I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
In the national playoff discussions now, we hear so much about WL records and large scoring margins. Yet, as every chess enthusiast, baseball player and 10-year old video gamer knows, it does not mean much to win games--or even win big-- unless you consider the quality of the opponents.
This post will mainly discuss Ohio's SOS, since it is the one now most at issue nationally. As Wojo recently pointed out strength of schedule matters a lot… and Ohio State doesn't measure up” this year. In fact, the graph below shows that it hasn't measured up for a long time---throughout the Urban Meyer years from 2012-4.
Based on the standardized Sagarin ratings (stdzSOS) for 3 yrs (one for RTG and MD)
Ohio has had the second worst SOS WITHIN the B1G and is nearly tied for last with PSU, far lower than all the other teams.Due to their low SOS within the B1G itself, it is clear that Ohio cannot simply blame their SOS on a poor conference.
Just how bad has Ohio’s schedule been? It’s about three orders of magnitude (standard deviations) worse than the team with the top SOS in the B1G---which will be briefly noted later.. More concretely, Ohio’s average SOS during the past 3 years was actually 12 spots worse than the rank of the best top FCS division team, ND State (#52 vs. #40).
It shouldn’t be so surprising. This year, Ohio faced but one team in Sagarin’s current top 15. They faced only two in the top 30---which is tied with Neb and Lville for the least among all top 30 Sagarin teams. By contrast, Ala faced 10 top 30 teams. Ohio even lost at Home to a team that finished tied for last in the Coastal Division and r #12 overall in the ACC—the only conference with a lower Sagarin rank than the big ten.
In addition. last year, Ohio beat no one in the top 15 and the two teams they played in the top 15 were both losses. OOC that year, they played Buffalo, San Diego State, and Florida A&M at home and the supposedly toughest was to be Cal—which went 1-11 that year, 0-9 in the Pac 12. The year before (when UM played away games vs. the two national title participants), Ohio did not play anybody in the top 19 all year. They did not play in a bowl or B1G title game. Rather, they played all their OOC games at home against powerful foes like Miami of Ohio, UCF, UAB and yes, you guessed it---they beat a 3-9 Cal team by only one score at home.
BTW: UM had the toughest SOS in the B1G for the entire past 3 years. The SOS gap between Ohio/PSU and UM is, in fact, staggering. This discrepancy may be worth discussing, even though it clearly does not explain all that's happened to UM.. It is worth discussing because the media---eager to prop up some teams and pound on others-- have entirely ignored this issue.
The death of Communist Football in Ann Arbor, at the hands of fascist manball counter-revolutionaries, has kept me in hiding. I know many of you have been waiting for THE_KNOWLEDGE to weigh in on the coaching search. However, my crack intelligence analysts are convinced that Harbaugh to Michigan is a done deal, based on publicly available information. Here is why:
1. Lloyd Carr's pro-Harbaugh comments. As you know, Lloyd Carr has stated: "Everyone has an opinion, and I am no different. If I had a choice, I would choose Jim Harbaugh. But it will be Jim Hackett's decision, and that is as it should be." This has been interpreted by the capitalist media as simply Carr expressing his opinion. It is much more than that. Carr, being as close as he is to the Athletic Department, would not express his opinion if it was inconsistent with that of Hackett, because doing so would undermine Hackett's search process. You can be sure that Hackett would be pissed if Carr was pushing Hackett to make a different decision than one Hackett would make anyway. In addition, Carr is almost certain to have inside information as to Harbaugh's interest in the job; he wouldn't advocate for Harbaugh unless he knew that Harbaugh was interested.
2. The collapse of the Vegas betting line. The Vegas Harbaugh bet collapsing from 8-1 to 2-1, and then being pulled off the table, is not merely a sign of decadent western gamblers, but of inside information. Jeff Moss of DetroitSportsRag reached out to Sportsbook.ag, and found out something very interesting:
Hi there….our limits for this market were $2k max win per bet. Its a volatile high risk market where the public may know more than us. It was a novelty bet so none of the bets were there sizable, it was the amount of bets that got our attention as it didn’t matter how low we went, they just kept coming in… We’ve been researching it more and more we can’t explain the action other then (sic) someone might know more about his coaching situation than us. We might consider opening it up again, but at this point it’s off the board.
