Mike Lantry, 1972
Facing 3rd-and-5 at the Iowa 37 with just over two minutes to go, LSU back Jeremy Hill took a handoff, passed the down markers, broke multiple tackles, and scored a TD to put LSU up 21-7 with only 2:02 to go.
Easy for me to say from the comfort of my couch, but I think LSU would have been ever-so-slightly better off had Hill gone down past the sticks but before the endzone.
Had he been tackled after gaining the first down, LSU would have had four guaranteed pre-snap clock runoffs, and Iowa with only 1 timeout could only prevent one of them. 3 x 40 seconds = 2:00 minutes.
The thought occurred to me as he scored. I dismissed it thinking, in such a low scoring game, what's the difference?
What happens next but Iowa almost takes it to the house on the return, and scores in two plays with the clock stopped before each in just a total of 20 seconds, or with 1:42 remaining.
At this point, Iowa had a chance.
It turns out that LSU would recover the onsides kick, but with only three guaranteed pre-snap clock runoffs and Iowa possessing a timeout, LSU ended up having to punt with 8 seconds left.
You never know...
This time of year, there are many discussions about ranking various teams and who "deserves" to be the MNC. The discussion, and the way humans and computers rank teams, assumes that each team, or element of a team, has an absolute value (FEI, RPI, ranking, SOS x outcome, etc.). The job of the evaluator is to determine what that value is for each team. I think this is completely wrong. First off, when two teams play, there is a probability greater than 0 that each team will win. Whether that's two teams where the outcome seems 50/50, or where one team has almost no chance to win (but sometimes does). This is much like in nature, where sometimes the cheetah gets the gazelle, and sometime the cheetah starves. One can give odds in advance, but until the game is actually played, there's no actual "better team," there's only a probability that one team will beat another. In sports, there's no one better team, there’s only a probability field that fluctuates until the clock ticks to 0, the probability field collapses, and there’s a winner.
So let's look at the cheetah/gazelle thing again. Over time, one will win out more often than not, and either all the gazelles get eaten or all the cheetahs starve. Yet neither gazelles nor cheetahs are extinct. Why? That's because nature is not a 2-player game. It's more like rock-paper-scissors. Here's an interesting article discussing: Link. The bottom line is that there are always at least three species competing, and it's almost always an odd-number, just like RPS. Cheetah beats gazelle. Gazelle beats hyena. Hyena beats cheetah (by stealing his food). (Yup, look it up: Here).
So what does all this have to do with football and ranking teams? Well, first off, trying to pick which team is better based on results on the field, while the best method, is far from perfect. The sampling size is just too small. Secondly, even if results were absolute and replicable, RPS makes a hash of rankings. I don't believe the transitive property would apply, even if sampling size were large enough, because different teams, like different species, adopt differing strategies. UM regularly beat supposedly "superior" ND teams, which would beat MSU, which would beat us. While luck is involved, I think it was also that our teams were particularly well-suited to beating ND (Denard), but not necessarily well-suited to beating MSU (anti-Denard). A couple obvious notes should go along: 1) Teams "evolve" like species, so a team may be poorly-suited to beat a rival one particular year, or even in one week, but well-suited the next (See, Ohio 2010, 11). 2) The basis for what will make one team well-suited to beat another is not always obvious. Some manball teams do very poorly against spread teams. Others seem to do quite well. Coarse analysis will not work.
So what is the difference? I think that the items most often discussed (run offense v. run defense, etc) are all but useless. If they worked, Vegas would be broke. My guess is that the differences are often due largely to luck (oblong pork bladder, players’ fragility, and the law of averages discussed above). Some significant fraction of the difference, however, is based on metrics that are difficult, but not impossible, to determine in football. Here are some elements that I think might be relevant but are almost never discussed in game previews, though computer analysis would likely be required to prove/disprove:
1) Blocking style vs. defensive style: does the offensive team use reach-blocking? Does it pull linemen? Does it emphasize speed or strength? Does the defense emphasize speed or strength? How does it fill gaps—with LBs or DBs or DL? How are players pad levels? How well does it emphasize tackling in space? Notice that none of this necessarily has anything to do with 3-4 vs. 4-4. It has to do with how one team's philosophy/scheme matches another team's. It's why a team like Iowa may do well against UM but not MN or ISU.
2) Running style vs. containment style: Do runners tend to run North-South or bounce-bounce-bounce? How often do they cut back in open seams vs. following blockers? How fast is the D to the corner? How aggressively does it attack gaps? Does the defense sell-out to the LOS? How well do CBs come off blocks?
