:
- "East" -- PSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern
- "West" -- Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska
I really think this is what the powers that be have in mind. Think about it -- if you separate OSU from Michigan then you pretty much have to keep Wisconsin in the division. Nebraska has to stay with Iowa, so it's done. The divisions are in fact geographically contiguous. All major rivalries are preserved within the divisions except one, or maybe two if you count MSU-PSU.
One problem with this is the reality that the winner of OSU-PSU will almost always play for the conference championship. How often will one of the others break that stranglehold? Twice a decade? Less? You're taking the two programs from the largest and richest football recruiting states in the Big Ten, both without in-state conference rivals, and isolating them in a division by themselves. Yeah, that will work!
What are they thinking?
I'm going to guess that they are thinking that this will create a competitive championship game every year. They are right -- the champions of the West are likely to be a very good team. But they will almost always have more losses than the East champion, due to more parity within their division.
While it's fun, the point of the game is not to knock OSU out of the national championship every once in a while. That is so 1969. The point is to beat them and not just go to the Rose Bowl, but go onto the national championship ourselves. These divisions work against that ultimate goal. Indeed, any Big Ten divisional alignment that separates Michigan and Ohio State has this same fatal flaw.
I guess Dave Brandon would argue that the primary goal of conference play is to win the Big Ten championship, no matter how the Wolverines get there. That's true. But to play for the BCS championship, most years Michigan will have to win three games against OSU/PSU. Strength of schedule might allow us one conference loss along the way if the SEC champion isn't in the same predicament. That's likely to be the new reality, folks. Get used to it.
I have been on the MGoSidelines for an extended while, too shellshocked by the current state of Michigan football to participate much or even complete my McBean Rating System. Yet, I return on the eve of the season because I think a point need be made. Assuredly, it’s been made before, but perhaps not with this emphasis.
I am somewhat hesitant to post this, and some will say I was not hesitant enough. I am going to the UConn game overflowing with optimism, but the optimism comes with a catch, which, because it is cathartic, will now pollute MGoBlog.
Absolutely nothing, in my opinion, now stands or can stand between the results we see on the field and a verdict on this coaching staff. We are at a moment of refreshing purity where a simple answer to a simple question now awaits the spiritually hungry:
- Can the current staff of football coaches actually recruit and coach?
In previous Rodriguez campaigns, muddy waters divided the Michigan faithful; one side, with justification, pointed at coordinator changes, mismatched personnel, attrition, distractions, and injuries, while the other side declared that, despite all these high-quality excuses, no serviceable coaching staff could ever lead a Michigan team to 3-13 against Big 10 teams over two years. (Can this actually be true? Pinch me. A 3-13 record against the Big 10? Hit me.)
The debate is thankfully over. Almost like the nauseating propaganda that precedes an election, this confusion now ends in Election Day: eleven votes are to be cast that will answer many questions, but one in particular:
- Can the current staff of football coaches actually recruit and coach?
Reading scrimmage notes prompted me to post this; in particular, I detected a faint odor of excuse wafting from comments about the secondary and the marginal tackling performance.
No more excuses, no matter how tempting. If our entire team transferrs tomorrow, no excuses. If we’ve had the bad fortune to overrate every linebacker on the planet since David Harris, no excuses.
Last year after the Indiana game, I posted on how other coaches are doing more with less. Allow me to quote myself:
The Iowa defense is younger than ours overall and features a less-experienced secondary that averages 5.3 for a Rivals Rating, or a middle range two-star. Brian says about Michigan, “There is exactly one junior and no seniors at both safety and cornerback.” Iowa has less experience. Yet my gut tells me – with absolute certainty – Darryl Clark will have a far better day against our secondary. Who wants to take me up on that bet?
In general, their players are more lowly rated at every position (possible exception of one LB), often significantly so, with players converted from the offensive side of the ball (a TE turned DL) and one playing out of position.
Occam’s Razor makes it difficult to accept that our stud HS talent was pretty much collectively overrated, and Iowa’s meh HS talent was pretty much vastly underrated. Ferentz would have given a kidney to have Cissoko or Warren or Graham or Brown or Mouton or Martin. He doesn’t have enough organs to bargain with the devil to get those types of players with mega-hype coming out of HS, yet he easily is fielding a better defense that probably would have consumed Indiana whole without any sauce.
