The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Tales from the Dorkside: Rochambeaued Yourself
[EDIT: Updated to include sacks as failed pass attempts. Also corrected calculation error in success tallies. Text edited accordingly]
A basic premise of offensive football is that the single most important objective is to get to the next first down. A good offensive coach will Rochambeau his way to meeting this objective over and over again until either the scoreboard explodes or time expires. Coach Rodriguez has devised an offensive scheme that allows his teams to do just that and we have witnessed its power despite what we all witnessed last Saturday. But, was last Saturday’s performance due to poor execution, poor play selection, or was Penn State’s defense impenetrable?
First Things First
We need some definition for what a successful play is. Like others before me, I think it makes sense to characterize a play’s success based on the requirements at hand. A reasonable proposal is to use a Rolling Stones approach—get what you need. In essence, select plays that have a high probability to help you reach your next first down. Holding another basic premise that fourth down should be avoided the goal schedule by down is 33% on 1st down, 50% on 2nd down, and 100% on 3rd and 4th down; Regardless of the distance to go before the play starts. So, 1st and 10 requires 3 yards, 3rd and 1 requires 1 yard, 2 and 15 requires 8 yards, and so on. There are other ways to do this but, this is simple and fair. Sacks have been counted as failed pass attempts.
Turnovers are counted as a double fault, -1 for the unsuccessful play itself and -1 for the opportunity cost of losing the next play. I thought about an escalator here since presumably a turnover on 1st down is more costly than a turnover on third down, but there’s nothing to say that you won’t turn the ball on the next play, so a successful play only guarantees you the opportunity for one more play. A fumble is faulted regardless of who recovers since recovery is random and the mere opportunity to lose possession is not sexy at all.
Here’s what the breakdown going back to the beginning of the season looks like. Go Go Gadget Chart!
The Cartman column is the Rochambeau Verdict. Thumbs up means I think the play mix made sense as reconciled against the given success rates and thumbs down means I disagree with the play mix. I know, I know…I’m not a coach, but the data speaks for itself. I won’t spend a ton of space explaining everything else as hopefully the chart is fairly easy to understand. So for the reading impatient, I’ll roll straight into bullets.
- The running game is fine; even without David Molk.
- Between a talented freshman QB, a raw and athletic QB, and receivers who have lapses in concentration, the passing game is not ripe.
- A 50 % success ratio as described above seems to be adequate for offensive efficacy. When one phase of the offense dips too far below that Michigan needs to have the other step up or we look like the offense that we’re all trying to forget (2008).
- Going into the season, everyone “knew”* that we should expect Tate to play like a freshman a lot if not most of the time. He’s basically done that for four straight games. I’ll give him a pass on EMU because the running game was so damn dominant that it didn’t matter and he only passed 13 times (the fewest of the season).
- A 2-to-1 run to pass ratio is where it’s at. Again we “knew”* that we should depend on the running game going into the season, you know, because we were going to start a freshman QB and all.
- WMU/ND. Team came out on FIRE. All cylinders firing and no film for opponents to study. The low R/P ratio during ND was ok since both phases were getting it done. ND was a glimpse into the future.
- EMU. We were just better than them. Beat ‘em with one arm tied behind our back.
- INDIANA. First signs that Tate is indeed a true freshman. Passing success rate of 33%. Obviously, he pulled a rabbit out at the end but, uhh…a little close for comfort. Hence green meh-ey face.
- MICHIGAN STATE. They came in with a good game plan…at the expense of a bad game plan;*cough* WISCONSIN *cough*…Whew! ’Scuse me! The slowed down the run significantly and forced the pass offense to execute which they didn't do for most of the game.
- IOWA.Despite Tate’s struggles, the offense was effective and Michigan earned an opportunity to win. The running game was on point and the play mix was run heavy, which made sense. The game came down to a coaching catch 22 where only a victory bails you out but a loss leaves you with some ‘splaining to do. Hard to feel too pissed about losing that game…so long as you’ve finally gotten over the turnovers. I have. Hence, red meh-ey face.
- PENN STATE. Wuh-woah, Cartman wants to kick RichRod in the nuts. The passing game was not sharp, at all, but the R/P ratio was still pass heavy. At least for an instance where the pass game was not sharp and the running game was highly effective.
*scare quotes used because many of us seem to have forgotten that Forcier is a true freshman.
