Note: The data is from Rivals; I recognize that they have some different class (fresh, soph, etc.) info than I expected on some players, but for consistency, I used their data as published.
I am no Steve Sharik or gsimms, but after watching Iowa play defense Saturday night, I have to report back to Houston that there is a problem, and it’s not just our players. I just don’t buy Brian’s comment in his “Soaring” post that “Michigan's recruiting was wildly deficient in more than one area and will be an anchor going forward.” We may lack depth, but the guys on the front lines are supposed to be studs. Individually, many look like studs – Graham and Warren and Martin and Roh and even Brown this year – but put them together and Indiana shreds us.
Iowa's defense is better than ours. A lot better. This doesn't surprise anyone reading this, but the point I wish to make is not that they are better, but how in the name of Shiva the Destroyer is such a thing possible?
Let's look at the two defenses:
The Iowa defense is younger than ours overall and features a less-experienced secondary that averages 5.3 for a Rivals Rating, or a middle range two-star. Brian says about Michigan, “There is exactly one junior and no seniors at both safety and cornerback.” Iowa has less experience. Yet my gut tells me – with absolute certainty – Darryl Clark will have a far better day against our secondary. Who wants to take me up on that bet?
In general, their players are more lowly rated at every position (possible exception of one LB), often significantly so, with players converted from the offensive side of the ball (a TE turned DL) and one playing out of position.
Now one of two things is true.
- All our studs coming out of high school were overrated and we can say things like Cissoko isn’t good and Van Bergen isn’t good and our LBs aren’t good with a straight face and a shrug towards our bad evaluation of talent over two coaches, or
- Our coaching/scheme is flawed. The front line talent is there (no depth, I know), but they either haven’t been developed or the system hurts their performance.
Occam’s Razor makes it difficult to accept that our stud HS talent was pretty much collectively overrated, and Iowa’s meh HS talent was pretty much vastly underrated. Ferentz would have given a kidney to have Cissoko or Warren or Graham or Brown or Mouton or Martin. He doesn’t have enough organs to bargain with the devil to get those types of players with mega-hype coming out of HS, yet he easily is fielding a better defense that probably would have consumed Indiana whole without any sauce.
As for the “new system” argument – that switching from Shafer to Robinson has resulted in our guys being at the start of a new learning curve – I accept some of that, but not all. Now, I will defer to Sharik or gsimms to tell me whether a new system can transform studs into non-studs, but it would seem to me that stopping Eastern in the first half or stopping Indiana at all would frequently be possible with raw stud talent playing by instinct.
Please understand that I am not traditionally negative, and that I am really seeking an answer from people who know more about football than I do. Is our system/defensive coordinator sound? Are most of our players overrated? Would Iowa's starters on defense playing for Michigan and GERG be playing at the same high level? Or would Brian be observing that an unrated player (a walk-on, I assume) was playing in the secondary?
- I agree about the blame for the defense this year not being squarely on the coaches on the field right now. I kinda agree with the lack of recruiting in the last years of Lloyd, but i also think it has something to do with the lack of individula technique coaching going on by position coaches during the last few years of Lloyd's tenure. There were times we got burned rushing three and their were times we got burned rushing more. There were times we got stops rushing three and were times we got stops rushig more. The last thing that is causing problems is the schemes right now.
- The biggest difference from the defense this year and last year is the offense. Many of the same weaknesses are showing their faces this year, the difference is now the offense can respond. Points per game are about the same (totally off the top of my head, and im sure they could be wrong)
- Also, Van Bergen was the backside defensive tackle… it's hard to imagine what his assignment was that could have prevented Indiana from running outside the other OT.
This is EXACTLY why i try to harp on the fact that without knowing the particular play call, responsibility, coaching point etc. its impossible to assign blame, or praise for most players on most plays. Its fun to do so, but its just impossible to do. I cant even rate my own calls and players without refering to our call sheets from the game.`
anyway just soem observations from the latest post. Im excited about the future for michigan, i still love the music and the atmosphere that seems to be pretty wild from the couch i enjoy from. Perhaps if i was season ticket holder, i would think differently...
