Football commentators regularly talk up the value of the bye week or a big early season game for the opportunity to add extra preparation from a coach staff. This week I dug into the data to see how much of an effect bye weeks and openers had on team performance and which coaches are the best and worst at using the bonus time to their advantage.
As usual, I looked at all FBS games from 2003-2012. If a team played an FCS opponent as an opener or after a bye week it wasn’t included but it wasn’t treated as a bye for the next week’s game, either. I compared how each teams EV+ (points better/worse than an average team would have done, opponent adjusted) was in openers and post-bye versus how they did overall for that season. I then assigned those numbers to the head coach and looked at how head coaches have done, under the assumption that any strengths or weaknesses under these conditions would be more coach than program. So Brady Hoke is evaluated from Ball State, San Diego State and Michigan.
Over nearly 1500 post bye week games evaluated, a small benefit did emerge. The average team performs 1 point better post bye week than in regular weeks. 53% of teams performed better than their expected based on full season performance. The data closely matches a normally distributed outcome with an average benefit of 1 point and a standard deviation of 11.5 points.
Distribution of points versus average for post bye week games
Openers were about a wash. The typical team performs about 0.2 points worse than expected in openers. Openers feature a lot more variables than just extra preparation time. The standard deviation for opening games is the highest of any week during the regular season (but lower than bowl games). That variance is pretty low however. Teams have the most deviation from their season average in week one (11.9 points) but the low point has a deviation within 1 point (11.0) that occurs during week one. So teams are most likely to have an outlier game in week one or for their bowl but overall, most weeks have a pretty similar level of deviation.
To see how current Big Ten coaches have done, I looked at their track records for both openers and after a bye week to see who has done the most and least in each situation. The bubbles are color coded based on the team and all of the reds are team coded because there are too many red teams in the Big Ten.
Positive numbers are good and bubble size indicates sample size
Mark Dantonio and Kirk Ferentz have both been able to start the year off strong with strong opening performances. New Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen along with small sample size guys Bill O’Brien and
Curtis Kyle Flood both have the best results after a bye week. Coach Hoke’s openers have been mildly below average but his bye weeks have been the most productive of any coach with a larger number of games. Urban Meyer has seen his results after bye weeks on the other end with his squads playing 3.6 points per game worse than they do in a normal week.
Other Notable Coaches
Openers on the x-axis and post bye week on the y-axis
Charlie Weis has seen his career reflect his seasons at Notre Dame. A first season/game that was significantly better than what happens afterwards. I guess his decided schematic advantage expires after one week. Barry Alvarez is apparently the king of the bye week as his teams turned 3 bye weeks under him into a +21 advantage, even after accounting for opponent and team strength. Joe Paterno was the opposite case. His Penn St teams played over two touchdowns worse after a bye week. Mack Brown and Jim Tressel also had teams that have found bye weeks to be counter-productive. The only entry several points worse on both standards was GERG Robinson during his tenure at Syracuse. LLoyd Carr’s openers were never great, even when The Horror is excluded but his teams where some of the best coming off of a bye week.
As always, let me know about any request for off-season material you would like to see.
I thought I might share some background on my first experiences with deep dives into MGoCulture, if you will.
It began in the early 1980s on an unassuming street in Northville, and it began with a 1977 Ford Econoline and its owner –both pictured on this page for the University Of Michigan Club Of Greater Northville (LINK). I spent many hours, when I was a wee lad, sitting in this van as it sat in a driveway wondering what it would be like to be at a Michigan game before I actually went to my first one in 1985.
Lou was our next door neighbor, and his daughters babysat me and my sisters quite often, so we spent an awful lot of time at their house. Actually, we even spent mornings before school there once in a while, waiting for the bus, whenever my parents had to go into work especially early. I was in elementary school, and like so many kids in southeast Michigan, I was a Michigan fan, but I suppose at the time that I didn’t know what this meant precisely. Lou knew in meticulous detail, and it still impacts my life to this day.
Most of their house was similar to the colonials around it (including ours). At the time, most of us on the street had not graduated from 1970s décor, so browns and burnt sienna were not uncommon, and linoleum floors ruled the day along with the odd shag carpet. There was one room in that house next door that was an aberration, but a beautiful aberration – the office.
