For every down, distance and yardline I have a calculate expected value. The expected value equates to the average points scored from an average team in that situation.
*Example, 1st and 10 at your own 20, no situation has more data points than this one. Last year, this situation yielded an average of 1.57 points every time it occurred. Obviously, you can't score 1.57 points in a football game. If you had the ball in this situation 100 times, you would score 157 points. It could be a TD every 4-5 possessions or a FG every other possession or probably some mix.
Each play changes the that expected value and that value is then attributed to the player/players who were recorded on the play. Over the course of games and seasons these points add up, some positive, some negative and we begin to see a clearer picture of what value was added by what players/units.
But adding value isn't the same for all opponents. A total of +10 is a very impressive number, but its more impressive against a good team than a bad team. After all of the data is collected, every team's unit is rated on a per play basis. This value is then added or subtracted from every play that occurs against it.
*Example, a good rush defense averages -0.1 against it every time the opponent runs. They are playing a decent run offense that averages +.04 every play. If the net result for the game is a -5 on 40 carries, the adjusted results would be a -1 rating for the offense (-5 + 0.1*40 = -1) and a +6.6 rating for the defense (-[-5 - 0.04*40]) in my write-ups, positive is always above average and negative is below average.
So the essence of the metric is how many scoreboard points did the player/unit contribute vs average and accounting for competition.
Exceptions and Notes
- Plays with lost fumbles are removed from all numbers because fumbles are considered random and greatly skew ratings
- QB sacks are included for team passing metrics but not for individual players
- Garbage time is not included in stats. If a team is up by 4 TDs in the 3rd quarter or 3 in the 4th it is considered garbage time and no plays are recorded.
- Wide receivers have 2 ratings, a rating on balls caught (Value) and a rating on balls caught or on balls targeted at them (Value+) the two metrics tell two different things and I haven't figured out how to combine them. WR values typically run higher because of the lack of negative plays assigned directly to a WR.
- Performing on third down is huge, on third down you either make a first down and you gain big points, or your drive is over and you lose any points expected for the drive (unless in FG range). This is one of the big advantages of this system, it can reward/punish plays made on big downs appropriately
- Only games against 1A competition count. Games against 1AA teams are basically scrimmages with nothing good or bad counting.
- All data is pulled directly from play by play data hosted on the NCAA website. I load all the data into a SS, run a bunch of fancy formulas and then dump it into a database where I can run queries till I pass out or the boss shows up.
It is scary to put this in writing, but here are my goals.
Monday - Game Review
Tuesday - Big 10 Player Rankings
Wednesday - Big 10 Team Rankings
Thursday - Flex/Catch up if I missed a deadline
Friday - Game Preview
During the offseason I am looking for ideas to pull from my DB of plays to validate or refute conventional wisdom. Items such as, is momentum real on quick change plays? Examining 4th down convention. Etc, again, looking for ideas.
Ideas going forward
I am very open to ideas anyone has on how to improve what I pull, how its calculated or what I do with it. Also, I am working on moving from expected points to a win percentage calculator so that there is no need for garbage time gray area. Won't happen this year but hopefully next year I will have that added.
Any questions on how By The Numbers works, look here.
This was called out as a 3 point win for Michigan going in. It wasn't. State absolutely shut down the Michigan running game, the final number -4 for the game, but it was worse than that.
Minor was a -2.2 on 4 carries, none of them with positive values. Carlos Brown was -2.0 on 6 carries, with only 2 carries coming out positive. Shoelace posted a pair of negative runs. Odoms one carry was a negative. The only one who did anything on the ground was Forcier (+1.7) and most of his value was on scrambles. 6 of his 11 runs (sacks are excluded) went positive which is not great but for the rest of the teams performance, was far above average this week.
In the preview this was noted as the biggest disparity of any unit in the game. Excluding Stonum's fumble, the passing game was slightly negative (-0.6). The three sacks cost nearly 4 points on the game and the interception in OT was obviously a big deal.
Stonum, apart from the fumble, had a very nice game with 1 point on 3 catches plus over 5 points on the long TD which more than offset the lost value on his fumble.
Matthews was targeted 5 times, none of them complete. We'll have to wait for the UFR to see where the fault lies.
Hemingway picked up 3 catches for a meager +1.
Kogar was 1/4 on targeted balls, but snuck into the positives at +.6.