There was a sudden, and massive, bet on Harbaugh coming to Michigan. In the stock market, such surges are frequently, though not always, the result of inside information.
3. Harbaugh has not quashed the Michigan rumors. Harbaugh was quick to shoot down rumors that he would go to Michigan under fascist AD Dave Brandon. That has clearly not happened in this case. Harbaugh genuinely loves his alma mater, and has zero incentive to harm his relationship with his former teammates and coaches by stringing Michigan along.
4. Hackett has told players that the search will likely be over after Christmas break. The NFL regular-season schedule ends on December 28. The 49ers could make the playoffs, throwing a wrench in this schedule, but Hackett's confidence in that timeline is telling.
5. Everything else we already know. The alienation of Harbaugh at San Francisco; the fact that Hackett as an interim AD has more flexibility to grant Harbaugh broad powers over the football program; the fact that several insiders have described Hackett as a longer-term hire; the fact that Harbaugh is objectively the best qualified candidate by a country kilometer; that Stephen Ross is a strong backer of Harbaugh coming to Michigan.
Even at 2:1 odds, decadent capitalists ought to take the bet that Harbaugh is coming to Michigan. The facts above make it extremely unlikely that any other outcome will take place.
Harbaugh's appointment would, of course, mean the end of Communist Football in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future. But the arc of football is long, and it bends toward the read-option.
If you are just now getting into the CC sweepstakes and are interested in candidates the board has spoken of often please see writeups over the past 8 weeks of Mullen 2.0 Mullen 1.0, Graham, Patterson, Mark Stoops, Harbaugh, Butch Jones Gary Anderson - and retrospective analysis of how Strong & Franklin would have stacked up as candidates.
This will be my last CC analysis as we've exhausted all possibilities I can think of that are reasonable. In the past few days some names have surfaced as potential superficial candidates - Jim Mora, Art Briles,
Sean Peyton, Bill Belichick, Ghandi, and Kyle Whittingham.
I won't spend much time on Mora and Briles - a cursory look at their histories show what you would expect. Briles is a guy who has never left the state of Texas, is well paid, had offense galore and then in the past 2 years found religion on defense. UM with Briles would be fun, we'd look a lot like OSU but with a different offense - zilly offensive stats with a decent but not great defense. Mora only has 3 years of data at UCLA but reminds me of a Mark Richt/Lloyd Carr type - he will get you to a respectful level but winning the big one is always a question, and annually loses a WTF game. He'll always be a threat to run to the NFL. I'd see a lot of 9-3 years with Mora which from current status of the program is great, but is he a guy who'd lead the team to the last step... conference championships? Open question. Also he was basically handed the Texas job last year and refused.
This brings us to a candidate I was interested in much earlier this year but based on his rejection of Tennessee in 2010, being in the state he played college ball in (BYU), his 20 (!) years at Utah, and being a Mormon in Utah thought there was little chance he'd move. Maybe there is still little chance but we are hearing his name at the edge of some Sam Webb / Football Outsiders reporting (plus some chatter he met with Nebraska) so he may actually be in play and it's worth taking a closer look at what a Kyle Whittingham reign would bring.
Coaching candidate.... Kyle Whittingham, age: 55
Summary: Kyle Whittingham has been the HC at the University of Utah since 2005, taking over after a whopping success left by Urban Meyer in his 2 years there. Prior to 2005, Whittingham had spent another decade at Utah as the DC and DL coach. So he bring a defensive focus. He'd also immediatey be the most ruggedly handsome coach in the Big 10. Gary Andersen - the current Wisconsin coach - was Whittingham's DC for a few years. Whittingham's background reminds me very much of Gary Patterson - a DC who was elevated to HC and has taken the program through a progression from lower level conference into major conference.
I will use the Gary Patterson comparable a lot because Patterson would be my personal choice for CC 1B behind Jim Harbaugh. I think Patterson is the better coach. But 12 months ago no one on MGo would want Gary Patterson due to recency bias (more on that later). And now a year later Patterson is not moving from all accounts. So we have to look at reasonable candidates - is Whittingham one? I don't know - this could be a negotiating ploy. His contract comes up in 2016 and what better way to get a raise than negotiate with Nebraska and Michigan?