The Eyeball Test
Pos USC Star UM Star
DE Wes Horton 6-5, 245 4* Brandon Graham 6-2, 263 5*
DE* Everson Griffen 6-3, 265 5* Craig Roh 6-4, 238 4*
NT Christian Tupou 6-2, 280 4* Mike Martin 6-2, 291 4*
DT Jurrell Casey 6-1, 295 4* Ryan Van Bergen 6-6, 261 4*
LB Michael Morgan 6-4, 220 4* Jonas Mouton 6-2, 218 4*
LB Malcolm Smith 6-1, 225 NR Stevie Brown 6-0, 211 4*
LB Chris Galippo 6-2, 255 5* Obi Ezeh 6-2, 243 3*
CB Josh Pinkard 6-2, 210 3* Donovan Warren 6-0, 187 5*
CB Kevin Thomas 6-1, 185 4* Boubacar Cissoko 5-9, 177 4*
S Will Harris 6-1, 200 4* Troy Woolfolk 6-0, 183 3*
S Taylor Mays 6-3, 230 5* Michael Williams 5-11, 190 4*
With a quick scan, we are fairly close with the exception of the entire secondary which just is what it is at this point and Roh who is a LB playing at DE. Some items of note.
- BG really should be playing like Griffen where he is able to stand up. Locking in with a Tackle in a 3/4-pt stance is less terrifying than having him bull rush every play. This is not rocket science, but we were talking about him breaking the sack record this year. However, he cannot move him because of dline depth which necessitates Roh as an early starter before putting on his 20 lbs of growth which gets his body type in the ballpark.
- MM is left pulling double teams due to RVBs lack of size which also puts him as a play making disadvantage. The dude is super athletic and his quickness would benefit from having a space eater next to him instead of having to be a space eater on most plays.
- The kick in the ass is really losing Graves and Jones last year since you needed the extra bodies and can't create a line of DE-Graham, Van Bergen, Banks, Patterson DT- Martin, Sagesse, Campbell. At this point, I wouldn't have minded seeing an attempt at this by moving Patterson down and playing Roh as a pass rusher to add depth. Not sure why this was not tried. We had Big Will for 9 months. I have a theory that is picked up at the end.
- The middle LB is a 5* LB who was a LB instead of a converted LB. Maybe that is trick I am not sure. But Galippo made a pick during the OSU game and I doubt if Obi could cover a elderly, asthmatic lady walking a crossing route. Again, this is addressed later.
Robinson is working with some unmatched parts and he had to take a system gamble with what he was able to determine based on his limited interactions with our players. I am concerned that the current recruiting class does not add the depth we need to make him successful. Maybe we can have the "talk" with a few guys (looking the direction of the slots) so we can add the numbers so our team starts looking physically like a USC lineup (maybe not as talented). The GERG still gets a pass, I see where he is going and understand why we are in this position.
On the other hand, our assistant coaches have had an extra year with the team and are the common pieces from the worst statistical unit and potentially the second worst statistical unit if this pace continues. My concerns are as follows:
Tall- You have an early enrolling DT that was considered by many people to follow football recruiting to be a monster (not just my opinion and yes that is as good a the coach's opinion). You needed to build these guys better to provide different dline options for GERG.
Hopson- You have 2 positions to worry about, both positions look lost. I can't add more than what has been said. I would be surprised if you are still in the same zip code next year.
Gibson- The NFL DB you inherited is playing pretty good. Too bad you are not doing more with the other pieces. Vlad was out a year with a leg, Kovacs was out a year with a leg, but the one who has 3 inches and 20 lbs on the other is on the sideline. I am sure Vlad could have taken a bad angle on the RB as well in the Indy game, maybe he would have made a play elsewhere. Speaking of which, I am sure Brandon Smith can run blitz like Kovacs. Maybe cover like Shazor, but has a better chance of sending a guy off in a stretcher. Gibson, get to work man because that guy is now a LB and you need to show some player development.
Depth/Recruiting- Really this about creating competition at this point. The walk-on program is a defensive feeder and I cannot believe that our guys are getting pushed the way they need to. I like Wilkins being able to come in with his body type, Talbott has a chance if he hangs out with Alex Mitchell all summer and the rest need to grow if you slot them into the prototypical sizes by position which means our recruiting class as it stands will provide little relief and we will be rolling the same D (minus graduation) next year unless we get some other fall surprises.