Odoms had a productive day, picking up nearly 3.5 points in 6 targets with 4 points coming on his 5 catches.
Roundtree's grab in the endzone was worth 3 points after missing on two targets that worth 1.5 points.
Saw this as a point or two disadvantage coming in, and that's about where it netted out, although in a strange way.
Jailbird Glen Winston was -8.6, even with his +3 TD run.
Larry Caper's game deciding run, just put him back to even on the game.
Running QB Keith Nichol ran only twice for little value.
Wow! Kirk Cousins, 5 rushes, all for positive value racking up an incredible +8 on the ground for the game. Wow!
What a bizarre path to an expected outcome.
This was the only segment that was a solid win for Michigan. Coming in, it was expected to be a 2 point disadvantage but it ended up being a 2 point advantage.
The two sacks netted a three point advantage for Michigan, even when taking out the benefit of the fumble.
Strangely enough, Keith Nichol (+2.4) added more value through the air than Kirk Cousins (-.4) did on the day.
Cunningham was the only receiver who managed to post more than a point or two of value for the game with a +7.3.
Even with the turnovers, Michigan failed to have an advantage in field position. The regulation numbers for field position where 24 exp points for MSU and 22 for Michigan. The first down at the 25 for OT is worth just over 4 points, so for the game, MSU scored 1 less point than expected (PAT is assumed) after being -4 in regulation while Michigan was -2 in regulation but -6 on the game.
Other the Zoltan audible, the special teams didn't provide any huge advantages for either side.
Olesnavage had another good game, going +1.9 on his two field goals while Swenson was +.6 on two chippies.
MSU had a +.5 advantage on kickoff teams with Michigan giving up a couple of good returns.
When Michigan was actually punting, the punt teams netted out with no real advantages and MSU had negligible advantage in returns.
A lot of value came Michigan's way via the yellow laundry on Saturday. NO CONSPIRACY!
When Michigan was on offense there was a net pickup of a point of value due to penalties. However, MSU's offense had the should have been killer penalty problems, costing them 5.5 points in value most of which coming on...
The Drive that spanned the globe
Thought I would add a little note on the drive that covered a ton of yardage and could not be stopped.
During the drive, Michigan State rushed 10 times for a value of 3.8, 3 of which coming from Cousins. The Spartans passed 7 times for a value of 5.9. That's 17 plays, adding nearly 10 points in value. Obviously, this was all to offset the ridiculous penalties being accumulated during the drive. Michigan State's 4 penalties cost them 4.3 points on the drive. After the second personal foul, Michigan State's 2nd and 25 put their drive expected points at 1.4, less that what they would have expected when they started the drive. A very strange drive.
For those that do not know, Mealer is a RS freshman from Wauseon, Ohio that sat out last year due to a torn rotartor cuff. His family and girlfriend was in a car accident on Christmas Eve 2007. The car was struck on the driver side and both his father and girlfriend were killed during or soon after the accident. Additionally, Elliott's brother was on the passenger side front and was trapped inside the car. Elliott tried to rescue his brother from the car and this is how he tore his rotartor cuff. Soon after the accident Elliott's brother was claimed to be paralyzed from the waist down.
The accident happened one week before Carr retired. When RR came in he was very accepting of Elliott's condition and circumstance. RR told Elliott that no matter if he can ever play a down for Michigan, he will always have a scholarship at Michigan. Elliott's brother is also making progress, I heard today that he is walking with assistance now and is swimming.
This is a great story, reminds me of the ESPN make a wish stories or something like that. I hope everyone gets a chance to watch this. I don't know if it is because I am from Toledo, Ohio (not that far from Wauseon) but I am really pulling for Elliott and his family.
Here is a link to the story by a Toledo news station.
Also a link to the mgoblue.com page (check out the two videos...great stuff)
Given all the talk before the Michigan – Michigan State game about “respect” as well as under and overrated teams, I found myself wondering which team in the Big Ten is typically the most overrated. I feel like MSU never meets their preseason expectations, but the same can usually be said about Michigan as well. Ohio State has been very solid within the conference, but obviously slips up once it goes up against the elite outside the Big 10. But which team is the most consistently overrated during the entire season?
