Quick refresher on how this works-everything here is listed in terms of points versus average performance. For more info you can go here.
Wanted to do an overview of the leading Heisman candidates, look at a few of the interesting fringe candidates, and throw in a few controversial candidates (one especially around these parts).
The defensive candidatesI have struggled with how best to evaluate defensive players. My numbers give every play a value based on the success of the play relative to competition, down and distance and field position. For offensive players its pretty easy to assign value to RB's on running plays and QBs and WRs on passing plays. Sure there is a substantial effort put in by the blockers and fakes and the like, but overall, this works pretty well for offense. For defense, it's a little trickier. The 11 players on defense have a much fuzzier role in the outcome of any given play. A tackle is a tackle in normal stats, whether its after a 20 yard gain or for no gain. What I ultimately decided on was that players should be rewarded for making a play that has a negative value change for the offense. Sure a touchdown saving tackle could be a huge play even if its after a 20 yard gain, but for the most part a play that puts the offense in a worst position should be credited to the defensive player or players who made the tackle/forced the fumble/made the pick. All of this is limited by the quality of the play by play information available to me.
Players are awarded points in two categories, quantity and quality. A big fumble or interception can be worth up 10 points depending on the length of the return and the field position of the offense. That play has huge value, but is somewhat of a fluky hard to repeat type of play. By looking at both the quantity and quality, you are evaluating defensive players based on their ability to consistently make plays (quantity) and their ability to make really big plays (quality).
Obviously the scorching hot candidate this year, currently leading 1st place vote getter.
The rankings tend to favor linebackers, but that didn't stop Mr. Suh from tearing up the numbers. For the season, he was good for 72 negative plays (2nd nationally) and nearly 43 points of lost value on those plays (6th). Overall his total of 115 points (not sure if this is the right way to combine them, welcome to any thoughts) puts him 2nd overall. An absolutely outstanding year for a member of the #2 rated overall defense, worth 12 points a game as a total unit.
The Beast of Mgoblog has obviously not gotten any national attention, but let's look at how his numbers compare nationally.
Graham made 53 negative plays on the season, a respectable 23rd nationally and those plays took away 41 points in value from opposing offenses. 94 points overall ranks him 9th overall.
What becomes debatable is whether this 9th overall rating is more impressive considering Michigan's total defense was ranked 70th in the country or less impressive.
No matter what your take on the team defense issue, it is clear that whether you are looking UFR or By The Numbers, Graham was truly a beast and its a shame that the team's lack of success has limited his exposure.
Wide ReceiversNo Receivers are getting much attention this year, but the ones that are getting a bit of pub seem to be getting it deservedly so.
Danario Alexander, Freddie Barnes and Golden Tate hold the top three spots in my rankings and are 3 of the 4 receivers noted to be receiving votes. The fourth is the scorned Mardy Gilyard who comes in at 28th overall, but is also the key return man on the nation's #2 kick return unit.
Running BacksMy numbers value quarterbacks much higher than they do running backs. The top QBs are directly worth 10-12 points per game above average while the top RBs are "only" worth 4-5 points per game.
With that said, there is a clearcut leader in my tightly backed running back rankings, and it's not the guy who is going to win tomorrow. Toby Gerhart of Stanford is the only running back that has rated out +5 or better on the season.
Mark Ingram comes in at a respectable 7th and is 5th of players from the Big 6 conferences. However, the 2 point per game gap between Ingram and Gerhart is the same as the difference between Ingram and the 75th rated running back in the country. And this is after you account for competition. If you look at the unadjusted numbers, Gerhart comes in second to Donald Buckram of UTEP at nearly +7 while Ingram stays around +3. The gap between them is now as big as the gap between Ingram and the 150th rated RB in the country. If you are going to pick a running back this year, Ingram is a good choice, but Gerhart is clearly the best choice.
For those interested, CJ Spiller only checks in at #25 and stays just outside of the top 5 if you add in his prowess as a kick returner.
QuarterbacksSo I tell you the QBs are where all the action is at but then I put up what feels like a Simmons-esque length before even talking about a single one.
Both finalists are obviously big name quarterbacks for name schools. They had good years, but neither had individual seasons that I would deem Heisman worthy.
Colt McCoy finished the regular season at +9 which is good for 9th nationally. Tim Tebow was good for +7 (19) on the season and that is factoring in his top 10 quarterback rushing rank.
So who does that leave left?
I think if Tony Pike from Cincinnati didn't get hurt midseason, this award would be all his. The combined QB play from the Bearcats was worth 10 points a game and would have ranked 5th overall if it would have come from a single player. Case Keenum from Houston (+12, 1st) and Max Hall from BYU (+10, 4th) had outstanding years for quality mid-major programs but they couldn't get the defensive help they needed to get the wins required to garner the national interest. Kellen Moore of Boise (+7, 16th) had a highly efficient season but his competition was too weak to keep his numbers high enough. Jimmy Clausen (+9, 5th) did all he could to give us more Weis but quarterbacks don't win the Heisman going 6-6. But there was one name that really surprised me that was at the top of the rankings all year long. Ryan Mallett. Before adjusting for competition, he had a very respectable +8 and 12th overall rating. But when you factor in the SEC defenses he did it against, his rating leaps to +12, a sliver below Case Keenum. The Michigan transfer put up one of the least talked about great seasons in recent memory. In SEC play, he played 7 of the top 35 pass defenses in the country and still he managed one of the top seasons by either traditional or modern statistics. Ryan Mallet posted a nearly 150 quarterback rating facing the number defensive strength of schedule in the country.
