There's been plenty said on just how bad the third down defense has been, and I thought I'd chronicle that for you. For starters, our NCAA rank is currently #66 out of 120 FBS teams when it comes to overall defensive 3rd down conversion percentage (how often the opposing offense succeeds). We are listed at 38.78% with 38 conversions in 98 attempts.
From going over box scores, I found only 97, so note that discrepancy now. I'm not worried about one missing right now. Also worth noting, I used ESPN's box scores, not Brian's UFRs. So that may cause discrepancy if you go back and check plays there.
I'm not going to offer much more than interesting stats in this. I'll let you guys draw your own conclusions and leave them in the comments. Any thoughts or explanations are welcome.
So let's take a look at the different third down plays the defense has gone up against by yardage:
|Yards To Go||Conversions||Attempts||Percentage|
There's obviously a couple outliers out there. The 3rd and 18/24 plays against MSU and Iowa respectively definitely throw a wrench in the numbers. The number that is the most disturbing, though, has to the 3rd and 6 metric. Let's take a slightly closer look at that:
|WMU||3||6||pass||23||Fly play where a blanketing Warren dives and WR comes up with it|
|EMU||3||6||rush||13||Brown misreads zone read with running qb|
|EMU||3||6||pass||12||Umbrella coverage, missed tackle|
|EMU||3||6||rush||-4||2nd team scrubs were in|
|Indiana||3||6||rush||0||Rollout pass turned scramble for no gain.|
|Indiana||3||6||pass||18||3-man rush, as hit, throws skinny post against Mouton for 15 yards|
|MSU||3||6||pass||0||Stevie Brown Interception |
|MSU||3||6||pass||9||Crossing under routes confuses our LBs|
|MSU||3||6||pass||15||Woolfolk stares down QB in man coverage instead of WR. Misses route. Misses tackle to allow 1st|
|MSU||3||6||pass||0||Blitz house, man open but thrown wide|
|IOWA||3||6||pass||10||Curl short of the two guys we have deep on that side. Warren backed off presnap.|
|IOWA||3||6||pass||33||Pumpfake by Stanzi to a laid out Stross on a fly-ish route.|
Other than that pick and the four yard TFL against EMU by the scrubs, that's horrid. It doesn't seem to be laid squarely on blitzing too many, umbrella coverage, or anything in particular.
When you throw in those really long conversions, it looks pretty ugly. So what do you have to compare these numbers to? I've got two things. Brian did some extensive DIY Third Down Efficiency studies during the first few years of his blog, something he hopes to return to in the future, IIRC. There you can see that the normal conversion rate on a 3rd and 1 is ~68% (2007 statistics I believe). Michigan is outdoing that by about 7% on defense.
As you move down that trend line, however, you can see Michigan starts to approximate that line really quickly, then the extremely long conversions start to skew the results.
Also, we can look at how Michigan has done against opposing defenses.
|Yards To Go||Conversions||Attempts||Percentages|
As you can see, Michigan is doing much more poorly on offense when it comes to converting on third down. That said, we're also much better on converting on short yardage. When we get within 4 yards, we've got a very high percentage chance of converting.
Going back to the D for a minute, one of the other problems I'm noticing is how much worse we are on 1st and 2nd down. I'm not sure of too many metrics to gauge this, so I thought about a way to get a decent metric on this. While the standard 3 yards per play average will be fairly successful, it's probably not the best way to describe how successful you are. I decided to go with an arbitrary metric of half the distance needed instead. So, for example, if it's 1st and 10, 5 yards would be considered a successful pick up. So on a 2nd and 5, a 2.5 yard pick up would leave you with 3rd and 2 or 3. I would argue if you're able to do this, you'd probably be slightly more successful than just averaging three yards per snap.
I'll admit this metric is just my opinion, and I welcome ideas for a better way to measure success on 1st and 2nd down.
So with my metric in mind, here's the type of stats I'm seeing.