I analyzed the point spreads for all Big 10 games for the past 10 years, 1999-2008. Team performance against the spread is well documented, but we don’t really care about ATS; hanging 50 points on Wofford when the spread is 40 does not an underrated team make. We want to break the lines down to victory or defeat, and see how the team performs in comparison.
W # of upsets against opposing team
L # of times being upset
TOT Total deviation from expected over total games
Stdev Standard deviation
PW Predicted win percentage
ATS Performance against the spread
46% Penn State
51% Ohio State
53% Michigan State
Move over Mark Dantonio, there is a new Rodney Dangerfield in town. Yes, humble Northwestern earns the title of most misunderestimated in the Big 10. Meanwhile, Purdue is the most overrated team, although they have several teams not far behind, notably Michigan. I expected the Big 10 bottom-feeders to be the most underrated; when everyone expects you to lose every game, there is nowhere to go but up. Likewise, the big boys would be near the top. But Purdue has no excuse ... they have been given the modest task of winning 2/3 of their games, and they consistently blow it.
- Ohio State has the highest predicted win percentage @ 83%, as well as the lowest standard deviation. People expect them to win, and they oblige.
- Michigan State appears to perform as-expected @ -2.5%, but they have the highest standard deviation. Sparty wins a lot of games they have no right to win, and loses a lot of games for no reason, and basically acts very Sparty-like
- The third most underrated teams is Iowa. Given Michigan's overrated-ness, this does not bode well for this Saturday. Or it has no relevance, since Iowa is already favored ... I haven't decided.
- Purdue has only upset 6 teams in the past decade. Northwestern performed the same feat between 2005 and 2006.
- I expected the ratio of underrated teams to overrated teams to be closer. The Big Ten, not surprisingly, is not performing.
Thoughts? Is this a useful analysis of overrated-ness? Should this be expanded to additional seasons and teams? Spoiler-alert: I have already looked at Notre Dame, and they are not, repeat NOT the most overrated team in the universe.
Not sure how much you have kept up since not playing these guys for 2 years. Thought I would provide some background. I also added a section at the end for those who will be going to the game and staying in Iowa City. Be forewarned that it is homecoming so everything will be busy (yes, we are the homecoming patsy).
Don’t read into Iowa playing down with UNI and Ark St, this is a look ahead team that struggles somewhat with passing spread teams. UNI was before Iowa State who has made Ferentz look average to poor (mostly due to McCarney, possibly even kept them from the NC game in 2002) and Ark St is obviously before us. If there is a shred of hope, remember that we snapped a 22 game home winning streak during our last trip as an underdog and that Iowa is not as tough as the favorite in big games. You could worry about the PSU result, but Ferentz owns JoePa to nearly the extent that Lloyd did and I would take that game with a grain of salt. Not predicting a win here, but you can grasp at a few straws.
While some in Iowa have compared Stanzi to Brady (I almost fainted when I wrote this), I do see a good game manager who throws well on the run. Typical pro set routes, with a particular emphasis on going over the middle to RBs or TEs (really like the TE) with an occasional crossing route from the slot. This is a lousy match up for us. They seem to use RBs and TEs more than most teams in the passing game which is typically set up with the play action. However, Ricky also throws the Stanziball, typically 1-2 a game where you have no idea what he was doing so you get 3 TDs with 2 INTs for most of his games this year. The hope is that we get lucky with a few of those as they seem to come at random times. He seems to be a slow starter so grab an extra beer if he starts hot.
The Oline is big, as usual, no real news there. The return of Bulaga is not good for us as he is being projected as a first round pick and has had one game to work out his timing. Calloway is a very good compliment tackle with a strong interior anchored by Eubanks. I simply dislike the match up with our Dline unless we gamble like crazy. The TEs are much better with Moeaki playing due to his athleticism, but Reisner is pretty solid as well. We will be hating it if we can’t cover these guys coming off the line of scrimmage (I don’t have much confidence that we can due to our LB play, would like to be pleasantly surprised).
The WRs are decent, Johnson-Koulianos started the season on track to break a few all-time Iowa records and is the best receiving threat IMO. However, Marvin McNutt does not have a ton of catches yet, but scares the hell out of me since he is a converted QB that stands 6’4” and creates match up issues for our CBs. I really doubt we lose by getting hit deep with these guys with more of a death by converting on 2nd or 3rd and 10s, but watch me end up eating my words on the long ball.
