also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
Unrelated but never unrelated (h/t @smartfootball)
Ranking things is fun, or at least so BuzzFeed tries to tell me every freaking day of my life. And just like any prediction, rankings that attempt to predict the future are typically a fool’s errand. But we are fools, so ON WITH THE PREDICTING.
Trying to project year-to-year development in college football is tricky at best. But we can also try extrapolate by asking two relatively simple questions: (1) were they good at the thing last year, and (2) how many of the people who did the thing last year will be back this year?
The question of the day is this: which Big Ten team will have the best run defense in 2014?
Were they good last year?
This part is easy. There are many ways to break down how effective various run defenses were last year, and while none is perfect, together they give a pretty comprehensive picture. A few of the key measurements:
Yards per carry (sacks removed) - Pretty basic. When the opposing offense tried a run the ball, how far did they go?
YPC (w/o sacks)
Rushing Defensive S&P+ ranking – A fancy rejiggering of statistics based on outcomes for every running play a defense faces.
Rushing S&P+ (nat’l rank)
Adjusted Line Yards – A breakdown of yards per rush compared to what would be statistically expected, and then adjusted for level of competition.
Adj. Line Yards (nat’l rank)
And taking the Big Ten rankings for the various stats together, you get the following rough composite order. Being higher is better and being lower is worse (which you would have known anyway based on the teams at the top and bottom):
So 2013 defensive front performances look to shake out into a few tiers:
- Michigan State: They get a tier all their own. I probably don’t have to explain this.
- Pretty good: Rutgers, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State
- Meh: Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State
- Butt (Not Jake Butt): Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois
How much do they return?
Answering the question "how many starters from the front seven return?" is a little trickier. Take Michigan for example: how many defensive starters did they lose? They lost Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington, but weren’t they kind of the same guy? Do you count that as two starters lost, or one? In a way, it doesn’t matter, as we’re just trying to get a sense for what various teams lost, not necessarily to quantify it. However, to give a very rough estimate of the kind of production everyone is losing, I included the percentage of the team’s total tackles accounted for by guys I deemed to be departing starters from the front seven.
Denicos Allen is gone. Clearly MSU will now be terrible.
The obvious caveats. The first is that tackles are an inexact proxy for quality. A mediocre inside linebacker will usually make more tackles than a top-flight defensive tackle (Nebraska LB David Santos made 87 tackles. Penn State DT DaQuan Jones made 56. Jones was first team All-B1G and a 4th round draft pick. Santos was terrible and was replaced by a freshman mid-season). However, we’re doing qualitative analysis with a quantitative kicker, not the reverse, so it’s helpful information that isn’t vital to our thesis. The second caveat is that the front seven aren’t the only people involved in run defense. Solid safety play is a big deal.
So, here’s where we are:
How good in 2013?
Returning starters (Front 7)
% of tackles by lost starters
|Penn State||Pretty good||5||16.8|
They run the gamut from returning everyone (Indiana) to returning no one (Wisconsin).
A pattern emerges
You may notice that the better defenses are the ones that lose more people. This makes intuitive sense; defenses with more seniors are, all things being equal, better. Of the four defenses we labeled as “MSU” or “Pretty Good,” three (MSU, Iowa, and Wisconsin) suffer serious losses, and I’d argue those were the three best run defenses last year.
So, who are the contenders for Best Run Defense for 2014?
Contenders based on returning talent
- 4.22 YPC
- #33 S&P+
- #45 Adj. LY
- 6 returning starters
Michigan returns all of the major pieces of a run defense that was fair-to-good. Other than getting shredded by OSU for 393 yards at 8.5 YPC, they didn’t surrender more than 170 yards or 5 YPC in any of their other games. Add a healthy Jake Ryan, and if the defensive tackle play is good Michigan looks primed for a big year.
There is no advanced stat that appropriately values “beat running back to death with quarterback”.