I still remember first stepping into that office and being awestruck – if it had a block “M” on it, or Bo’s likeness (even Bump’s likeness, as Lou went to school mostly during Elliott’s tenure) or if it was simply Michigan-related, it was in there. There was a board on one wall with dollar bills signed by names as diverse as Dan Dierdorf, Reggie McKenzie, Don Canham and even Bennie Oosterbaan. It was just dollar bills, but also signed photos, a few game balls from different decades, pennants and so on. Even though he likely had better things to do than explain all of these things to me, that is precisely what Lou did – the beginnings of my knowledge of MGoHistory and MGoCulture begin in that office just off the kitchen of the house next door.
Lou taught me “The Victors”, and not just the chorus. He even taught us “The Yellow And The Blue” and even let us attempt to play these songs on the organ in his living room. Actually, when we came over to the house sometimes, we would be quizzed on our MGoKnowledge. He took his self-imposed role as the neighborhood purveyor of all things Michigan quite seriously, and I know he still does even now. When I find myself buying MGoGear and supplying MGoTrivia to my niece and nephew, as well as my kids and my meighbors, I know exactly who I am channeling.
The Michigan flag flew proudly on the flagpole in Lou’s front garden. When the pole was ripped from the ground and thrown into the street by a June 1983 storm, it was actually the first thing that was replaced. Not even nature would prevent Michigan from reigning supreme over Morgan Circle. I watched as he installed the new pole, saying not a word, and at the end of that back-breaking day, in a ceremony to which we were all invited, the new Michigan flag (the old one was never found after the storm) went up with a “Go Blue!” and then some grilled delights on his back porch. He was dedicated to his university, and I think I picked that up as well, for the first thing that goes up every game day is the flag.
I don’t think I ever told him, and maybe I should this season as I walk past Edgewood and Snyder, where he tailgates more often than not, but I credit him primarily with starting me down the path that made me not just a knowledgeable Michigan fan, but a proud alum and MGoFanatic. Indeed, there are times on MGoBlog when, in the middle of a post, I stop to ask myself how Lou would respond.
Like many on this board, I come from a family that has Michigan ties from within as well, but when I think about who inspired this level of fandom and who inspired me to want to be part of that culture, I think of that house next door to ours in Northville and its resident Wolverine.
At long last, ESPN released their 2014 rankings, which means I no longer have an excuse to not put this together. With a new recruiting cycle comes some changes to the rankings:
- Between the addition of two teams (Rutgers and Maryland) to these rankings in the past year, the Irish falling off the schedule after 2014, and reading the same damn comment every week, it's settled... to hell with Notre Dame.
- Gone is the rudimentary points system. In its place, I'm using the 247 Composite Rankings, which combines data from all four recruiting services into, well, composite rankings. This not only gives an unbiased and comprehensive overview of each team's standing in the conference, but by adding the national ranking we get an idea of where the teams stand in the bigger picture and where the largest gaps are between teams in the conference.
- Using the 247 Composite Rankings again, I've added columns in the top table for the number of five-, four-, and three-star prospects in each team's class.
If you've got any suggestions, please leave a comment or send me an email. Without further ado...
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|247 Comp. Rank (Ovr)||School||# Commits||5*||4*||3*||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
|2 (9)||Ohio State||7||0||5||2||3.43||3.71||3.86||3.43||3.61|
|4 (19)||Penn State||6||0||2||4||3.17||3.33||3.33||3.33||3.29|
|5 (20)||Michigan State||6||0||0||6||3.17||3.33||3.50||3.00||3.25|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
I thought it would be interesting to see how the B1G teams fared against each other with number of players drafted and what rounds they went in. Overall, it was not a good year for the B1G with only 22 players selected and just one making into the first round. I created a table that shows the number of players drafted from each team, then assigned points based on the round drafted to come up with a point total for each B1G team. I used the following numbers: first rounders were given 7 points, second rounders 6 points, and so on. Obviously the point totals are open to debate. Is a first rounder really worth the same as as 7 seventh rounders? Who's to know? Anyway, with this metric I devised, Michigan ended up with a total of 5 points based on Denard's fifth round selection (3 points) and Will's sixth round selection (2 points). Obviously, had Taylor Lewan entered the draft, Michigan's score would have been much higher. As Lewan would have almost surely gone in the first round, that would have made Michigan's point total 12, good enough for fourth place, just ahead of Ohio.