RBs took a hit losing Hampton at the beginning of the year, but got a surprise with Robinson (smaller bowling ball) and Wegher (smaller slasher). Wegher seems to be more elusive with a fast start who would actually be pretty good on our team. Both guys can get lost behind the line and then pop out. Robinson may be the better receiver out of the backfield who will not go down with an arm tackle once he gets some steam. Neither guy has played before this year with Wegher being a true freshman. Look out if they give Brinson a try as he is a big power back, as he actually may be the most talented back they have. Fortunately, he has also been slow to pick up the offense which has limited his PT.
News flash- it will be a 4-3 or just look at the year before or the year before…. Norm Parker does not make substitutions for the most part with the exceptions of a few down and distance situations. I don’t know how, but he rolls the same guys regardless of the offensive style. However, they play very good assignment football and tackle well. Many Iowa fans agree that this is a reason for their success since it minimizes thinking by not relying on exotic schemes which helps the players play faster. On the flip side there is always concern when a spread offense comes to town since there is an assumption that the base defensive alignment will get exposed at some point. The unnatural ability of Chad Greenway to cover slot guys has made a permanent mark on Norm so he continues to roll the same way.
On the Dline, Clayborn and Binns on the ends will create headaches and rush the outside hard to funnel things to the middle. Clayborn is more athletic and simply a big, bad dude. The DTs are decent and big (one is aptly named Klug), but not spectacular. There is has not been the big drop off from losing last year’s starting DT tandem. The Dline likes to run twists to create confusion.
Angerer leads the LB group and is a tackling machine along with Edds who is also pretty solid. You may remember the recruitment of Jeremiha Hunter who we chased at one point, but did not go to the good guys. There are more athletic LB units, but this group seems to be constantly around the ball and I would hope we can spread them out to minimize their effectiveness. With all of them in the 230-245lb range they would not have the S. Brown type of speed, but seem to work through that for the most part.
In the secondary, Spievey is considered to be one of Ferentz’s best CBs he has had while at Iowa. Sash is a ball hawking safety who is simply around the ball a lot, by instinct or scheme I do not know. Both Greenwood and Prater are decent at safety and CB respectively. I think Greenwood gets the benefit of playing with Sash which gives him opportunities. Overall, a very (not to overuse the word) solid unit that plays together very well. They don’t seem to make many mistakes.
Yes Kinnick is loud and honestly I am not sure why considering the stadium design. I think the people are simply loud as Iowans don’t have professional teams and pour it all into the college. They will be (have been for a while) foaming at the mouth for the chance to see big, bad Michigan brought down. It will be statement game for sure as many (who may not admit it) chafe at being considered part of the “little 8” for so long. Don’t expect a Columbus-type welcome, but be ready for some chest thumping. I have heard my share “can’t wait to play you guys”. To be fair, I do wear Michigan gear to games, sing “hail” and have never been beat up so +1 for reasonable fans.
Don’t waste time in Coralville, go straight to the Pedestrian Mall down by campus. However if you are stuck there, the Wig and Pen has by far the hottest wait staff in town so there are worse things. The 30+ crowd will be at the Airliner and the <30 crowd everywhere else. You have 2 bars next to the ‘liner and will be on the parade route on Friday so expect a mob scene. If you just walk around a few square block radius and you will pretty much find everything else from a bar perspective. Just don’t rely on prompt taxi service if you are meeting people in any of these places. Also, if you are in the Ped Mall really late, treat yourself to a Gyro at one of the food stands. For other food needs
Inexpensive: Oasis- Mediterranean faster food. Get the whole pita sandwich with extra feta (close to campus)
Mid-priced: Bluebird Diner- Everything on the menu is really good. Looks like a diner, but actually has a real cook. The bonus of being there is that it is next to John’s Grocery which has a great assortment of beers and wine for later.
Higher priced: Linn Street Café- Terrific fine dining (by big city standards) with a great wine list. Would need reservations for this one.
Lastly, if you like chocolates and you see the store or them on a menu, get yourself some Bochner Chocolates. He is a UM grad and does some outstanding work. Not the cheapest, but damn good if you have a sweet tooth.
I decided to review the 1st quarter, mainly because I'm going through one of my frequent bouts of insomnia and college football is the only sport I follow closely.
I'm not pretending to be an expert or have all the football jargon down. I defer the finer points to Mr. Cook and others.