- 3.82 YPC
- #22 S&P+
- #31 Adj. LY
- 6 returning starters
I love a good Rutgers joke as much as anyone (you know what’s a good Rutgers joke? Rutgers), but they actually had a solid run defense last year. They had the third-best YPC average (albeit against weaker competition), and they have some solid talent in the front seven with Darius Hamilton, WLB Steve Longa, and MLB Kevin Snyder. Granted, the run defense might just look good because Rutgers’ pass defense is so unbelievably bad, but such is life in Piscataway.
- 4.54 YPC
- #42 S&P+
- #35 Adj. LY
- 7 returning starters
Like Rutgers, we like to make Maryland jokes, but the run defense was pretty solid, and they return their entire front seven. Darius Kilgo and Andre Monroe anchor their 3-4 defense and do an excellent job of keeping linebackers clean. If they can stay healthy (never a guarantee at Maryland these days), they will be very good again.
- 4.67 YPC
- #8 S&P+, #13 Adj. LY
- 5 returning starters
Much like Michigan, Penn State had one implosion of a defensive game (also against Ohio State) and generally held up very well otherwise. You may recall 27-for-27 as a thing that happened. They lose DaQuan Jones, but they return C.J. Olaniyan and Deion Barnes. If MLB Mike Hull can avoid that always-troubling 37th major injury, Penn State could contend for top honors, though depth remains a concern.
Penn State reacted well to subtlety
Contenders based on history
- 3.61 YPC
- #2 S&P+
- #2 Adj. LY.
- 3 returning starters
State lost both starting defensive tackles, uber-productive (and TOTALLY NOT SUSPICIOUS IN ANY WAY) MIKE Max Bullough, and Denicos Allen. But I’m not an idiot, and the last thing I’m going to declare is that Michigan State will be taking some giant step back. The internet remembers such stupid declarations and revisits them. In the last 6 years, MSU’s rushing defense S&P+ rating (in chronological order) was #28, #23, #31, #5, #2, and #2. They have finished as the best rushing defense (in terms of YPC) in the Big Ten the last three years. Shilique Calhoun isn’t a great run-defender, but Marcus Rush and Taiwan Jones are pretty good, and… yeah. Again. Not an idiot.
- 4.07 YPC
- #7 S&P+
- #14 Adj. LY
- 3 returning starters
Iowa loses their entire linebacking corp, along with their 322 combined tackles. The remaining linebackers on the roster had 29 tackles last year. Combined. Howeverm Iowa returns almost all of the best defensive lines in the conference, including two of the best defensive tackles in Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. Iowa’s worst defensive rushing performance in the last six years was roughly on par with Michigan’s performance last year, and they have been a top-30 rushing defense almost every year. Ferentz has zombie powers, so it could happen.
- 3.80 YPC
- #9 S&P+
- #17 Adj. LY
- 0 returning starters
The 2013 Wisconsin Badgers had a very good starting front seven. But so did the ’85 Bears. And those two groups have something in common: none of them will be lining up for Wisconsin in 2014. The Badgers didn’t just lose nominal starters, either: Chris Borland alone accounted for an estimated 793 tackles per game. They return SOME production along the DL in Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring, but this is almost entirely a reclamation job. Wisconsin doesn’t have a history of dominant rush defenses either; their average S&P+ rush defense form 2008-2012 was #33 in the country, and their average Big Ten rank in YPC over that time was a shade better than 6th in the conference. Unless Gary Andersen is a wizard of some kind, regression beckons.
Hey, look, it’s Wisconsin’s front seven.
- 4.60 YPC
- #84 S&P+
- #88 Adj. LY
- 5 returning starters
Nebraska has the opposite problem Wisconsin had. The Huskers bring almost everyone back, but the guys they bring back weren’t very good last year. Nebraska was really good at getting to the QB last year (2nd only to OSU), which combined with a soft schedule to make their raw yards-per-carry numbers look somewhat decent. But remove those sacks or take anything other than a surface glance, and Nebraska wasn’t good on the ground. Randy Gregory is a hell of a pass rusher, but he’s not great against the run. It’s unlikely Nebraska will be in the conversation at the end of the year.
