mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
As many of you may know, MSU was featured yesterday (7/14) as the number 31 team in the Rivals Preaseason Countdown. The preview is more of the same unwarranted (in my opinion) hoopla about how it's time to start "dreaming big" in East Lansing. While reading the preview, I naturally began comparing the breakdown with that of U of M. MSU was given the following grades: Offense B, Defense A, Special Teams A-, Coaching B+. U of M's grades are as follows: Offense C, Defense B-, Special Teams B, Coaching A.
While looking at these grades for each of the respective team's units, one grade really stuck out to me, and that was the B given to the Sparty Offense vs. the C given to the U of M offense. Some of you may think that a one-letter-grade discrepancy is not worth further analysis, but I think that, after reading so many unsupported and superfluous previews of the 2009 MSU football team, I finally reached my breaking point. I decided to do a little more research into the personnel that will make up each unit this season and came across the following:
|Carries||Net Yards||YPC||TD's||Carries||Net Yards||YPC||TD's|
|U of M||MSU|
As you can see, my analysis included only players that have contributed in some fashion during their career. The quarterback position is almost a complete wash as neither team has anything even close to resembling a proven player. Michigan absolutely dominates the running back position, having almost 2300 more yards, while having double the yards per carry numbers and over 6x more TD's than the returning Spartan ball carriers. MSU gains a little bit of ground back in the receiving department as they return more yards and yards per catch, though M returns more TD's from its group of WR's. Finally, I included TE's to be fair, and as you would expect, State dominated having roughly 4x as many yards and 5x as many touchdowns. This, however, is not an apples-to-apples comparison as the M offense puts nowhere near the same emphasis on tight ends as does the Sparty offense.
I would like to note that I did not include any offenseive line statistics as they are exceptionally difficult to come across, however I will mention that the offensive line was the "biggest problem" for both teams in the Rivals analyses, thus we can conclude that this area is roughly a draw.
Going a step further, if you want to include a high-level overview of incoming offensive recruits, M is bringing in 11 players with an average Rivals ranking of 3.8, while Sparty is bringing in 13 players with an average RR of 3.5.
Based on this analysis, I don't see any way imaginable that Sparty's offense can be rated a full letter-grade above M, and I hope that this provides further evidence that the unbelievable amount of optimism surrounding MSU football is both unwarranted and unsupported.
Once upon a time, Michigan was a booming state. With ore and lumber coming in from the UP and the burgeoning auto industry in Detroit, Michigan was one of the richest states in the nation and it backed that up with a state university that was considered world class. And that university had a football team virtually untouched by anyone in the land.
To the south, Ohio was in the opposite situation. Mired in poverty, the state had yet to fully enter the 20th Century. It's flagship university was still a land grant school at heart, teaching the sons of farmers how to farm even better. With the manufacturing industry that would eventually bring the state some financial prosperity in it's infancy, Ohio was a backwater.
This was the birth of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. The have's vs the have-not's. The rich vs the poor. The educated vs the men of the land.
And it was a one sided rivalry, to be sure. We all know that Michigan didn't lose a game to the Buckeyes in the first 16, and that after a three year losing streak we reeled off another six straight. It's fair to say that, in a world where MSU was irrelevant and we'd yet to play Notre Dame, Ohio State was "little brother". For they had neither the tradition of competitiveness that defined our main rival, Chicago, nor the stakes of our jug stealing rivals in Minnesota. They were merely the school that couldn't accept that we didn't hate them as much as they hated us, they were the academically and athletically inferior hicks who couldn't run with us if they tried.
Then something funny happened. Chicago, our only true rival on the field and in the classroom, got progressively worse on the field until they just dropped the sport altogether. Meanwhile, those annoying Buckeyes had beaten us four years in a row... wait, let me rephrase that. They destroyed us four years in a row, to the tune of 114-0. We were also in the midst of what would become an 11 year Jugless drought. These were the circumstances in which Ohio State became our main rival.
I'm posting this for two reasons... one because it's not the way the rivalry is traditionally presented and two because it's funny how it fits our feelings about State today. Let me be crystal clear, the things that lead to OSU's rise as our main competitor will never happen with State. But maybe, just maybe, they might one day rival them in stature.
Warning! I am not a coach and I haven't played football since eighth grade. However, I have taken an interest in offensive and defensive schemes lately. Most of what I have learned has come from reading Smart Football, Three and Out, Trojan Football Analysis, and of course Brian; especially his piece in HTTV 2009.