The problem last Saturday was that the scissors weren’t sharp, the paper was soggy, and the rock was…uh…not used enough. Zooming in a layer to the quarter by quarter break down of the Penn State game gives us this chart.
The play calling in the 3rd quarter was, unfortunately, too pass heavy. I suppose that was somewhat understandable being down 15 after the opening possession of the second half. But, there was a lot of time left to make up two scores and the running game was doing well and running is the scheme’s bread and butter and the passing game hadn’t been doing well and you have a true freshman QB. Does that mean Rich Rod sucks? Of course not. It just means that Rich Rod needs to hire a platoon of geeks to crunch data during TV time outs and half time.
In all seriousness though, it felt like we weren’t running the ball enough on Saturday and that’s what prompted me to dig into all this noise. I do have the benefit of hindsight, but even the data available at half time was enough to say that we should have come out running. Whatever, RichRod doesn’t need to explain himself to me and I don’t need or want him to. All coaches will have a lapse in judgment at one time or another and the players also need to be able to execute the plays that are called, regardless of play mix.
[Editor's note: I was working on a post similar to this today that examined the past five years of defensive recruiting with a particular focus on the secondary. This is broader but I may as well not reinvent such a well-put-together wheel. I will take this opportunity at the top of the post to rephrase something I stuck in a mailbag. Here are the members of the secondary in the recruiting classes that comprise this year's team:
2005: None. (Harrison, Sears, Richards all gone.)
2006: None. (Mouton, Brown moved to LB.)
2007: Warren, Woolfolk, Williams, Rogers. (Chambers gone.)
2008: JT Floyd (Smith moved to LB, Cissoko is gone.)
Excluding true freshmen, Michigan has five scholarship players for four starting spots, none of whom are seniors and one of whom is a positional vagabond who was a huge reach even at WR. Attrition has something to do with it, but poor recruiting—the 2006 class didn't have a single corner, and the 2007 class had two reaches and one Notre Dame defection—had much more. With Woolfolk's move Michigan has one scholarship safety on the roster outside of true freshmen. Not to go all ND-fan-talking-about-Ty here, but lord I don't know if anyone could dig themselves out from that.]
[OP note: Part II lives here].
How did it ever come to this?
|NFL All-World Guy||Young Beast||Solid Guy|
|True Freshman Blue Chip or Serviceable backup guy||Old-guy bust who's kind of serviceable now|
|Former Infinite Safety Disaster, now above-average tweener guy||Young guy who's progressing but prone to massive young-guy mistakes||True freshman wunderkind who is still a true freshman|
|Long-time judgment-impaired starter who projected to possible Butkus Watch List but instead regressed and lost job to a walk-on||Nuclear missile equally likely to strike his own territory as his enemy's||Kind of this 3-star redshirt soph who plays exactly like that|
|NFL-ready junior guy||Current Infinite Safety Disaster, who is worse than the walk-on||Legacy who is halfway decent and was our FS until a few weeks ago|
|Dust mite true freshmah who was a running back until a few weeks ago||True freshman recovering from knee surgury who can't be that great if he hasn't seen the field||Redshirt freshman with clear talent deficiency to be serviceable|
(Where = Walk-on)
With Boubacar Cissoko's dismissal from the team, we now have a number that every Michigan fan might need to commit to memory:
Everybody got that?
Now, numbers without context are hard to understand. If it's a completion percentage, well, that's not horrible but it's not bad, right? If that's how many questions you got right on your Anthro-Bio mid-term, well, not so great.
The question we will try to answer in this Diary, is what does that number mean when it's the percentage of defensive recruits over the last five classes who are still on your team?
Really? 58.33 percent? How?
Defensive Recruits No Longer With the Team: 2005-2009
|Eugene Germany||2005||DE||****||6.0||Left team|
|James McKinney||2005||DT||****||5.9||Left team|
|Johnny Sears||2005||CB||***||5.6||Left team|
|Chris Richards||2005||ATH||***||5.5||Left team|
|Carson Butler||2005||DE||***||5.5||Moved to TE, left for NFL|
|Chris McLaurin||2005||DE||***||5.5||Left team (health)|
|Jason Kates||2006||DT||****||5.8||Left team|
|Cobrani Mixon||2006||LB||****||5.8||Left team|
|Quintin Patilla||2006||LB||***||5.7||Left team|
|Quintin Woods||2006||DE||***||5.6||Left team|
|Artis Chambers||2007||S||***||5.6||Left team|
|Marell Evans||2007||LB||**||5.2||Left team|
|Boubacar Cissoko||2008||CB||****||6.0||Left team|
|Marcus Witherspoon||2008||LB||****||5.8||Did not qualify|
|Taylor Hill||2008||LB||****||5.8||Left team|
|Adrian Witty||2009||CB||**||5.3||Did not qualify (may return)|
That seems really bad. Like really really bad.
