Pop quiz hotshot, who has the best offense in the Big Ten? If you don't know the answer or want to follow along with some simple stat manipulation, read and find out.
As usual, 12 data points is not enough to draw solid conclusions but if you didn't enjoy making statistical interpretations about college football you probably wouldn't be reading mgoblog.
As everyone knew, going into the OSU game Michigan had the best scoring offense in the Big Ten. Unfortunately that 10 spot we put up drops us all the way to 4th. How do we drop so quickly from 1st to 4th? What it really means is that we are in the 1st tier of offenses and a virtual tie for 2nd. If we had made that field goal (or gotten a safety) we would have been 2nd place in the Big Ten.
So how does the Big Ten stack up? Well, Wisconsin is the best scoring offense in the conference. Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State make up the rest of tier 1. Purdue*, Northwestern, Indiana and Iowa are the tier 2 offenses. Finally, Minnesota and Illinois bring up the rear.
|Points per game||Standard Deviation|
The main point to take away is that our offense was comparable to the Big Ten's offenses this year. Would you have said that last year? The other important thing to note is the standard deviation. Michigan was the most inconsistent of all Big Ten teams. Shocking statistical analysis there. Isn't it a good thing we can look at the numbers to see things we could never have known by watching the games?
Cupcakes aren't a high fiber diet
Again as everyone knew, part of that number 1 ranking was built out of baby seal carcasses. Michigan wasn't the only team that played a cupcake though. How can we adjust for these blowout games?
Well, one possibility is to look at performance against average points allowed. However, this takes some work and is already covered in great detail by The Mathlete. I prefer a quick and dirty approach. We take out the high and low score for each team to get more of a sense of what the consistent performance of the offense is.
|Adjusted PPG||Std Dev|
The only change in the adjusted points per game is that Michigan drops from 4th to 6th. It still remains in tier 1 though, along with Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State and this time Purdue. Northwestern falls more in line with the tier 2 offenses along with Indiana and Iowa. Minnesota and Illinois are still tier 3, although Illinois should probably be it's own tier 4. By the way, who wants to guess how many of the high scores that got eliminated were scored against Michigan?**
What does this all mean?
Everybody will have their own interpretation of these stats. When combined with the eyeball test, I think that it means our offense has made a lot of improvement over last year. It's not quite the offensive juggernaut we hope to see soon, but a lot of that could be explained by a true freshman QB and Molk's absence. We'll see how much more they improve next year, but I think there is a real reason for a lot of hope on the offensive side of the ball.
* Purdue is hard to judge because it is basically in between tier 1 and tier 2. There is a gap between the tier 1 teams and Purdue so I made them tier 2. I probably should have included the Boilermakers in tier 1 though, as we'll see in the next section.
** Trick question. Surprisingly, only Wisconsin scored their season-high against us. Although, Illinois and Indiana came within a touchdown of their season highs when they played us.
Sales managers, and other people for whom salesmen work, like to say that "making the number" is not the only thing that's important when measuring annual performance. They'll point to the size of the funnel, the number of deals, how many calls (whether in person or by phone) have been made, proposals generated, etc. And, to a large degree, that's all true. Considering that in many businesses, including mine, less than about 5% of all leads generate a sale, the entire game boils down to those other metrics. But, at the end of the year, (in some companies, much earlier) the sales manager is going to have a serious conversation with his or her reps about whether quota will be or has been made. If you work for a company like Oracle, you get about one calendar quarter of "grace period" before the cash register had better start ringing. Often. Larry Ellison is not a patient man, and that attitude is pervasive in the Oracle corporate culture.
Its not for nothing that so much pressure is placed on sales people to make quota. People's livelihoods are at stake, and not just the sales rep's, or the executives. Most sales people, unless they truly work for themselves, are well aware of the responsibilities they shoulder. One of my favorite jokes about sales in the last 10 years was a send-up of Jack Nicholson's fiery tirade on the witness stand in A Few Good Men:
Sales: “You want answers?”
Finance: “I think we are entitled to them!”
Sales: “You want answers?!”
Finance: “I want the truth!”
Sales: “You can’t handle the truth!!!”
Sales (continuing): “Son, we live in a world that requires revenue. And that revenue must be brought in by people with elite skills. Who’s going to find it? You? You, Mr. Operations? We have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.
