chance of bowl: 13.6%
[Ed: meant to bump this sooner but there was a lot of stuff yesterday.]
After the disastrous offensive performance of 2008, the 2009 Wolverine offense really had nowhere to go but up. Using my offensive ratings, the 2008 Michigan offense was 7.4 points per game below average, 107th out of 120 FBS teams. 2009 brought another year in the system and real quarterbacks and huge improvements. While far from consistently excellent, Michigan moved up to a modest 1.2 points per game above average, 50th nationally. No one outside of the eternal optimists like Fred Jackson could see another 57 place ranking improvement, but what has happened to teams that have shown big offensive improvements in year in the following year.
Presently my database has the 2007-2009 years completed, just enough for a 3 year case study. From 2007 to 2008 there were 28 teams that improved offensively by at least 5 points per game. I broke those team into three categories, teams that saw a second major (+5) increase in the third year, teams that saw a major (-5) regression back in the third year and teams that were in the middle and didn’t necessarily continue gaining, but didn’t fall back much either.
*Only BCS teams shown
With 14 of the 28 teams in this group, half of the teams that show big gains can expect a return to the mean the next season. In fact, these teams were worse offensively in 2009 than they were in 2007, let alone the beacon season of 2008. The average team in this group was 2.5 points per game worse in 2009 than they were in 2007 before they peaked.
The closest thing to a consistent thread is the quarterback possession as five of the eight, Oklahoma, Baylor, USC, Arizona and Utah, spent most or all of the season with a new quarterback.
In general, the regressers look like a group that is just regressing to the mean and that replacing a quarterback is damaging when your success has not been sustained for longer than a single season.
With the exception of Alabama, these teams were pretty average in returning starts and had no major position group gaps to fill. Alabama had a new quarterback and was 97th in returning offensive starts nationally, the ability to sustain the offensive success is likely attributable to the influx of talent Saban brought into Alabama since he arrived.
*Michigan 2007 results omitted (-1.1)
With a relatively new coach and a total offensive system overhaul, Georgia Tech is clearly the most similar situation to Michigan and their path is one that Michigan would be thrilled to follow. Tech went from –1.1 ppg in 2007 to 7.6 in 2008 to 14.5 and my top rated offense in the country in 2009. Even though Johnson and Rodriguez were hired the same year, the Michigan offense is about 2 years behind Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech went from average to very good to best in the country. Michigan went from average, to very bad and back to average. Even with the offset timeline, Michigan seems comparable to Georgia Tech’s situation and therefore a second year of offensive gain seems very possible under this comparison.
All five of these teams either returned 20+ starts at the quarterback position (except GT who had the same quarterback from the start of the system), although Stanford’s returning quarterback was replaced. The other major similarity between these schools in neither of the last two years did they have stratospheric gains, there is less flukiness to these teams success.
When looking at the progression from very bad to roughly average, there are four BCS level schools who showed that same progression. Three of those (TCU, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh went on to see big gains in year 3 as well, and NC St still saw modest improvement. Teams fitting this profile for a potential second year of strong offensive progress in 2010 along with Michigan include Kentucky, UConn, Wake Forest and Mississippi St.
Although teams that show a big jump like Michigan last year are more likely to fall back than continue the progress, the recruiting profile, experience at quarterback (even if the returner loses his job), progressions comps and system change all point to Michigan as being a good candidate to at least sustain and probably show more improvement next year. Every 3 point gain is worth about one additional win on the season and based on this look I would say that from the offense alone, a 3 point gain seems likely and a 6 point gain entirely possible.
Michigan is now his tenth offer along with Duke, Ball State, Wisconsin, Boston College, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Air Force, West Virginia, and Ohio. It seems like Sean's recruitment is starting to pick up heavily, as he's also hearing from Notre Dame.
Since he's from Cincinnati, he's obviously a hometown favorite. There's a lot of talk about him within that area, and I think it's a really good find early on for these coaches. Looking at some of the other linebackers that have been offered, it looks like Duggan might be one of the better options to land, at this point.
I would have to assume Michigan would want him on campus for the Big House BBQ, though. I will try to get more as soon as i can.
**EDIT: Update from his coach, Steve Specht:**
I spoke with Sean's coach, and he had some really great things to say about him. Most kids say that academics are important to them, but it seems like that really holds true for Sean. "He's a 4.0 student, and just a tremendous kid. His top 5 consists of Michigan, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Duke, and Boston College. Academics is really a priority for him. His parents have done a great job raising him, and he just so happens to be a hell of a football player," said coach Specht.
