to play football, not to play trumpet
Back in April, I wrote a diary called Blue Moon in my Eye in which I developed a regression model that could be used to develop a projected win total assuming that reasonable estimates had been used as inputs. At the time I thought that the team would be capable of winning at least seven, probably eight, and maybe even nine out of thirteen games this season. Since then, things have, uh, how do you say … changed. With the loss of Woolfolk, how do those numbers change?
The New Blue Moon
Before I get to that, there’s a good reason to update the model. In April, I mentioned that turnover margin is meaningful factor in regard to outcomes, but I lacked enough data to break it out specifically and therefore decided to leave it as a lumped parameter; turnovers were doomed to fade into the ether that is Intercept. No more, the NCAA has finally included turnover data in its database and now there is enough data to mix into the model. The new model has an improved R-squared value (0.752 as improved from 0.675) using just three end-of-year factors: offensive yards per game, defensive yards per game, and total turnover margin. Last time I didn’t include the model because it was mine, my own, my … preciousss. That was incredibly lame and nerdy (both with holding the coefficients and referencing LOTR) but we’re talking stats here so no one should be surprised. Another reason for divulging the goods is, now that there are four dimensions, a chart would be useless. Behold, the Blue Moon Model coefficients:
- I left the P-Values in there for those who know what that is. For the rest of you, it suffices to say what I said last time: that ish be money, yo.
- The second column (Normalized Coefficients) is there to demonstrate the relative importance of each factor; in short, defense is a skosh more influential than offense and turnover margin is a little over half as important as both.
- The use of the model (first column) is simple, start with the intercept then multiply the other the coefficients with their interrogation values and add everything together. Use it to gamble at your own peril. Until such a time as you can accurately predict end of year stats for these categories, the model is only good for using as a platform to base sophisticated guesses off of.
Probable influential factors that are embedded in the 25% of the variation not explained by the model (1 – R_squared) are:
- Return Teams effectiveness. Good return teams will establish good field position thus reducing OffYds/G.
- Coverage Teams effectiveness. Bad units will allow the other team to establish good field position thereby reducing DefYds/G.
- Field Goal Kicking effectiveness. If you get into field goal position and miss, you’ll have a lot of yards but nothing to show for them.
- Penalties. Penalty yardage will increase/decrease your production depending on if they’re called on you or them but doesn’t necessarily change how effective each team is at controlling field position.
- In round terms, factor influence on winning percentage breaks down to 30% Offense, 30% Defense, 15% Turnover Margin, and 25% Other Things.
Shine Down on the Big Ten (and it’s self-absorbed neighbor)
Below is 2009 Big Ten Data and Blue Moon Model expectation (BMM Expect).
|Team||OffYds/G||DefYds/G||TrnOvrMgn_Tot||2009 Wins||BMM Expect.||Delta Wins|
Yikes, kenpom predictions are out. Last year, he predicted Michigan to go 8-10 in conference, and was largely quite accurate when it came to predicting games.
He gives M a 1% chance in Lawrence this weekend. I think our biggest upsets last year were games in which he gave us around a 30% chance (don’tr ecall exactly).
Further, kenpom has going 5-13 in conference, and finishing 11-19, only slightly ahead of where we finished in Beilein’s first year.
Of course his predictions are based on the games already played, and it is pretty tough to argue with him that based on the available data, Michigan is pretty terrible.
So here’s hoping Michigan is much better than their first nine games and we have a chance at the NIT. (I won’t even whisper the other tournament’s name, since the hope of that is so fragile that it will be burst by the slightest disturbance).
One is Desmond’s tsumani comment during the ESPN Tulsa/Tulane half time show. Take away: While Desmond may be honest, Desmond is not doing Michigan any favors. Like mom said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Second is Reese Davis’s comments during the same half time show. Davis pissed me off at first talking about the workouts, the controversies and how RR was not a popular choice. Davis then flipped it on me and pointed out it is primarily a faction, specifically in the M Club, who do not like RR and mostly because he wasn’t from inside the program. Like one of the earlier Mgoblog entries, Davis pointed out Alabama’s problems the infighting caused as factions tried to get ‘their right man’ in place. After all the strife, Alabama finally got it through their heads the infighting wasn’t helping and the Alabama program got the right man period in Nick Saban. Then Davis pointed out RR’s pedigree suggests he is the right man period. He just needs the opportunity. Hat tip to Mr. Davis with a heartfelt thanks.