I think one of the biggest reasons why the hybrid positions are getting so confused is the fact that coaches all have different names for the same hybrid position. To Pete Carroll the “Spinner” is called the “Elephant” and others call it the “Quick.” All this position really is, is the WDE. Now in the 4-3 under (at least the one we are using) he is moved way outside the tackle. The reason I believe we do this is so that we can use a smaller player and that is able to speed rush the passer, hold weak side contain, and fall back into coverage for a zone blitz. With the player being so far outside they don't need to be as refined in their technique and can use their athleticism in space. This is the position that is being battled for by Evans, Herron, and Watson.
Brandon Graham is going to be the SDE this year. This of course could limit his effectiveness as a pass rusher. However, he has the most refined technique of all the defensive ends and will probably draw many double teams. These double teams will most likely lead to one-on-one battles for at least two defensive linemen (which I am considering the “Deathbacker/Spinner/Quick/Elephant” to be).
The other hybrid position in our defensive is the one occupied by Steve Brown. But just like the “Spinner” is just a WDE but with a fancy name, Mr. Brown's position is just the SLB but not the John Thompson version. Obviously, spread offenses are everywhere and to combat this defensive coordinators made the SLB more like a safety. But they also want someone who can handle a tight end in man coverage and in run situations so this may be why the coordinators just didn't use a normal nickel package. In the 4-3 under the SLB is in an inside-foot to outside-foot alignment on the tight end also called a 9-tech. If there isn't a tight end then I believe he will play nickelback to the strong side – however GERG determines which side is the strong side.
coaches use different conventions for which side is the strong side.
Some call the strong side the side with the tight end. Others call
the strong side the side to the quarterback's front (non-blind) side. I am not
sure but I think that we will be using the first convention.
Note that Steve Brown and Brandon Graham are going to be on the same side. And both will be lined up on the line of scrimmage.
According to Pete Carrol the WLB is protected in this scheme, so they don't have to be “thick necked jokers” either, they need to run sideline to sideline and make plays. This is Jonas Mouton's position.
It looks to me like a guard might have a free release on Obi in this formation, but I would like to defer this question to someone who knows more about football than I.
Earlier someone posed the question as to why we don't use Brandon at the WDE position (they called it the 'Shembackler' which I like but for clarity's sake I'm sticking with WDE). This was actually why I started writing this in the first place. It seems to me that what is most important for the WDE position in this scheme is the ability to rush the passer and the ability to play in space. Brandon can most certainly rush the passer and given that he played linebacker in HS he could probably play in space – not to mention his freakish athleticism! So why don't we move him there? I think the answer is because we don't have a DE as polished as Brandon to play the SDE, especially since Ryan Van Bergen could be starting at the 3-tech DT! We have athletes, and this is the number one criteria to playing the WDE spot in our 4-3 under; as far as I can tell anyway. Hopefully they can at least speed rush the passer; playing well in space would also be helpful.
On to other musings! If our starting D-line is going to look like BG, Martin, Van Bergen, someone at WDE then I would think we should be pretty good at penetrating the O-line (clean thoughts people!). Does this mean we will be susceptible to counters and traps? Can someone weigh in on what the advantages of having a small line like ours might be? Plus, I think we can all envision what the disadvantages are so I was wondering what the bright side could be.
If you are craving more info I would recommend reading this Trojan Analysis link keeping in mind that Steve Brown is the SLB in the diagrams and BG is the DE on his side. Then delve as much as you wish! Chris Brown and gsimmons85 have so much football knowledge packed into their sites you can read on for days and – like Brian – forget what the sun looks like!
I'm not one to get defensive so feel free to tear this apart! In fact I welcome any criticism since I will most likely learn something or get a laugh.
One last thing. If you frequent mgoblog and you don't buy HTTV 2009 then you are a fool! In fact you will be known as a fool all your life and when you die all people will say about you is: 'The fool is dead.' So don't be a fool and buy HTTV 2009 today!