Duggan's recruitment has recently started to take off, which has surprised both him and his coach. "As far as visits go this summer, I don't even think Sean knows what he's going to be doing after his lacrosse game tonight. We didn't think recruiting would blow up for him this soon. We figured it would be during the season. He's still trying to digest this, and wants to finish strong with school and lacrosse," Specht told me.
As far as Duggan on the field, his coach thinks that his best football is still ahead of him. "He's a huge effort guy, he's a worker, and he always wants to get better. He practices hard, he's smart, and likes to study the game. His upside is huge. He's pushing 6'5" and already has over 215 pounds on him. He played all three linebacker spots for us, and is just learning the positions. He really could play a 5 tech on the line, or even tight end. He's very athletic, and is capable of putting on a lot of weight. The opportunities are endless for him, and his best football is yet to come. I really believe that," said Specht.
Here's a look at his highlight video:
CCLA Conference Tournament
Michigan will participate in its conference tournament this weekend, trying to take home their fourth consecutive championship. The field is as follows:
Michigan and Buffalo are the top two seeds, by virtue of winning the North and South Divisions, respectively. Michigan State and
Eastern Central Michigan also make the field from the North Division, and Miami (That Hockey Miami) joins Pitt from the South Division. Eastern Michigan earned the third North Division slot, but was disqualified because they be cheatin', yo. Central Michigan takes the spot instead.
In the first round, Michigan State and Miami are the favorites to advance. In the semi-finals, the Spartans should probably take down Buffalo, but that was the case last year as well, and it didn't turn out that way. Michigan should win the whole thing, regardless of which teams they face.
The CCLA auto-bid is up for grabs, but there are also MCLA At-Large implications. Michigan State has the chance to add two wins, and wash the taste of a three-game losing streak out of their mouths. That would help their bid to the national field. No other team (outside of Michigan, who is in regardless of outcome) will crack the MCLA field without winning the conference.
After Friday's first-round games, I'll keep updated review/previews going in the Diary section. For now, I'll briefly preview Miami, Michigan's likely semifinal opponent (see a brief preview of Central and a Recap of their game against Michigan for more on the Chippewas.
The RedHawks have gone 8-3 on the year, 3-1 in the CCLA South. Their losses have come to Missouri (7-9), Indiana (5-8), and Buffalo (5-7). They played a non-divisional game against Eastern Michigan earlier this spring, beating their Round 1 opponent by a comfortable 15-9 Margin.
Their All-Conference performers include Joe McLaughlin (2nd Team Midfield), Alex Manners (2nd Team Faceoff Specialist), Tyler Wallace (3rd Team Midfield), Brooke Slowinski (3rd Team Defense), Josh Ebel (Honorable Mention Short Stick Defensive Midfield), and Daniel Culp (Honorable Mention Goalie). McLaughlin, only a freshman, has done the majority of the team's scoring, with 22 goals and 10 assists.
Michigan's first game, against Miami or Eastern, will take place Saturday at 4PM at Saline High School's main (East) field. Full preview of Michigan's opponent after it is determined.
All-Conference Teams, MCLA Bracketology, and more after the jump!
The CCLA released their all-conference lists on Monday, and they're full of Wolverines:
- Attack Trevor Yealy
- Attack Kevin Zorovich
- Midfield Anthony Hrusovsky
- Defense Harry Freid
- Faceoff Specialist David Reinhard
- Long-Stick Midfield Matt Asperheim
- Short Stick Defensive Midfield Jordan Kirshner
- Attack Thomas Paras
- Midfield David Rogers
- Midfield Svet Tintchev
- Defense Austin Swaney
- Goalie Mark Stone
- Defense Justin Burgin
- Attack Josh Ein
- Attack Clark McIntyre
- Midfield Jamison Goldberg
- Short Stick Defensive Midfield Michael Bartomioli
Michigan composes seven of the thirteen first-team honorees (Michigan State has four, and Buffalo has two. Those are the only teams represented), and 17 of the 59 total players honored. Making this more impressive is the fact that a number of Michigan players were injured for significant portions of the year (David Rogers, Clark McIntyre, and Michael Bartomioli all missed multiple games), and several more were suspended for one game.
The players who made the first team are likely to gain consideration for All-American honors. Among them, Trevor Yealy is a lock for the First Team, and is in the running for Player of the Year honors.
A couple conference tournaments took place last weekend, which helped settle the MCLA Tournament field a bit. We now know the Automatic Qualifiers from the SELC (Florida, previously a bubble team) and LSA (Texas State, the only team from their conference who will make it).
Last 2 In: Florida State, Michigan State
First 2 Out: UC-Santa Barbara, Loyola Marymount
Out From Last Time: Texas, UC Santa Barbara, Virginia Tech.