Another parallel with Patterson is Utah's move to the Pac 12 which happened a year prior to TCU moving to the Big 12. The first year of the transition was pretty good (8-5) but the 2nd and 3rd years were struggles - this is no surprise. It is one thing to play a Power 5 conference team 1-2x a year like a Boise State does. It is another to go in with Mountain West talent and compete every week. Think of Brady Hoke's San Diego State team trying to compete with UCLA, USC, Oregon, Stanford, ASU, et al on a weekly basis. It takes time to cycle up your program with a higher caliber of player. Utah and TCU are getting there now.
The open question with Patterson 4 months ago was (after 2 years of similar struggles) could he do it in a Power 5 conference? He maintained a very good defense even in the Big 12 but the offfense sucked. Behind the back of a complete conversion of his offense in 1 offseason from run based to Air Raid, behind a dynamic QB he showed he can do it. And has gone from afterthought to one of the most sought after coaches once again. Whittingham likewise has been trying to change his offense (more on that later) but lacks that dynamic QB, and frankly aside from Dres Anderson lacked elite playmakers - and Anderson got hurt in October. At which point Utah began losing. Put a player like Trevone Boykin on Utah and they might have been the team losing to Oregon last night in the Pac 12 championship game - and the 8-4 season is 10-2 instead. And Whittingham is much more coveted. Little things....
Michigan fans will be familiar with Whittingham from 2 encounters with Utah in recent years - both ending badly for UM. It is generally a team full of 2/3 stars that looks fundamentally sound on defense/special teams without much star power on offense. Utah is not a talent rich area of the country and what talent there is will get swiped often by BYU or regional Pac 12 powers - hell, even Michigan can go in and get a guy like Mone.
This is a fundamentally sound coach who knows his stuff and maximizes talent - the open question is what would he do with more talent. I think he could do very well. He'd be much more inspiring than Mike Riley. So let's throw out another comparable - Gary Andersen at Wisconsin. Both coached in Utah, and Andersen had a far shorter record but Andersen is providing competent leadership and Wisconsin has not missed a beat. One issue for Whittingham is lack of Midwest footprint. But Andersen seems to be doing fine without one, unless one believes he is living off Bielema's players (which might be the case - he has not been there long enough for his own players to cyce through).
The main issue for Kyle Whittingham is offense. Utah is not good at it most years. But Whittingham has not stood pat - he keeps trying new OCs, almost to be a LOL level, and not having success. Now I did not research why all these guys left (aside from Dennis Erickson who I recall was demoted this past offseason for the new hire - and Norm Chow), but here is a list of OCs:
- 2010: Dave Schramm's 2nd year
- 2011: Norm Chow
- 2012: Brian Johnson
- 2013: Dennis Erickson
- 2014: Dave Christensen
That's 5 OCs in 6 years folks. I know Chow went to Hawaii to be HC in 2012, and Erickson's results stunk so he was demoted but it's a lot of turnover. Christensen ran some of Missouri's really cool Chase Daniels type offenses so you'd think he'd eventually be the one - with more talent infused.
The defensive side of the ball is no issue - much like Wisconsin's Dave Aranda (brought over from Utah State), Utah has 39 year old Kalani Sitake...who is in his 6th year as DC (!). He is from Tonga which in the Utah area helps as Samoa and Tonga seem to provide a lot of players. Utah runs a 4-3 defense so no issues in transition costs. I would expect both Wiscy's Aranda and Utah's Sitake to not be long for the coordinator ranks - these are exactly the type of guys a mid major gives a chance to as their HC. Or maybe if Whittingham leaves for Ann Arbor, Sitake would elevate to Utah's HC. But again, Kyle is a defensive oriented coach so I'd feel comfortable he finds a suitable replacement down the road.
(Don't cross this man)
Whittingham is a modest hire in terms of salary at $2M. We'd probably give him $4M because hell this is Michigan fergodsakes but guys like Andersen went to Wiscy for $1.9M and Helfrich makes $2.3M.
Recruiting? Obviously recruiting at UM will be different than Utah but a cursory glance at Utah's classes from 2007 forward shows classes from 30 to 70, but mostly 40ish. There has been an uptick since entering the Pac 12 except for last year's drop to the 60s. But the past 3-5 years has been a 35-45 type range. Respectable for a team that is in the bottom third of the Pac 12. Rank 35-45 in Big 10 terms would be Wisconsin; 30 to 70 (his longer term work at Utah) would be more like Purdue or Illinois. So this just gives a frame of reference for the type of talent Whittingham has when he mashes a Michigan team or goes into the Rose Bowl and beats UCLA, or hosts USC and beats them too. It's a coach who maximizes talent.
