[Ed-M: Well, f.
In case you went to bed last night thinking that Michigan will be playing in a bowl game, a competent CEO-type athletic director is in charge of the program, and a 5-star-ish recruit perfect for our offensive system will be enrolling in January, you seem to have been 2/3rds correct.
Regarding Dee Hart, I talked to someone close to him and it looks like the rumors may have legs. Not sure specifics yet.
The news inspired a 500-response thread and at least one user getting caved. As an attempt to restore sanity, and because I trust Tom, I am bumping Tom's diary on the subject (and on other RB options Michigan is in good shape with) to the front page.
At the moment, this seems to be rumor, but believeable. It becomes fact when Dee Hart says it is; until then we have a source close to Dee who says it's fact. For those of you who remember getting burned by Will Campbell only for a "just joking" thing after, this doesn't feel like that.
If you stick a gun to my head and say "okay Misopogon, you tell me why Hart decommitted right this second or I'll blow your brains all over your precious internet," I would say that Dee wants to get his college football career underway at the beginning of January, and Michigan wants to make a decision on who will be his head coach after that. This opinion is entirely conjecture, conflicts with a previous statement made by Hart, and should be taken as no more than that. Expect something more informative and concrete from Brian or Tim later today. Here's Tom: [/Misopogon]
TomVH: Dee Hart Alternatives
Hopefully everyone's calmed down from the Demetrius Hart news. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, I did talk to someone close to him and it looks like he will be decommitting. He's shut down contact, so I wasn't able to get a hold of him or his family. They don't like to disappoint people, so I'm not sure how much contact they'll have. The Michigan coaches will be making a visit out to try to do damage control with Dee. We'll see what ultimately happens with it, things can change.
Moving on from that, Justice Hayes is committed, Michigan is hoping Thomas Rawls makes grades, and there's two more options out there. Tre Mason (5'10", 190 lbs, 4 Star) and Devondrick Nealy (5'10", 175 lbs, 3 Star). Michigan is in great position with Nealy, and we most likely lead.
Mason is one to watch, and I talked to him tonight. He was interested and intrigued with the news of Demetrius Hart. I asked him about Michigan, and he had this to say.
I like Michigan, but Coach Dews has been talking to me about defense lately, and I do not want to play defense. I like Auburn a lot too, but if Michigan wanted me back as a running back then they'd have a good shot at me. I'm looking at depth charts and everything, so we'll see.
You have to think that Michigan had been talking defense with Tre because they had Demetrius Hart and Justice Hayes committed. They didn't have room for a third running back of the same kind. If Demetrius does in fact decommit then I would assume Michigan would tell Tre that they want him on offense again. Just something to keep an eye on if everything goes down as it seems like it will.
There has been loads of analysis done on Rich Rodriguez's progress so far as Michigan's head coach. Many are not satisfied with the improvements that Rich has made in this football team so far, and after watching the defense this year this viewpoint is very understandable. With many calling for a coaching change, and with the majority of those who want this set on bringing in Jim Harbaugh, it's time we take a look at exactly what Jim Harbaugh has done for Stanford's defense during his tenure as their Head Coach. We will look at four things; recruiting, personnel, coaches and performance. This will give us an idea of whether he will be able to turn the ship around if he is indeed brought in.
Most people know Harbaugh's records at Stanford. Coming off a 1-11 year in 2006, Harbaugh took over and posted the following records:
As many of you know, recruiting is the lifeblood of a football program so we'll start here. Lets take a look at Harbaughs ability to recruit on the defensive side of the ball. Note: Rivals star ratings used to evaluate talent.
Harbaugh clearly stepped up recruiting at Stanford. He was able to start bringing in more talent , but it also seems that he is near the ceiling in bringing in top-end recruits. Harbaugh should definitely be credited with the improvement in recruiting for his ability as a recruiter. Part of it is also due to the improvement in Stanford's record.
This trend is impressive, but not overly so. Stanford has plenty of things to pull in recruits (academics, location, playing time) and the last two recruiting years have had less competition from other in-state schools. Also it must be noted that California is one of the top recruiting hot-spots when it comes to bringing in talent (and particularly talent that also peforms well in school). Harbaugh should be able to bring in better talent at Michigan, however there is nothing to show that he will out-peform Rodriguez.