Third, I wonder the real reason why the M Club faction does not support RR. Is it because he came from a different background and does not fit into their society (smoking jackets anyone and is this the Michigan arrogance I’ve been hearing about?)? Is it because some of the wives do not like Mrs. RR? Don’t underestimate the power of the wife. Or is it simply because he is not an insider? I ask them, who, from inside the program, should Mr. Martin have hired? Les Miles was unavailable and, as I understand it, did not have Carr’s support. Was there anyone else worthy?
Fourth, if RR would be fired at the end of the season, who should be hired? Carrol? Saban? Meyer? What top tier coach is available? What coach from within the program is top tier?
I’m an M grad, BSE (Aerospace) 80. I’m over 50 and support RR (I point out my age as there seems to be an assumption in some of the other entries that only the ‘young’ support RR). Maybe because I was an RR fan before the hire and liked watching WVU play. Maybe because I remember attending ruthless Bo games in the late 70s (3 years with Leach and 2 years of Wangler&co). Bo did not hesitate to run up the score and use it to intimidate the next opponents. Maybe because I’d grown tired of gentleman Lloyd’s more conservative approach and attempts to not humiliate an opponent…which came back to bite us on several occasions.
I get tired of hearing about RR changing the culture along with how he is not from within the program. Yes, RR has changed the culture, but from Carr not Bo. While from Bo’s lineage, Carr was hugely different from Bo. Yet Bo is the one who has been nearly deified by the M faithful. Does the M Club faction remember Bo from the 70’s or just the Bo after coaching, after the Tigers, after the semi retirement in the Athletic Department? RR is an aggressive competitor and, I feel, is the Bo of this era. RR is like the refreshing change Bo was after Bump Elliot.
So, finally, my bottle is empty (tasty by the way) and the last thing I am contemplating is tomorrow’s game. For those able to attend, I’m envious. Do us proud! And here is to RR opening up a can of whoop-ass on Western forcing the penises-with-ears in the M Club faction to just shut up and support our current program.
As lamented by all, it's a terribly long offseason. Here's an attempt at generating semi-meaningful discussion: how do you expect our season to go? My week-to-week breakdown:
Western Michigan - The Broncos are at a severe talent deficit and must replace 7 starters on defense, including Detroit's 3rd pick, Louis Delmas. Look for a potential scare if Michigan's defense struggles with new personnel and new scheme. M's offense should be fine, despite a true freshman likely starting at QB.
Notre Dame - Notre Dame is incredibly talented. Whether or not that will translate to points is another question. I personally feel Clausen is better than many people give him credit for. His first year was a wash because of his porous offensive line. Look for a surge from the Irish. Our offense will likely need to win this game, and that's a tall order for a true freshman QB. It helps that we're at home, but I give ND the edge. 55-45% to the Irish. (Remember we outgained ND by 120+ yards last year. If our D steps up we win, but I don't think it'll happen.)
Eastern Michigan – No worries here. The Eagles return 16 starters from a team that finished 2-6 in the MAC. Barring another Toledo-esque meltdown, we win easily. The only way we lose is if shaky quarterback play and a complete meltdown on defense happens. Knock on wood, we should win.
Indiana – The Big Ten opener features undaunting Indiana. Indiana was lousy last year and is installing the Pistol offense. With Kellen Lewis being dismissed and Marcus Thigpen graduating, Indiana has no real playmaker. By now our defense should be getting its footing and our young quarterback will be improving, especially with the friendly confines of the Big House.
at Michigan State – The first road test for a freshman QB usually doesn’t bode well. MSU has to replace Javon Ringer, but I think they should be adequate enough to beat us. A few big plays from the offense and solid play from the defense will be enough for us to get the win. Unfortunately, I doubt we can count on both.
at Iowa – This game is likely a toss-up. Iowa does have to replace Shonn Greene, but their offensive line looks excellent. They return 8 starters on defense, but lost both defensive tackles. Iowa’s lack of offensive firepower gives us a shot, but one bad play from the defense could quickly foil M. Playing at Kinnick Stadium doesn’t help a freshman QB either (DIE, Dead Horse, DIE!!). Edge to Iowa.