The first quarter of the MSU game really seemed to get people upset (understandably, due to the epic 10 minute drive) and while I have no intention of doing a full blown UFR like Mr. Cook I decided to review that part of the game because it seemed that 10 minute drive of MSU's set the tone for the game. I don't think I'll have time to do the whole game and besides, I'm sure others (Brian Cook) will do a better job than this. I'm just throwing this out there for everyone to review or ignore as they please.
So here goes.
We only ran 6 plays on offense in the first quarter. I'll discuss those in some detail before summarizing what I thought MSU did on offense.
Our first play (after the early INT) was going to be one of these, I believe:
However unlike the ND game, MSU's defensive tackles both penetrate, blowing up the play. Fault lies on Huyge and Dorrestein on this one, IMO.
The next play (2nd and 12) was going to be one of these, I believe:
TE rolls out into flat instead of blocking the DE
But instead of making the DE miss, like in the ND game, the DE gets a piece of Tate and the MSU LB is upon him very quickly (scouted this play well?) and finishes off the tackle.
Here the BTN announcer says something I found funny....
"Tate Forcier's intangibles are off the charts." How does one make a chart to measure intangibles? Anyway...
3rd and 15.
This was the "MY GOD CARLOS TURN AROUND" play. MSU blitzes on 3rd and long, Tate throws to what you'd assume is the hot receiver but Carlos Brown is still running. If he turned around and caught the ball, would have probably easily been 5-10 yards, maybe more.
So, ok, FG.
We didn't get the ball back until 10 minutes into the quarter later...
1st and 10 from the 28 - Schilling doesn't quite make his block on the DT and the DT forces Carlos Brown to cut up, into the unblocked DE. 2 yards. Perhaps Moosman should have at least gotten a piece of the DT before releasing downfield, I don't know.
2 and 8. What looks like could have been a bubble screen to either side, Tate throws to Carlos Brown. Unblocked LB and a safety are on top of Carlos quickly, limiting him to 3 yards. Again, scouting?
3rd and 5. Spartans rush only three with what looks to be 2 LB's acting as spies on Tate. Dorrestein can't keep up with his DE, forces Tate to scramble and into one of the waiting spies. He's forced to throw the ball, incomplete.
So that was it for the offense. Dorrestein didn't play well in that quarter. Which isn't saying a lot since it was only 6 plays. But there it is.
And now here's what I found when I revisited Sparty's epic 10 minute drive...
Just about every time MSU tried to run between the tackles, we stuffed it. Our defense did well in these situations.
We seemed to be playing zone a lot, from what I could tell. Most of MSU's completed passes were their guys moving into a hole in the zone.
Our corners were playing very, very soft, even Warren. This allowed MSU to get some big gains by throwing to a quick bubble screen to the slot WR with the outside WR blocking Warren, forcing the hybrid or safety playing up near the line to chase down the slot WR. This worked every time MSU tried it, fortunately at least a couple times it was negated due to penalties.
By the end of the drive, I don't see Williams. Kovacs is already playing and it's clear that when Woolfolk is in he's got one good arm. We're thin at safety and it appears that both starters are banged up. Not good. Related to playing soft zones? Probably.
The scrambles - the first one, we had good pressure on the QB and had Ezeh not stumbled when the MSU TE/H-back runs into him on a crossing route, Ezeh catches the QB for a minimal gain. But no. It seemed like everyone but the d-line and Ezeh was back deep covering (this was on a 2nd and 25) and so the MSU QB had room to run. The TE running the crossing route who hit Ezeh, kept running, and became a lead blocker and bam, 19 yards.
The second scramble was similar to the first. Good pressure, everyone else back covering WR's, QB just takes off. Not sure what else to say.
Also I think there was one play where the Spartans had an illegal formation, don't the tackles have to be covered? By either a TE or WR? Sparty had one play where I thought the LT wasn't covered by anyone, may have had 5 guys in the backfield.
Note to BTN announcers: It's WOOL-FOLK. Not Whirr-fork. Jesus.
So that's pretty much the first quarter. I have a new found respect for the UFRs, this is actually a lot of work, breaking down each play. Props to you Mr. Cook. Now I know why coaches spend long hours doing what they do.
Lastly, I have a strange urge for queso dip. Ro-tel and Velveeta to be specific. It's 1155pm and I've gotta make a run to the grocery store...