While Michigan does a decent job of stopping a team on 1st down, about 40.9%, second downs, Michigan is quite a bit worse on second down, around 53.8%. This is understandable as you generally need less yardage on 2nd down while still getting about the same number of yards. To explain, Michigan averages a 1st and 10.38 and gives up an average of 5.807 yards. Meanwhile, one second down, they average 2nd and 8.41 and give up an average of 5.629. The opposing team gains between 5-6 yards per play [ed. -cringe] on both first and second downs, while in my metric, they should need less.
I guess, if anything is good news, on third down, we face an average of 3rd and 6.56 and hold an average of 5.18 yards per play, over half a yard less per play than 1st or 2nd down.
I'll probably be playing with these stats a bit more in the next few days. Unfortunately, most of my stats don't involve personnel, so that complicates things.
I'm going to stop screaming like a little girl about mike barwis for a moment and play devil's advocate. My personal opinion is that he's a godsend and exactly what our program needs to break through to the next level. But I was reading some comments on the ESPN articles and realized that every story has two sides. So let's take a closer look at why we think he's so great and why fans of other teams might not agree.
Ryan m'fckn Mundy
- What we think: If Barwis can change this guy from someone we were practically shoving out the door into an NFL draft pick, just imagine what he can do with players that don't inherently suck!!
- What skeptics might say: Mundy wasn't really that bad before. He sucked because of bad coaching.
- Upon Closer Inspection: In 2006 he had a whopping 25 tackles, 1 int, and 1 sack. I can't even find his name for 2005. (In other words; Antonio Bass had one more tackle than him in that year) In 2004 he's credited with 51 tackles, 2 int, and 1 pass breakup. And he got 10 tackles in 2003. After one offseason of training with Barwis he had 62 tackles, 3 int, and 3 fumble recoveries. His sophomore year showed some promise, but the complete regression during 2006 might lend some weight to the bad coaching theory
Gittleson was ancient
- What we think: If your S&C program was designed in the 1970's and only two programs still use it, and the other one is grandpa paterno at penn state, then you are behind the times. Barwis is bringing a modern, cutting edge program, so we're no longer going to be decades behind the rest of the country, we're going to be decades ahead.
- What skeptics might say: One S&C program is just as good as any other. What really matters is how much effort the players put forth
- Upon Closer Inspection: Michigan has had several players taken in the first round of the NFL draft, including Jake Long who was #1 overall this year. But there are quotes floating around the internets (citation needed) about how Michigan players getting ready for the combine were in for a world of hurt because of the backwards training they were used to. Nothing speaks louder than results, and if its true that Brandon graham was only doing 315 but is now maxing out at 475, well brian said it best. EEEEEEEE!!!!
Ninja Offense Scoring
- What we think: Better conditioned players means more scoring!!!
- What skeptics might say: WVU only scored that much because they didn't play anyone once Miami, Vatech, and BC left the big east
- Upon Closer Inspection: I looked at the WVU scores for the past 5 years (since Barwis took over their S&C program) and found that the offense improved its per game scoring every year. In 2003 they scored 28.5 pts/game, 2004 was 30.0, 2005 was 32.1, 2006 was 38.8, and last year was 39.6. This is a good trend. It's true that WVU struggled offensively in the few games it played against the three teams that went to the ACC, averaging just 21.6 points against them. The one year WVU played all three was 2003 when they scored 20, 28, and 35 points against miami, vatech, and bc respectively. In bowl games, WVU scored just 7 and 18 points while getting clobbered by maryland and FSU, but exploded with 38, 38, and 48 points against much higher ranked Georgia, GaTech, and Okla in BCS bowls. Again, this a good trend.
- What we think: Barwis will make the players faster! Rich Rod's offense works because of the high tempo and speed of the players.
- What skeptics might say: You can't coach speed. Player's are either fast or they're not. We've recruited players who were designed to be in a slow plodding offense. No amount of running will change that. If you don't have Pat White and Steve Slaton you're screwed.