Unfortunately, I feel we will be outscoring teams even into next year. The one benefit being extra experience in the system and hopefully some assistant coaching turnover. I think GERG can get us there, he will need some tools to do so.
Last week I gave a link to the individual ballots of all of the AP voters. I thought it was interesting to see what the individual ballots were of each voter. What I found is that I would estimate only half of these guys actually watch college football games other than the team that they are covering. In my opinion many of these guys just throw a team at the top, give some love to their home team, and love to vote for the conference that they primarily cover. Now I know that the AP poll does not have a direct relationship with the BCS anymore, but I do feel like it effects the voting culture of the Harris Poll and possibly even the Coaches' Poll.
Why do I say this you might ask?
This topic was discussed on ESPN's College GameDay by a couple of guys that have votes in the AP Poll, Kirk Herbstreit and Craig James. FWIW I would qualify them as competent voters, because they watch national college football as a job. Both of them believed that there were/are voters in the poll that do not do their diligence in producing a quality, non-bias ranking system.
So why am I doing this?
I feel like there are people on this site that love college football, and watch a lot more of it than the so called "expert" voters from the AP. If you have the sports package from Comcast, than you can watch 8-10 college games at a time on Saturday Afternoon, not to mention some during the week, and my opinion is that you cannot have to much college football. So the answer is that I feel like I am just as qualified to vote as these guys, and so are most of you, and I wanted to give you guys a place to discuss the entire Top 25 every week.
OK, a couple quick things to before my Top 25. 1) I chose the AP Poll because I feel like it is the most debated/discussed one during the week due to ESPN featuring it as their ranking system of choice. 2) I know we have the blog poll on the website, but we all do not vote on that, and I want to know what each of you think individually, because you can never have to much college football debate/opinion.
My TOP 25
- Virginia Tech
- Boise State
- Oklahoma State
- Miami (FL)
- Penn State
- Ohio State
- Georgia Tech
- No Cal- You cannot lose 42-3 and be a Top 25 team
- You get some credit from me for being undefeated, if you have played anyone at all. I will never think it is easy to win football games.
- If you lose you fall. If you lose to a team that loses to a bad team that hurts you. (See Ohio State)
- My 26th team would be South Florida
- Missouri is good and gets no love, same for UCLA
- You can "claw your way back" by winning games against good teams (Oregon)
- Credit for really good wins (Miami, Iowa, Houston, Boise State)
- If you win, no matter how you win, you still won and should not be punished, unless the win was really close and against a team that is so bad that it was embarrassing.
weighted percentage = (red zone TDs + 0.5 * red zone FGs) / total red zone trips
Yes, I know that a TD usually winds up being worth 7 points, but a 2:1 value for TDs vs. FGs seemed like a good starting point. Why did I bother doing this? Well, mostly just to see if numbers justified my perception that regardless of how the defense as a whole plays, it's really tightened up inside the 20s. How do we measure up? Well, I put the whole Big 10 on a...
|School||Drives||Red zone %||Rank||Weighted red zone %||Weighted rank||PPT|
|Wisconsin||13||92 %||102||81 %||110||5.46|
|Michigan State||12||100 %||111(t)||88 %||113||5.92|
|Ohio State||5||100 %||111(t)||90 %||118||6.40|
Note - "Red zone %" and "Rank" are the defensive numbers straight from the NCAA website, and the weighted numbers are mine.
So what does this mean?
It's still early in the season, but we can start to see a few things.
- First, I was right - Michigan is near the top of the conference, and has done a pretty good job of keeping folks out of the endzone when they get inside the 20.
- Holy hell, MSU. If we get in the red zone, we should get points - probably 6 of them.
- Iowa's interesting - every red zone trip, they've given up a score. However, they've done a damn god job of limiting people to field goals. (Admittedly, that's on only 7 drives.)
- Penn State's been pretty darn good, allowing a TD on only 25% of their red zone trips.
