I'm going to preface my case for why NFL football can never hold a flame to college football by saying that it is entirely possible my perception is warped. I grew up in/near Detroit. The Lions have been god awful the vast majority of my life. Michigan has been bad for one year of my life. This surely skews my fandom of NFL football versus NCAA football. I haven't paid much attention to the Lions for five years now since following Art Regner's lead and being "Lions free."
Also: I don't necessarily think I'm going to convince anyone of my position, nor do I want to necessarily. I just feel the need to explain why the NFL is a relative bore as compared to college football.
There are probably dozens of reasons I could come up with if I sat here and just thought and thought and thought about this and just typed them as they came to me. However, what follows are the main thoughts that have lived with me for several years now.
1. The NFL offenses/defenses are just boring, anymore.
Maybe I was spoiled and turned off of the pro-set offense and the 4-3/3-4 offense and defense combinations by the Carr/DeBord era but I have trouble watching NFL games anymore because of the sheer boredom. There are three types of offense (or so it seems in the NFL) the power run game , the spread pass game, the west coast offense. The most innovation that has come out of the NFL in the past decade is the wildcat and the implementation of the spread offense in the passing attack (see NE Patriots). I theorize this is the case because of the fear of losing one's job and/or the relative level field between all the different teams' talent so that you don't have to make up for your roster of 2 and 3 star talent versus mostly 5 stars. Nothing was more exciting to me than watching a WVU game when RichRod was there, or watching Florida or Oklahoma do their thing or Nevada and the pistol or GaTech and the triple option resurgence. coaches are willing to mix things up in college either due to necessity or lack of prsssure or whatever it may be. It makes the games a lot more entertaining... it even makes picking games/previewing games more interesting...there are infinitely more matchups in terms of offensive styles vs. defensive styles to account for in college than the pros and its fun to see which way it will all shake out.
2. The traditions. The NFL has traditions, sure. But it seems like so many of them are just soulless and more a fun novelty than an actual carried on legacy attached to a program or team.
3. Rivalries. The NFL has rivalries, sure.... Denver and Oakland, Green Bay and Chicago, Indianapolis and New England, the NFC East. But the rivalries feel so muted and more novelty than reality when you take into account the college game. M v. MSU, M v. ND, M v. OSU, OU vs. Texas, Florida vs. Florida State, Miami (that Miami) vs. Florida State, etc. these are games that we live and die by, these are games that some people remember forever. There's so much more history with these collegiate programs and their rivalries than the NFL ones.
4. No Fun League. Some people think some of the things players do (see: Ochocinco) are over the top and should not be a part of the game. Some of his and TOs antics I would agree, don't belong in the sport. That's not to say that celebration or the natural release of emotion after a huge play or a huge victory doesn't belong. I see there being a difference between MANY NFL players and the celebrations that occur in college. The NFL celebrations seem to calculated and designed and directed at creating controversy and attention rather than just being elated at the fact that you scored or that you're helping your team's cause. The NFL takes itself very seriously and a lot of that kills the joy in it for me. The contract nonsense of holdouts and trade demands etc is just ridiculous. There's no loyalty or pride (in the good sense) from either the management/coaches or the players.
I still watch NFL football a lot of the time. I will not go so far as to say that I dislike it. However, largely I watch it for fantasy football. I really enjoy that aspect of it. I feel no attachment to any NFL team, probably because of the Lions awfulness for my entire life. I just watch as a bystander in every NFL game with no vested interest. My fantasy team is the team I root for...That's a lot less satisfying than cheering U of M on Saturdays. Or listening to the radio when I'm at work and not wanting to miss a moment of it. and rushing home after work on Saturdays to watch my DVR to see exactly how everything went down. I'm not sure there's anything the NFL could do to persuade me back to their side of the argument. College football's product is better, its more fun to watch, it has more creativity, more passion, and more risk taking than the NFL has had for decades. Saturdays are the holy days to me. (and no, I'm not a jew)
My co-worker, a good number of years older than myself, witnessed Bo’s Michigan personally. Meticulously drilled offensive linemen, who needed to know only one thing. If they could drive their defensive counterparts back four yards, they had done their job. Under Bo, he says, if you weren’t good enough to do that successfully four quarters out of every game, then you simply weren’t good enough. Perfect execution meant 3.4 yards per play, and anything less on any given play meant a good chance of a failed drive.
Under Bo, he says, if an opposing team went up with just a few moments remaining, well, evidently Michigan wasn’t good enough on that day. This isn’t to say that Michigan was perfect under Bo, he says. No, actually, far from it. But Bo’s teams’ victories were usually known from the start, and their losses could be tasted on the air before the opening coin flip had landed on the field. Deserving to win meant execution on the field. There was little playmaking, because there was one play. There was one rule. Dominate, or lose.
I, being a little younger, and only having the vaguest memory of the Moeller years as my earliest Michigan recollection, have a little different perspective on the nature of Michigan football. I know Bo ran more than one play, and so on, but it’s hard to argue with my co-worker’s overarching theme. During a five year grouping assembled randomly from Bo’s career (scores courtesy Wikipedia), the following data points emerged.
Average Margin of Victory: 22.84 Points
Average Margin of Defeat: -6.86 Points
Biggest Victory Margin: 57 Points
Biggest Defeat Margin: -23 Points
Margin of Victory Appearing Most Often: 35/38 (3 occasions each)
Margin of Defeat Appearing Most Often: -2/-10 (3 occasions each)
Many people would point to this simply as evidence that Bo was a very good coach, and was always in games. This is probably pretty true, in that only one loss during that period (above mentioned -23 loss margin) was greater than two touchdowns (next nearest was -11)). However, I feel that it also shows something else. Bo had 44 wins during that period, and only 12 of those, or 27.2% were by less than two touchdowns. Furthermore, only six total, or 13.6% were by less than one touchdown. If Bo were going to win a game, he was going to win it big. He was going to play well, he was going to execute, and he was going to grind the opposition to dust.
