spoiler alert: i linked this
Question; can a game that unfolds almost exactly the way you thought it would unfold be considered "weird?"
Chappell looked like a great pocket passer. Willis did his damage in limited oportunities. Denard was Denard (except when he wasn't).
But here's the weird thing. That game made me feel a whole lot better about the years to come, but it also made me feel a whole lot worse about the rest of this season. That is to say that I've come back down from the ND high of WOOOOOO dENARD!!!! WHOOOOHHHOOOO! Back down to 7-5 or 8-4 reasonable expectations. (Yes it is entirely possible we go 2-5 from here on out, and I'm steeling myself against that scenario. Still hoping for 12-0 of course!)
I know the mathlete just put up some good predictions that has us at 9 or so wins. Unfortunately our defense has a couple of things that just aren't going to be fixable for this season. Those two things are named 'inexperience' and 'James Rodgers'. It's never nice to get on a kid's case and call him out by name, but...yeah.
HOWEVAH! In the near ironic board meltdown following the close win, I had to take a stand against some of the negativity and offer up some silver lining for the maligned defense. After breaking down the tape, I'm even more convinced that Robinson knows what he's doing, and that we've got brighter days ahead next season and beyond.
We are soooo close to having a good defense. I mean it is litterally just a matter of inches, a few fractions of a second. A defense needs to be consistent to force punts and end drives. We actually managed quite a few of these in the second half. The 2nd half drives read Punt, TD, TO on downs, TO on downs, Punt, TD, Game. That's not that bad.
Right now we're getting a mediocre play, a good play, and then a breakdown that extends a drive or gives up a TD. If we could just get to mediocre, mediocre, mediocre, good, we'd be stopping teams left and right. But like a chain, we're only as good as our weakest link, and right now we've got lots of young babby links out there that need to get battle hardened.
The good thing is that it looks like some of them have very high ceilings. Talbott, for one, looked half decent in man coverage. Floyd is impressive, even though he still makes lots of mistakes. At least he's making them at full speed. To be as good as he is, as young as he is, is a very good sign. (Of course if JT is reading this, just know that you're no Chuck Woodson, sorry can't let you get a big head)
No it wasn't perfect, no it wasn't good, no it wasn't even satisfactory in any way other than that we got the W. But if you're looking for positive signs, there are plenty to be had. Against 90-some odd plays, the defense only really had 3-4 really bad schematic clusterf*CKs. And it's only fair, (and in fact constructive) to point these out.
Constructive criticism is specifically pointing out mistakes in particular situations. It's not being a chicken little crying for someone to be fired and whining "WHY DID WE ONLY RUSH THR3333??!" If you want to be like that, please do us all a favor and take it somewhere else *cough*mlive*cough*.
When I look at this defense, I'm reminded of watching our offense from 2 years ago. You can see how the scheme is supposed to work. But we've just got too many mental errors or people that can't quite get to where they need to be fast enough. As they get more reps and things become reflexive, this defense will get better. (A few stud bluechips at DB and LB would help a lot too).
So Let's do this.
The 2nd play from scrimmage!
The line gets good movement (as they should against the Hoosiers)
There's an unblocked safety.
But Denard makes him miss.
AND! He gets downfield blocks that send him on his way.
Every week he provides more evidence that he's the real deal. Have you ever seen a cooler customer on the final drive? It's 2nd and 2 with :47 seconds to go.
The clock is running, he just picked up 8 yards on a rush. TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK. Get the damn play called! But Denard is completely zen. He even drops his mouth piece after calling the play, scoops it up,
and calmly rushes the ball to midfield.
Receivers are MAKING PLAYS!
Roundtree, Stonum, and Hemingway are all threats with the ball in their hands. The national media is of course focusing on Denard! (WOOO!) But when receivers are catching the ball, making people miss, and then running 70 yards to the house, they deserve some major props.
This is a base zone read bubble pass:
Both defenders on the end get taken in by the fake.
The hoosiers are actually in great position to either blow up this play or stop it for a moderate gain. There's only one blocker for two defenders.
But because the ball is put perfectly in front of Roundtree, he's got upfield momentum and gets past the first man who had beaten his block.
Then he just runs around the unblocked safety to take it to the distance. Even tho' it is only Indiana, this is still awesome.
Hemingway had his best performance that I can remember.
This is a play Brian gave RPS +4 on, I might argue for more. BOTH safeties and both linebackers are selling out to stop the run.
The man covering the slot is concerned with the bubble pass, leaving an empty mid-zone, i.e. no one between Hemingway and the ball.
And then he displays a nice stiff arm to free him on his jog to the endzone.
And I will never get tired of this play.
Denard takes one step towards the line and the defense craps its pants.
It's just wide open. Make that "Oh, WIDE OPEN."
Griese to Tuman or some other TE on a rollout was my favorite play for a long time, but this has replaced it.
When you're facing 4 or 5 WR, a 3-man rush is not a bad idea because it allows you to run combo coverage behind it.
2-Deep, looks like man coverage underneath, but really it's zone. The man on the slot has good position for run support. The near cornerback is in bump 'n run with the tall and dangerous, but not necessarily quick, Belcher.
Everyone is covered. Rodgers even manages to stay close enough to his man to dissuade a throw against the confusing look, and the 3-man rush gets pressure because Martin beats a double team. Plus we've got 4 extra men in coverage that are just waiting for Chappell to misread it as man coverage and try to force a ball in, so they can get an interception.
Chappell cooly throws it away.
How the D is supposed to work.
Everyone hates the "Bend but don't break" philosophy especially when you end up being broken on half the drives. But in some situations, it is the right call.
It's 3rd and 10 near midfield. If you get a stop, they probably have to punt. Both corners are playing soft. Rogers is playing a bit more soft to compensate for his lack of speed (and reflexes, and acceleration...)
This 2-deep coverage is meant to give the impression of man-to-man (and it would have if Rodgers was in the same time zone as his receiver...)
We've got 4 guys along the first down marker, the only man open is the short crossing route, which we gladly give up because we've got two men in position to make the tackle. Result is a punt.
Mike Martin continues his path of destruction
Sometimes it's nice to have a good scheme.
Sometimes it's nice just to have a player who's been around the block and is a man beast that can lift small cars with one hand.