As for the “new system” argument – that switching from Shafer to Robinson has resulted in our guys being at the start of a new learning curve – I accept some of that, but not all. Now, I will defer to Sharik or gsimms to tell me whether a new system can transform studs into non-studs, but it would seem to me that stopping Eastern in the first half or stopping Indiana at all would frequently be possible with raw stud talent playing by instinct.
I backed down last year. New DC I was told. New system, fool. Well, it’s not new anymore. No one in today’s game gets a decade to establish a system. If Appalachian State can manage Mannigham, Arrington, Matthews and Butler with walk-ons, we can manage better than last year with our secondary. If Michigan State can dominate most of a football game with putrid DBs, so can we. If Iowa can mold nasty defensive lineman out of corn oil, tight-ends and spare body parts, then our row of premium four-stars is ready to be twice as nasty…if the coaches are competent.
- Bad tackling will be on them.
- Bad coverage schemes will be on them.
- Safeties futilely chasing TD runs from behind will be on them.
- Turnovers will be on them.
- Weather will be on them.
- Injuries will be on them (speaking of which, whatever happened to the Barwis dividend? If being turned into supermen doesn't help you tackle and stay healthy, then he’s more overrated than Heaven’s Gate).
I look at the Michigan football team, and I don’t see players, I see red litmus paper hovering over a solution know as UConn, that, if basic Michigan coaching is present, will turn that paper Blue.
(FWIW, I feel the paper will turn Blue. I think we shall catch a glimpse of WVU-style offensive firepower against Oklahoma come September 4th en route to an 8-4 season.)
This weekly update will have a few brief notes about a couple prospects, and mainly be about some of the visitors I've confirmed for the U Conn game. This is an initial list that will most definitely grow as the first game gets closer, and as I talk to more people.
6'5", 225 lbs.
Deion quiet with his recruitment, but has always listed Michigan in his list of schools he has interest in. He recently told me that his list is now down to five:
Michigan, Pitt, Penn State, Georgia, and South Carolina are my top five for now. I might wait until signing day to decide, or I might announce at one of the All Star games I was nominated for.
The main all star game he's talking about being nominated for is the Army game, which is a nice honor. He also told me the Michigan coaches want him to wait until the end of the season to take his official visit so they can make sure he's their main focus. Interesting strategy which could mean a few things. Either they really want to give him enough attention, or they don't want him to try to commit with Anthony Zettel still on the board and two defensive ends already committed. I'm not sure which is the case.
6'5", 265 lbs.
Knox is an instate kid that has a couple MAC offers under his belt. Grades and qualifying test scores have been the issue with Knox, but he's working towards rectifying that.
I retook the ACT, I got a lower score but a better score on the math part. I have all core classes my first trimester, and if I ace those classes then I'll be qualified.
So there's that. He told me he really likes Rich Rodriguez, and if he gets qualified Michigan has a good shot. His top three is Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois. His fate is in his hands.
I'll post these here for now. Since this is on the front page I'll create a diary later with more updates so you can follow along.
- Avery Walls - Safety out of Georgia has been to Michigan twice, and rumors are that Michigan leads.
- Daren Kitchen - Defensive back from Louisiana told me he 100% will be there for the U Conn game, and also said his written offer from Michigan is in the mail. I've heard that before, and don't really have any way of verifying, so we'll see. We will all find out together soon, I promise you that.
- Demetrius Hart – Obviously. He's bringing some friends:
- Nick Patti - 2012 QB, teammate of Demetrius Hart will be up with his Dad, and potentially with his trainer Tom Shaw. Shaw trains a ton of football players in Florida, including Florida State commit Karlos Williams. Nick told me that Shaw will play a big role in his decision, and he considers Tom to be an uncle. Getting him on campus could be a good thing for a few reasons.
- Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix(?) - He's not 100% coming yet. They're still figuring that out. Patti and Hart don't think Clinton-Dix would consider decommitting from Alabama, but a visit can't hurt.
