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.
Why does it suck? Because unlike the close losses to MSU and Iowa where the team showed progress, this is a major regression. It's not even 'take one step forward, two steps back' this is moonwalking back to last year.
I feel sorry for Brandon Graham to be getting very little help from the rest of the team in this game. Oh, and zoltan is doing ok. oooooh boy.
This game sucks because all of the things that went wrong today are things we've seen before. These are all lingering problems that just haven't been corrected. Well at least we haven't fumbled a punt or a kickoff... ... YET.
Let's take stock.
- Molk and Odoms get dinged up, so grady (19) promplty drops two passes to kill a drive
- Denard throws a pick when we were running well, one play after he overthrew koger
- Tate is throwing everything low and looks like a nancy boy out there in the cold. Someone needs to take him to a fraternity and have the boys tie him up to the delta gamma anchor all night without any clothes on so he gets used to the cold.
- Carlos fumbled
- Denard fumbled
- Tate holds the ball too long
- Bad snap costs us a safety
- Bad snap costs us a touchdown
- Ezeh one on one is nearly = DEATH, and the safeties split and had no idea about staying as 'deep as the deepest'
- Mike Williams missed a tackle
- Mike Williams missed a tackle
- Mike Williams missed a tackle
- We're giving their receivers too much room on the goal line
- They could run bubble screens and 0 yard hitches for 7-8 yard gains all day long.
- We can't complete the fricken flare
Oh yeah, and we had a ton of stupid penalties from the O-line, holding, misalignment, false start. Today we looked undisciplined as a team.
I'm completely disgusted. I'm not saying the sky is falling, but damn, we can't be digging ourselves into holes and hope to win against good teams. We'll probably win the next two weeks and be 7-3 with two tough games to finish the season. Right now it's looking like 7-5 which is what people were saying before the season and represents a huge step forward from last year.
But still. This game sucks. At least it's only one game.
The thing that really brought me to write this post was the fact that defense has always seemed to be a weakness under Rich Rodriguez. Part of it is due to the fact that his teams have put points on the board in bunches and quickly putting the defense in a precarious position, but part of it might also be attributed to the recruiting on the defensive side of the ball.
Rodriguez recruits really really well.
Let me rephrase...
Rodriguez recruits really really well on the offensive side of the ball.
Ok, so the rephrased statement is obvious. Rodriguez is an offensive guru, so it's obvious he recruits well on that side of the ball. But on the other side, I cannot say the same. I can already hear the comments coming. "What about Craig Roh, Justin Turner, and Will Campbell?" Yes, Michigan OBVIOUSLY does recruit defensive players, but take a look and see what the ratio of offensive-to-defensive players recruited is.
Offense Defense Athlete/ST
2008 14 8 2
2009 9 9 4
2010 10 7 2
So these numbers aren't THAT telling until you check the athlete section.
2008 athletes: Feagin (O), JT Floyd (D)
2009 athletes: Robinson (O), Gallon (O), Thomas Gordon (O to D), Gibbons (ST)
2010 athletes: Dileo (O), Hagerup (ST)
Heck, a lot of offensive recruits end up getting moved to defense because they can't compete with the talent on the offensive side.
This is a BIG problem. USC recruits defensive players. Florida recruits defensive players. OSU recruits defensive players. Michigan (under Rodriguez) recruits offensive players and turns them into defensive players. This should be VERY alarming.
The #11 Michigan team will face #9 Minnesota in Minneapolis Saturday night (8pmET). The game will be streamed live over the BigTenNetwork.com's new video player. This will be Michigan's first appearance on the new video player, and should be a solid matchup. The cost will be $2.99 (Note: $5 cheaper than the hockey game against BU, which is available through BU's SID for $7.95. BTN is a steal).
Also worth noting, this will be another game where the hosting team moves to a bigger arena (Williams Arena) in order to get a big crowd in against Michigan. Minnesota is expecting around 10k in attendance. That's awesome.
The Golden Gophers enter the game at 15-2 (pending the outcome Friday night at Michigan State), but they suffered a huge setback this week. Brook Dieter, a Second Team All-American last year and current leader in kills for the Gophers, spontaneously quit the team earlier in the week. Not much is really known on what happened. The team captain Gibbemeyer mentioned "personal reasons," while coach Herbert claims it was a "earning playing time" issue. Either way, Dieter and senior setter Carico were both benched against Northwestern last weekend. It sounds like Carico, who is second in the BigTen in assists, should be back in the starting rotation by this weekend.