I think that I might just be a "Slappy", but I don't agree with all of the experts about this upcoming season. Last season was so bad because the offense was horrible and couldn't keep the horrible defense off the field. This year will be better because; 1. We will have a pulse offensively. 2. We have competence at the D -coordinator position. As bad as we were, we still could have won four more games.(I use "WE" because, even though I didn't play football or attend, M football is all I know)
I truly think that even though Western is a good team, we should be able to beat them. The only thing that I believe about Weis is that he is one of Earth's downed satelites.(The other being Mangino) I think that without turnovers we will handle ND easier than Western. If we don't beat Eastern it would be a sign of the apocolypse. Beating IU should just be a formality befoe going to EL. I don't believe in those drinking the green and white kool-aid, mainly because without Ringer they would have been sub-par as usual. I think that going to Iowa will be a tough one for us to win. Hopefully we have a week off with Delaware State. All in all, I truly think that we are going to have an 8-4, 9-3, season as long as we don't turn the ball over 40% of the time like last year.(Of course an inflated stat) I'm new and not an English major, so go easy on me.
I know everyone calls it something different...from "Deathbacker" to "Spinner"..but I like Schembackler. Just gives the position some real definition.
Forgive me if this has been beaten to death, but I'm really, surprised that Graham doesn't appear to be the leading candidate for this spot. His H.S experience as a LB means he at least has a clue on how to drop into coverage, he's an edge rusher extraordinaire and can stand in there with TEs. He could be moved around in an attempt to keep offenses guessing, and to keep him out of double teams. I guarantee he's as fast as any LB on the team, with the possible exception of Mouton. In short, he's a beast, which is the whole point of the Schembackler spot.
The other three choices here are Herron, Evans and Watson. None of these guys has played much, so I'd think that Patterson and Banks would have a wealth of experience by comparison.
Seems to me, you let Banks, Patterson and LaLota play the RDE position and use the best playmaker you have on defense at the spot designed to create the most havoc. But that's just me.
While perusing the site I began to wonder if there was some sort of UFR database that could be queried in order to research different trends, etc. I'm a computer engineering major with a math minor and statistics are not exactly my cup of tea, but I would at least like to poke through that information if it was all in one place.
After emailing Brian and finding that there was no such database, I found myself pondering how one might go about making such a database. I started writing an application in C++ that would take the HTML table and convert it into XML that could be imported into Access. I was relatively close to getting that to work, but it was a bit of a hassle, so I decided to try something else.
I decided to write a Perl script that would parse the HTML, clean out all the tags (<table>, <tr>, <td>, etc), and put in their place more useful XML tags (<line>, <player>, <analysis>, etc). The result was a pretty nifty script that does almost all the work for me. After converting each UFR table into XML, I needed to add some extra information like drive IDs, play IDs, and things of that nature so that the database would be easily queryable. I did some of this by hand (lots of search and replace), and wrote another script to take care of a bunch of the nit-picky stuff that would have taken hours. I didn't really want to spend the rest of the day adding <PLAYID>some number</PLAYID> to over a thousand plays... I decided to be an engineer because I'm lazy and there's ALWAYS an easier way to do something.
If you're interested in seeing the Perl scripts, especially if you're proficient in Perl, let me know and I'll send them to you. This was my first useful Perl script (I taught myself, and hadn't ever done anything more significant than Hello World!) and a lot of my techniques came straight off a Google search and probably aren't following best practices. Suggestions/critiques would be greatly appreciated.
After some trial and error, I ended up with what I think is a pretty nifty database that includes information about every game, drive, and play that was charted over the course of last season. OSU is missing because Brian didn't do a UFR, along with halves of some games (a couple were only charted for offense or defense, but not both), and some drives (I believe a couple games were so painful that the final drives were non-UFR-able).
I've hosted the database file on FileFactory, along with the final XML file for the complete season. Hopefully that works...
If I get really bored in the future, I'd ideally like to find a way to parse the text to record all the +/- information for each player, but I haven't thought about that much... seems like it would be quite a bit of work, and I might not have time for it now that my boss and my manager are back from vacation.
So anyway, feel free to download and look through that. Do whatever you'd like with it. I didn't really do this for any reason other than I wanted something to do, and it seemed more useful than Facebooking all of our potential recruits for the next five years. Sorry about all the parentheses... no idea how they've become so prevalent in my writing over the years, but everything sounds choppy when I write without them.
EDIT: As was mentioned in the comments, the Miami game, the Northwestern game, and the other half of the PSU and Illinois games were actually available. These have been added to the database and the final file is located HERE. (The corresponding XML has been updated as well.)