You scoff at sales division and you curse our lucrative incentives. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what we know: that while the cost of business results are excessive, it drives in revenue.
And my very existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, drives REVENUE! You don’t want to know the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at staff meetings … you want me on that call. You NEED me on that call!
We use words like comps, migration, discounts, flex licensing, global purchase agreements, up-sell. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent negotiating something. You use them as a punch line!
I have neither the time nor inclination to explain myself to people who rise and sleep under the very blanket of revenue I provide and then question the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said “thank you” and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a phone and make some sales calls. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!”
Finance: “Did you expense the lap dances?”
Sales: “I did the job I was hired to do.”
Finance: “Did you expense the lap dances?”
Sales: “You’re goddamn right I did!”I think the sales profession is a useful analog for determining whether Rich Rodriguez is making progress with the team. While "sales funnel" and "deals closed" makes no sense in football, other indicators beyond wins and losses can demonstrate whether the program is moving forward or backward.
For instance, if superior talent generally wins the most ball games, then we need to look at his "pipeline" of recruiting classes as one indication of whether he's "doing the right thing," and can be reasonably expected to return Michigan to national prominence. Scouts Inc. reports that of the 20 verbal commits for UM's 2010 class, there are five 4-star, fourteen 3-star, and one 2-star prospects. Only one (Devin Gardner) is in the top 150 in the nation.
Compare these numbers to Ohio State's current 2010 verbals: seven 4-star, five 3-star, one 2-star. While there are only thirteen commits, four are in the top 150, and two are HS All-Americans. The Penn State 2010 class is just sickening. Among Joe Pa's 20 commits, there are 11 four-star, and nine 3-star prospects. Eight are in the Top 150, and there are four HS All-Americans. Of the eight in the Top 150, six play defense, including all of the All-Americans.
Its clear from reports on this board, as well as what I've read from Sam Webb, that Coach Rod is focusing like a laser on 2011 and beyond. We have one verbal for 2011 already, a CB, who is among the ESPN Top 150 (rated by Scouts Inc.). Those are very positive signs that the "funnel" is reasonably healthy. However, it will have to improve to consistently compete with OSU, USC, Florida and others. We won't know that for another 2-3 years at least.
However, talent is only one indicator. Penn State's recent classes (excepting the 2010 verbals) have not been especially awe-inspiring, yet they have put together two respectable seasons in 2008 and 2009. Notre Dame has had ridiculous classes, (on paper) on par with Ohio State and USC, and can only be considered to have underachieved.
What I'd like to see is a measure of how all that incoming talent is developed beyond the obvious "Ws" and "Ls", bowl appearances, etc. A possible indicator of the development of all that talent is where individual players and their squads (offense, defense, special teams) rank in the conference, and nationally, and whether they are moving up in rank, or down. This would be analogous to measuring how many deals going into the sales funnel make it through various deal stages toward a successful close. I won't do that here, since I see my diary is getting pretty long. I'll leave that to someone else. That's probably an imperfect metric, so perhaps "mathlete" or "jamiemac" have some better ideas. If there are any operations research folks in the crowd, they'll almost certainly be able to find a good KPI for the purpose.
Ultimately, though, all of that will eventually have to translate to wins, losses, bowl appearances and national ranking for the team. I think we're at least 2-3 years removed from that point. However, a good measure of the development of talent should provide a leading indicator of whether the program is advancing, or regressing.
I'm curious what others think.
The announcers were talking about Tate Forcier hitting the wall this year late in the season. And I was wondering whether a whole team could hit the wall.
What has bothered me the most about this team this second half of the season is their complete inability to take advantage of opportunities and their tendency to collapse at the most inopportune times.
Obviously in the first four games (but also Michigan State and Iowa) it felt like they could still make plays when they needed to; like they were going to keep fighting until the end. I can take the losses of MSU and Iowa, like the wins against Indiana and ND, because it felt like we played hard and were in it right until the end.
But in this slide is just didn't feel that way. Whenever the defense played well the offense struggled. If the offense made a big play the defense immediately gave up one.
Today was just another example. Tate just inexplicably fumbles and gives Ohio State 7. We can't make a short FG. The defense plays well but the offense goes three and out. When we do move the ball Tate throws a pick in the endzone. The score may have been close but I never felt we were going to win this game - maybe that is my lack of faith - because we gave OSU the perfect set up: protect a lead and wait for Michigan to make a mistake. It worked.