- 5.90 YPC
- #75 S&P+
- #49 Adj. LY
- 6 returning starters
Hey, they return a lot of guys. Lloyd Christmas dot jpg.
Not even pretending
Teams that weren’t good last year and have to replace significant portions of those not-good defenses
- 4.83 YPC
- #57 S&P+
- #77 Adj. LY
- 4 returning starters
Remember when they were ranked last year?
- 5.03 YPC
- #79 S&P+
- #58 Adj. LY
- 4 returning starters
Thieran Cochran is good. The rest of Minnesota is not good.
- 5.60 YPC
- 76 S&P+
- #79 Adj. LY
- 3 returning starters
- 5.93 YPC
- #83 S&P+
- #62 Adj. LY
- 4 returning starters
Gave up over 250 yards in 7 different games. Only held one power conference team under 4 YPC. Gave up 29 rushing TDs. Was bad.
My answer is ‘I don’t have the first damn clue’
- 4.29 YPC
- #58 S&P+
- #96 (!!!) Adj. LY
- 6 returning starters
They had a good YPC average, but the advanced statistics say they were somewhere between bad and abysmal. They only lose one starter, but that starter (Ryan Shazier) made 144 tackles and 23.5 tackles for loss. They return theoretically one of the best lines on the country, but how good can it be if it was so bad against the run last year? I am perplexed.
Strictures require that I take a guess
My monkey-choosing-mutual-funds stab at the 2014 sack-free YPC rankings:
- Michigan State
- Penn State
- Ohio State
In our continuing pursuit to explain to outsiders "what is Big Ten football," and, more importantly, "why is the Big Ten football," we turn to the world of metaphor. Or simile. I forget.
We look now at the Big Ten through the prism of the characters of Breaking Bad. Minor spoiler alerts, of course, but the series has been over for almost a year, so if you haven't seen the series GET ON THAT. Totally worth the time
Self-assured to the point of arrogance, but his brash exterior belies a deep-seated insecurity. He's not used to losing, so when stuff starts blowing up around him, he gets rattled. Everything started to go wrong when this upstart “Heisenberg” fella started to upset the order of things. He proceeded to pour unprecedented resources into chasing Heisenberg, like tailing people for weeks on end or spending $850,000 on a new offensive coordinator. He experiences successes, and occasionally seemed set to take down his quarry, but in the final confrontation with Heisenberg (who is, it turns out, family) he ends up busted and bleeding.
Walter White (aka Heisenberg)
He spending years – nay, decades – as the doormat for those around him. But then through a series of unlikely events, Walter finally found himself on top of his world. He is suddenly the one who knocks. He IS the danger. Still, his inferiority complex shines through from time to time, and he spends as much time trying to prove he isn't the man he used to be as he does being Heisenberg.
Some would call them “sleazy. ” They would prefer to think of themselves as calculating. They have a very well-oiled system and the resources to make it work. He occasionally gets punched in the mouth by Walter, and is threatened by Hank, though Goodman always stays just out of reach of the law. Also, of everyone in the show, he's the guy you really want to see get punched in the face, and you'd be like, "yeah, he probably deserved that, if not for this then for other stuff."
Careful. Almost boringly careful. Nothing is unnecessarily flashy, which is what makes him effective. At the end of the day, you realize he’s probably a step ahead of you. He will run the zone stretch six times in a row until you think “I’ll jump the zone stretch and take over the drug empire,” which is when he goes play action for 36 yards. Then goes to the zone stretch.
I suppose I could have gone with "Badger," because, well, Badger. But Badger was a chubby white guy who somehow survives. Wait...
They were there at the beginning, and for a while they kinda fit with the whole scheme. It was full of fumes, had terrible accommodations, and was in the middle of nowhere. And usually there were only a couple of people there. If you get stuck there for a couple of days, it will probably turn into the worst weekend of your life unless you can figure out how to MacGyver a battery out of some brake fluid and pocket change to get the everloving hell out of there.