3) Aggressiveness: Does the team tend to gamble? In what situations? Is it predictable? How good is the other team at predicting? A good example on this one was Borges calling conservative plays against Illinois. Seeing how well the Defense was playing, a conservative approach was appropriate. Against Ohio, not so much.
Note that each of these metrics, which are themselves neither exhaustive nor all-encompassing, impact each other. The running style of the offense under #2 is affected not only by the scheme of the defense, but also by factors under #1, e.g., the blocking style of the offense and the DL style.
What does this mean going forward and in reviewing the season past? I have a couple thoughts based on my memory, but I would be interested in discussing others’ views: 1) Our offense tended to do well when it either could take advantage of having extra blockers or else could manhandle the DL. It did poorly against MSU and VaTech because our emphasis on line play and speed in space (exacerbated by injuries vs. VT) was a poor strategy against their personnel and schemes but a good strategy against other teams. 2) Improvements on our defense this year are too great to be explained solely by greater experience, increased talent and improved coaching. A big part of the difference is that our survival strategy changed. My theory is that 3-3-5 works against teams spreading the field. In that sense, I think the 3-3-5 is not dissimilar to VaTech's defense, which is good at stopping lateral spreads and offenses based on speed. It did very poorly in the B1G. 3) Borges’ potluck approach this year is good in an environment where one plays a number of different types of teams, but would be less effective against very good teams that require a very high level of competency in a specific strategy (See, Bo’s teams, success vs. Cooper). 4) Given the complexities involved, and how teams develop over a season, it's no surprise that pre-season predictions are so horrible. Going into the season, I thought we would be best served with a Coker/Hopkins-type-substance that emphasized power. Over the season, we were best served by Fitz’ slashing-type running, based on an ability to see the holes developing. He didn’t even have the vision necessary going into the season. Finally, naming a MNC, or even coming up with a ranking, is an exercise in futility. How do you rank rock vs. paper vs. scissors?
I know this was long, but I felt a need to get this down, as it seems like much discussion assumes that one team will be better than another based on some absolute value. LSU is a 10. Bama is a 8. LSU therefore will beat Bama. I think reality is much more nuanced, and that one must break out particular values for numerous variables to have any real guess as to what team will beat another most often, and even at the end of that process, there is no one "best" team. I’d be interested in what others think are relevant metrics and what strategies would work best in the B1G generally and against Ohio and MSU in particular.
I saw this question asked in another thread and it was never answered and I searched the site and didn't find anything that came up.
Is there a viable counter/strategy to cut blocking? I know this seems to happen a lot to Campbell (from the Iowa game), Martin, Suh and I just don't have the football accumen to figure out what an opposing defense can do in that instance.
So any coaches/players/educated observers out there have any insights into this?
Watching this game of body blows, I can't help wondering why we defer when we're clearly so much more dominant on offense than on defense? I'm not a mathematician, but seems to me it's possible to have more possesions in a game only if you receive the ball to start, or recover an onsides kick. We're basicaly assuring our offense will receieve the same number of possesions, or one fewer for the game, by kicking off to start the 1st half. Not a big deal, but in a game like this that one extra posession could mean OT or a loss. Nice to get the ball to start the 2nd half, but in the grand scheme it doesn't make sense.
I just keep thinking about how IU had one more posession than we had during the first half, no guarantee that'll even out in the 2nd half. Thoughts?
Searched for this to be already posted but didn't find it. Apologies if I'm usurping another poster with the view.
Did anyone else think at the ~5:00 mark after Denard had just run down to the 15 that RR should have ordered a spike and Olesnavage? You need two scores anyway and the threat of Iowa marching down the field is nil since they're still only trying to run out the clock this late. Certainly the option was there to kick a 33yd FG which we needed anyway and then kick it deep and play defense.
Obviously hindsight is 20/20 but after an Iowa 3 and out we're looking at starting that last drive closer to our own 35 or 40 with around 3 minutes left needing a touchdown. I'm just a silly video gamer but that would definitely open up my playbook. Especially if I planned on using Denard the rest of the way.
I have been impressed by the halftime adjustments Robinson has made. This is quite different from last year when it seemed no adjustments were made. The D basically shut down both ND and Eastern in the third quarter allowing the O to get rolling.
I was surprised that Leach started and didn't get yanked as EMU was constantly running at him in the first half. I thought we would have seen more of Fitzgerald as I remember talk of him being the third best LB in camp but he wouldn't be starting because he couldn't beat out Ezeh or Mouton.
I have to believe that unless there are injuries JT and Vlad will be getting redshirted with them not seeing the field yesterday.