- Jake Fisher - Michigan commit will be there.
- Delonte Hollowell - Michigan commit.
- Chris Bryant - The Illinois offensive lineman is a maybe, depending on his game schedule. He'd like to be there, but his team has a game in East St. Louis, so he doesn't think he'll be able to make it. I'm in contact with Chris quite a bit, and he has said he'll most likely wait a few games into the season to make his decision, but may get it over with before the season. If that happens Michigan is in good position. As per usual, they just need to win.
- Hunter and Cam Stanley - 2012 offensive linemen from Toledo, Ohio. They're twins! The 6-foot-4, 260-pound linemen are both very high on Michigan. They camped at Michigan's four-day camp, and jointly took home the offensive line MVP award (they do everything together!). Hunter actually ran his best 40 time at Michigan's camp with a 4.75. Michigan is in their top three along with Notre Dame and Northwestern. They both want to make their decision relatively early, and as you can tell by their list they think they fit best in a spread offense.
- Chris and Demitrious Davis – More twins! Seriously: both 2012 prospects, Chris (5'9", 185 lbs.) is a WR/DB and his brother Demitrious (5'10", 183 lbs.) is a QB/DB. I had a great conversation with Chris, and he wanted me to make sure I told the Michigan fans this next part. "My Dad loves Michigan. Our family hates Ohio State." Chris said his dad was standing next to him grinning ear to ear because he's such a Michigan fan. He also said his dad has always told him and his brother that they should go to Michigan. The twins(!) have an early top five of Michigan, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Miami. Michigan has a good chance here. Chris says his brother is quicker, but he's faster. You can watch for yourself if you'd like. Their film is actually pretty impressive sophomore film. Chris Davis and Demitrious Davis.
- .....AND TWINS!! (I had to)
- Kaleb Ringer - 2012 linebacker from Clayton, Ohio. His uncle is Javon Ringer, former MSU star running back. He told me his family affiliations won't play into anything, and he's actually a Michigan fan (FWIW). He currently holds verbal offers from Cincinnati and Iowa, which is a good sign of his talent level. He and his teammate Jeremy Campbell (DL) will be there. Campbell is listed at 5'11-6'0, weighing in at around 250-pounds. Ringer says that Campbell can squat 750 pounds, which seems like a lot to me. [Ed: me too.]
- Royce Jenkins-Stone - 2012 Cass Tech linebacker will be there. He loves Michigan.
- Chase Deback - 2012 instate offensive lineman from Charlotte, Michigan. Says he's a fan of Michigan State, but will put his fandom to the side for his recruitment. He wants to go wherever he feels is the best place for him. Being a fan of MSU growing up won't play into it. It's often hard for 16-17 year olds to distinguish the difference, though.
- Nathan Ricketts - 2012 instate linebacker. Shameless plug here. Ricketts is a 6-foot-2 linebacker with some good speed from Holland, Michigan.
Even though I am like Data and deal strictly in numbers and facts, my cavorting with you Michigan folks has left me in Blogpoll purgatory. My requests for a ballot were summarily dismissed so I am taking my efforts to the people. Even though this is a Michigan site, my Mathpoll will be done strictly on a non-human intervention process.
My first ranking will be based on team strength with no relevance to schedule. It will be done using my Points Above Normal (PAN) metric. It’s really Points Above Average but PAN was nicer acronym. The ranking determined using 2/3 historical average, in this case 2003-2008 and 1/3 last season.
There are no adjustments made for returning starters, coaching changes or anything else. I have not done a thorough examination of how this does historically, but doing some quick work indicates that it is appropriate to weight the historical average more than a single previous season. This method is essentially regressing to the mean with the mean being unique for each team.
Teams that have made big strides forward in the last year or two (Alabama, Stanford, Cincy) will seem low because of their variance and historically strong teams that have struggled in the last year or two (Michigan) are bolstered by a strong track record.