Delaware State – I’m not going to say anything to jinx us. If we prepare properly, don’t take them lightly, and compete on Saturday, we win. As long as our players are aware that just showing up isn’t enough, we’ll be fine.
Penn State – This is a game we should actually win. Darryl Clark and Royster are very good, but four starters on the line have departed and a trio of receivers must be replaced. Add in a dysfunctional secondary and severe losses at DE, plus a little help from a friendly home crowd and you have the makings of an upset. Despite last year, we still own Penn State.
at Illinois – I fear this game could get ugly. The Big Ten’s best offense awaits us in Champaign. We simply don’t have an answer for Juice, Benn, and Florida transfer Jarred Fayson, among others. If we win, it’ll be in a shootout. Not likely considering our young QB(horse is still dead, though well-beaten) and the road atmosphere.
Purdue – A home game we should win. Purdue lost Painter and potential starter Justin Siller at QB. Only four players on offense return and the defense can’t stop the run. We bounce back and roll over Purdue.
at Wisconsin – The Badgers have a lot of question marks, making this game a toss-up. The road atmosphere will make it tough to win. The Badgers should be able to run effectively with John Clay against a suspect interior Michigan line. I think the Badgers will win, unless they have a meltdown on defense, similar to the one they had against us in the second half of last year’s game. Edge to Wisconsin.
Ohio State – That team is still loaded with talent. We have to contain Brandon Saine, if he’s healthy, as well as Pryor. We will need our corners to lock down on that team’s receivers, man-to-man, in order to do so. Big plays will likely win this game, and M’s defense needs limit to mistakes. Again, a freshman QB will need to play very well. Thankfully, this one is in the Big House. Edge to the other team.
Total record: 6-6
This might seem bad, but considering a brand new scheme on defense and a reliance on young players, it’s not too bad. Especially when a few games could go our way (ND, Iowa, and MSU) and quickly change it to a 9-3 record. Realistic expectations are important.
Since I'd rather not work on schoolwork right now, I decided to post a little position by position analysis of our football team for next year.
This was an utter disaster last season, but things are definitely looking up. Neither Threet nor Sheridan settled into the offense and got it moving consistently (that is, more than one game at a time). With two good new quarterbacks coming in, I think Sheridan has seen the field for the last time. I suspect that Feagin will shortly be moving to WR or CB as well. This is definitely going to be a three way competition. I expect Threet to start our first game, honestly. He has the experience edge on everybody else and I think he has the potential to be a decent Div. 1 QB. He was really hampered last season by injuries and his performances suffered greatly. I envision an offense with him at the helm running like it did against Notre Dame (minus the turnovers). But, the problem is injuries. Threet, while tall, is a little too wiry in my opinion to be able to stay healthy a full season with the offense we run. You could tell in the second half of the season he was a bit scared of being hit when he wouldn't keep the ball ever. Plus, there's all of the fumbles. He's just not used to being hit. So, while I see Threet starting, I would be surprised if he didn't end up the backup by our 3rd game or so.
That leaves the other two QBs. The good news it that we have two easier games than Utah to start out the season, which means we (HOPEFULLY) can ease in Robinson and Forcier. There is no doubt that Forcier will have an advantage because of the extra spring practices and semester, but Robinson will also see some time, I'd think. I hope one of these two will end up our starter, but you always have to remind yourself that they are just freshmen and who knows how good they are going to be. David Cone fills out the rest of the depth chart, but he's never seeing the field.
Overall, I expect an upgrade from last year at the QB position, but how much of an upgrade is unclear.
This is one position I'm not worried about AT ALL! Probably the only position. The only thing that will slow down these guys are injuries (knock on wood), but after last season I don't think it could possibly be any worse. Minor is the clear starter here. He has decent speed, very few moves, but excellent power. With the dearth of talent next season at runningback in the Big Ten, I fully expect him to be an all-conference performer (barring injuries). Backing him up are Shaw and Brown, both decent backups. Brown has shown a lot of potential but needs to avoid the injury bug. Personally, I would love to see Brown and Minor in the same backfield, one as the inside guy and the other as the outside guy, something Rich Rod loves to have (look at Schmidt/Slaton combo). Brown is also a good pass catcher, which could prove to be very useful. Shaw showed some potential early on with some good runs, even though he tailed off at the end. I feel confident in saying he can hold up his own when called on next year. Losing McGuffie will hurt next next season (2010), but for 2009, we're all but set.
