I've heard a lot of excuses after last night's disaster; some valid and some not so much. My favorite was Tate isn't use to playing in cold weather. As all of you know, Michigan is the only northern team that recruits southern players. But I digress.
Last season was Paul Johnson's first year as head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. I guess I really never payed attention but I assumed Johnson had a lot of talent to work with. Afterall, he did go 9-4 his first year while RR went 3-9. So Johnson had to have tons of talent ready to go when he took over, right?
Not so fast my friend. Here's a little information from Johnson's bio:
"On December 2, 2008, Paul was tabbed ACC Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA). Georgia Tech, ranked 14th in the BCS standings and 15th in the Associated Press poll, finished the regular season with a 9-3 record, remarkably better than every preseason projection. Sports Illustrated predicted Johnson's first Yellow Jacket team would win just three games, and Tech was picked to finish fourth in the ACC's Coastal Division. With a 5-3 record in ACC play, the Jackets tied Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title."
"Johnson, who came to Georgia Tech in December after a highly-successful, six-year tenure at Navy, inherited a roster low in scholarship numbers and overloaded with youth. Only 76 players are on scholarship, including three senior walk-ons who were awarded scholarships prior to the start of the season, below the maximum of 85 scholarships. The roster includes 75 freshmen and sophomores, and 16 of 22 starters are either freshmen or sophomores."
So, Johnson had 76 players on scholarship and 75 were Freshman and Sophomores. Any coach who goes 9-3 with mostly Freshman&Sophmores would do so ONLY if the young players were made up of 4 & 5 star recruits. Right? Here is GT's recruiting rankings over the last few years.
2005 - 48th (two 4* & six 3*)
2006 - 49th (one 4* & six 3*)
2007 - 15th (nine 4* & nine 3*)
2008 - 37th (one 4* & sixteen 3*)
2009 - 32nd (four 4* & twelve 3*)
I think it's obvious that GT's recruiting classes over the past 5 years don't compare to UM's. Even with all of the departures, UM still has more talent on both sides of the ball. So why has Paul Johnson's transition been so smooth and successful while the Rich Rodriguez takeover has been nothing short of a disaster?
RR brought the spread to Michigan & PJ the triple wishbone to GT. Both are new and unique to UM & GT. So we can't really use the "not the right type of fit" excuse. So what is it? Maybe GT plays in a weaker conference. Maybe GT caught some lucky breaks. I don't know, but I do know GT is playing some damn good football right now while UM is struggling to not look like the football version of the Bad News Bears.
I'm not jumping off of the RR bandwagon and will give him my full support, but I can take my maize and blue goggles off long enough to see that there a quite a few new coaches who have won more with less. Paul Johnson, Brian Kelly & Jim Harbaugh all come to mind.
Thank you for your support,
Rich Rodriguez's first class shortly after taking over and Dantonio's first full class. The Dantonio effect is noticable as State pulls in 11 of the top 26 players in the state and also wins a couple head-to-head battles with Michigan. This will unfortunately be a trend in the next two years. Nick Perry was a HUGE loss, and I don't know what happened with Ingram. Perhaps he was long gone by the time RR came, but not quite sure why the previous staff wasn't in on the guy.
So basically what we've seen since Dantonio's taken over is an extreme focus on getting in-state talent. He's picked up 22 guys in the last two classes, but to be fair about half of those guys Michigan would never offer. Has it paid off for him? So far yes as Larry Caper was a guy we wanted, didn't get, and he scored the game winning TD on us. We'll have a better vantage point as these last two classes grow up, but as I said in the last post, when you get a guy from your own backyard not only is he on your sideline, he's not on the other one either.
Dantonio's had some success in head-to-head matchups with us, but I don't think that means we can't get more guys in-state. It's obvious that we don't have the same philosophy he does and I think he probably uses that as a pitch.
Here's my conclusion: '07&'09 were years the state was pretty deep in talent, and we struck out on most of those guys. There were 18 in-state recruiting battles in those years and we only won 7. 4 guys we won were 4-star and up, 3 were 3-stars. Here's the key: every player we lost was 4-star or higher, and we're not including '08 guys Nick Perry or Mark Ingram.