Maybe it is because there are so many young players - Forcier is still a freshman after all - but it just feels like this team picks the worst possible time to make critical mistakes.
Ohio State is a good defense, and they played conservatively on offense, but five turnovers?!?! Three with the game hanging by a thread.
I don't know if it is inexperience, mental and physical exhaustion, or trying to do too much. But this team found ways to lose rather than finding ways to win and it wasn't always clear that it was due to lack of talent.
One thing I will be looking for next year is a sense that those who return will play smarter and within the system. I am not sure I can take another year of massive turnovers and the overall lack of poise and discipline.
P.S. For the record I am totally against firing RichRod. I think continuity is a must right now. We need as many returning players as we can get plus as many recruits as is possible. This team needs to continuing building not start over again.
I don't blame this inability to find ways to win games during conference play primarily on the coaches - the players were in a position to make plays but didn't. But I do think next year this team has to show composure and discipline or I will begin to wonder about coaching.
(Needless to say, that was the summer of '98, when I had National Championship hangover. it was a good time to say goodbye)
I think people have touched upon various aspects of Ohio State fandom, and have gotten their aspects quite correct. As Brian notes, most fans resemble Woody Hayes, and can condone a childish immaturity and subsequent disrespect.
Others have noted the lack of anything else notable in the Ohio sports world. The repeated failure of Cleveland area professional sports teams - and the lack of one in Columbus.
Some say that it is a lack of more than one rivalry game. While Michigan has bitter tests against MSU and ND as well, OSU has only the game. Obviously, their focus remains exclusively on their one bitter enemy - not divided among three.
Yes, these are all contributing factors. But the weirdest thing to me involves the role of non-student fandom in Ohio. I have actually met few Ohio State student fans. And those I have met, were mostly reasonable. But there is something weird about the condition of being an Ohioan that forces one to irrationality.
1) Thanksgiving, 1998.
I was at a party reunion over Thanksgiving with my high school class. None of them went one to OSU. My high school was a big funnel to Miami U (Not that Miami), and Ohio University (it was a private high school, and most kids were too smart to go to OSU). We had just lost 31-16 in Columbus. I arrived to the party to a chorus of jeering. None of these kids went to OSU, but felt compelled to act as if they did. When I called them out on it, all I got in return was "Fuck Michigan".
2) Thanksgiving, 2000.
My parents made a tradition of flying a Michigan flag over my childhood home for every football game, and every time I visited, a tradition they kept until they moved 2 years ago. We won, 38-26 in Columbus. I was working that weekend in Ann Arbor, and was watching the game at a friend's in Troy. The neighbors ingrate children chalked some derogatory messages on their sidewalk - "Fuck Michigan" and "Michigan Fags". My parents witnessed the chalking and confronted the parents. But the parents shrugged it off, saying it was part of the rivalry, and giving tacit approval that semi-hate speech, if against Michigan fans, is OK. BTW, the parents were not OSU graduates, nor did their children end up attending OSU either.
3) Octoberish, 2000, The game 1997, and some random party 2005.
In short, the three different episodes of substance I have had with OSU fans. In 2000, I was part of the Michigan Big Ten Bass Fishing Team (Big Ten Champions). We invited the lone OSU fisherman over for beers and had a reasonable evening with them before kicking their ass on the lake the next day.
In 1997, I was a freshman in Alice Lloyd. I was coming home from a party several sheets to the wind in the early morning hours when I saw a DPS officer telling three OSU students they couldn't sleep in their car on Observatory. I let them into the lounge on my floor and gave them a bathroom key, telling them that they were in Michigan now, and something about hospitality.
During a party in grad school at Michigan Tech, some kid walks into my house in an OSU hat. After engaging him in conversation, I find out that he is not only not an OSU alum, but only lived in Columbus for a short time. I go out of my way to keep his glass full and introduce him to girls. Point blank, I ask him if he would ever show the same hospitality to a Michigan fan. "No." was the answer.
Somehow, as great as the University of Michigan is, it does not inspire devotion to its residents. The most vocal part of the fan base is its students and alumni. In Ohio, every resident non-alum seems to display some sort of rabid, irrational defense of the football program. The students, who have actually seen a bit of education, are not as bad (usually). But what explains it?
Just Woody? No. He has been too dead and too irrelevant for too long.