My Ballot(s)If I had a ballot here is how I would rank the 5 finalists.
If I had a ballot (and balls) this is what it would look like:
Just saw on the Big Ten Network and on the Tribune's website that Brandon Graham won the annual Silver Football Trophy, splitting the award with PSU's Darryl Clark.
Honestly, I'll take this over the Coaches and Media votes for DPOTY, as this trophy has arguably as much history behind it as any sports award in the country. So big congratulations to #55! He's done the Maize and Blue proud one last time.
BG for Heisman over at Doc Saturday:
I like the last part, he basically says that a successful mass bribery campaign would get him maybe one first place vote--despite his unreal dominance all season.
Just wanted to report that Brandon Graham, Donovan Warren, and The emperor of Space were all named 1st Team Big Ten by both the media and coaches. Kudos to them! Schilling also got some honorable mention from both groups.
Congrats all around!
1994, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Each of these was a bitter pill to take, ruining an afternoon and often more. But I don't recall a loss in which Michigan brought less to the game and came away with real reason for optimism. Yes, I realize how awful it is to look at a loss to the Ohio State University and sift amongst the rubble for a moral victory, but that is a realistic approach when your only conference win is against a team better known for basketball, lead by a bubble gum-throwing coach.
So, may I present some thoughts from grim Saturday and the hind-sighted look at the season:
- Against an admittedly Tressell-led team, the previously pourous defense allowed two offensive touchdowns. I recognize that the Sweatervest had faith in his defense and with good reason, but the Wolverine defense made Pryor look like an athlete attempting to play QB. We, as fans,
-Vincent Smith is going to be a great back in this offense.
-Roy Roundtree seems to have good hands and awareness, if not breakaway speed.
-I, you, and all the good people who love the light side of the force are REALLY going to miss Brandon Graham. 14 defensive points allowed. Nearly turned back the Buckeyes from the goal-line singlehandedly. Was absolutely unblockable all year.
-& the Space Emperor.
- Obviously the five turnovers. That's unacceptable in any game, even with a freshman QB. But remember, the 2-1 TD to INT ratio for the remainder of the year was the anomaly. We knew going into the season that starting a freshman QB would lead to big errors. For much of the year, we were lucky. Against Notre Dame, it did not hurt us, and it enabled the team to tie up Michigan State. The daring decisions didn't come back to bite us. But the bad game yesterday notwithstanding, there was obvious improvement from the beginning of the season to the end.
- The secondary severely limited any ability to blitz. This makes me think about the third and goal, in which the Michigan defense allowed a screen pass for a TD. Before the play, I was hoping for a three man rush or a two man rush with a two man spy, forcing Pryor to throw in to a limited field with coverage. Obviously, that's not what was called, and that provided the touchdown that eventually sealed itl
-The offensive line did little to open up holes in the Buckeye defensive front. However, I don't recall a game since Tim Biakabutuka in which the Michigan O-line ran roughshod over the Buckeyes. If you watch the National Championship game in 1997, the future All-Pros on that line struggled to move the Buckeyes. This is nothing really new. (Correction, the 2003 game was also an exception, Chris Perry rushed for 154 yards against one of the best rush defenses. But I believe that was the first game in 10 years in which Michigan truly owned the run game.)
I spent Sunday evening watching the Eagles and Bears with an Ohio State alum who is working on a PhD from Drexel (i.e., not a "Git-R-Dun" type). His take from the game was essentially, "if you keep Forcier from throwing the ball without discernment, that team will be good." He also didn't realize that Molk, our starting center was injured since PSU.
Excuses are not good. But realism is not only looking at the negatives, but also assessing the reasons why those negatives took place. When the Boston Celtics lost in the playoffs this past June, it was not "an excuse" to recognize the fact that Kevin Garnett was not on the court. If you attempt to assess your place as a team, you must take all factors into account. First, the starting center on this Wolverines team has not played since a few plays in the Penn State game. Centers don't get acclaim, just as DT's such as Ndomakon Suh don't win the Heisman Trophy. But when they aren't playing, they make a big difference. I think it's fair to say with Molk present, the Offensive Line is able to open up holes better, and probably pass protect better down the stretch of the schedule. Second, the best running back on the team did not play in the Ohio State game. Brandon Minor's injury kept him out of the game. We all wanted to see Minor Rage one last time, one more time at home, but the football fates are cruel in ways we could only have dreamt about five years ago.
I hope this game gave you renewed hope for the big picture in the way that I received it. The game of ball is glorious. The Wolverines will begin to have stability in the defensive coaches for the first time in nearly five years. The Michigan team will return a starting quarterback for the first time since 2007. This is an off-season in which the team needs its fans. Stay true, those who stay true will watch champions.