Is it bad?
It's obviously no surprise that Michigan has faced a lot of attrition since RR came on board. Each case is it's own particular. But all told, it seems to me that we are seeing something here that is way out of whack. And I'm not sure it's RR's doing. And though that seems like a lot of attrition, I'm not sure that's the whole story.
I'm going to break down this list by class. Perhaps in the micro we can see what happened to the macro...
(or perhaps you are already poised to scroll to comments and write "tl;dr" -- if so, get a sandwich and meet the rest of us down at the very long sub-header)
Class of 2005
|Eugene Germany||2005||DE||****||6.0||Left team||no|
|James McKinney||2005||DT||****||5.9||Left team||no|
|Johnny Sears||2005||CB||***||5.6||Left team||no|
|Chris Richards||2005||ATH||***||5.5||Left team||no|
|Carson Butler||2005||DE||***||5.5||Moved to TE, left for NFL||no|
|Chris McLaurin||2005||DE||***||5.5||Left team (health)||no|
Nothing left. This isn't just age -- you'd expect at least a couple of 5th year seniors to stick around. This class was decimated early and often, leaving Terrible Taylor as the only major defensive contributor. Harrison, who would be very nice to have around today, burned his redshirt during Safety Armageddon. Logan was the only other graduate. For Sir Carson Butler's career at Michigan, consult the minstrels.
Moral of this story: losing the top two recruits on defensive line made things dicey. In the first attempt at refilling the cornerback cabinet, Carr picked up Harrison and a couple of fliers (Sears, Richards) who didn't work. [More after the jump!]
Every time I do one of these (MSU, PSU), we lose. But we're talking Illinois here. Seriously. And wait, didn't I also do plucky DSU? I don't remember. But it matters not because Coach (still) Redacted has done a press conference thingy and I'm here to distill all the tasty bits into, um, tasty bits...
- Starting TE Michael Hoomanawanui didn't practice yesterday and is day to day. Stats not terribly impressive, though, with only 8 receptions for 84 yards and no TD (largely a function of their QB situation, though).
- RS Soph OL Tyler Sands had a hip flexor, but practiced and seemed good to go. Improved in the last couple of games, but tough matchup facing Graham.
- S Donsay Hardeman had the stomach flu, but should be back for Sunday. Had apparently suffered a minor neck injury against Indiana, but that must not be bothering him. True frosh DB Terry Hawthorne may see some time. He took his first defensive snaps against Indiana and was on special teams in all games.
- Would prefer to have just one QB, but understands that sometimes it must be done, and some have success with it. Didn't say who will start, but said Charest and Williams will both definitely play.
- Williams and Charest bring something different to the table, so more for the defense to gameplan against. McGee and Williams were fairly similar, so not much variation in terms of defensive gameplanning.
- Impressed with Charest's poise and leadership, particularly in keeping his eyes downfield and not scrambling too soon.
- Biggest drawback to 2 QB system is timing issues with the offense.
- Williams has handled the QB situation well. Mainly, he just wants to win. It's mostly a confidence issue before, but he's done it before and is capable of doing it again.
On the RB rotation:
- True soph RB Mikel LeShoure looks to be the primary guy, with the most carries (44) and most rushing yards (285) of the RB's (Juice Williams leads the team in rushing yards with 395). He was suspended for one game earlier (against PSU), but has done what he needs to do to stay on the field.
On the Michigan game:
- Big game for Illinois, an opportunity to get back on track.
- Michigan's offense is good, leading the league in scoring and yards, and with an experienced OL. A big mindset and attitude shift from last year.
- Similar to Illinois defensively with similar fronts/formations.