Recent (10 years) coaching background
- 2005-present: HC at Utah
Analysis: As mentioned above he has been at Utah in one form or another since 1994. Hence my reluctance to do a CC on him along with all the other candidates 6-8 weeks ago. Is he pliable? I don't know - either he sees he has done all he can do at Utah, or he is playing Nebraska and (perhaps) Michigan for a raise.
Caveat for results ----> (a) nothing exists in a vacuum (b) as a coordinator you can benefit or be penalized if your HC is good or bad or average (c) injuries or graduation can change your results dramatically in any 1 year. This is the type of stuff you'd research as an AD staff on every potential candidate.
His coordinator history is too far in the past to bother with so we'll just focus on his HC years and I won't do it quite in depth as some other CCs.
(1) HC at Utah
I did not bother with breaking out Whittingham's "Total Offense" and "Total Defense" stats as it takes a lot of time to compile and instead just went with Football Outsiders FEI and S&P+. If unfamiliar with those you can go to the site and read up on the - essentially they are advanced stats which try to best compensate for strength of schedule, eliminate garbage time stats, etc etc. Total Offense and Total Defense is nothing more than a measure of total yards gained or given up, which can be highly flawed and for example makes every Big 10 defense look a lot better than it is due to a myriad of awful QBs in conference.
Here is Whittingham's data - FEI measure started in 2007, S&P in 2005. The 4 starred years (2011-2014) reflect his Pac 12 experience. Again, please allow for the fact when a mid major goes into a major conference it is a big step up - even Gary Patterson had struggles when TCU graduated upward.
|W/L||Tot Off||oFEI||oS&P+||Tot Def||dFEI||dS&P+|
So what do we see overall? Defensively we see a team that is solid almost every year (2012 is one exception - it happens) It is not quite as good as what Gary Patterson did at TCU but again, Texas has a different level of "2nd rate" player than Utah does. What impresses me is when Utah moved from the Mountain West to the Pac 12 the defensive data (aside from an outlier in 2012) stayed consistent - that is great.
Offense? Well that is the issue with Utah. Again there is a lot of similarities to what Gary Patterson brings you - consistent defense almost every year, and years the offense shows up you tend to surge. There are some outliers here - i.e. S&P+ was happy with Utah's offense in 2009-2010 while FEI did not like it. I am sure changing OCs like diapers has not helped - a consistent OC with an "upper end" QB would surely help Whittingham.
Let's look at the last 5 years (1 year MWC, 4 years Pac 12) to show what a Whittingham brings you.
2010 - Utah was 10-3, 7-1 in conference and finshed #23 in the country. That was the year TCU went 13-0 and finished #2 in the country. TCU did smack Utah to the tune of 47-7 that year; the other 2 losses were 28-3 in South Bend to Brian Kelly's ND, and 26-3 in a bowl to a 12-1 Boise State which finished #9 in the country. So Utah was smashed in all 3 losses which I don't particularly like but 2 of those teams were top 10, and one finished #2 in the country. The wins were over the rest of the Mountain West, and OOC teams like Pittsburgh (close) and Iowa State (a blowout0. Air Force and San Diego State (hi Hoke!) were the 3rd and 4th best team in the conf that year - Utah won both of those close.
2011 - Year 1 in the Pac 12, Utah went 8-5 overall (4-5 conference). That is actually pretty damn good for a first year conversion. Patterson went 7-6, 4-8 his first 2 years in the Big 12. A mixed bag of wins and losses - a blowout of UCLA and BYU offset by bad losses to the likes of Coloardo and ASU.
- Key Wins: 54-10 @ #23 BYU (wow), 31-6 vs Neuheisel's 6-8 UCLA, 27-8 v Mike Riley's 3-9 OSU, 30-27 OT win in a bowl over Paul Johnson's 8-5 GA Tech.
- Key Losses: 23-14 @ Lane Kiffin's 10-2 #6 USC, 31-14 vs Sark's 7-6 Washington, 35-14 v Erickson's 6-7 ASU, 34-10 v Tedford's 7-6 Cal, 17-14 to 3-10 Colorado.