This is a really well-executed screen by Indiana's linemen.
They get 4 (FOUR!) linemen out in front of the play. But something clicks in Martin's head and he diagnoses what's up.
How many nosetackles can run down a running back from behind? WOW. Mike Martin; Killing ragdolls and savin' our bacon. This would have been an easy TD for them.
Going to the Chappell
In retrospect, we gave this guy way too much time to pick us apart, and he delivered. His decision making was excellent, and he was very quick with most of his reads. The interception was both a bad throw and a bad read, but when a guy throws for 480 on you, there's not much to criticize.
Quit Dossing around
I was impressed with how many ways Indiana was trying to get the ball to Doss. They did an excellent job of taking what we were giving, and taking it all day long. But they had a lot of wrinkles prepared.
On the 1st drive they put him in motion to get an unexpected bubble screen.
Floyd rolls back into a deep cover responsibility. The problem is Rodgers who is probably supposed to move up into more of a run support role. Of course, he's so untalented that the coaches are probably not trusting him to play close to the line, so he stays back.
It looks like a run to the right, and our end man is completely sucked in and roh doesn't go with Doss, leaving him wide open for the bubble screen.
With Rodgers playing so far off his receiver we have what looks like a three deep.
This play picked up huge yards as both of their blockers are holding, which wasn't called.
Later when we faced this motion, we made good adjustments to it schematically.
Because of his offensive line, I think he's going to be an underrated back all year long. He reminds me of a slower version of Evan Royster.
On this play he's got enough burst to split the partially blocked linebackers.
And he nearly runs through Floyd's arm tackle to go the distance, but looks like Floyd put some stickum on and he gets dragged for a lot of yards before finally bringing Willis down.
Here he is releasing to the flat:
We've got the bunch formation well covered, but the OLB to the bunch side is showing a blitz.
It's a disguised coverage meant to get Roh an interception.
Unfortunately, Kovacs is too far beyond the sticks. Chappell sees this and takes advantage.
We're so close to stopping this drive. But the walkon safety doesn't have the speed, so he's playing too far back, and can't come up quick enough.
But we adjusted to it later.
On this play, Floyd reacts to Willis going into the flat.
T-Gord on the other side has the bubblescreen covered. And since it's zone, Floyd is free to pass his man to the LB.
What blows up this play for a TFL is Floyd's aggressiveness coming up and a nice job by the D-linemen to track down the ball.
Talbott had a pretty quiet day, which is a good thing for a DB. He spent most of his day locked onto Belcher in man to man. This is one of the reasons Doss got so many balls thrown to him.
Here they are at the bottom of the screen.
Belcher is bigger and phsyical, but Talbott is fighting nicely.
The combo slant and outcut was just too finely executed on this play to stop. But if you can force the receiver to make a great diving catch to beat you, that's not something to be too broken up about. It's way better than the automatic 7 yards that was being given up wherever Rodgers lines up.
Wait what? Yeah, this is here just to be nitpicky coaching pursuit of perfection stuff. After Denard tweeked his knee, we had a bunch of bad drives in a row. He missed a wide open Hemingway on a pump-and-go:
Had three overthrows in total.
This should have been 6 pts.
And he needs to throw the damn bubble screen more!
Not every play needs to be a 70 yard TD. (MWAHAHAHA, I love that I can even type that sentence). There's 3 defenders for two blockers, but the OLB is flat-footed. Denard needs to read that and take the 5-yard minimum gain. When you've got WRs like ours that can MAKE PLAYS!! you need to give them the ball and not take unnecessary hits to your bruised knee.
Here's another one, This time it's 2 defenders for 1 blocker. But with the corner that far off, it's an automatic 5 yards. Denard, your mission from now until OSU is to win games and DON'T GET HURT!
FWIW, Tate's only pass of the day was a bad screen flare where he put the ball on the wrong shoulder and that killed his only drive.
Inexperience on D
It's really difficult for young players who are seeing funky formations and plays for the first time.
Indiana has 5WR and puts one in motion all the way to the far sideline. We've got 4 deep, (IN THE REDZONE!!?!?) And there's mass confusion.
Nobody goes with the motion man, and we're so far off the ball, we're inviting a 7 yard hitch on either side.
Both OLB's blitz leaving Avery? to cover three men in space. Lucky for us that Chappell decided to take the easy seven yards. Had he thrown to either short man on the right, this would have been an easy TD for them. You have to say this was a bad scheme on this play.
But Indiana tried to come right back to it.
This time, we're locked into tighter man coverage. Maybe that's only because we're on the goaline, but at least this alignment doesn't look completely insane like the previous one did.
I'm a big advocate for this kind of combo package coverage where you've got some men in zone coverage, but the others 'look' like they're in man. The whole point is to make it difficult on the opposing QB. And only rushing 3 allows us to do that.
And when Mike Martin is busting through the line, it makes you think you can get away with a 3-man rush.
But Chappell is a cool customer and sidesteps the rush just enough to buy some time and find the open man, who gets behind a flat-footed Mouton.
A lesser QB could not have made this play against this D. We've got good coverage all over the field and a man about to run him over. But he still finds the right receiver and delivers a good ball under pressure.
Good call: Mouton is just a step slow to react. Chappell makes a great read and throw under pressure.
Sometimes, we've got guys in position, but they're just not quite aware of the sticks or reacting quick enough to what's in front of them.
On this play, #5 is in position to make the tackle, he's just too far behind the sticks.
So Doss muscles forward for the 1st down. It would have helped if Roh had taken a better angle.
Does the "J" in J.T. stand for Journeyman?
Floyd spent his second week in a row being moved all over the place. I can understand why they're doing this (he's probably our best DB and we need to get our best athletes on the field.) But with all this moving around, you expect him to get confused occassionally.
On this play he gets caught looking at the underneath crossing route when what he needs to be doing is getting depth in his zone to squeeze off the seam route. The cross will be picked up by Mouton, so his false step here was not going to help anyone. And of course Rodgers was in his usual position.
Floyd leaps for the ball, but between his mistake, and the safety playing way too soft, there's a ton of room for Chappell to lob the ball into. If only Floyd could jump as high as the linebackers in NCAA05, it would have been an automatic interception...