- "Brandon Graham is the real deal." (that's verbatim, kids)
My take: they seem a lot like a less-talented version of Michigan, honestly. Our QB's are probably a slight upgrade over theirs, or at least equal. Our RB situation has been equally unstable, but we just have better talent there. His comment that our defenses being similar is also true from the perspective of having little experience and depth in the secondary, and being like a sieve, in general (how bitterly ironic you are, Coach Redacted). Hopefully, the talent advantage shows up on the field of play Saturday.
So this is a follow up to The Over and Underrated, however I have changed the title because I decided "overrated" maybe wasn't the best description of what I was trying to do. "Overrated" is a very strong word that involves hype, the media, and giving talking heads subjects to talk about. What I am trying to do is compare team performance to what is expected of them.
This time around, I will be comparing all teams in Division I-A over the past 10 years. I've also made another few important changes. First, I wanted to weigh team upsets; I didn't think it was fair a team would be knocked the same for losing a game where they were a 1 point favorite compared to losing a game as a 20 point favorite. A convenient method of weighing this is the actual point spread. So a team that pulls off a win when they were slated to lose by 20 would get 20 points, a team that lost when they were suppoed to win by 1 would lose 1 point, and a team that did what they were supposed to go would get 0. The total over 10 years is the "W Upset" column.
Another important change I made was giving the scores some context. In my previous analysis, basically we found that the more successful teams were overrated, while the crummy teams were underrated. Just because Indiana wins 4 games in a year they were only supposed to win 2, does not make them "underrated". So we need to compare the teams to their peers. I did this by plotting teams' total "Win %" vs. total "W Upset". Turns out there is a very decent linear correlation between the two (EDIT: chart now shown below). Teams that deviate the most above the trendline are overperforming, those that deviate below are underperforming.
Note that the trendline crosses the X axis at almost exactly 50%.
So finally, your most underperforming Division I-A football teams of the past 10 years:
W Upset: upset x line
# of Games: # of games played w/spread
Win %: actual win % in games w/spread
Pred Win%: percentage of games supposed to win
Plot: W Upset score based on linear trendline
Variance: variance from trendline
| # of
|Win %|| Pred
|New Mexico State||-5||113||31%||30%||54.8||-59.8|
So while some of these teams are likely expected (cough, Florida State, cough), others might be more of a surprise. But keep in mind that these variances show how these teams compare to others in their "class". For example, Fresno State's weighted Upset score of -107 would be very respectable in Florida's class. But compared to other teams with a Win % of 54%, it is terrible.
The most overperforming:
| # of
|Win %|| Pred
Boise State is far and away the most overperforming team. Boise is that badboy circled in red on the chart above. Just ... wow. I think this is good evidence as any that they need to exit the WAC, while I don't think Fresno State is ready to spread its wings yet.
And finally, here is how the Big 10 shakes out with the new strategy:
Purdue still sucks diddlyuck, and Northwestern is still the best. But now Michigan isn't looking so bad; when compared against other teams in its class, it actually performs just about where it should be. And MSU is finally near the top, where it belongs. I think this is undeniable proof that this system works. Ohio State has improved as well, which OK, fine, this is probably accurate.
- Single most overperforming team of the past 10 years: Stanford 2007. Huge upsets against Cal, Arizona, and oh yeah, USC. Honorable Mention: Notre Dame 2006... ugh.
- Single most underperforming team of the past 10 years: Louisville 2007. Upsets by juggernauts Kentucky, Syracuse, Utah, and Connecticut. Ouch. Honorable Mention: Bowling Green 2005.
Next up, we will look at conferences as a whole. Thoughts?
It was not long ago that Michigan went through a season of close wins that left you with lasting memories, and close losses where you were left wondering "what if." It was not long ago that we were going through a transition on the defensive side of the football that included inconsistent Safety play. It surely was not too long ago when our best RB was battling injuries all year, and the backs that were used were forced to rush behind an always changing offensive line. My friends, we have been here before, and it was only four years ago in 2005.
Close Wins and Losses and the Overall Record
In 2005 Michigan had three wins by a FG or less (Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa.) They also had four regular season (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Ohio State) and one bowl game lose (Nebraska), none of these by more than 7 points. It was a VERY frustrating season. The highlight of all of these being the the last second win against Penn State when Henne found Manningham for the TD to win with only seconds left. Michigan finished the season 7-5, and it could have easily been anywhere from 5-6 to 10-2 or 11-1
This is paralleled by the two already close wins, and the two excruciating losses this year. There are surely more close games to come this year, but it will be tough to top the Forcier pass to win the ND game. When this season finishes we will almost surely be looking at a team with a record anywhere from 7-6 to 9-4, but it could have easily been anywhere from 5-7 to 11-2.