2012 - Year 2 in the Pac 12 did not go so well, 5-7 overall (3-6 conference). No need to break this year out - it was a "form" year - Utah beat every team that finished below them in the Pac 12 (Colorado, Cal, Washington State)... and BYU OOC. And lost to everyone else. The main positive is the nature of the losses - all except for a blowout loss to Todd Graham's ASU were 1-2 score losses.
2013 - Year 3 was like year 2 other than the fact it had a major upset in a home win vs Rose Bowl bound Stanford. 5-7 overall (2-7 conference). Utah owned the state of Utah, beating a pretty solid Utah State team, and BYU yet again. In conference the only wins were over a bad Colorado and a 27-21 win over Stanford - which is built like Utah in many ways actually. Again, all the losses (moral victories I know) were 1-2 type scores other than a loss at Oregon. So it shows a team who plays decent defense but just does not have the offense to compete with the high powered engines of the Pac 12. If that Utah team was playing Northwestern, Iowa, PSU, and Michigan instead of Pac 12 offenses it probably would have done far better in conference.
2014 - Year 4 was an improvement for Utah as you reach the stage where Mountain West players fall off your roster and you get some Pac 12 players reaching upperclassmen stage. There were only 2 bad losses - late in the year, to Oregon and Arizona; 2 teams in the conf championship game. The season started with 3 tomato cans - Idaho State, Fresno State, and Michigan (zing!). There was a 1 pt loss to Washington State (but that defense held Mike Leach to 28 pts), and an OT loss to very good ASU (I watched that game, it was very even). Some key wins were @ UCLA, @ Stanford, and hosting USC. All solid but not elite teams. The team really was hurt by the loss of its 1 major offensive weapon in late October - Dres Anderson. The team went 2-3 after although I presume they'd have lost to Oregon and Arizona either way.
Is Kyle Whittingham the best coach for UM? No. Is he my top choice? No. If Jim Harbaugh says no should he be in the next tier IF he is truly interested? I believe so. The tea leaves as I read them are not Jim Harbaugh vs Les Miles. I don't believe Les Miles will be offered due to what we are hearing from various outlets, Miles "history", plus Jim Hackett's insistance on character. So I think it is Jim Harbaugh v the field. If that field does not include Gary Patterson (who from all accounts is a no), and Todd Graham (who is a very good football coach plagued by being a mercenary and has little to no chance of being a UM candidate), I think Kyle Whittingham should be under strong consideration.
Utah seems to be turning the corner this year - they still lack dynamic playmakers of any sort on offense. Again I will go back to the Gary Patterson example - a year ago at this time TCU was coming off year 2 of the Big 12 and many wondered if the Patterson magic was just a MWC thing? TCU was 4-8, with the 104th ranked offense in America. People would spit on me if I offered Gary Patterson as a CC 12 months ago. Now everyone wants him. I see a lot of similarities in Whittingham with the caveat I believe Patterson is a top 10 coach and Whittingham more like top 20.
The coach Whittingham actually reminds me the most of in terms of way the teams play is one Mark Dantonio. Without the douche factor. Good defenses, maximizes value of player, develops players, offense (until this year at MSU) somewhat uninspiring. By all accounts - as best as I can tell from 2000 miles away - Whittingham is also a "solid guy" - so that fits Hackett's goals regarding winning with character.
As for that offense, you have to project what Dave Christensen (who again had some hell good offenses in Missouri with less talent then UM) - if he followed Whittingham to UM could do with this talent ....and we know what Utah can do on defense with far less talent then UM brings. Of course we do not know if Christensen would be coming along with Whittingham - Utah's offense looked more pro style than spread to me when they played Michigan but Christensen had a lot of pass spread concepts under Pinkel in his Missouri years.
Is Whittingham "better" than a Jim Mora (also a "long shot" candidate)? Debatable - depends what you prefer. I think both would sort of get UM to a similar place but in very different fashions. Whittingham would not be a threat to go to the NFL as Mora would. Lack of midwest exposure would be a penalty for both Mora and Whittingham - but again Gary Andersen seems to be doing ok from a similar West coast/Mountain situation. Is he "better" than Mullen? He is less complicated. Utah's offense is less different to UM's than Miss State's is, there are no oversigning issues, - Pac 12 recruiting would be more on par with Big 10 recruiting. There is no pulling of scholarships and offering greyshirts 2 weeks before a kid shows up on campus. Is he "better" than Greg Schiano or Mike Riley? I don't know but I'd feel he has more upside. And he is less of a douche than Schiano (Riley is supposed to be a super nice guy ala Hoke).