I believe that Rich Rodriguez recent commentary that he would like to be good enough to play poorly and still win is good for the team. It’s a modern era, and Michigan isn’t the only powerhouse anymore. We are running a highly difficult to execute offense and we’re simply not always going to have the players to make it work right. Games are going to be 38-36 and 36-33. MAC teams are going to score on us, and keep us out of the end zone. Our average margin of victory might be one field goal instead of three touchdowns.
We’re not used to it because Bo played Bo football, Gary played Bo football, and Lloyd played Bo football. Execute or fail. Dominate or Lose. It looks scary. Sometimes it looks bad. But with a combination of playmakers, cleverness, and proper coaching, sprinkled with bits of dilithium, it will produce success.
So the next time somebody says a certain player, unit, or the entire team looks bad, you can safely reply that yes, that is true, but it doesn’t mean we won’t win. And it doesn’t matter how you get them, wins make everyone happy. Even Bo.
These are the characteristics of a successful defensive system:
- Lots of talent of varying experience levels at ALL positions.
- Coaches at every position who can coach technique.
- A coordinator who knows scheme.
- A coordinator who can communicate what he wants done by his position coaches.
- All of the above in place w/o change for at least a few years.
Let's examine the two teams in regards to these areas.
- Not really high talent, but does have players used to the system from seniors to freshmen. Seniors teach the younger players what the coaches expect and also hearing the same thing but in different words deepens understanding.
- In spades.
- That staff has been together for so long, this is absolutely true.
- The real secret behind Iowa's defensive success.
- No. Most of the talent is concentrated on the DL. Warren is obviously awesome, but Mouton and Brown are highly rated SAFETIES, and are playing LB. Mike Williams and Cissoko are young players, but Williams doesn't have anyone to mentor him. Cissoko...I feel for him.
- Not sure yet. If I was on staff myself (ha!) I could tell, but then I wouldn't be able to tell you. Man, that was helpful, eh?
- No, no, no. This is the real problem. This system is new to everyone EXCEPT Greg Robinson. He gets to decide not only the scheme, but also how he wants individual techniques taught. Maybe some of them are different than before. This means not only do the players have to learn new techniques, but the coaches have to teach differently than they're used to, perhaps. Continuity and consistency...and that happens when the coaches are so used to it they can coach it in their sleep and, furthermore, the older players can mentor the younger ones.
So, Iowa has 4.5/5 and we have 2/4 and IDK on the fifth (#2). It should come as absolutely no surprise that Iowa is better on defense.
If this defensive staff is still together in 3 years and Iowa is still more successful on defense (assuming they'll have the same staff) then I think it's safe to say that some of the assistants aren't cutting the mustard, b/c I'm pretty confident we'll have better players and will have rounded out the roster; i.e., we'll have quality players of varying experience at all positions.
As for this year, well, maybe we'll have an average defense by the end of the year.
I predict us to lose to MSU, get thumped at Iowa (they're quite adept at defending the spread), lose a close one to Penn State, and then maddeningly lose to Illinois (a la the basketball team at Iowa last season) but get the rest, including at Wisconsin and then, finally, over the Buckeyes. We end the season on a high note with a win over a name brand SEC team in the Outback bowl and finish 9-4.
Thanks, Steve. Even though there are some painful losses in your scenario, I will sign up for it right now. I have a few questions for you:
- You seem comfortable with GERG's knowledge and scheme, which puts me at ease. I assume you were less comfortable with what Shafer was doing?
- Why don't we give more help to our weak corner? How come that corner always seems to be out there by himself against Floyd or Doss?
- How do you explain that our highly-rated LB recruits who we so desperately need - Demens and Fitz - are still not very good in year two? Did we just strike out on both? Is it too early to tell?
- Why has the tackling fallen off so sharply from week 1? Competition? Habits? I was blown away by the crispness of our tackling early and not so much lately.
Fielding Yost: 11-0 overall, 119-0 W against MSU
Tad Wieman: 3-4-1 overall, 3-0 W against MSU
Harry Kipke: 8-0-1 overall, 0-0 Tie against MSU
Herbert Crisler: 6-2 overall, 26-13 W against MSU
Bennie Oosterbaan: 6-2-1 overall, 7-3 W against MSU
Bump Elliot: 5-4 overall, 24-17 L against MSU
Bo Schembechler: 9-1 overall, 34-20 W against MSU
Gary Moeller: 10-2 overall, 45-28 W against MSU
Lloyd Carr: 8-4 overall, 45-29 W against MSU
So after looking at the overall records then what happened against Sparty, for the most part we had good overall records and beat them, which like, duh, we are the winningest program ever. So like i said, 7-1-1 in Michigan coaches 2nd season. Obviously since this is a rivalry and not 1910, this is not going to make a difference, but just another thing to brag about to your State friends.
|School||Drives||Red zone %||Rank||PPT||PPT rank|
|Ohio State||18||83 %||57||4.67||72|
Well, hell. What do you make of that? I can't see much of a pattern there at all. I guess maybe the teams that play more of a smashmouth style are higher up on the list? I'm willing to chalk this up to limited sample size and uneven competition, and just come back to this in a few weeks. It does make me question how much sample size and opponent quality affected the defensive numbers as well. What do you think?
So i went back to look at stats between these 2 teams as far back as i could find to see what stood out as difference makers and one stat seems most relevant:
- Rushing yards
- So as you can see, only in 1995, 2004, and 2007 did the losing team gain more rushing yards than the winning team.
- In fact the opposite holds true, though not as consistent - the losing team usually ends up gaining the most receiving yards.