She used to be a major part of the drug empire until some turmoil threw that into doubt. Despite being marked for death a couple of times, and seemingly being on the cusp of being pushed to the side several times, she continues to find ways to be relevant. She's also conspiratorial as hell; she always thinks someone is out to get her. And while sometimes that's true, it's because she did some really, really bad things.
As soon as she shows up in an episode, your immediate reaction is "ugh, this is gonna suck." She's a somewhat major character, but she does absolutely nothing to drive the plot. Instead, you just get caught up in small and annoying side-plots that just make you hate that you're spending time watching this. There is no depth to her character; she's pretty much a one-note kind of gal. But all things considered, her character flaws are pretty minor, especially when compared to some of those around her, so it could be worse.
It isn't really his fault, per se, but his arrival signaled an epic shit-storm that made everyone around him not want to be there anymore. Plus, Tortuga means "tortoise" and a terrapin is a turtle. Which is like a tortoise. So it fits.
The plucky, scrappy little guy. Historically a f*ck-up, but occasionally pulls his act together enough to pull off a train heist or something. You root for him, largely because he's the lesser of however-many evils. His style is kind of refreshing, and often acts as a nice alternative to the heavy, dour roles played by everyone around him. Also, does a lot of meth.
No one likes you. We get that you are good at some (limited) things, but that doesn't mean we want to see you ever.
"Tio" Hector Salamanca
He seems like a pretty bright guy, and despite his quirkiness you find yourself rooting for him. But then one day, someone is like "you know, with the way things are going, YOU could run things in the West Division." And he starts to get all excited, and then BLAM.
In a way, he should have seen it coming. He isn't the type to lead. He's a born middle-of-the-pack type. Nevertheless, even though the natural progression of the plot needed him to... uh... exit the plot, we felt a little bit bad that it had to happen like it did. Also, tell me this pose doesn't look familiar:
A chubby, gumpy-looking white guy who somehow manages to survive the whole damn series. He's not really a protagonist or an antagonist. You find yourself happy when he wins, but in the same way you're happy for your dog when he finally finds where you put his water dish. Sure, his accomplishments might not be impressive in the objective sense, but give the little guy a pat on the head anyway.
What is this? Wait, this is it? This is what we're doing? WHYYYYYY?????
As you may have heard, the Big Ten opened its new office in New York City recently, and the media got its first look on Wednesday.
What you may not have heard was that shortly before the media took their tour, the Big Ten coaches and a handful of administrators got a look inside. We have a transcript of their meeting.
[AFTER THE JUMP: the tour]
Yesterday Ace posted a link to the full Lemming recruiting rankings from 1990 to 2004. Just perusing the list is pretty interesting, since accessible recruiting data on a national scale otherwise only goes back as far as the Rivals and Scout databases. Since nobody likes to make their information easy to get at, it'll take some time for this all to be processed.
But for a first stab I did find something I can pull relatively easily from both Lemming's sheets and modern data: where players come from, and where they went. Lemming only had data on where recruits were from going back to 1999. Since it was easiest to grab a Top 400 from 247, I took theirs too, but they run out of rankings before 2008 so there's a gap. It won't matter for this. I broke the nation into regions that quasi-match the traditional conference footprints:
And here's the % of high school recruits that each contributed to Lemming's (on the left) and 247's (on the right) lists:
Who's been telling you that demographics are responsible for the SEC's rise? It's not there. The Big Ten's traditional footprint was providing 15% of the nation's talent in 1999 and the SEC was around 35%; today it's almost the exact same.
[After the jump: regional retention]
That episode where Mr. Burns had to go work for Smithers. I'm sure there is one.
The Big Ten Championship Game and bowl selection gives us an opportunity to zoom out a little.