I went ahead and threw in Rutgers and Maryland at the end of the chart just out of curiosity. If Rutgers were in the B1G this year, they would have topped the conference both with number of players drafted as well as point total.
2013 NFL Draft: B1G Edition
Edit: Corrected based on FlintB16's post
TIE YOUR LACES
(Click the Image to See Full Size Version)
Four years. Not all of them great, mind you-- but every one of them had their share of magic. I think I already said "Okay, this is the last strip about Shoelace" or something to that effect about three times now-- but I couldn't help myself. One last hurrah, before Denard Xavier Robinson puts on the cap of another football team, and closes a chapter in his life and another in ours.
Tomorrow's Friday Fun will be a drawing that has something to do with Michigan.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.
The Michigan Difference: seeking input on offseason article topics and the first request being about punting and then getting a quick second! Ask and you shall receive.
MGoUser stubob asked whether or not outkicking the coverage on punts was a real thing and if there was an optimal distance to kick the punt. To look at this I looked at all “returnable” punts. Punts kicked from at least the 20 yards and that did not go further than the opponent’s 10 yard line and occurred in the first half of the game unless otherwise noted.
Unsurprisingly from the original hypothesis, the longer the punt, the longer the average punt return.
Average return yards/punt given punt distance
Initially, it does look like longer punts yield longer returns. Of note though is that the slope is significantly flatter than a 1 for 1 trade. The rough slope is that for every four yards of distance you add to the punt, you give back a single yard of average return (not counting touchbacks). This accounts for the average case, but doesn’t address the risk and variance.
The Big Return
Percent of returns going 10+ yards (Blue) and for TDs (Yellow)
Again, the data backs up the conventional wisdom on long punts. A 55+ yard punt has a one in four chance of coming back at least 10 yards. With an average return of 7+ yards this isn’t much of a surprise. The longer returns aren’t just a function of more space between the punting team and the return team. But even with smaller sample sizes, there is a strong trend between likelihood of a touchdown and the length of the punt. Even though the total odds of a 55+ yard punt getting returned for a touchdown is about 1 in 75, that is about 3 times the rate of a 30-35 yard punt.
If you look at the net implications of these two charts, the long term strategy clearly points to kicking it as far as you can, concerns be damned. Even when you factor in touchbacks, the odds of a punt netting 40 yards goes up dramatically the longer the kick.
Percent of punts netting 40+ yards by punt distance
55+ yards net over 40 yards nearly 9 out of 10 times, nearly 50% more than a 40 yard kick. Outkicking the coverage isn’t a valid enough fear to push for any decision other than kicking it long, except possibly in a late game situation where the small but increased risk of a touchdown on the return becomes more highly leveraged.
The Spread Punt
One of the few questionable decisions the Hoke era has produced has been the refusal to move to the spread punt. While I don’t have data on which teams have converted to the spread punt when, but if you trend punting data over the last 10 years, its clear that something is happening.
Average return yards per punt by season, excluding touchbacks
Over the last ten years, the average return yards per punt has decreased by 42%.
Percent of punts returned 10+ yards (Blue) and TDs (Yellow)
Just like above, the move towards lower return yards corresponds with a lower rate of long returns. The real indication of change comes next.
Gross (Blue) and Net (Yellow) punting (including touchbacks)
This generally otherwise uneventful chart shows that over the last ten years both gross and net punting have improved nearly every season. Not only has net punting improved, but it has improved at a rate faster (10.3% cumulative) than that of the gross punting (5.6%), which is the exact opposite effect you would expect based on the fundamental connection between punt distance and punt return yardage. This indicates that over the last 10 years there has been a shift in the basic nature of both the punt and the punt return. Correlation and causation and all that, but this is a pretty clear indicator that the widespread adoption of the spread punt formation has been a huge win for the punting teams.
If we make the weak but directional assumption that 2003 = Traditional Punt and 2012 = Spread Punt, the formation is worth about 3.5 yards per net punt and a 50% reduction in punt return touchdowns. Otherwise of note is that the block rate has dropped along a similar slope from 2.6% in 2003 to 1.0% in 2012. So net punting up, gross punting up, punt returns down, punt returns touchdowns down and punt blocks are down. Whatever has happened between 2003 and 2012 let’s hope Michigan is on board.