2.) Depth Chart
In order to evaluate Stanford's performance on the defensive side of the ball, it's necessary that we take a look at their roster composition and the experience in the two-deep.
Stanford has never started a Freshman or RS Freshman on defense under Jim Harbaugh. They have never had a two-deep with more underclassmen than upperclassmen. This is primarily due to a lack of the attrition that was faced by Rodriguez at Michigan. Harbaugh can be credited for keeping his players around more effectively than Rodriguez. Rodriguez has lost some of his recruits and that is definitely on him. However when it came to keeping Carr recruits, Rodriguez could only do so much. Harbaugh on the other hand wasn't dealing with kids that were dedicated to a coach that had departed, the kids were dedicated to their school as most were trying to get a Stanford degree. I'll give Harbaugh a slight advantage over Rodriguez in identifying the right players that will stay in school and keeping them around but I don't think we can entirely rule out that Harbaugh wouldn't have problems keeping players (particularly RR players) around at Michigan.
3.) Coaching Staff
Here is the list of defensive coordinators at Stanford during Harbaugh's tenure.
- 2007 Scott Shafer
- 2008 Ron Lynn
- 2009 Andy Buh
- 2010 Vic Fangio
While Harbaugh did not change defensive coordinators every year because his defense was underpeforming, it should be noted that he went through four defensive coordinators in four years and was still able to find success on that side of the ball in year 4 after bringing in a seasoned DC. His ability to keep a consistent staff on that side of the ball can be questioned just as much as Rodriguez's ability to do the same. This also shows that even with transition you can come out doing well (2010 Illinois is another example).
4.) Defensive Performance
|Year||Scoring D||Rush D||Pass D||Total D||PE D|
Interestingly, Harbaugh struggled with his defense for 3 years and had a breakthrough this year in his fourth year. There's not that much separating Rodriguez and Harbaugh in terms of defensive performance in their first 3 years. The only differences were that Harbaugh had an experienced group and was able to keep players from leaving the program. Stanford faced a talent disadvantage when compared to U of M but the defense was never decimated as much as it is at Michigan. Rodriguez had some experience on D in his first year but after that many players left, others didn't pan out and the rest are now starting. I think Stanford's experience and lack of attrition and Michigan's talent advantage cancel each other out (I actually think that Stanford has been in a better position).
Year 3 specifically is something to look at. Their talent was slightly worse than what Michigan has in year 3, but their experience level was leaps and bounds above Michigan's. That said, Stanford peformed only just a bit better defensively than this year's Michigan team has.
Moving on to Harbaugh's 4th year we see drastic improvement across the board in the defensive rankings. This is definitely a resume booster for Harbaugh, but if we look behind the rankings, what do we get? Let's take a look at the scoring offense of each of Stanford's opponents this year and Stanford's performance against them.
|Team||Scoring Off Rank||PPG||Points against Stanford|
Looking at this table, Stanford's good looking defensive numbers come from shutting out some terrible offenses and slowing down a couple decent ones. Outside of Arizona and ASU, Stanford did not have any defensive performances to write home about. They gave up 52 points to the only top 25 offense they faced, and gave up more points than the season average PPG of three weak to average opponents (Wake, USC, and Washington St.). Stanford put up some nice looking defensive numbers this year, but the fact is that the competition left a lot to be desired.
After looking through these numbers it's hard to pinpoint exactly what Harbaugh is going to bring to Michigan over Rodriguez in terms of improving the defensive side of the ball. He had 3 below average to terrible years during which faced challenges that weren't greater than what Rodriguez has faced at Michigan (less talent but much more experience). Those who point at year 4 as a reason that he is going to fix Michigan's defense should think twice. First, one year is way too small a sample size. And two look at the competition. The Pac-10 had one amazing offense, and the rest ranged from mediocre to terrible.
Many things are similar between Michigan's defense under Rodriguez and Stanfords defense under Harbaugh. The first three years look strikingly similar to Michigan's numbers the last three years (in what I would argue a weaker conference). Once Harbaugh was able to get enough talent, experience, and land a decent defensive coordinator (all of which he finally had in year 4) he was able to field a half-decent defense.
In the end I think this shows that Harbaugh is not the savior that many are making him out to be. He has made nice strides as the Head Coach at Stanford, however he has not done that much to set him apart from Rodriguez even on the defensive side of the ball. I'm not arguing that Rodriguez is the best man for the job, but to boot himin favor of Harbaugh based on Harbaugh's resume to this point would seem unfair to me. I'm hoping that Dave Brandon is looking at these types of numbers when he's doing his analysis of which coach is better for the future of Michigan.