I'm waffling on whether Florida State or Virginia Tech (or both, or neither) should be in the field. They were similarly-ranked heading into the SELC Tournament, and Florida State lost in the first round, whereas the Hokies made it to the final. I still like Florida State's overall schedule a bit more.
Other than that, nothing was too tough. Michigan State probably needs to paste Pitt and Buffalo to feel really safe in the tournament. There's still quite a bit of variability with all the auto-bids (except two) still up in the air. If I can get around to it before the official bracket comes out, I'll hopefully have another Bracketology post early next week.
Inside Lacrosse gives their take on a bubble watch.
DT Mickey Johnson, out of Covington, LA received an offer yesterday. Fred Jackson was in Johnson's school, and extended the offer. Mickey wasn't able to speak with coach Jackson, because of NCAA rules, but he told me he noticed a "big ring" on his finger, that caught his attention.
He doesn't have a favorite list yet, but he said he definitely likes Michigan. "The fact that they were a powerhouse before, and have a good chance of getting back there is great," said Johnson.
Johnson has over 26 offers now, and said that he might have to use an official visit if he wants to see Michigan in person. "If my dad isn't home, then I would probably use an official. If he's home, then I think we'd be able to make the drive," Mickey told me.
Weighing in at 6-foot-1, and 310 pounds, Johnson is a big defensive tackle prospect, and would fit nicely into what Michigan is looking for. Here are some impressive videos for you to look at.....before you watch them I should tell you that he owns the state record for bench pressing 450 lbs, and can also squat 700 lbs. Proceed to the videos.
Inspired by a tweet from Chris Brown a.k.a smartfootball on this interesting but largely meaningless article from Rivals I decided to put together a post on offensive balance. This is going in place of my normal Monday post and I should be back in a week or so with Brian’s requested special teams primer.
Game Theory and Play Calling
Game theory suggests that teams will adjust their choices so that the average value of each choice (run or pass) will be equal. We also know that not all coaches are rational decision makers and there are likely very few who understand what game theory is. That is where nerds like myself come it to explain on blogs and help them understand.
The thinking goes like this: a team is really good at running the ball and really bad at passing the ball, but they are perfectly “balanced,” half their plays are rushes and half are passes. Since there is more value on a running play than a passing play, it doesn’t make sense to be calling so many pass plays, so the first adjustment happens and this team starts calling more rushes to take advantage of their more efficient running game. At some point, the defense responds to the new strategy and begins to stack against the run which of course makes success in the passing game easier. If the offense is playing optimal strategy, their final mix will be one that garners the same value for each play, regardless of whether it is a run or a pass, even if the distribution of plays is not 50/50.
This is how every team in the country fared on a per down basis in both rush and pass. The diagonal line represents balanced results on a per play basis. Teams on the top right are balanced and successful, teams on the bottom left are balanced and unsuccessful. Teams to the left of the line (Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan St, Notre Dame, Penn St, Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota) should pass the ball more to become more optimal where teams below the line (Michigan, Ohio St and Illinois) have the opportunity to run the ball more to become more optimal. Purdue sits right at the intersection of all lines, balanced and mediocre. Most of the teams in the Big 10 where within reach of balance with the notable exceptions of Michigan St and Notre Dame, two teams that couldn’t get their rushing outputs to match their passing success. Time for another chart.
In this chart you can see how balance in calls does not necessarily equal balance in output. In fact, some of the least balanced play callers, on both ends of the spectrum no less, produced the most balanced results in output. Teams who rushed over 80% of the time like Georgia Tech, Navy and Army got almost the same value from passes as they did form rushes. On the other end, pass happy squads like Texas Tech, Kansas and Houston saw similar production on a per play basis from their running games as they did from their passing games. These teams are still running or passing teams, but their play calling balance has found an equilibrium where they are maximizing their total points by finding balance, even if they are calling a lot more of one type of play than another.
You can see that Michigan St and Notre Dame are both outliers in their respective deviations in success between run and pass, despite being towards the middle (especially MSU) when it comes to run pass selection.
This data does not include games for any team versus non D1 opponents (Baby Seal U). Only plays when the lead is 2 TDs or less or if the game is still in the first half are counted. Points per play uses my expected points model and is adjusted based on opponents played. Interceptions are included in this analysis but fumbles, fumble returns and interception returns are not. Including fumbles pushes the balance to passing as fumbles are more likely to occur on running plays than pass plays. Most of that difference is negated if you include returns as interceptions are much more likely to be returned than fumbles and the total value of interception returns is nearly equal to the difference between fumbles on running plays versus passing plays. The net of it all is that excluding fumbles and returns does not materially affect any of the data above.