No other game in town? Yeah, OSU has been good. But they have provided one National title, and a lot of tooth gnashing since.
Lack of a rivalry? Maybe some. But in recent years OSU has done a good job of scheduling respectable non-conference home and home series. It takes the early season focus off, at least.
So, yes, these initial 3 reason play a small role. But unless you have done hard time in Ohio, you may not be able to quite put your fingers on its pulse.
Cedar Point if as far north as it could get away. It's a state that struggles for a motto. While the cradle of presidents and coaches, it also nurses a historical abundance of serial killers.
It's a place with a huge inferiority complex.
Ohio knows it didn't deserve the rock and roll hall of fame. But they will defend it in Cleveland, as they still smart from their burning river and giving birth to the modern environmental movement.
Ohio still feels wounds from losing the Browns. The state supported building a new stadium before fixing the crumbling school system. Their reward? Mediocrity. And the Bengals.
But instead of the sports metropolis's of Cincinnati and Cleveland pulling the state apart, they are instead galvanized over the central location and figurehead that is tOSU Buckeyes.
It is my belief that a state with an identity crisis follows basic psychology, and has turned itself inward. They can circle the wagons around the scrap of identity that is OSU, and epitomized by a horseshoe. Yes, Cincinnati may be good now, but it is a fad that Ohioans know will pass, like Drew Carey and Skyline chili.
So with every punch thrown, 'Fuck Michigan' shirt sold, and blogosphere comment submitted, Ohio fans are treading a simple line: that college football proves the worth and relevance of their state and lives.
As I said, I got out. But I did some hard time.
Michigan football means a lot to me. But it is not my seasonal crutch to ameliorate my crappy life in a terrible state.
Ed. – First time since the early signing date that I've had open time to make a post. Sorry it's about a week and a half late. Now with 2 different updates.
Last week saw the early signing period for most of the Olympic sports including baseball. Michigan signed 4, which is a bit smaller than some of the recent classes, which are generally around 6. This class has some name recognition with it, but it's too early to start projecting major league draft status for these kids.
This is only a portion of the eventual recruiting class, but this appears to be a solid start with two solid pitchers in it, and some added outfield depth, both something Michigan is in the need of (you always need more pitching).
Michael O'Neill (OF, Ohio)
The name that will ring a bell for most of you baseball fans is Michael O'Neill, nephew to famed Yankee Paul O'Neill. From mgoblue:
[A] two-year varsity letterwinner at Olentangy Liberty High School, […] O'Neill earned all-conference and all-district first team honors as well as honorable mention all-state following his junior campaign. He was named the team's Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .447 with a .500 on-base percentage and eight triples. He also stole a team-high 21 bases.
O'Neill was also recruited by Ohio State and Miami (OH). I haven't found much else on him. More will come when I do.
O'Neill (.447) has dizzying speed and he's not afraid to use it, stealing a school-record 21 bases in 2009 and regularly flashing the leather as the defensive anchor in center field.
Incoming freshman Patrick Biondi had the best chance of taking over center field in the near future, but O'Neill may give him a run for his money.
Mark Bass (SS, Florida)
Coach Maloney hasn't done much recruiting in Florida in the past, but it appears he has been making the rounds their this summer. He's even convinced some players down there into "buying some parkas":
Despite seeing little playing time with the Patriots in 2009 following a shoulder injury, Bass participated at the Perfect Game Showcase in Fort Myers in May where he caught the eye of Michigan head coach Rich Maloney.
It was their relationship that led Bass to the Wolverines over the University of Central Florida.
"I honestly never thought I was really going to go to a D-I school," said Bass, who will move from second base to shortstop at the next level. "But this summer, I was in the right place at the right time and met the right people.
"The deciding factor for me was the coach. He made a big impact on me and really liked what he was doing with the program."
Getting a kid to come play here over a competitive team from the South is almost a coup for Maloney. Central Florida isn't a powerhouse in Conference USA, but they are generally around the .500 mark. This is a great pick up to provide some long term depth in the middle infield. Right now, it looks like incoming freshman Derek Dennis will probably hold down a middle infield position with Anthony Toth over the next two seasons, and Bass should be in the mix by his redshirt junior year.
Plus, it sounds like he needs some strength and conditioning work. Maloney says:
"Mark is a 6-2 middle-infielder who brings great confidence, a good bat and good glove to our program," Maloney said. "I think as his body matures, with the help of our strength and conditioning program, he will have some very bright days ahead."