Our depth after those 3 is still pretty good. Moundros is a good blocking back and a minor threat out of the backfield to catch balls. Grady, well, who knows what his deal is. Providing depth after that are: Michael Cox (redshirted last year), Teric Jones, Vincent Smith, and Fitzgerld Tooussaint. If we have an injury crisis on the magnitude of the Denver Broncos, I think we can count one of those 4 to set up and give us a viable option. In all honesty, I expect 2 of our incoming RBs to redshirt because of the depth we've got going.
RBs, barring injury crisis, should be an upgrade over last season.
Another position I feel pretty good about. Greg Matthews, for better or for worse is our number one. He's got great hands but isn't much of a deep threat compared to truly elite receivers. He fits the mould of a Jason Avant-type receiver. Not going to beat many people downfield, but he’ll make nearly every catch and make a few great ones. Odoms showed some promise last year in the slot and should improve his drops and fumbling problems. He’s an effective receiver on the bubble screens, which even though they are the bane of my existence when I watch college football, can be effective for us.
After that, the depth is a little more questionable. Kevin Koger did well as a TE last year, especially for a freshman, and he’ll contribute on offense for sure. The other outside receiver is a question mark for us. I think it’s going to be a battle between Daryl Stonum and Toney Clemons. Neither looked great last year but they are big and can stretch the field. Junior Hemingway is a question mark; he’s showed promise when he’s played and he’ll be in the mix as well. Je’ron Stokes will also look to pencil his name in as the starter. I suspect all 4 of these guys will see time at the beginning of the season with one or two eventually taking over the spot.
Filling out the receiver position are a bunch of slot guys including Gallon and Robinson. I would expect Gallon to challenge for playing time, but Odoms probably has his spot on lockdown for now. Other players who probably won’t be used are Roundtree, Savoy and Rogers.
This is a position where we could possibly survive an injury crisis. I like our overall depth even if the starting 3 aren’t top class proven talent yet. We should improve.
I won’t even go into much detail on how awful we were. The offensive line definitely improved as the season went on, which is nice to see. We were decimated by people leaving and injuries, which left us with an undersized center, a defensive lineman playing guard and a multitude of other problems. Now, the good news: there are tons of freshmen vying for playing time for next season. We have 6 freshmen from year on the roster, and I expect 5 of them to be on the two-deep. The question is going to be how much weight they will all put on, because almost all of them were undersized coming in.
Despite me just laying into Molk and Ferrera just now, they both showed promise on the line. The line noticeably improved with the addition of Ferrera and Molk, despite being a bit smallish for a top notch O-lineman, improved as the season went on. He’s going to be very valuable the next 3 years as the nimble center who gets to the second level and keys our running game. Think Tom Nalen of the Denver Broncos. Hopefully his strength will improve. Stephen Schilling is somewhat of a headscratcher. He had a subpar freshman season, improved this season, but not as much as we needed. There is no doubting his talent; Lloyd Carr called him one of the best athletes he’s ever seen. I expect him to improve by leaps and bounds. I feel that those 3 spots are pretty well nailed down. The rest of the spots are up for grabs between guys like Moosman, Ortmann and the 6 freshmen from last year. Adding into the mix are 3 very solid recruits in Schofield, Washington and Lewan. Washington is probably the only one with the size to compete right away, but you never know at this position.
There is no way we won’t improve on the offensive line after being so dire last year. Good news is that we let up fewer sacks than the year before with a worse quarterback and had a higher yard per carry. Even though those numbers are very suspect, it’s a good sign for next year. Except a big jump in yards per carry and fewer sacks with a better scrambling quarterback. Plus, the Big Ten defensive line talent is going to be a little down, which is never a bad thing.