- Upon Closer Inspection: While it's true that genetics set the baseline for your speed, proper training can help you achieve maximum potential. You can't make a 5.4 guy into a 4.5 guy. But there is plenty of evidence to show that one or two tenths of a second improvement can be made. Especially for linemen who have not been pressured to run as much before. Many of the players we have recruited at the skill positions are already fast enough to run the spread but the incoming freshmen class and next years commits are even faster to begin with.
WVU winning BCS games
- What we think: This shows that RichRod/Barwis can compete with and beat the best.
- What skeptics might say: Those opponents in the BCS games were overrated and the scores were close. USC, Florida, and LSU would have killed them
- Upon closer inspection: Who can say. We couldn't beat USC either. But WVU beating the SEC champ, the ACC runner up, and the Big12 champ in successive years is still pretty darn impressive no matter what the score.
We lost games because we sucked in the 4th quarter
- What we think: Our crappy conditioning caused us to lose games in the 4th quarter. That won't happen with Mike Barwis on the job!!
- What skeptics might say: We weren't that bad in the 4th quarter before; in fact we had several comebacks, like 28 pts against Minnesota and triple OT vs. MSU. So even if we lost a few in the 4th, it all evens out, and there won't be much difference now.
- Upon closer inspection: In the last 5 years Michigan has lost 17 of 62 games, WVU lost 14 of 63, 9 of which were during Barwis's first 2 years as head of the S&C. In the 2nd half, Michigan was outscored 20 times, 8 of which resulted in losses after leading or being tied at the half. For WVU the numbers are 17 times, of which only 4 resulted in losing the lead (the others were games in which WVU was ahead by alot or already behind). But if you look at just the 4th quarter, the numbers become more interesting. Michigan was outscored in the 4th quarter 19 freaking times. 6 of those were 4th quarter collapses where we lost the lead, and 4 of them were double digit 4th quarter leads. These all happened in 2004 and 2005. (2005 only had 5 games where we weren't outscored in the 4th quarter or 2nd half, so it truly earned the name 'season of unending pain'). WVU was outscored in the 4th 21 times, BUT ONLY 1 RESULTED IN A LOST LEAD. One! One freaking game did they lose in the 4th quarter. It was Barwis's first game as head of S&C, against wisconsin of all teams. So when Mike Barwis says we're not going to lose games in the 4th quarter, he means it. Conversely, WVU only won 7 games in the 2nd half, 2 of those in the 4th. Michigan won 7 games in the 2nd half, but 9 in the 4th. I think this has more to do with coaching. LLoyd would sit on a lead, lose the third quarter and then open up a bit to win in the end. Whereas with RR he doesn't hold back. He's either going to beat you and put you away in the first half, or just trail for the entire game.
And lastly, Fire and Brimstone
- What we think: Mike Barwis is super energetic! His passion is contagious! It's his way or the highway! If he followed me around at work, I'd become CEO in no time!!!
- What skeptics might say: He's full of hot air. All S&C guys sound like that. He just uses meaningless jargon and doesn't really know what he's talking about. Anyone can swear up a storm, that doesn't make you a good motivator.
- Upon closer inspection: Having only seen and heard a few scattered interviews and not having had the pleasure (hell) of a workout with him, I can't really say. The energetic part is on display in every one of his videos and can't be disputed. Whether or not it is effective is probably best seen in how the people he works with respond to it. But the quotes from people who have met him are all pointing towards legitimate charisma. Even the recruits continually mention positive things about him after only short introductions and demonstrations. Having a young energetic guy around, who attracts NFL alumni back to campus can only be a good thing for recruiting.
*ps. if you're interested in the data I used you can get it from mgoblue.com and wvustats.com or you can email me at BlueSeoul at hotmail.com and I'll email you the spreadsheet since I don't know how to upload it to the diary.