C-Gord does lay a nice lick on the TE who does a good job of holding onto the ball. Gordon had lots of good hits, he just needs to not be giving up so much room underneath.
Here's another play where the safety is back way too far against the bunch formation.
I mean, he's not even in the picture. Literally.
We've got 2 out of 4 receivers decently covered.
But Gordon is way too far off to make a play on this deep out.
Roh in space
So the big controversy on defense this week centers around whether Roh is better utilized as a pass rusher or can he be a true OLB? I tend to lean towards the camp that says he should rush more often than drop, but his athleticism makes it tempting to try more things with him.
Here he is in pass coverage:
He takes one false step going wide instead of getting depth.
And that gives Chappell just enough room to hit the slant.
Schematically he's in the right position. But he's just slow to recognize the play. You need lightning-quick reactions on defense and that comes from experience, film study, and repetitions. Like Alvin Mack, you need to know who to kill and where to go against a huge number of plays.
But for anyone who wants to pick on GERG, just look at this later play when Roh gets it right:
Against the bunch formation, Roh gets depthin because Rodgers (who again isn't in the same area code as his receiver) has outside flat responsibilities.
This was one of the few poor decisions Chappell made (the other was the interception). He has the flat for the 1st down, but gets greedy and goes back to the seam route. This time, Roh is in position to make it a more difficult throw.
Chappell has to get it over his tall reach and overthrows the receiver.
On this play Roh is in a more traditional stack look.
But he doesn't see Doss coming in motion.
And because he doesn't go with Doss, it makes for an easy blocking assignment for the bubble screen.
You can tell that it's a mistake by Roh because the DE is already upfield making Roh's instinctive rush redundant.
But later in the game, he sees it and makes the play:
From virtually the same alignment, this time he picks up Doss and slides outside of the DE.
Kovacs (who is by far our smartest player, if I could put his mind and heart into Mouton's body, and then clone them, we'd be just fine on Defense) is not letting the TE get a free release, something I think we should do more of. One of the LBs is going with Willis.
Everyone is in pretty good coverage, except the comeback route is open for a 1 yard gain. I don't mind giving that up.
The Gordons and Talbot look fairly talented and will get better with more PT; they just need to tighten up to the receivers and react a hair quicker, but they look like they'll be solid next year.
Denard's fumbled snap.
He also put it on the ground on another run. This needs to be fixed. When WVU was really clicking, the only time they lost was when they had oodles of turnovers. With our defense we cannot afford to not score on drives.
James "Serta" Rodgers.
I've probably covered this enough already, but just to summarize, he is the weakest link. No, that's not surprising given what's happened to the depth chart at corner.
It's so bad that it's hard to tell who he's covering and whether he's supposed to be in zone or man. He's just kind of over there on one side. By the 2nd half, Indiana was actively targeting him on a large percentage of plays. He's giving up the 7-yard out:
ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
It's like he has no idea what the down and distance are. Either that, or he's just not capable of doing anything about it.
This was a 3rd and very long, and he gives up an easy first down.
At this point he needs to be taken off the field on some plays. With opposing offenses looking for him, maybe his absence will cause them a moment of confusion. There's a great story about how QBs were so focused on finding Lawrence Taylor before the snap that one time when he was on the bench, the QB was so confused he had to take a time out.
Seriously, if Cullen Christian or any converted WR can pull a Talbott and just give the impression of being able to cover someone, it'll be a step up from what we've got now. It certainly can't be any worse.
Clusterf*ck against the unbalanced line.
This was probably the single worst defensive play from a schematic standpoint. Give credit to Indiana for coming up with a good play, but we were completely out of position on this and we played it bad on top of that:
Indiana comes out in an unbalanced line. Unfortunately NO ONE sees it. Or at least no one adjusts to it. Doss goes in motion and Floyd floats back as if that was a short corner with no WR over there.
Patterson? is in the wrong gap. It's up to one of the safeties or Ezeh to see the formation and get the nose tackle to slide over. Instead, we've got 4 guys covering two linemen. Just days after I ripped Indiana for doing the same thing against one of their cupcakes, -- guess what -- we did the same thing:
C-Gordon reacts to Doss's end-around fake, and the O-line takes a hard first step to their right. So now, not only are we not lined up right against the unbalanced, they've put us essentially two men down on that side by their at-the-snap movement.
Mouton and Ezeh get sucked in by the fullback heading to the left, and we've got three guys covering air. Meanwhile, since the center has no one to block, he's free to release onto Ezeh.
Floyd takes himself out of the play by following Doss (which is not a terrible thing if he gets the end-around, but it's entirely unnecessary against this unbalanced look. Roh has got it in his mind that he's pass rushing, and that makes for an easy kickout block. Carvin Johnson (#13) is about to be destroyed by someone who weighs about 150 lbs more than him. And C-Gord is so far out of position that there's nothing he can do. But hey, we've got 4 guys who could stop the end-around...
And so Willis gets to run through a hole you could drive a truck through, and laughed his way to the endzone completely untouched.
Not sure what happened with Taylor on the last TD because the cameras cut away. But it might have had something to do with the awesome DOUBLE pancake block he got after Denard had leapt through the hole.
Denard is still TEH AWESOEM! But he has things he needs to work on.
WR, major props.
GERG is not the problem. (Rodgers is)
And Roh has the capability to get better as a LB in space.
Last week we saw Points Per Posession for the offense as a tempo free metric to see how good our O is. With that in mind I wanted to look at PPP for our defense. This is a little tough as the NCAA doesn't put it all together so you have to go back to each drive and pull in the drive numbers. So I went ahead and did that for 2010 so far and got this...
|1||-9||0||Punt||71||7||Rush TD||53||3||FG Good|
|5||48||3||FG Made||19||0||Punt||79||7||Rush TD|
|8||49||0||TO on Downs||24||0||Punt||24||0||Punt|
|9||42||0||TO on Downs||77||0||EOH||70||7||Rush TD|
|11||66||3||FG Made||26||7||Pass TD|
|4||64||7||Rush TD||99||7||Rush TD|
|9||69||7||Rush TD||33||0||TO on Downs|
|10||8||0||Punt||50||0||TO on Downs|
Note that the items in italics were not counted as I decided they shouldn't be counted - a couple other EOH drives were counted because, at least to me, it seemed obvious the other team was definitely trying to score.