I’ve been pretty positive about the team so far, mostly because I’m happy with the depth we have the position and I’m confident someone will step up. Really, it can’t get much worse for the offense. I wish I could say the same thing for the defense. Yes, they were awful last year. But, I look at the defense and wonder where the talent is at certain positions.
One thing I’m relatively confident about is our defensive ends. That’s because of Brandon Graham, who is becoming my new man crush on the football team. If he goes down, then I’m afraid about what will happen. Here are the names at defensive end after Graham: Ryan Van Bergen (gulp), Greg Banks (who?), Tim North, Adam Patterson, Anthony LaLota (recruit), Craig Roh (recruit). If someone can find me talent there, there’s a candy bar in it for you. Van Bergen saw some playing time, so at least he has some experience under his belt. I’m praying that either LaLota or Roh will have an impact, but my hopes aren’t high (how many freshman D-Lineman have an impact? Very few). If Graham goes down, we’re screwed with a capital S-C-R-E-W-E-D. But, despite all of that, Graham is awesome and I think we can find someone to be serviceable at the other position.
Defensive Tackle is another story altogether. The only player we have coming back with significant experience is Mike Martin. In fact, I believe he’s the only scholarship defensive tackle we have coming back with any experience. Taylor and Johnson graduate. Gulp. Sagesse, well, who knows? Will Campbell is the only DT recruit. We are paper thin here and who knows how great Campbell will be. Martin looked good last year, but I’m pessimistic about how he will fare as an every down DT. We’re going to have to rely on those two and then a position switcher from either DE or OL for depth. Not good.
Our defensive line was the only highlight of our team last season and it’s probably going to be the lowlight of our team this season. Not good. Definite downgrade and a big downgrade here.
Well, at least we have experience coming back here. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton have both showed potential playing LB. Ezeh is seemingly the bane of mgoblog’s existence, but I rate him slightly better than Brian does. He makes tackles, which is valuable to a defense, especially one that has a tendency to miss tackles in Michigan’s defense. Mouton is a pretty good tackler and a decent LB to have in coverage. He’s the faster of the two. I’m only putting those two down as starters because the college game has shifted to where it is extremely unusual to see 3 LBs on the field at the same time on defense. Plus, we are playing a lot spread teams, which will further limit the amount of time 3 LBs are on the field. So, my salient point really is that I feel good about our 2 starting linebackers. They are both young and have a lot of experience under their belts. They will both improve, and I actually feel very good about how they’ll stack up next season.
Here’s the problem: depth. We have a decent amount of bodies, but the talent is decidedly lacking. Let’s throw some names: Brandon Herron, Marell Evans, Kenny Demens, and J.B. Fitzgerald. If you are suddenly looking for cover you have the same feeling I do. Our recruits are decent but nothing to write home about it looks like: Isaiah Bell and Brandin Hawthorne. Similar to the defensive ends, what is going to happen if Ezeh or Mouton go down? We can’t afford an injury crisis at this position at all. Otherwise we’ll be throwing a lot of unproven and inexperienced players out at linebacker.
The verdict is an upgrade barring injury. Hope very hard for no injuries.
If the last two positions didn’t scare you enough about the defense, here comes the worst of the bunch. We return Donovan Warren (okay) and Stevie Brown (OH GOD NO!!!!!) from one of the worst secondaries in the Big Ten. I like Warren a lot. He didn’t perform quite to my expectations last season, but he’ll improve. I can see him as a shutdown corner who can match up with the best of the Big Ten on the corner.
I could write pages on Stevie Brown. About 75% of the time when there was a big play against our pass defense, he was at fault. There is no doubting his physical skills, but there is a lot doubt surrounding his mental attributes. That is, does Stevie Brown have a brain somewhere in that skull of his? Who knows? But I feel pretty confident in saying that he will continue to be the Achilles heel of our defense. I am holding out some hope that he could possibly blossom into a elite performer, but I really doubt it.
After those two players, there is NOTHING. Boubacar Cissoko is awesome, mostly because we can again do the Stevie Breaston squeeze (note: Breast and Boob in the names), but was pretty below average when he played against Purdue and State. His coverage abilities seem to be decent, but he is not a good run supporter and when he gets beat, there’s a tendency for the play to go a LONG way. I’m praying he’ll improve, and I’m more confident that he’ll improve more than Stevie Brown.