On the eve of the Big Ten Championship I find myself thinking about the Big Ten conference, and all its wonderful mediocrity over the last decade in football. The Buckeyes have dominated the conference. They have won either a share, or an outright conference title six times since 2002. All six of these titles are Jim Tressel coached teams. During the tress era, Ohio State football competed against better competition than the Current Buckeyes have seen. For example, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten title five consecutive times from 2005-2009. After evaluating their strength of schedule on (http://www.teamrankings.com), the average strength of schedule from 2005-2009 was eleventh. Tress's Buckeyes had only one year that they faced a strength of schedule out side the top ten and that was in his last season at the helm.
So how about Urban's Bucks? Since Urban has taken over the Buckeyes they have sleep walked through the regular season only losing three games in three years. They have dominated Big Ten regular season play, but they have nothing to show for their efforts other than Rings that were provided by the athletic department in 2012. Everyone gets a trophy right Urbz? (http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2013/04/ohio_state_buckeyes_get_rings.html), yes they got rings the year they went 12-0, and were on probation. Now how does Urbz Bucks, compare to Tress's dominate version? Lets compare strength of schedule. From 2012 to current the Buckeyes average strength of schedule is thirty second. This season it is forty second and dropping. Last year was the anomaly as the schedule strength beefed up to 21st because of Sparty, and Clemson. The two biggest test of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State were failures.
This year was supposed to be different. Then the unexpected happens with Braxton Miller's injured shoulder, then they tripped over themselves vs. Va Tech at home, but out of nowhere J.T. Barrett develops and makes a run for the Heisman breaking records along the way. Then tragedy struck when Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan, and is now done for the season.
Here comes Cardale (I ain't here to play school) Jones. Hopefully he lives up to his famous tweet (see the link for entertaining reminder), (http://m.espn.go.com/ncf/story?storyId=8466428&src=desktop). If he truly is only at Ohio State to play football he should be prepared for the biggest game of his life and of the Urban Meyer era.At least the Buckeye faithful hope so.
This Big Ten Title game is important on so many levels for Urban Meyer, who did not receive a contract extension for his performance thus far. It's been three years of falling short for some reason, or another. You had probation in 2012, the best Michigan State football team in its history in 2013, and now you are down to your third string QB, and are facing a Classic pound the football, play action Wisconsin football team. The Buckeyes should honestly be favored in this game. why should they be favored you ask? The reason I feel they should be favored is that the Badgers have fed off of a weaker schedule than the Buckeyes this year ranking at number fifty three in the nation. Wisky did nearly beat LSU to open the year, but eventually were exposed for what they are, a one dimensional football team. Joel Stave would be fourth on the Buckeyes depth chart. Melvin Gordon is the centerpiece of the Badger attack, and with a big game he could win the Heisman. The Buckeyes will certainly key on Gordon Saturday Night. If the Buckeyes struggle to stop Gordon, Wisky will play keep away all night. This will be the plan for Wisconsin and I think the plan can work.
But Urban needs this one desperately. I had made a comment back in 2012 that Urban would not win a Big Ten Title before Brady Hoke. If the Badgers win I will be partially right about my guarantee from 2012. Hoke will obviously never win a BIg Ten Title, but I'm going to hedge my bet, and say that if Urban doesn't win this game Saturday, whoever coaches Michigan Next, (Insert the many Names here), will still win a title before Urban Meyer.
So Urban, how important is this game to you? The Buckeyes are always so focused on National titles, but the truth of the matter is you have to win the Big Ten Title, and let the rest take care of itself. A Buckeye loss on Saturday means it was all for nothing again. Urban as of now remains the second best college coach next to Saban, but a loss on Saturday will prove Urban is just a good coach at this point, not a great coach, and the conversation of whether he can still win the big game at the highest level will become the topic of conversation in Columbus, and on the national level. A win will almost certainly get the Buckeyes in the College Football final four, and Gene Smith can finally extend Urban Meyer's contract because they actually won something.