All that data chrunched in this:
Ok, so thus far our D is giving up just over 2 points/posession - hmm (and OMG, Thank God IU wasn't as efficient as UMass). That doesn't sound that good - rather than compare it to tOSU or MSU I thought I'd compare it to our 2009, since most of us have a pretty firm grasp on what we thought of that D (I'll update with the rest of the Big Ten next week but I don't have the time just yet). Also, for 2009 I used our first 4 and Delaware State. Chart...
|Opponent||Western||Notre Dame||Eastern||IU||Delaware St|
|1||6||0||Punt||69||0||FG Miss||8||0||Punt||80||7||Rush TD||-1||0||Punt|
|3||6||0||Punt||56||3||FG Made||79||7||Rush TD||-5||0||Punt||5||0||Punt|
|4||0||0||Int||76||7||Pass TD||8||0||Punt||67||7||Rush TD||2||0||Punt|
|6||-14||0||Punt||17||3||FG Good||36||7||Rush TD||52||3||FG Made||14||0||Punt|
|9||80||0||TO on Downs||17||0||Punt||6||0||Punt||8||3||FG Made||14||3||FG Made|
|11||85||7||Pass TD||36||7||Rush TD||55||0||TO on Downs||72||3||FG Made||76||3||FG Made|
Again the italized EOH drives were not counted in the following:
Ok, great, so now we know exactly much worse our D is this year than last year but we also played Sparty last year so let's see how that turned out...
|10||45||0||TO on Downs|
So using that same Sparty 137% over achieving you end up with the D doing this...
Eeek! So how many point are we looking at? Well, the average number of drives faced thus far in 2010 per game is 12 and the average number in 2009 was 13. Last year Sparty had 11 countable drives so I'll call that a wash compared to this year. With that in mind where does that leave this years D vs Sparty?
Well - 2.91*11 = 32 points and if we give them another posession they get 35 points.
Summary - well, it looks like comparing this years data to last years data our D might be giving up another 14 points in this game but our O is also much better. The next natural step is to look at how MSU is performing this year compared to last and merge the two sets of data but, as I said, that's for another week as it's already Thursday and I've got work to do!
My prediction (knocking on wood, throwing salt over shoulder, every other non-jinxing thing you can think of) UM 38-MSU 35 (I think we'll get a 27 yard FG at some point along the way).
I welcome any suggestions/additions and I'll try to update this weekly and expand it to all of the Big Ten and just have summary data in the future so as not to make it too long.
Update: I've updated with the fixed numbers for the IU EOH TD and pushed the prediction to 38-35 - maybe that 27 yard FG will come at the end of the game?
Update 2: For Mat - I've run the Offensive numbers comparing ourselves to last year and, in a word, NNNOOOO!!!!
Keeping UMass and DSU in the calc I ended up with our O only getting 57% of it's expected output (OUCH!) with about 1 posession more per game. Even if we throw in that extra posession our expected offensive output is only 2.058 pts/posession leaving us at 25 points. Of course 09 was bouyed by the DSU game pulling in over 5pts/possession so if we take that out that game you end up with an expected offensive output of 26 for 11 drives or 28 for 12 drives.
Basically, our O is going to have to do MUCH better against their D than they did last year if this is going to be a win because last years O didn't do squat (60% <= squat).
Also, something of note to give hope for this years O vs last years (even after accounting for drive efficiency) is the massive decrease in number of negative yardage drives (not just plays but entire drives!).
2009 negative yardage drives through 4 OOC + IU = 9
2010 negative yardage drives through 4 OOC + IU = 2.
I'm still sticking to my prediction but, hopefully, the UM O will do better against MSU than it did last year otherwise we're going to be hurting.
In case you're curious our O, as mentioned in another diary, is at 3.614 PPP. If Sparty is going to get the 35 points predicted above and we get 12 posessions we'll need 3.166PPP to get to 38 or 3.5PPP to get to 42 - both below our season average.
Again - knocks on wood, throws salt over shoulder, yada yada yada...
Byron Moore (6'1", 205 lbs) is a junior college safety in an interesting situation. Moore was a USC commit for the 2009 class, redshirted his freshman year and decided to transfer to Los Angeles Harbor Community College for this season. As many other players did, Byron left the program after the NCAA sanctions came down. His situation is unique because he is not at the junior college because of grades or any other reason than the fact that he didn't want to sit out another year of football. He's now going through the recruiting process again, and here's what he had to say about Michigan:
TOM: I know it's still early for you, but how will Michigan play into your recruitment this time around?
BYRON: Michigan has called my coach and my dad a few times. They're really handling everything for me right now. Back in high school I had a real good relationship with Coach Dews, so I'm looking forward to talking with him again.
TOM: This is a different situation for you. You had an offer from Michigan initially, but do you have one now? Do they need to re-offer you?
BYRON: Yeah, they technically need to re-offer me I guess. The coaches there told me that if I want to come play for them then I just need to let them know. I basically have an offer from them.
TOM: Are you going to take all your visits again?
BYRON: I'm not sure where I'm going to go yet, but I do get to take my visits again. I'm looking forward to maybe setting up a visit out to Michigan though.
TOM: What other schools are you hearing from now?
BYRON: I'm hearing from Washington State, they came by last Friday, UCLA is calling, and I know Penn State has sent me a few emails. I'm mainly focusing on school right now to make sure my grades are in order. I'm just trying to make it through this year until June and get on my way.
TOM: What are you looking for this time around? Does it help to have experience going through the process once before?
BYRON: I'm pretty much looking for somewhere that I can play right now, and get a good education. Going through the process before helped me a lot. It helped me know what to look for and what questions to ask. It will just make everything easier for me.
**I also spoke with Byron's current head coach, Brett Peabody, who had nothing but good things to say about him.
Byron is a first class human being. He has great parents, and a great home life. I've known him for a while now. He plays both corner and free safety for us right now, and there's no doubt he could play that at a D1 school. There's a reason he was a US Army All American out of high school; he's an exceptional athlete.
He's focusing on his season right now, but Michigan could definitely use this type of player, and someone that could come in to compete right away. Since he's at JUCO for different reasons than most it will be interesting to see if Michigan is a realistic opportunity for him. From everything that I've been told it doesn't sound like it would be much of a problem, but you never know.