After week 1 the poll will be purely in season results based with the exception that for the first four weeks the opponent adjustment will be made based prior year opponent ratings.
|6||Ohio St||Big Ten||16.0||16||16|
|12||Penn St||Big Ten||12.4||14||11|
|13||Texas Tech||Big XII||12.2||13||12|
|15||W Virginia||Big East||10.4||8||11|
|24||Oklahoma St||Big XII||8.0||6||9|
|45||Michigan St||Big Ten||1.7||3||1|
Based on their strong history, Michigan comes in at #29 with a 6.6 rating (9.5 historically, 0.9 last year).
Sorry I know there are several other threads, but given our junkie nature I thought many would still want to see. Plus I disagree w/ some of the other scrimmage updates. Pardon any spelling errors, have to post this and get to work
- Nothing original on Denard: looks comfortable, made some nice throws, seems in charge of the O. Wouldn't want to have to tackle him
- It doesn't look like they have any intention of redshirting DG. Looked great, made one very poor decision. He can't have the O down yet, can he?
- Tate ran with the 3's, but later with the 1's and 2's. He has the best touch of the three, though the least zip. Still feel most comfortable with him at the helm, though Denard did nothing to lessen my confidence in him. Tate did NOT overthrow any fades: on 3 pass plays from the 2 yard line, he threw the ball away (the one running play was stuffed). Great because 1) this was the first string D, and they had everyone covered, 2) Tate did not try to shoehorn the ball in. He's taking care of the ball. Rejoice. He had one classic improvised TD pass where he motioned the receiver over, and the lone long pass of the scrimmage was on the money. The receiver dropped it / pass interference.
- Unfortunately, it still looks to me like none of the 3 are naturals at the zone read.
- At the end of the scrimmage, RR has them run laps around the field. Denard first every time by a wide margin. Tate working hard, but last nearly every time (sometimes getting in front of DG). In an offense when the QB is expected to run, this explains the wings thing. Denard is in outstanding shape.
RB's - Also differ here, I didn't think Hopkins looked as great as everyone else did. Not a diss (dis? sp?) on his play - he ran very hard - but I didn't see the world beater others did. Much like the other scrimmages, all the RBs looked good, but none really stood out. We have options in Cox and Shaw. Though V. Smith, as reported, looks great - no noticeable effects from the injury.
Yes, Kelvin Grady everywhere. He looks calm, matter-of-fact and natural. WTF after being nearly invisible in the spring. We have lots and lots and lots of slots
Huyge and D'stein are your starting tackles at the moment. And I'm fine with that. Omameh is gd beast, and Schilling looks all-conference.
Defense: They look more smash-mouth in the Front 7. Moundros starts in the middle, looks like he's been playing there for a while. A run stuffer certainly. Middle zone coverage? Not enough data. Ezeh also stuffed the run and took on blocks at Mouton's spot. Roh will be a beast, but given almost all of the throws were short, his pass rush didn't have time to get home.
Vlad will hit you, but we all knew that. Cam Gordon is going to be very good, I think. Big boy. He was in position to make two great tackles, but unfortunately didn't wrapup and was pulled off the field. Later returned with the 1's. Going to take some time
JT Floyd looks good, Rogers looks big. Teric Jones and Christian are your 2's. Talbott and Avery don't look undersized, and don't look overwhelmed. Again, hard to judge corner play given the nature of the throws. But Christian has a way of moving that reminds one of Woodson. He moves like he knows he's good. I think Marvin Robinson will be helping the team very soon.
We look Bend But Don't Break, which we all knew, and we'll have to be at least early
Field goals looked a bit worse than average. Hagerup boomed one, short-legged two
Based on pathetically little evidence: It did appear that Big Will was running with the 3's, but he also looks very tough to block. Don't know if he's turned the corner to actually making plays yet. Davion Rogers is skinnier than you imagine. Open that time capsule up in 2011 at least if you're hoping to see him play. Jake Ryan looks like a good MLB at some point. Josh Furman passes the eyeball test. Didn't see Carvin Johnson on the field, and was looking for him (may have been banged up). Noticed a #67 jersery (Nathan Brink?) more often than I noticed LaLota in the second and third teams. Shook RR's hand, seems like a good man.
Overall, O looks great and D not bad. I am beyond excited for this season.