2011 was magical, but the delay in instituting "his" offense likely hurt Brady Hoke
Sometimes a good coach doesn’t work out because the pieces don’t fit. There is little doubt that the transition to a spread offense was tougher than even Rich Rod himself could have predicted. And while bringing power offense to Michigan in 2011 would have meant sacrificing the talents of Denard Robinson (who likely would have transferred if asked to play RB) and our only bowl win since 2007, I wonder if it would have been better for Hoke (not for us as fans)? If Brady Hoke had gone 5-7 in his first year with a new offense, is it plausible that the 2014 version would have looked much better?
I am NOT making the case that Brady Hoke should have been retained. I am pointing out a fact in college football: Change is hard.
Brian wrote an impassioned case for Dan Mullen yesterday, whom I believe would be a very good hire for Michigan. There is, however, a big risk: the transition to Mullen’s offense takes too long and the impatient fanbase forces another coaching change.
What I wanted to do was to breakdown every player on our offense’s two-deep and to what system/style I believe they are best suited. Keep mind that every program mixes elements of different systems, but the most successful outfits have an established identity with corresponding constraints that can maximize their personnel. Part I is a brief breakdown of the systems, part II will explore which players fit each style.
Power football says, "I am going to punch you in the face," then does it
Power Running: The hallmark of any “power” running team is using an extra blocker at the point of attack to open lanes for the ball-carrier. In today’s college football, that almost always means using pulling offensive linemen, since fullbacks are less and less common. Motioning TEs and H-Backs are also used. Power can favor both power and speed backs, and makes the reads for the ball-carrier simpler. Increasingly, however, these schemes are mixed with zone blocking. Examples: Stanford and Wisconsin
Zone concepts threaten multiple gaps on every play
Zone Running: Simple to explain, hard to master. Just the block the guy in your zone, and, if that defender is secured, move to the next one. The zone system is popular because of its versatility: nearly every play gives the ball-carrier at least two choices (and a cut-back) and forces defenses to play very controlled, or risk giving-up a big play. The drawback is that a good guess by a defensive coordinator or player can blow-up a play, since the O-Line is moving laterally off the snap. Many offenses focus on either inside zone or outside zone. Examples: Alabama and Iowa
Spread-to-Run can be smashmouth and fullbackian
Spread-to-Run: Spread offenses all have one thing in common: their intent to force the defense to “declare” itself pre-snap. A spread-to-run team utilizes a mobile QB to add an extra blocker for the defense to deal with, and then tilts the math further in its favor by optioning off defenders. While the O-Line predominantly uses zone blocking in most schemes, there are lots of programs (Auburn, Miss. State) that incorporate power and lead concepts as well. The passing game is set-up by the run, and usually involves simple plays and patterns that allow the QB to make his decision pre-snap, or set-up the defense with play action. Examples: Auburn and Ohio State
160 feet never looked so wide
Spread-to-Pass: Bias alert! This is my favorite college offense. The wide hash marks of the college field force a defense to show its hand pre-snap. A QB in the shotgun can see the whole field, and, by using receivers spread to the sidelines (or close) can determine with a high rate of success what type of defense (man, zone, help over the top) he is looking at. Of course, having a mobile QB certainly helps add another element to this offense, but its primary function is to open the field for easy yards and chunk plays with those pre-snap reads that often come from the sidelines. Examples: Baylor and Notre Dame
Most "pro-style" college offenses are actually hybrids
Pro-style: This scheme mimics the multiple formations and concepts used in the NFL. There is a lot of under center work for the QB, and route combinations (triangle, high-low, smash, levels, etc.) set-up challenging scenarios for the defense to read-and-react to quickly by threatening multiple layers of the defense and forcing uncomfortable match-ups. When run correctly, I believe these are the most difficult offenses to defend. The trouble is, they’re awfully hard to run correctly. QBs are required to make multiple reads on each pass play and routes must be run with extreme precision. Pro style offenses can use the pass to set-up the run, or vice versa. It’s getting increasingly difficult to find a pure pro-style offense in the college game. Examples: LSU and Michigan State
The truth is that all offenses use some combination of these concepts, but, again, most build off of a single style and related constraint plays. Establishing that identity early in a coach’s tenure is vital, because repetition is a player’s best friend. Next week I'll match each player on our offensive two-deep with a system that I believe fits him best.
Inspired by this Bill Connelly post at sbnation about Nebraska, I wanted to look at the upcoming coaching change in terms of developing talent, and exceeding or underperforming expectations. In the article Bill asserts that comparing performance ranking to recruiting ranking is a reasonable way of determing performance.