Each week I trundle off to my favorite sports bar in Brooklyn, pumped up with expectations that far exceed what could ever possibly happen, promising myself I will behave in front of the other patrons, and that I'll remain calm when inevitably the other team scores or when Michigan goofs up.
And yet I was compelled to blurt out "Don't fumble it! Don't fumble it!" when Cam Gordon picked off Ben Chappell. The singular defensive highlight of the day and I respond as if Michigan had been the team committing a turnover on that play. I got some strange looks for sure.
That's how you know you're traumatized.
We still live under the spectre of the 2009 season and the reality that our defense is likely not going to stop any team we play.
The statistics tell me (Mathlete) that Michigan is absolutely going to win at least another couple Big10 games this year. I am resolutely impatient, however, and cannot wait until Illinois week in November to finally claim "improvement" from 2009. In fact if we lose the next three games - games we had already written off (Brian) no less - we'll be 5-3 and in crisis mode*.
A record of 7-5 was always the most likely outcome. But at 5-0, none of us could stand finishing the season 2-5, for so many reasons. So we reach a tipping point.
Win, and no one can ever claim again that this is 2009 all over again. Reclaim bowl eligibility, set the stage for a run at the Big10 title, and silence one of our most loathed rivals in one fell swoop.
Lose, and face the reality that our defense is going to limit us from getting over .500 in conference play, no matter how amazing and awesome Denard Robinson is.
*It's not really crisis mode when that's what we had as a baseline expectation, but it is the undeniable flaw of reaching 5-3 from 5-0 instead of 2-3.
But what do the numbers say?
Last week I laid out a chart of our opponents and what kind of offensive output we can expect from each.
The numbers predicted a 36.3 (15.7% under) to 32.2 (8.7% under) Michigan victory - the margin of victory (4.1) was exactly correct. I extrapolated those considering likely real football scores and came up with a 42-31 prediction.
We had a turnover neutral game and special teams played no special role, so that levelled out any scoring variance, making these prediction about as accurate as they could be. Not bad for a first time, by the numbers prediction, all things considered.
- Michigan's offense exceeded expectations, netting 80 yards over predicted.
- Michigan's turnover was crucial. It's safe to say that we will lose every game in which we lose the turnover battle.
- I predicted Indiana would kick a field goal. Bill Lynch, however, after losing by three points while kicking four field goals in 2009, decided he was never ever going to only go for three. That attitude was the difference between Indiana's 31 and actual total of 35.
- Michigan's defense lived up to its bad expectations, yielding 175% of expected yardage.
- While Michigan gave up almost double the expected yardage, it yielded precisely 100% of the expected points. This, my friends, is how you would define a bend-not-break defense.
- Prediction wise, Michigan should have had an offensive multiplier greater than 100% against a defense as bad as Indiana.
- Prediction wise, Indiana's multiplier was slightly too low at 125% (actual was 136%). Hard to determine if it was our defense or Ben Chappell that made up that difference. I will assume it was quality play by a senior QB until he proves me very wrong this week @osu.
How about the rest of our opponents?
Chart of Offensive Expectations (through 5 weeks)
N-PPG or Normalized Points-per-game is taken from the teams average PPG with a SoS multiplier factored in to deflate numbers from playing bad competition and inflate numbers based on playing good competition.
N-YPG or Normalized Yards-per-game is calculated using the same SoS multiplier as N-PPG but using this metric will help us determine a less variant guess as to how offenses will perform (PPG is subject to wild variance based on turnovers and special teams).
Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings.
Usage: The chart doesn't predict that #3 would beat #5. Instead it tries to predict with the most accuracy how many points/yards on average each of these teams would score against a common opponent.
Michigan's N-PPG jumps into lead this week after a suspect outing by osu versus Illinois, and further expands their staggering lead in N-YPG, eclipsing 500 yards expected even after it has strength of schedule reducing it to normalized amounts, a full 100 yards more than anyone else on the schedule (120 yards more than anyone else on the Big10 slate).
- There is a full touchdown gap of production between the top two teams and the next five on the list, suggesting a competitive plateau of Iowa-Wisconsin-MSU-Indiana, all shadowed by The Denard Show.
- Indiana makes a leap with their outburst against Michigan. If they can even put up half of those numbers against osu expect their rank to continue to climb upwards as their SoS will jump way up after this week.
- Iowa made modest gains this week after a fairly conservative game against Penn State, which they were in control of the whole way.
- Wisconsin struggled big time against MSU. They are at best the 4th place team in the Big10 behind osu, Iowa and MSU.
- Illinois had as good an opportunity as they were going to get to make a run at an upset (at home, injured opposing QB), but couldn't produce.
- Penn State has been absolutely shut down now by two really good defensive teams (Iowa/Alabama).
- UConn continues to perform decently after two letdowns in their first three games.
- BGSU and UMass fall with their strength of schedule. The rest of the Big10 saw their SoS jump higher this week (duh!).
Conclusions Based on Almost Enough Data
Until given reason to expect otherwise, I am giving our opponents 125% of their N-PPG and 150% of their N-YPG for predictions vs Michigan.
However!!! The elephant in the room is not Michigan's defense. Our defense remains a constant, an ugly constant. The biggest factor remaining is whether or not Michigan can sustain it's offensive play into the Big10 schedule.
Last year, this is where Michigan's offense fell off a cliff. The last seven Big10 games they averaged 20.1 PPG. They did not outgain any of their opponents and they lost the turnover battle nearly every time. Michigan's 2010 unit, however, is light years ahead of where they were last year and, more importantly, healthy (knock on wood).
A week ago had a Big10 best case scenario of 6-2. That remains the outlook this week except instead of our second loss coming from Wisconsin it comes from Iowa (We will beat Wisconsin 37.1 to 37.0!).
In a worst case scenario, wherein our offense drops off to 75-80% of current production and we still yield 125% to our opponents, Michigan will go 3-4 the rest of the way with wins over Purdue, Penn St, and Illinois. This is the same from last week (3-5) except we scratch off Indiana from the possible loss column.
Our new outlook ranges between 8-4 and 10-2!