Keep in mind that '07 was Lloyds last year so that may have had a lot to do with the multitude of guys leaving the state. Also, transitioning head-coaches is a difficult thing, there's our 3-9 debacle, and a total offensive system change to keep in mind that would leave some kids out of the picture as bad fits.
We've always been able to recruit nationally, and we should always continue. We should get the best players possible for our team. But, there is something to what Dantonio is doing over there at MSU. Also, not to say Rich Rodriguez doesn't recruit Michigan, he does. The point is not to single out a coaching staff, but to demonstrate that us as a program have not been stellar in recent years at getting kids from our own backyard. It hurt us in the MSU game, and I think could be factor in years to come, especially in that rivalry game.
END NOTE: In '03 & '04, each year produced 7 in-state 4-stars. In '03 we got 4/7, none-went to MSU, and we didn't offer 2. In '04 we got 4/7 again with MSU picking up 2 and ND getting 1. We didn't offer any of the guys we didn't get. So from '03-'05 we went 4/5, 4/4, and 3/3 with in-state 4-star guys. That's 11/12 '03-'05. In '06-'09 we were just 9/24!!!
The actual quality of the game was OK. Not great, not horrible, just OK. I was expecting a little better than what the quality actually was because of the web sites claim of "games with a clarity that is comparable to high definition". The archived games have a little better quality but still not getting into the realm of comparable to high definition.
Commercials and breaks in the game when they go to the big ten studios are a little weird. During would-be commercials the screen changes to a message about the game returning after the break. They put a clock on the page and show the seconds counting which seems like not a big deal but actually is because the counting indicates that the stream is still going and your feed hasn't frozen. This isn't too bad except for half time. No half time show at all just the message and the clock. I would have at least like to see the band or something. The in-game breaks to show other game highlights aren't shown either. The feed just stays on the game and pans the audience. I realize that this is because the feed is from the game and not the actual TV channel but other highlights would be nice.
The archived games are nice but not complete at all. There is no UofM/ND game or UofM/Iowa and speaking of Iowa, they only have 1 game for viewing. I'm sure this has something to do with the TV contracts, but i figured all of the conference games would be available no matter what network it was shown on.
Overall I would say that service is worth it and hopefully will only get better over time.
If anyone has questions about it, let me know.
What this all means is that there are 6 guys who were 4-star or higher that we lost out on and should be playing for us right now. 5 of those guys would most likely start. Imagine this defense:
E - Brandon Graham
T - Mike Martin
T - Joseph Barksdale (If we kept him on D)
E - Nick Perry (will include him in Part II)
SLB- Stevie Brown
MLB - Chris Colasanti
WLB - Eric Gordon
CB- Donovan Warren
CB- Ronald Johnson (he'd probably have the Woodson role)/Dionte Allen
S Aaron Gant (why is safety always a weak point?)
S Troy Woolfolk
I believe if we want to be an elite program again, we have to start getting elite players, especially in-state. I like Dantonio's approach because when you get a player from your own backyard, not only are you adding him to your team, but keeping him off the other sideline as well. Rich Rod has said it's A priority, but I think it should be THE priority. It's clear that we can and should recruit nationally, but if we want to get back to prominence we need these guys we've been missing out on since '07. A good coach and a good system can only take you so far, you need good players.
Here’s the situation: Your team leads 21-20 with 2 minutes left in the game, has just scored a touchdown to go up 27-20, and your head coach kicks an extra point to take a 28-20 lead. Seemingly every coach kicks this extra point in all similar game situations that we’ve witnessed – it’s a no-brainer, right?