This is probably a bad idea right now the way people are divided and I'm not making this comparison with negative intentions (though for Rich Rodriguez supporters, just mentioning the name John L Smith is bad enough, the guy's reputation is radioactive). And just for full disclosure I'll say up front that I would be in favor of getting rid of Rich Rodriguez and replacing him with Harbaugh.
All that said, this probably won't go over well but all I'm really trying to put forth is the stats (and let people draw their own conclusions). Maybe this against my better judgement and I'm just asking for trouble/being overly provactive. All I can say is that I'm not intentionally starting to stir up trouble. Going to try and just present the data and let people draw their own conclusions. With that said, I think the year three comparison of the two coaches is troubling.
Went with this comparison for three reasons
1) John L Smith represents the worst case scenario. Those who want to get rid of Rich Rodriguez fear that we just have another version of John L Smith (whether this fear is justified or not). Someone who gets the job done on the offensive side of the ball, but who can't build a complete team. And to be clear, there's no definitive answer here.
2) Easy comparison because John L Smith is someone who most Michigan fans are pretty familiar with.
3)From what I remember (and my memory of the John L Smith years has faded a bit) there were similiar kinds of problems. Good offense, bad defense (especially secondary wise). Had the tendancy to start the season well, but fade once MSU hit the meat of their schedule.
Below are relevant stats that I've pulled
Record for three years before Rodriguez or John L Smith
|MSU||U of M|
Year One Comparison
|John L Smith||Rich Rodriguez|
|Record||8-5 (started 7-1)||3-9|
|Total Yards||367.38 yards per game (73rd)||290.75 yards per game (109th)|
|Passing Yards||270 yards per game (23rd)||143.17 yards per game (108th)|
|Rushing Yards||97.38 yards per game (111th)||147.58 yards per game (59th)|
|Points||27.92 points per game (49th)||20.25 points per game (101st)|
|Total Yards||379.92 yards per game(62nd)||366.92 yards per game (67th)|
|Passing Yards||255.15 yards per game(97th)||230 yards per game (87th)|
|Rushing Yards||124.8 yards per game(27th)||136.92 yards per game (50th)|
|Points||22.5 points per game (40th)||28.92 points per game (84th)|
Year Two Comparison
|John L Smith||Rich Rodriguez|
|Record||5-7||5-7 (started 4-0)|
|Total Yards||460 yards per game (10th)||384.50 yards per game (59th)|
|Passing Yards||221.50 yards per game (51st)||198.33 yards per game (81st)|
|Rushing Yards||238.50 yards per game (10th)||186.17 yards per game (25th)|
|Points||29.42 points per game (38th)||29.50 points per game (41st)|
|Total Yards||381.42 yards per game (42nd)||393.33 yards per game (82nd)|
|Passing Yards||209 yards per game (54th)||221.42 yards per game (67th)|
|Rushing Yards||172.42 yards per game (73rd)||171.92 yards per game (91st)|
|Points||27.17 points per game (72nd)||27.50 points per game (77th)|
Year Three Comparison
|John L Smith||Rich Rodriguez|
|Record||5-6(started 4-0)||7-5 (started 5-0)|
|Total Yards||497.27 yards per game (5th)||500.92 yards per game (6th)|
|Passing Yards||295.45 yards per game (11th)||249.83 yards per game (34th)|
|Rushing Yards||201.82 yards per game (20th)||251.08 yards per game (11th)|
|Points||33.82 points per game (18th)||34.33 points per game (23rd)|
|Total Yards||409.55 yards per game (87th)||447.92 yards per game (109th)|
|Passing Yards||244.91 yards per game (85th)||260.25 yards per game (110th)|
|Rushing Yards||164.64 yards per game(76th)||187.67 yards per game (94th)|
|Points||28.73 points per game (77th)||33.83 yards per game (102nd)|
John L Smith Year 4
|Record||4-8 (started season 3-0)|
|Total Yards||356.75 yards per game (48th)|
|Passing Yards||227.58 yards per game (35th)|
|Rushing Yards||129.17 yards per game (65th)|
|Points||25.17 points per game (52nd)|
|Total Yards||363.75 yards per game (88th)|
|Passing Yards||230.92 yards per game (97th)|
|Rushing Yards||132.83 yards per game (56th)|
|Points||28.73 points per game (77th)|
I was too lazy to do so, but another data point that's probably worth taking into account are the relevant offensive and defensive measures in the three years prior to RichRod and John L Smith. This also doesn't take into account attrition numbers that each coach had to deal with (well documentated in Rich Rodriguez's case, no idea when it comes to MSU).