Continuing the theme of nothing is the rest of the players here. Michael Williams, Brandon Smith, Troy Woolfork are the players that are probably at least somewhat on your radar for defensive back. Plus, Vlad the Impaler (awesome nickname), Justin Turner, Mike Jones and Adrian Witty come in as recruits. Vlad and Turner look like good recruits, but I doubt Vlad adds much this season unless Brown, Smith and Williams are DIRE (which is possible) because he’s coming off a knee injury. Turner might add something because we’re weak, but I’d much prefer Woolfork to step up or something. After this, we’ve got a bunch of players nobody has ever heard of.
Okay, don’t jump. It can’t get any worse than last season, right? Charles Stewart is finally gone. However, Greg Robinson isn’t a strong Xs and Os guy and his weakness has always been pass defense. Crap. Honestly, I have zero expectations on our defensive backs. Yeah, we have some players with potential, but I could count on one finger the defensive back I feel comfortable with (Warren). Even though we could possibly be better in secondary, I’m not holding out much hope.
We will definitely be worse in the secondary than last year … and that’s saying something.
One great thing about the team last year was that we improved in special teams. More of a function of how bad we were in 2007 on special teams, though (which is what I’m hoping for on defense this year). KC Lopata was solid but nothing special. Our kickoffs were again, solid but nothing special. The candidates at kicker are Brandon Wright, random walkon or Brendan Gibbons. I lean towards Wright handling kickoff duties and Gibbons handling FGs, unless Gibbons turns out to have a great leg. I think probably a slight downgrade, if anything, at the kicker position.
Only one thing to say about the Punter. Zoltan Mesko. No problem here.
Returns were an adventure last year. When Odoms didn’t drop the ball, he was a decent punt returner. Cissoko was solid (when he held onto the ball) on kickoff returns. I think we’ll see an improvement with Odoms learning how to hold onto the ball and probably someone stepping up. We could really use a spark in our return game. Breaston has been a huge loss here ever since he left.
Offense should be a lot better with improvement on the O-Line and at quarterback. Defense is going to be down a notch with losses on our defensive line and secondary. Special Teams will improve.
What’s the outlook, then? Well, it could literally anywhere. Rich Rod has a good track record of improvement in the second season at a school, but there are a lot of things working against improvement. One MAJOR thing working for us is that the Big Ten is going to be a lot less talented next season. Ohio State has lost a ton on both sides of the ball. Penn State should still be pretty good, but other than that, almost every school has lost talent everywhere. Maybe Minnesota will be better. That’s a huge plus for us. I’m excited for next season to see what our offense will look like with an experience offensive line and a real quarterback.
Okay, everyone, if you'd like a momentary break before going back to Signing Day stalking of 18-year-olds, let's play a little game called Guess the Roster.
I give you a list of likely available numbers on the 2009 Michigan football roster. You tell me what number the new guys will wear. Feel free to include recruits you personally think will join.
For the record, No. 1 has a special scholarship attached to it, and will most likely not be given to a freshman. 11, 47, 48 and 98 (EDIT: and 87) are retired. Also note that until I hear otherwise, Criswell, and Savoy still have their spots, as do Tim North and Jason Olesnavage (walk-ons who would be 5th year seniors).
Other likely available numbers (those held by 5th year seniors likely not to return, or only walk-ons) have been noted, with the side of the ball that's available.
Keep in mind, however, that RR likes to double up numbers on either side of the ball. If you want to get into that, I've made a list at the bottom.
19. offense (walk-on CB)
26. offense (walk-on S)
30. defense (walk-on P)
35. defense (walk-on RB)
37. defense (walk-on WR)
39. offense (walk-on DE)
46. defense (walk-on TE)
50. offense (5th year senior LB, may depart)
51. offense (walk-on LB)
59. offense (walk-on LB)
82. defense (5th year senior WR, may depart)
91. defense (walk-on OL)
96. defense (walk-on TE)
97. defense (walk-on kicker)
4, 7, 10, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 41, 44, 56, 57, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 78, 79, 80, 81, 86
6, 28, 29, 33, 38, 40, 42, 45, 53, 55, 58, 68, 95, 99