Back in my video game-playing days – it’s been a few years, but I’d bet that I’ve played football video games for over 1,000 hours of my life – I used to always go for 2 points in this situation in an effort to build an insurmountable 9-point lead. My logic was this: in practice, at least in the NFL, no team that scores a touchdown to put them down 1 point in a game-ending situation goes for 2 points to win the game. (I believe this has happened less than 10 times in the (brief) history of the 2-point play in the NFL, which represents a negligibly small percentage of similar game-end situations). Therefore, the difference between a 7- or 9-point lead to me was far greater than the difference between a 7- or an 8-point lead; at 7 or 8, the other team has a chance to tie in regulation (but not win, given my assumption), but at 9 the game is effectively over.
In the intervening years I’ve gone along my merry way just assuming that all coaches were making suboptimal decisions with respect to this situation. Now in my first year as a PhD student in a business program, my brain is starting to work a little bit differently. Thinking of this situation earlier this week, I developed a simple model to help infer whether either strategy here is dominant.
- Your team is Team A, the opponent is Team B
- Team A has just scored a TD with 2 minutes left in regulation to take a 27-20 lead; PAT/conversion pending
- There is only one meaningful possession remaining in regulation, for Team B, starting with Team A’s kickoff to Team B
- We assign a probability of β to represent the likelihood that Team B scores a TD on their possession (0 ≤ β ≤ 1)
- The probability of either team successfully converting a 2-point conversion is 44% (I believe this is the NCAA historical average conversion rate)
- The probability of either team making an extra
point is 100%
- If Team B scores a TD on their possession to reduce Team A’s lead to 1 point, they will kick the extra point 100% of the time*
- If the game goes to overtime, both Team A and Team B have an equal 50% chance of winning the game
* - I expect this to be the most controversial assumption, as in college there is always some consideration with respect for going for 2 in this situation (e.g. the Michigan-Michigan State game this year). I submit that this is a very matchup-specific assumption at the college level – a heavy underdog is more likely to take their chances on a conversion attempt than on overtime – but as noted above, the assumption should be uncontroversial for the NFL, where going for 2 and the win is a nonfactor.
Probability of Winning – Go for 2
There is a 44% likelihood of making the conversion, which makes the score 29-20 and results in a win likelihood of 1 given our assumptions (i.e. one possession remaining in the game). If the conversion attempt is missed (56% likelihood), we consider that Team B will score a TD with β probability. If they score, this results in a 50/50 chance to win in overtime; so, in this state, Team A will win with (1 – β/2) probability. Therefore, the Total Win likelihood is (.44)(1) + (.56)(1- β/2), which reduces to: 1 - 0.28 β.
Probability of Winning – Kick extra point
There is a 100% likelihood of making the extra point, giving Team A a 28-20 lead. In order to lose the game at this state, the following has to happen: (1) Team B scores – β probability; (2) Team B makes a 2-point conversion (44% likelihood); (3) Team B wins the game in overtime (50%). The total loss likelihood is therefore 0.22 β, meaning that the Total Win likelihood is: 1 – 0.22 β.
Umm…Brian’s bolded alter-ego, is that you?
No. Brian’s bolder alter-ego has long, curly hair; I’m bald. Get it?
Well then. What’s next is that we start playing with β.
It’s not. We can now calculate the β at which these two decisions provide an equal probability of winning, which is clear from looking at the formulas: only when the other team has a 0% likelihood of scoring a TD are these two strategies equal.
How, exactly, does this help us?
What this tells us is that, given these assumptions, we have a dominant strategy. If we set β equal to 1 – that is, there is a 100% likelihood that Team B will score a TD on their drive – we find that going for the 2-point conversion in this situation provides for a 72% probability of winning, whereas kicking the extra point provides for a 78% chance of winning. Lowering the β into a more realistic region – for convenience, say 0.5 (i.e. 50%) – we find that that going for the 2-point conversion provides for a 86% chance of winning, while kicking the extra point provides for an 89% chance of winning.
It’s important to not dismiss this difference out of hand and treat the strategies as equal – if you told a coach that a particular decision would increase the chance his team loses from 11% to 14%, I’m quite certain that the difference would be meaningful to him. And it’s also important to keep in mind that these are just fun game theory assumptions that would need to be modified for each specific scenario; for example, I might have had a play on Madden that I knew would work on a 2-point conversion 80% of the time given the poor game AI. In that situation, my decision to go for two was probably rational.