So I took that theory and applied it to Michigan's past coaches, some of our leading candidates, and our competition to see what I could see. I tried to use the most recent tenure as possible, to show comparisons relative to each other. One thing that stood out early was that almost every coach underperformed expectations, but with most of these coaches recruiting at top-10 level, it would be hard not to. Without further ado, here's what I found.
Let's start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start.
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Not much we don't already know. Carr started tailing off, Rodriguez improved from a terrible start, and Hoke has fallen off after an outlier of a start. One interesting way to view this would be year-by-year, since obviously Carr's last year preceeds Rodriguez's first, etc. Michigan's recruiting has been very good, except for Hoke's first class, which still almost ended up top-25. Performance has been great (but not exceptional) to, well, I don't need to remind you how bad 2008 was (worst of any analyzed here).
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Yep, Stanford went from underperforming to outperforming expectations, even as recruiting improved. Performance went from average to excellent, and recruiting went from above average to good. That's pretty good performance in both categories, and will be hard to beat for the candidates we've selected.
At this point, I couldn't decide whether to order by who's best or who's most likely to accept if offered. Since we're all dreaming at this poit, I decided to go with who's best.
Dan Mullen started off with above-average recruiting, and improved some, but not much of the last four years. But the performance improvement is amazing. His team went from average to elite in two years. How much regression would we expect next year? Well, their four year average is about 37, offset against an upward overall scoring trend.
Gary Patterson is pretty much the poster child for over-achieving. Recruiting in the mid-30's, with teams outperforming by almost 10 spots. It's easy to see why people are trippig over themselves to see what he'd do with a top-10 recruiting clss. Recruiting hasn't gotten much better, but he's been there for so long, and competing against Texas and everyone else for recruits, it's tough to imagine them rising much higher than they are. Performance had been sliding backwards until this year, but still inline with expectations overall.
Next up, somewhat surprisingly is Bo Pelini. I was somewhat surprised that Nebraska fired him, especially after winning their last game, but the writing has been on the wall since the open-mike comments last year. Pelini has performed about inline with expectations or better, which was a little surprising. I didn't realize how far down Nebraska was in the recruiting rankings, which does explain their performance a bit. Recruiting in the mid-20s, performance in the mid-20s, trending improvement. We could certainly do worse.
The Hat. Looks like the consensus on him is pretty accurate. Great recruiter, good on the field, trending downward. Now, part of that is due to their great class this year, which would indicate a potential bounce-back coming, but that's what the numbers say now. Still only -3 relative to expectations, which seems pretty good.
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Obviously Muschamp isn't competition any more, but I included him to compare with Hoke. Florida had better recruits, but has been unable to do much with them, 2012 excepted. As a result, he comes in with a score between Hoke and Rodriguez, and, not surprisingly looking for a new job.
Urban Meyer is improving a loaded OSU team, from underperforming to meeting expectations in just three years. They've had top-5 recruiting classes, and the performance is starting to match. No reason to expect otherwise next year, unless the coordinators get poached (please, everyone poach their coordinators).
Nick Saban, well, what is there to say? Number one recruiting classes all four years, number one performance all four years. Technically that's five years of recruiting, since so many recruits don't make it to campus, but those are the numbers I have. Newsflash: Alabama is good, has been good, and probably will be good.
Brian Kelly at ND was a bit of a surprise. I didn't realize how far down their performance was. Next year could be make-or-break for him, and if their performance continues to slide, I'm not sure where he would wind up next. I was actually considering him as a possible candidate, but after looking at the numbers, I'm not convinced. We know he can recruit, but seems to be having trouble putting it on the field
Finally, Mark Dantonio. Tip of the hat to you, you crazy nutball. Recruiting in the mid-30s, top 15 performances. That's pretty clear evidence of outperforming expectations.
So after looking at year-to-year performance, I charted the overall relative over/underperformance of each coach. Here's the result.
So, what does all this tell us? Well, it's easier to outperform expectations when you're lower in the recruiting rankings. If you have a top-10 class, there's not much room to outperform. It's really about meeting expectations at that point. Harbaugh is the only coach I profiled with consistent improvement, but as far as our best available candidates, can you believe it's Dantonio, Patterson, and Pelini?