- Before you start gloating about OSU being at the bottom of the list, look at the number of drives. That's right, they're allowing an average of 1.25 red zone drives per game. Of course, they gave up touchdowns on almost every trip, but small sample size blah blah.
- Virginia Tech checks in at #4 nationally, allowing TDs on only 4 of their 17 defensive red zone trips. They must put something in the water in Blacksburg, cause that's ridiculous.
- Oklahoma and Florida are #2 and 5, respectively. It's just not fair to put defenses that tough opposite offenses with the kind of firepower they have (assuming their QBs are healthy, anyway.)
EDIT - I added in the "PPT" column. This is the "points per red zone trip" metric discussed in the comments, and it's what I used for my red zone offense post here. This didn't change the rankings too much - if I reranked based on the new metric, Wisconsin would leapfrog Northwestern and Illinois by a slim margin, but that's it. Also of interest is that using the PPT metric, OSU gets jumped by Arizona and Louisiana-Monroe, leaving the Bucks dead last in NCAA D1A. That makes me smile inside, even if it is just an artifact of a small sample size.
The tops, in no particular order:
1. Clemson - This may seem like an odd pick for a hard place to play because Clemson hasn't done that well in general this season (2-2, 1-1 ACC), it's hard to say that their version of "Death Valley" hasn't been loud; it's been VERY loud, but unfortunately for Tiger fans, it hasn't meant much. Last week's TCU match-up was a very loud game despite only 10 points and a loss for the Tigers.
General Projection for Toughness: Top 5
2. Oregon - They're obviously one of the "usual suspects" that I mentioned in the intro of this piece. The Zoo has definitely met the bar as far as crowd noise goes this season; they managed to beat a quality Utah team and the crowd saw its high point this weekend against #6 Cal in a lopsided affair.
General Projection for Toughness: Top 5
3. Texas - A season after a renovation of their own, the Horns have a lot to be happy about, since the closing in of one of their end zones has seemed to hold in more noise. Although I couldn't find decent video evidence that wasn't ruined by gratuitous amounts of music that I didn't want to listen to, if you watch a game or two on TV of Texas this year I'm sure you'll notice it for yourself.
General Projection for Toughness: Top 10
None, but did anyone see Bevo almost maul one of Texas's WRs? Nothing more gratifying than being gored by a peaceful old cow representing your team.
4. Michigan - I'm putting us here with a grain of salt. As a student who's been to every game an hour early this year, I've had a great time and personally, I've thought it was pretty loud. The thing is, I'd never been to a Michigan game before this year (trust me, I waited for my chance for a long time) so I don't know how it compares to past years. The luxury boxes do create an echo as others have said, but the stadium was absolutely dead against EMU (rightfully so) and not extremely loud against Indy. However, the WMU and ND games seemed legitimately loud, and after watching some of the replay, I buy it, but only to an extent. From the field, I imagine the Big House is probably one of the top 10 (maybe 15) hardest places to play now. Note that we did cause some delay of games against ND...
General Projection for Toughness: Top 10
Compare this -
to this -
and you tell me.
5. Florida/Alabama/Virginia Tech/OSU - Well, whatever. I'm not going to waste my time explaining this one.
General Projection for Toughness: Top 5
Video Evidence: Not needed.
Places I haven't been Impressed with but Probably will be by the end of the year: Penn State, LSU, Iowa, Nebraska
Places I truly believe are overrated: Boise State
Places I believe still rank ahead of Michigan: Florida, Penn State, Ohio State, Oregon, LSU, Clemson, VT, Alabama, Nebraska (eh, maybe)
Conclusion: That's 8-9 places that still seem ahead of us in terms of noise and "toughness." While Michigan should eventually return to the ranks of the elite, hopefully we can make it to that level, too, in more than just being classy and having a fun overall location to visit. In the end, winning matters more than intimidation factors, but intimidation factors can play a big role in winning as well - just ask the Floridas of the world, whose fans hang their reputation in large part on the Swamp.
Personally, I think the stadium is 30-50% louder than before, but I think most the work will be done as the team keeps up the exciting pace under Rich Rod's offense. I realize it's been said before, but I think we can get there. It'll just take some time.