Bottom line: our record improves with a sustainable, explosive offense. Even with a loss saturday, if our offense still shows up to expectation, we have much to be happy about. If our offense takes a dive, however, run for the hills.
Prediction for Michigan State:
Michigan lost a close game at East Lansing due to primarily yakety sax, snapping issues, and botched fake punts. This year sets up much more favorably for Michigan despite having serious defensive issues.
Here are a couple of statistics that might give us hope:
|Rank||Team||Sacks Allowed||Sack Yards|
|Rank||Team||Third Down||Conversion %|
MSU is 10th in the Big10 in sacks allowed, turnovers coughed up and last in the Big10 in 3rd Down conversions, all of which will play a part in getting our defense off the field. Sparty is also the most penalized team in the Big10 (41 penalties for 362 yards).
In addition MSU, unlike Indiana, will kick field goals - they are 7 for 7 on the year.
NSFMF! MSU has a more experienced QB and a better rushing game than last year. What would you call a Chappellbomb that happens mostly on the ground? A Bakerrush? A Bellringing? A Capernickledandy? Whatever it's called, that's the likeliest of outcomes.
But based strictly on the numbers:
|Team||PPG vs Mich||YPG vs Mich|
It's sobering to see 35 points and 500+ yards as an expected value. Yet there is reasonable hope we will maintain yardage parity with such ridiculous numbers.
I sincerely doubt MSU will hold Michigan to their defense's season average of 101 yards rushing. If they do, it will be a blow-out for Sparty. Last year Michigan gained 28 rushing yards on 28 rushing attempts. You can bet the house that won't happen again.
Even if you believe the assertion that "Michigan hasn't played any real defense yet", you can't argue with the fact that all five opposing defenses have yielded their largest yardage totals on the season (tpilews).
The numbers say 37.1 - 35.1 in favor of Michigan but I can't help but feeling this is a game where special teams is finally going to cost us. Yet after all of this analysis, everything is evenly divided, so I'm not going to pick against Dilithium at home.
Michigan State 38
/By Saturday at 3:30 I will have convinced myself Michigan is going to win 49-14.
[Ed: bump for wow.]
There have been numerous threads on MGoBoard about Denard's assault on the record books. In order to minimize the obligatory complaining about multiple threads, I thought I would consolidate all of the requisite information in this diary. I will update it after every game. If you have found an interesting statistic or record that you think I should add to this list, please put it in the comments section and I'll add it to the original post (and give you credit).
Denard is rightly focused on winning, and not on his stats. But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't enjoy his remarkable statistical achievements, while also rooting for the team to win. We haven't had a player who could challenge for NCAA offensive records at Michigan in a long, long time.
Let me note that all the records here are for Division I-A (FBS). I don't really care about who did what in the other divisions, given the inferior level of competition. Something to keep in mind is that the record books don't seem to go back before World War II; it's not clear how rigorously school, conference, and NCAA records were kept before then. One has to assume that Fielding Yost's point-a-minute teams would have harbored some record-producing players (though the game was quite different then; the forward pass was only formally legalized in 1906). So, to be as precise as possible, we should describe all of these records as modern-era records.
So, here goes:
Record of the Week
Here's an interesting one: if Denard rushes for 100 yards against Sparty, he will be the first quarterback in NCAA FBS history to rush for at least 100 yards in 6 consecutive games. Five quarterbacks, including Denard, have run for at least 100 yards in 5 consecutive games, but no one has done it in 6:
- Beau Morgan, Air Force, 1995
- Brian Madden, Navy, 1999
- Joe Webb, UAB, 2009
- Ricky Dobbs, Navy, 2009
- Denard Robinson, MICH, 2010
Rushing Yards by a QB, Single-Game
Denard currently holds the Michigan and Big Ten records for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game: 258 vs. Notre Dame. The NCAA FBS record is 308, on 22 attempts, by Stacey Robinson of Northern Illinois, against Fresno State, on Oct. 6, 1990.
Rushing Yards by a QB, Single-Season
Denard currently has 905 rushing yards in 5 games. This projects to 2,172 over a 12-game schedule (yes, I am aware that stiffer competition is ahead). He has already destroyed the previous Michigan record for QB rushing yards in a season: 674 by Steve Smith in 1981.
Before you get too overwhelmed by all the numbers in this diary, just stop and think about that for a minute. Denard Robinson, your starting Michigan quarterback, playing before your very eyes, is on pace to more than triple a Michigan football record. And not just any record, but one that has stood for three decades. Even if you account for the fact that we're playing a very different style of football now—it's just incredible.
And if you think Smith's 674 yards are shabby, at 56.2 yards per game—back in the days before Communist Football—keep in mind that Comrade Pryor, the second-most-heralded dual-threat QB in the country today, has rushed for 373 yards, or 74.6 yards per game. Denard is at 181.0 yards per game.
The Big Ten record is 1,270 by Antwaan Randle El of Indiana in 2000; the NCAA FBS record is 1,494 by Beau Morgan of Air Force in 1996. Both of these records are easily within reach. Denard only has to average 84.2 rushing yards a game over the rest of the regular season to break the NCAA FBS record.
Rushing Yards by a QB, Career
There's no point in projecting Denard's career rushing totals, since we don't even know how he'll do this year (or if his knee will hold up), nor if he will stay for his senior season. But here are the records:
Michigan's record is held by Rick Leach (1975-1978) at 2,176 yards. (Guys like Leach and Steve Smith must salivate at what they could have done in the offense of Comrade Rodriguez.) The Big Ten record is Antwaan Randel El's (1998-2001) at 3,895 yards. The NCAA FBS record is held by Pat White (2005-2008) at 4,480 yards.
The NCAA FBS per-game career record is 109.1 yards by Stacey Robinson of Northern Illinois, achieved from 1988-1990 over 25 games.
Rushing Records (At Any Position)
For a single game, the Michigan record is 347 by Ron Johnson in 1968 against Wisconsin; the Big Ten record is 377 by Anthony Thompson of Indiana in 1989 against Wisconsin; the NCAA FBS record is 406 by LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU in 1999 against UTEP.
For a single season, the Michigan record is 1,818 yards (Tshimanga Biakabutuka, 1995); the Big Ten record is 2,109 yards (Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1996); the NCAA FBS record is 2,628 yards (Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State, 1988).