Which leads me to the following conclusion: given that real game situations will have realities that diverge quite a bit from the basic assumptions in this model, over the course of thousands of games there must have been individual circumstances where teams were at least as well off attempting a 2-point conversion in this situation as kicking the PAT. In fact, it seems likely that there would have been at least a few instances where they would have been better off attempting a 2-point conversion – say, in the college football fringes where PATs are not ~100% propositions and where weak kickoffs will lead to greater βs . However, in my football-watching experience, I can’t recall ever hearing a discussion as to whether a team should go for the deuce in this situation.
I discussed my “model” with an experienced PhD student, and his feedback was invaluable. One major issue that he raised was that there is a covariance between (1) the likelihood of Team B successfully converting a 2-point conversion and (2) β, the likelihood of Team B scoring a TD on their final possession. The point being, the strength of Team A’s defense (and Team B’s offense) will cause these values to be related.
There are also economic concepts of utility and risk-aversion which are being ignored here. And of course, the emotional and psychological implications that any given Result A will have on each team, thereby potentially influencing the outcomes of Result B.
So, minor quibbles with assumptions aside, through a very, very simple economic model I’ve provided evidence to help answer a question that’s been bugging me for some time. Unfortunately, the results are inconclusive – while I find no fault in the general strategy of kicking the extra point in this situation (indeed, a dominant strategy in this model), I have to believe that the ingrained nature of this decision and the strict adherence to the conversion chart has caused a few coaches to make suboptimal decisions. In any event, hopefully this creates some fun discussion, and hopefully a future look at a different question will provide a more conclusive and illuminating result.
Thanks to my friend Andy for catching an embarrassing error with my initial model and thereby proving the immense value of editors. If there are any less-than-minor quibbles with the assumptions or any other issues with the model, please let me know – constructive feedback is welcomed.
The fact of the matter is that, by the end of the game, I wasn't angry, outraged, or embarrassed. I was philosophical. This team opened this season by stealing games from ND and Indiana. On the basis of those thefts, we as a nation began to believe that we were actually good. We aren't. We are much, much better than last year. But we are not actually very good yet. And that's OK.
The objective part of me thought about opening this diary by saying "Hey, we lost to a Top 15 program. No surprise. In line with expectations. Don't freak out and let's get ready for Illinois." And there is some truth to that. But what it misses is the utter disarray of today's game. We were outclassed today. And do I dare say that this team quit a little bit in the second half? I was watching closely. But what I saw in Donovan Warren today in the second half may have been a dinged up knee -- or it may have been some disgust and disillusionment. As I offer my observations, I remind the Michigan faithful that we remain one game ahead of plan, with every intention of defeating Illinois and Purdue, and with our first RichRod bowl game a high likelihood. So let's begin:
1. I remain of the view that RichRod's two QB system is a mistake. In my last diary, I argued that RichRod needed to make Tate his formal starter, with perhaps one "change of pace" possession a game for DRob. I reiterate this view. I was perplexed by a lot of the negative Tate commentary on the liveblog today. I thought he had a middling game. He wasn't great. He certainly wasn't bad. What stuck out for me was the appalling number of drops in this game. Koger was off his game today. I've officially had it with Kelvin Grady -- he annoyed me (and Beilein) on the hoops team, he now officially annoys me on the field. I don't want to see Kelvin Grady anymore, especially since he is often taking snaps away from Marvelous Martavious. (Is anyone on this team more improved than Martavious Odoms? I absolutely love that kid.) Tate had pretty mediocre pass protection today. And his receiving corps disappoints. I really feel like Mathews and Hemingway have not stepped up and demonstrated that they deserve to be the number one receiver at Michigan. All in all, I thought Tate was ok today. I could not believe when, with the score 25-10, Michigan tenuously in the game, but only one score from making it a one score game, out comes DRob to promptly fumble. I like DRob. He's a great kid. But he plays quarterback like I play pinball -- he has a "I wonder what will happen if I do this" approach. His pick today was a disaster pick -- total failure to see the play. His fumble was part of a disturbing tendency towards fragility. I see a future with DRob. I do. And I know that I have been a dismalist on his playing time the last few weeks. But come on -- turnovers are death. And DRob turns the ball over at a higher rate than anybody I've seen.