Editing Notes: made some changes with stats so presentation is better plus fixed typo in title.
Synopsis: The relationship between turnovers and winning a football game has been well documented. But, as I watched the last two Michigan games, it seemed to me that unforced errors by the offense (overthrown passes, dropped passes, penalties, bad snaps, missed FGs, shanked punts, not recovering on-side kicks, etc.) were far more prevalent and far more costly than turnovers. I decided to find out if I was crazy. So, I went back and watched the DVRs of both games, stopped the DVR at each unforced error, and documented the results. I am not crazy (at least not in this circumstance).
In the Wisconsin game: Michigan had 8 unforced errors, the opponent had NONE, there were 2 TOs by each team, and the turnover margin was –0-. Michigan scored just 28 points. Unforced errors by Michigan left at least 21 and perhaps as many as 35 points on the field.
In the osu game: Michigan had 18 unforced errors, the opponent had 7, there were 3 TOs by M, 1 TO by the opponent, and the turnover margin was –2. Michigan scored only 7 points. Unforced errors by Michigan left at least 17 points on the field. Unforced errors by osu left at least 8 points on the field. On average, the –2 TOM would cost M 8 points. The first shanked punt by M also put the D in terrible field position and led to osu's first TD.
In both of these games, many of the unforced errors occurred early when scores by the offense could have created or maintained momentum in Michigan's favor. Unforced errors are worse than TOs. Unless Michigan can significantly reduce the number of unforced errors, the team will continue to struggle to win games.
What Causes Unforced Errors: There does not appear to be any difference between the root causes of unforced errors and TOs. Younger, inexperienced players are the major causes for both. The physical differences between most 18 year old and most 22 year old football players is dramatic. The mental differences (i.e. poor judgment) are also significant. Bad luck is not a significant factor in either unforced errors or turnovers. Without attending practices, it is impossible to know whether coaching techniques (e.g. simulating real game conditions better, deliberating throwing passes that are difficult for receivers to catch, etc.) are being used that would reduce the unforced errors.
The Gory Details: Here are the tables of unforced errors for the last two games. Red are the Michigan unforced errors, black is the opponent's. First, Wisky:
It is the Yang to last week's Yin (for Yin == "Swallowing Kenny Demens"). This play from the Wisconsin game has both Wisconsin and Michigan in the same formation, and Wisconsin runs essentially the same play. This time, however, the backside OT releases downfield, and that makes about an 8-yard difference.
And I'm going to suck it up and stop whining now, because Brian undoubtedly spends about twice as much time doing the original PPs as I do on the MPPs. If he can take it, I can take it.
Wha'hoppon: Wisconsin has first-and-ten at the Michigan 41 on their first TD drive of the second half (Brian describes this one as a 'soul-crushing ground based TD drive,' and has to qualify that with 'first' in order to distinguish it from all the other soul-crushing ground based TD drives Wisconsin had in the second half). Wisconsin again lines up in the I with twins right and TE left. Michigan again is in the 3-3-5, although now Avery is playing up, Kovacs is playing back, and the backup DL is in. At the snap, the backside OT immediately releases downfield, allowing Banks to slant inside the TE. Patterson gets playside of the center, and Black cleanly beats the playside OT upfield. Demens fills the hole at the LOS, neutralizing both the playside guard and the FB.
This time, Banks is sitting in the hole where the cutback lane would be, so the RB has nowhere to go and just plows into the pile for two yards.
Football is not transitive. What do I mean? Simple. If Team A beats Team B, and then Team B beats Team C, it does not mean that Team A will beat Team C. We all know this.