That Barry Sanders record will be around for a while, but remember that Denard is on pace for 2,172; if he is somehow able to maintain his current pace, he would get past Ron Dayne and into first place all-time in the Big Ten at any position.
For a career, the Michigan record is held by Mike Hart (5,040 yards, 2004-2007); the Big Ten record is held by Ron Dayne (7,125 yards, 1996-1999); the NCAA FBS record is also held by Ron Dayne, but they list it as 6,397 yards. (Herschel Walker of Georgia holds the record for a 3-year career at 5,259 yards, set from 1980-1982.)
The 200/200 Club
Much has been made of the fact that Denard is the only player in FBS history to gain 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing twice in regular-season games. To me this is a silly distinction—who cares if it was done in the regular season or a bowl game? If anything, Vince Young's performance in the 2005 Rose Bowl against USC is even more remarkable, given that that USC team is considered one of the most dominant teams of the modern era. Wake me up when Denard gets his third 200/200 game.
Anyway, here are the 200/200 games listed in the NCAA record book, sorted by total offense. You'll note that Denard is the only member of the 240/240 club, and Marques Tuiasosopo is the only member of the 200/300 club.
|Player||Team (Opponent)||Year||Rushing||Passing||Total Off.|
|Marques Tuiasosopo||Washington (Stanford)||1999||207||302||509|
|Vince Young||Texas (Oklahoma St.)||2005||267||239||506|
|Denard Robinson||MICH (Notre Dame)||2010||258||244||502|
|Denard Robinson||MICH (Indiana)||2010||217||277||494|
|Reds Bagnell||Penn (Dartmouth)||1950||214||276||490|
|Brad Smith||Missouri (Nebraska)||2005||246||234||480|
|Brian Mitchell||La.-Lafayette (Colo. St.)||1987||271||205||476|
|Antwaan Randle-El||Indiana (Minnesota)||2000||210||263||473|
|Vince Young||Texas (USC Rose Bowl)||2005||200||267||467|
|Patrick White||W. Va. (Pittsburgh)||2006||220||204||424|
|Steve Gage||Tulsa (New Mexico)||1986||212||209||421|
The 1000/1000 Club
There are 36 quarterbacks (and one halfback, Johnny Bright of Drake) in FBS who have run and thrown for 1000 yards in the same season. Of these, none have both run and passed for 1500 yards (the rushing record for QBs is 1,494). Notably, only two people have joined the 1000/1000 club as freshmen: Brad Smith of Missouri, and Joshua Cribbs of Kent State. Air Force leads the list with five different QBs, in six different seasons, in the 1000/1000 club. (It is interesting that an instrument of American capitalist imperialism, the U.S. Air Force Academy, is the premier exponent of Communist Football.)
Denard can join the 1000/1000 club—halfway through the season—by rushing for 95 yards against MSU (he has already thrown for 1,008). If he stays healthy, he should easily become the first member of the 1500/1500 club. I've sorted this list by rushing yards.
|Beau Morgan||Air Force||1996||1,494||1,210||2,704|
|Patrick White||W. Virginia||2007||1,335||1,724||3,059|
|Dee Dowis||Air Force||1989||1,286||1,285||2,571|
|Beau Morgan||Air Force||1995||1,285||1,165||2,450|
|Antwaan Randle El||Indiana||2000||1,270||1,783||3,053|
|Johnny Bright (HB)||Drake||1950||1,232||1,168||2,400|
|Chance Herridge||Air Force||2002||1,229||1,062||2,291|
|Patrick White||W. Virginia||2006||1,219||1,655||2,874|
|Keith Boyea||Air Force||2001||1,216||1,253||2,469|
|Dwight Dasher||Middle Tenn.||2009||1,154||2,789||3,943|
|Dan LeFevour||Central Mich.||2007||1,122||3,652||4,774|
|Joshua Cribbs||Kent State||2002||1,057||1,014||2,071|
|Josh Nesbitt||Ga. Tech||2009||1,037||1,701||2,738|
|Bart Weiss||Air Force||1985||1,032||1,449||2,481|
|Ell Roberson||Kansas St.||2002||1,032||1,580||2,612|
|Brad Smith (Fr.)||Missouri||2002||1,029||2,333||3,362|
|Joshua Cribbs (Fr.)||Kent State||2001||1,019||1,516||2,535|
|Reggie Collier||So. Miss.||1981||1,005||1,004||2,009|
Denard already owns the Michigan single-game total offense record (502 yards against Notre Dame), and is on pace to annihilate John Navarre's single-season total offense record of 3,240 in 2003 (Denard projects to an astounding 4,591 yards after 5 games).
The Big Ten single-game total offense record is 585 yards by Dave Wilson of Illinois, vs. Ohio State in 1980. The Big Ten single-season total offense record is 4,189 yards by Drew Brees of Purdue in 2000: also within Denard's reach.
The NCAA total offense records are dominated by prolific passers. Those records appear to be unattainable by Denard: 732 yards for a single game (David Klingler, Houston vs. Arizona State, 1990); 5,976 for a season (B.J. Symons, Texas Tech, 2003); 16,910 for a career (Timmy Chang, Hawaii, 2000-2004).
Total Offense Per Play
As with total offense records, these will be tough for Denard to keep pace with, but he is right up there at the moment. Through the Indiana game, Denard has 1,913 yards of total offense in 194 plays, for an average of 9.9.
Here are the NCAA FBS records for a single game: 14.3 by Jason Martin (La. Tech vs. Toledo, 1996) in 37 plays and 9.9 by David Klingler (Houston vs. TCU, 1990) in 63 plays. Denard came pretty close to Martin in the Indiana game, where in 35 plays he averaged 14.1 yards per play (which is almost certainly a Michigan and quite likely a Big Ten record):
|Game||Attempts + Carries||Total Offense||Yards per Play|
|Jason Martin (La. Tech vs. Toledo, 1996)||37||529||14.30|
|David Klingler (Houston vs. TCU, 1990)||63||625||9.92|
|Colt Brennan (Hawaii, 2006 season)||645||5,915||9.17|
|Sam Bradford (Oklahoma, 2007-09 career)||970||8,439||8.70|
As you can see in the table, for a single season (minimum 3,000 yards), the record is: 9.2 by Colt Brennan (Hawaii, 2006). For a career (minimum 7,500 yards): 8.7 by Sam Bradford (Oklahoma, 2007-2009).