UPDATE II: Stories are popping up today, this time with pictures! Someone get that kid a real Michigan hat. Picture by awesomely named Bill Gamblin of the Santa Rosa Press Gazette.
The Santa Rosa Press Gazette reported on Mark Bass's signing not three hours from me posting my post. Apparently, the decision to go to Michigan over UCF was really close:
Mark Bass is looking for all the coats he can find as he is headed to Ann Arbor to play for Michigan.
For Bass, it is a time to get jackets and coats to prepare for the cold, but that doesn’t matter after he got to meet the coaches at Michigan.
“I wanted to go to the school on academics, but the coach saw me in Ft. Myers and asked me to think about Michigan,” said Bass. “I was about two days away from committing to UCF, but the coach (Rich Maloney) was a big decision over the others.”
Bass selected Michigan over UCF, Jacksonville, Sanford, Alabama Southern, Pensacola Junior College, and the University of West Florida.
Sounds like a little bit of snake oil right there.
Brett Winger (RHP, Florida)
Maloney snagged not one, but two Florida players over the summer, the second is right hander Brett Winger of Orlando's Olympia High School. From his summer ball team that finished 3rd in an elite national tournament:
Brett Winger, a strong bodied right handed pitcher from Olympia High School, has recently committed to play baseball at the University of Michigan. Brett is one of the most competitive players the Scorpions have had, and can always be counted on in big situations. He throws a heavy fastball in the upper 80s/lower 90s and compliments this will a late breaking slider and quality change. Brett also excels in the classroom, and Michigan's prestigous [sic] academic pedigree certainly appealed to him. Brett will look to make an immediate impact for the Wolverines and add to a rich history of success at the institution.
Perfectgame.org has similar praise in their Central Florida All-Junior team, and mentions of a new pitch he has been working on for his senior year as well:
He throws an effective slider for strikes that is still developing and a splitter/palm ball type changeup that dives down and out of the zone late. Winger's pitchability has increased over the last year and he is the ultimate competitor. If Winger continues to improve, there is no reason to think he won't be living in the 90s and be a dominant guy at the next level.
Depending on how his senior season goes, I think Winger is the most likely to be drafted out of all our players, but I don't think his junior year stats really indicate that he'd be drafted outside one of the late rounds, where it probably wouldn't affect his coming to Michigan.
Alex Lakatos (RHP, Grand Rapids, MI)
The only in-state player picked up in the early signing period is right hander Alex Lakatos out of Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, the same high school as current incoming freshman Derek Dennis.
Lakatos is a three-time varsity letterwinner […] two-time all-conference, all-district and all-area honoree, Lakatos added preseason Perfect Game All-America honors to his list of accolades prior to his junior campaign. He helped lead the Rangers to conference and district championships as a junior while posting an 8-2 record on the mound and hitting .450 with seven home runs. Lakatos has also spent the last four summers playing for the prestigious Diamonds/Maroons program, under the direction of Bill Peterson.
"Alex has good size (6-3, 200) and possesses a fastball that hovers at 90 miles per hour with an excellent slider," commented Maloney. "What I really like about Alex is his competitiveness. He has great presence on the mound and is also a great student, which fits our mode of what we look for in a balanced student-athlete. I believe Alex can be a difference-maker early in his career at Michigan."
But pitching isn't the only thing Alex is looking to do:
"More than anything, pitching got me to college. But I didn't want them looking at me only as a pitcher."
Lakatos, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander, might find it difficult to do both at the Division I level, but he had an outstanding junior season this spring on the mound and as a hitter.
He was 8-2 in 12 games as pitcher, posting a 1.65 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 55 innings. As a batter, Lakatos hit .414 with 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs. He drove in 36 runs and stole 13 bases in 34 games.
Lakatos said he also considered Michigan State, Central Michigan, Louisville, South Carolina, Northwestern and Coastal Carolina.
Lakatos wants to swing the bat, and that's why he's coming to Michigan. I'm not sure I see him cracking the outfield rotation any time soon, but he's definitely got an arm. He's already been clocked at 92 miles per hour on his fastball, and that was as a junior.
That list of schools is also pretty interesting. Louisville, South Carolina, and Coastal are all major players in college baseball. It's good to know Michigan does a good job of roping in talent.