-Note: In 2005 the team was still only playing 11 regular season games so to get to the 12th game you had to make a bowl game. Now, as we all know, we play 12 regular season games and to get a 13th we need a bowl birth.
Injuries in the Backfield
2005 saw the injury to Mike Hart limit him 662 yards on 150 carriers. This was extremely detrimental to the team as Kelvin Grady, Jerome Jackson, and Max Martin all had over 50 carriers on the year. In 2006 Hart returned at full health and his impact was felt.
This year we have seen both Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor battle injuries all year. We have yet to see both of them healthy for the same game. They are a great combo of size and power (Minor) and speed on the edge (Brown). Neither of them is Hart, but the combo could be effective if they ever got on the field at the same time. Next year both will be gone but the depth is there with Michael Shaw ready to pick up the load.
2005 was Jim Herrmann's last year as the DC, with the transfer of power then going to Ron English. English took advantage the next year of a more experienced defense, and Michigan was one of the best defenses in the country. One of the reasons for this was Jamar Adams solidifying the SS position. The year prior Adams was locked in a rotation at the position with Englemon, Barringer, and Harrison. 2006 saw him start 12 games, and be completely unleashed by Ron English in both the passing game and as a run stopper.
2009 is Greg Robinson's first with the team, and his safety situation is worse that Herrmann's. The Williams, Kovacs, Woolfolk combo has not impressed anybody on a consistent basis. Kovacs was a beast in the State game, but looked really bad against Indiana when forced to contain the option. Woolfolk has been forced over to CB by the lack of production there, and Williams looks lost at least twice a game.
Offensive Line Injuries
2005 saw a revolving door at RT and at Center. Jake Long only played 4 games. The next year Long, Kraus, and Bihl all started 13 games while Alex Mitchell and Rueben Riley started 12 games. This solidified the line and led them to being one of the best units in recent memory.
This year David Molk's injury was a killer up front. Moosman has not adjusted well at center, and the line has struggled without Molk's presence. That being said, there is time for this unit to gel if everyone can stay healthy.
Now you may ask why do I bring this up. Well, in 2006 Michigan went on to start 11-0. They had continuity on the offensive line and in the secondary. They were healthy at the RB position, and were more aggressive on defense because they had the right personnel. In 2005 the team learned how to PLAY close games, and it helped them in 2006 when they went on the WIN close games. In my mind I am looking at the rest of this season as a season fro our young players to not only learn the system, but to learn how to play competitive football. So I am preaching patients and optimism, and provide you with a reason to look beyond the fact that this is not the old Michigan offense, but it is a Michigan season that we have seen before.
California DB Tony Jefferson recently announced his intention to take an official visit to Michigan, although committed to UCLA. Jefferson is a four star safety with a fake [ed: !!!] 4.5 40 time. As I mentioned in a different thread, my computer broke again, so this will be somewhat brief, and in a different format. I spoke with him about the change in his recruitment, and here are some bullet points about what he said:
- Wherever he goes, he will be enrolling early, which means he will be deciding soon.
- His visit will be November 7th for the Purdue game.
- "The coaches (from Michigan) have been talking to me for awhile now, and they've really turned up the intensity. That's part of why I'm taking a visit. I've been talking to coach Singletary and Rich Rodriguez. They've basically been telling me that I'm a priority for them, and they really want me."
- "I've been watching their games, and I really like the way they've been playing defense. I know at Michigan I could get a really good education, and always be fighting to play in a bowl game; I like that."
- "I have a really strong feeling towards Michigan. I get along really well with their staff, and Tate Forcier has been talking to me alot. He's a San Diego boy, and he's been telling me about how much he loves it."
- He said that UCLA hasn't done anything wrong, he just doesn't want to second guess himself.
- His final list is UCLA, Florida, Michigan, and Miami.
- An interesting side note: He has a lot of family in Florida, and confirmed that if he committed to Florida, his family might move there.
It seems like Florida has the best shot, but he seemed sincere when he said he has a strong feeling towards Michigan. Since he's never been on campus, you never know. The coaches have definitely shown him they want him, and he mentioned that it means a lot that they're showing so much interest. He'll visit Florida on November 28th and will decide shortly after.