Other Michigan Passing Records
At the end of 2009, here were some of the other Michigan passing records. Denard could break some of the completion percentage and pass efficiency records (Tate broke one as well):
- Highest completion percentage, game (min. 10 attempts): 92.3% (Jim Harbaugh, vs. Purdue, 1985, 13 attempts) (Broken by Tate Forcier, 100% in 12 attempts, vs. Bowling Green)
- Highest completion percentage, game (min. 20 attempts): 90.9% (Elvis Grbac, vs. Notre Dame, 1991, 22 attempts) (Denard is 2nd with 86.3% on 22 attempts vs. Connecticut)
- HIghest completion percentage, season (min. 100 attempts): 65.3% (Todd Collins, 1992) (Denard is at 69.8% with 96 attempts)
- Highest completion percentage, career (min. 200 attempts): 64.3% (Todd Collins, 1991-1994) (Denard is at 63.8% with 127 attempts, good for 2nd all-time)
- Highest efficiency rating, season (min. 100 attempts): 173.3 (Bob Chappuis, 1947) (Denard is at 180.0 after 5 games)
- Highest efficiency rating, career (min. 200 attempts): 148.1 (Elvis Grbac, 1989-1992)
- Yards per completion, game (min. 5 completions): Rick Leach, 36.3 vs. Purdue, 1975 (Denard's best is 27.7 with 10 attempts vs. Indiana, good for 4th all-time)
- Yards per completion, game (min. 10 completions): Jim Harbaugh, 30.0 vs. Indiana, 1986 (Denard's 27.7 Indiana performance good for 2nd all-time)
- Yards per completion, season (min. 60 completions): Bob Chappuis, 18.8, 1947 (Denard is at 15.0 with 67 completions, good for 7th all-time)
- Yards per completion, career (min. 120 completions): Rick Leach, 17.1, 1975-1978 (Denard is at 14.8 with 81 completions, good for 8th all-time)
Other Michigan Rushing Records
At the end of 2009, here were the other relevant Michigan rushing records. On average yards per carry, he owns one of the single-game records Michigan tracks, but is surprisingly far from the other ones (not that that couldn't change in a hurry). The single-season and career records are within reach:
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 5 carries): 25.80, Denard Robinson vs. Bowling Green (previous record was Leroy Hoard, 18.28 ypc vs. Indiana, 1988)
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 10 carries): 18.00, Rob Lytle vs. MSU, 1976 (Denard: 11.42 vs. Indiana on 19 carries)
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 15 carries): 15.70, Tyrone Wheatley vs. Washington, 1993 Rose Bowl (Denard: 11.42 vs. Indiana on 19 carries)
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 20 carries): 11.19, Ron Johnson vs. Wisconsin, 1968 (Denard: 9.21 vs. Notre Dame on 28 carries)
- Average gain per rush, single-season (min. 75 carries): 7.34, Tyrone Wheatley, 1992 (Denard 2010: 9.23)
- Average gain per rush, career (min. 200 carries): 6.29, Jon Vaughn, 1989-1990 (Denard: 7.52 on 167 carries)
- 100-yard rushing games, season: 10, Jamie Morris, 1987 (Denard has 5)
- 150-yard rushing games, season: 6, Anthony Thomas, 2000 (Denard has 3)
- 200-yard rushing games, season: 3, Mike Hart, 2004 (Denard has 2)
Thanks to tf (Michigan rushing single-game record) and danieljpaul (Denard's season totals) for corrections. H/T to tubauberalles and enlightenedbum for tracking down the FBS single-game QB rushing record. Raoul and UM in VA persuaded me to post the total offense numbers, and pointed out Denard's ridiculous per-play stats, which I also added to the diary.
I feel like there hasn’t been enough analysis leading into the Michigan/Michigan State game this weekend, so I have really wanted to contribute. It occurred to me that we have a metric that has not been tapped yet (to my knowledge): mgoblog’s Fear/Paranoia and Desperate need to win levels. These numbers, part of every game preview, offer a window into the psyche of a man who spends his week living and breathing Michigan football. Certainly something must be gained from this data.
I started by averaging each level based on whether Michigan won or lost the game. I used every game Brian has predicted since the beginning of the 2006 season. The averages are as follows:
F/P: Fear/Paranoia level
D: Desperate need to win level
So this makes sense. When Michigan is rolling, Brian tends to be less afraid, and more desperate to keep the trend going. When Michigan is not doing so well, opposing teams tend to freak him out more, and the F/P level goes up. At the same time, Henri the Otter of Ennui starts making appearances, and Brian becomes less enthusiastic about Michigan’s chances of doing anything right ever; the D level goes down.
This is interesting, but we also have another variable in each game’s preview: Brian’s prediction. What happens when we combine these levels with Brian’s prediction for the outcome of the game? We get the following:
Bad Upset = Win predicted, but Michigan loses
Predicted Loss = Loss predicted, Michigan loses
Predicted Win = Win predicted, Michigan wins
Good Upset = Loss predicted, but Michigan wins
When the prediction matches the outcome, these numbers line up pretty well with the Win/Lose averages up above. But it’s interesting to see what happens when the prediction is incorrect. When Brian’s F/P starts to creep up over the 'Win' average, and the D level starts dropping, watch out for the upset against Michigan. Also, look at the ‘Good Upset’ numbers … granted, the data set is small because rarely does Brian predict a loss and get it wrong, however this is somewhat amusing. When the opposition looks frighteningly good (or Michigan just looks terrible), and Brian loses all hope and turns up the Morrissey, look for the Michigan win. The key is the D level has to drop; if both F/P and D both go up, it will likely be a loss.
In conclusion, the Fear/Paranoia and Desperate need to win levels are a force to be reckoned with. This is not a semi-humorous tally of + and - at the end of each preview, these are actually a reliable indicator as to the result of the game. These should be carefully reviewed this Friday to get an idea of what Michigan has in store for Michigan State. Actually, in all seriousness, I was surprised to see these numbers made any sense at all when totaled like this!