2. "Other than that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln?" My feelings about GERG remain a puzzle. This will engender catcalls, but I actually thought the defense played pretty well today after the first drive, with one obvious exception: the secondary is the worst secondary I have ever seen. And let's call it like it is -- Kovacs isn't even the worst player in our secondary. The whole thing just doesn't work. I don't understand our use of man coverage in the red zone. Isn't man coverage for athletic secondaries that can handle it? I am not sure if I can continue to say "Other than the holocaust that was our secondary, I thought we played pretty well." But I guess I will. I have never seen less talent in the secondary. It's about speed, brains, and geometry. Our guys don't do any of it very well. And for the first time, I have to say, that includes Donovan Warren. Wow did he appear out of sorts today. I find it difficult to blame our secondary play on GERG. From where I sit, this was another game where the defense played ok, but then got run out onto the field repeatedly after turnovers and three and outs, often in terrible field position.
One additional note: many on the liveblog commented about concerns going forward. I share them. Is it not clear that this defense will be worse next year than it is this year? It's fine to say that we should remain positive and loyal to the Blue. But I am seriously concerned about this defense going forward. I am reading Brian's recruiting updates increasingly with an eye tuned solely to the defensive recruits. It is not a good sign that I am looking for true freshman to contribute next year.
3. Let's not forget how solidly Penn State played. Before I get ahead of myself, hats of to Penn State for a terrific game plan. It went something like this.
Galen Hall: Michigan's secondary has one guy with a fake leg and another guy that's blind.
Joe Pa: Do you think we should throw a lot of passes?
Galen Hall: Yes I do.
Penn State came in and absolutely shredded our secondary. Daryll Clark is a solid, senior leader who looked poised. Penn State knew what it wanted to do today and did it at will. I think even if we play well, we still lose this game. I got the distinct sense that they were letting off the gas.
4. We need to consider mixing up our sets. I really felt like we were on the cusp of a great running game from Brandon Minor today, only to see it dissipate. Obviously, as we fell behind, we needed to pass more. But I think we need to recognize that against teams with good linebacking, the stretch runs toward the sidelines are going to be less effective. They seemed to take forever to develop, and even when they did, there wasn't much there. Conversely, I thought our interior lineman were doing a nice job opening holes in the middle. I think RichRod needs to have the flexibility to consider putting Tate under center when Brandon Minor looks like he has it in him. It's especially true once Molk goes down -- it reduces snap complexity which, once again, was an issue. And it has worked to great effect, as in the power drive we had against Iowa. I offer for consideration -- does RichRod need to consider mixing up his sets a bit more than we currently do? I am leaning towards yes.
5. We need to be candid about where RichRod is at. RichRod has not yet demonstrated the capacity to defeat a solid Big 10 program. Given the sorry state of the Big 10, this is an issue. If you want to claim Wisco from last year (or Minnesota), go ahead. I think Wisco is actually in a bad place under Bielema, and Minnesota is a collection of talented players coached by morons. I am concerned that in RichRod's second season, we are tied for second to last in the Big 10, and have no reasonable view to defeating a winning program. I'm not calling for him to be fired. I'm not bashing him. I'm making a simple statement: when you make $2.5 million a year, you need to be able to compete in your conference. We can do the "Lloyd left the cupboard bare" meme and the "It's a new system" meme as much as we want (and I do it a lot). But I think it's fair to say that I am officially calling for success in Big 10 competition next year. Not a championship per se. But Top 3 in the conference. This is the last "rebuilding" year. It is time to serve notice on RichRod that next year needs to be 9-3 or better with quality wins over quality opponents.