Taking the place of Dieter is junior Hailey Cowles, a defensive player turned outside hitter. This move makes no sense to me having not seen the Gophers very much, but while reading through some of the comments on those Dieter articles, it doesn't sound like it makes much sense to some of the more informed commenters:
Do you really believe that replacing Brook Dieter (hitting at a pretty good, but not outstanding 0.250 pace) with Hailey Cowles (hitting at an astonishing 0.061 pace) at left side hitter will improve the team? I consider this incident a train wreck [compared to their women's basketball team with a similar experience a few years ago] - dmhopstock
I would guess that Cowles as the OH will not last. Soon, Wilson will move to OH and Harms will play OPP. As good an all-around player as Cowles is, she is not tall/long enough to be successful against premier teams. She will return to her DS position and Harms' athleticism will shine. - fahningm
They sound like they have a decent idea of what's going on, but they are just commenters on a newspaper website, so take it FWIW.
Minnesota definitely looks vulnerable. They were swept by Penn State and Illinois in consecutive games before handling a weak Northwestern team 3 sets to 1 over their last three games.
Michigan will definitely try to test Cowles as Michigan will have a height advantage for perhaps the first time all season. Cowles is 5'10", perhaps the shortest outside hitter we've faced in the BigTen so far. Dieter was one of Minnesota's better blockers with .64 blocks per set (10 solos and 31 assists). That'll be a huge loss for the Gophers.
Add that Michigan is coming off their best defensive game in a while, this loss of Dieter could be huge. Donhoff had a great game against State, which probably went unnoticed by most casual observers. It helped that our block had plenty of tips up. I really want to see that intensity at the net happen in this game as well.
Here's where things start to get dicey for Michigan. In the middle of the last game, Lexi Zimmerman dislocated her thumb. She was playing with obvious pain, and she was sporting a hand brace. While she finished the game against State, we'll have to see how much she plays over the next few games. Most dislocations take a few weeks to fully heal, and really bad ones can knock a player out for 2-3 weeks.
I imagine if had been that bad, the trainers wouldn't have let Lexi play, no matter how much her game day adrenaline would have allowed Lexi to keep going. I'm expecting to see Lexi start, but at the first sign of aggravation, I wouldn't be surprised to see Yager enter the game.
Yager is expected to be a great setter by the time she makes the starting lineup. She was ranked #41 overall in the nation by volleyballprep.com in last year's volleyball recruiting class.
Yager made a brief appearance in the game on Wednesday, but you could tell she was just a freshman setting. Her sets weren't nearly as quick or crisp as Lexi's, and it allowed State to get a few points Michigan probably wouldn't have given up. That said, Lexi made a few bad sets due to the thumb. It'll be interesting to see who plays how much and how well.
I kind of like the one I did for Michigan State. It's not perfect, and I'm still trying to figure out what I call a push versus a true advantage, especially with Aces per Game versus Server Reception Errors per Game (SR Errors/Game) or Attack Percentage versus Blocks per Game. Bear with me. Comments on how to improve it are welcome.
|Aces/Game||1.7||SR Errors/Game||0.9||MICH||SR Errors/Game||0.6||PUSH|
|Serve Errors/Game||2.73||Serve Errors/Game||1.64||MINN||Serve Errors/Game||1.24||MINN|
|Passing Errors||18||Passing Errors||12||MINN||Passing Errors||10||MINN|
|AVG Oppo RPI||68.1||AVG Oppo RPI**||63.9||PUSH||-||-||-|
- *Doesn't include Friday against MSU
- **Doesn't include MSU's RPI, which being around #18, will help weight it down to ~61.6 average opponent RPI
So with Dieter, I would have given the edge to Minnesota in just statistics, not to mention the home court advantage. With Dieter out of the lineup, Michigan picks up quite a few more matchups. That's a big drop in kills/game and even digs/game. I think the backups will be able to handle the digs, so that may not be such a big advantage for Michigan, but the kills… that'll hopefully be the game breaker.
Some of the ones Michigan still losses are also deceiving, such as service errors per game and attack percentage as Minnesota removed about 1/5 to 1/4 of their attempts on the season, inflating the overall totals. I don't think you can just assume that the backups will produce nearly as well as Dieter.
I'm liking our chances to get a big road win, but I'm in no way confident enough to pick an outright win. I could see this game going any number of different ways. If I had to buckle down and guess, though, I see Michigan victorious in 4 sets.
The match begins at 8ET (7pm local), so for those interested and with $3 to spare, check out the BTN.com. It should still be a good one.
(all pictures from MGoBlue.com)