Proof of non-transitivity this year comes in the Big Ten. Let's look at the Big Ten Graph. The graph is simple to understand: each team is a node (circle), and there is an line connecting each team that played another team. The line is actually an arrow, making this a directed graph, in the obvious form: if there is an arrow from Team A's node to Team B's node, it means Team A beat Team B. Here is the graph:
The Victory Graph (Click on it for full size)
There are lots of fun cycles to find in the graph. For example, Minnesota beat Iowa, who beat Michigan State, who beat Minnesota. See how many of these three-node cycles you can find (there are plenty). Or not, depends how bored you are at work. There are bigger ones too: for example, Michigan beat Indiana who beat Purdue who beat Minnesota who beat Iowa who beat Michigan State who beat Wisconsin who beat Michigan. And it goes on.
The most amazing fact from the graph, thanks to Indiana finally getting a win, is that the graph is strongly connected. In graph terminology, this means you can get from any node in the graph to any other node, simply by following arrows, for all pairs of nodes. This really shows how non-transitive football is: you can use this graph to say any team "transitively beat" any other team, at least in the Big Ten this past year. For example, Indiana beat Purdue, who beat Minnesota, who beat Iowa, who beat Michigan State, who beat Wisconsin, who beat OSU. If football were transitive, Indiana "beat" OSU! Except when they played, of course.
One interesting metric for each pair of teams (A, B) is the shortest path to victory for A over B. Some of these "shortest paths to victory" are easy to find: for example, it is unfortunately the case that there is a short and quite direct path from OSU (at the top) to Michigan. Some are harder to see: for example, see if you can find the path where Michigan "transitively" beats OSU. This "shortest path" is actually long: 6 steps (the answer is at bottom).
We can then use this graph to order the teams a different way: what is the shortest path between a team and every other team in the Big Ten? Lower is better here: a path of length 1 means Team A directly beat Team B, whereas a path of length 2 between Team A and Team B means that Team A beat Team C who in turn beat Team B. Here is the full summary of the shortest paths between all pairs of Big Ten teams:
You can then use these to create a new ranking among teams, based on their average shortest path to victory:
This ranking kind of makes sense, too. If you beat a lot of teams directly, then you will have an average near 1 (note that even undefeated teams will average higher than 1, because teams don't all play each other). If you only beat bad teams, who in turn only beat other bad teams, your average will be higher. Thus, Michigan does poorly in this comparison; Minnesota does better because they beat Iowa, who actually beat some good teams (like MSU). Only Indiana fares worse than our boys in Blue.
You can also prune the graph to arrive at some interesting findings. For example, let's say we remove all edges where one team didn't resoundingly beat the other team. I will arbitrarily deem a win as a "strong" win when one team beats the other by more than 10 points. The graph now looks like this:
The Strong Victory Graph (Click on it for full size)
Wow, that is a much different graph! The first thing that stands out: there are no cycles in this graph. That means that if Team A "strongly beat" Team B, and Team B "strongly beat" Team C, that Team C didn't "strongly beat" Team A. There are no cycles here my friends.
We can also then use the "Strong Win" Graph to compute a new ranking. For each strong win, you get a +1, and for each strong loss, you get -1. Here are the teams, ranked by this new "Strong Win" scoring system:
This is actually a pretty reasonable ranking I think. Wisconsin is on top, because they beat the tar out of everyone (almost). Michigan State doesn't fare nearly as well as Wisconsin and OSU, because they had many close wins and one game where they were trounced (Iowa). Michigan ends up behind Illinois and Penn State in this ranking, because those two teams had a number of big wins, where Michigan only had one (Purdue, and barely "strong" at that).
Anyhow, that's a short look at how graphs can help us rank teams in different ways. And if you didn't like it, well, remember that I Hate Everything too.
[EDIT: Some people asked how I generated the graphs. All automated, given an input of games and scores. Some python code to compute shortest paths between nodes (there are some fairly standard algorithms for doing this) and then Graphviz to layout the graphs automatically. It would be easy to do this for any set of games.
One other note: the real point of the "Strong Win" graph is how silly it is that score differential is ignored in current computer rankings. A big score difference is a useful metric, and one that I think is better than many other simple ways of comparing teams. One could likely come up with a slightly more nuanced "Strong Win" definition (say, win by 10 and outgain the other team by some threshold number of yards); this was just a simple and easy way to start.]
The path for "transitive victory" of Michigan over OSU: Michigan beat Illinois who beat Northwestern who beat Iowa who beat Michigan State who beat Wisconsin who beat OSU. Ugh, it is really hard for us to beat OSU, apparently.