Who's on the up, how do next year's divisions stack up against each other for the short and long term, and what's the long term outlook for the Big Ten on a national scale (and do you care?)
Mathlete: With Michigan State's title and several preceding years of quality, they have moved into that 1B tier. Ohio State is the only team right now I would consider in the top tier. They have both the recruiting and the on field to be clearly at the top.
|I wonder what Coach Dantonio thinks about "1B" status. He probably has a measured, mature response that acknowledges his schedule was kind of easy and his recruiting is lacking. [Fuller]|
Joining the Spartans in 1B I would put Wisconsin. Behind them you have the good but definitely behind the top teams group. Unfortunately right now that includes Michigan along with Nebraska, Iowa. In the third group you have the chaos teams. Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota (how did that happen), Penn State and probably Maryland are teams that had a pretty decent year last year despite another rash of injuries. That leaves Purdue, Illinois and Rutgers at the bottom tier.
So if you look at the divisions you have the East with 2 first tiers and 1 second tier team. The West would have 1 first tier and 2 second tier teams. The caveat is that the East's second tier team, Michigan, has been recruiting like a first tier and will finally have a large amount of acclaimed talent in the upper classes. If Michigan can move up to tier one, then the East is considerably more challenging.
On a national scale it's hard to see the Big Ten join the top as a group. The two paths up are recruiting and coaching and right now there is a pretty big gap between the Big Ten and the best in both. If Michigan can start playing like it's recruiting, and 1-2 teams of Michigan St/Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa can play at the top level each year, then that should help the profile of the conference. Three+ really good teams means you move out of ACC territory and get to where a conference champ would be in a position for 2 high quality wins. Ultimately, that's the blueprint for the Big Ten at the top as a conference, 3 high quality teams, 2 high quality wins. Without a foundational shift, the full depth isn't going to match up. But if the top 3 can, the conversation should die down.
"I hope we're all up on the latest changes to the NCAA rule book." [Fuller]
Wait, substitution. Wait. Wait, what?
So when the bearded lady rushed into the center ring to launch the football out of the cannon through the flaming uprights at the end of the Evanston Circus, Michigan obviously made a substitution. Northwestern did not make a substitution, but they, according to the Rules, could have. If they did, it seems like that would have taken more time before the official gave the ready for play, and potentially wasted enough time to run the clock out. In this parallel universe game which is crazier than the actual circus which unfolded, does Michigan get to attempt the field goal? How are the rules applied in that situation (which thankfully did not happen)?
UPDATE: NEVERMIND the below, as I missed this section in the rulebook:
Late in the first half Team A is out of timeouts. A pass play on third down ends inbounds at the B-25 short of the line to gain with the game clock showing 0:10. Facing fourth down and three, Team A immediately hurries its field goal team onto the field. RULING: Team B should reasonably expect that Team A will attempt a field goal in this situationand should have its field-goal defense unit ready. The umpire will not stand over the ball, as there should be no issue of the defense being uncertain about the next play.
Thanks to Maize and Blue Wahoo. I will self-immolate now like a Northwestern fan observing his team playing football.
We should have been screwed. The NCAA rulebook has a specific mention of this very scenario:
Late in the first half Team A is out of timeouts. A pass play on third down ends inbounds at the B-25 short of the line to gain with the game clock showing 0:30. Facing fourth down and three, Team A gives no indication as to its next play until the game clock reads 0:10. They then rush their field goal unit onto the field, and Team B then hurries to respond.
RULING: The umpire moves to the ball to prevent the snap until Team B has had a reasonable opportunity to get its field-goal defense unit onto the field. The umpire will step away when he judges that the defense has had enough time. If the game clock reads 0:00 before the ball is snapped after the umpire steps away, the half is over.
That is in blue along with various other new rules (like "minimum time for spiking the ball") this year, so it must have just been added. If Fitz tried to substitute, the rulebook says that the refs have to let him and the clock would then run out.
This is of course terrible since it prevents the sort of exciting thing that happened against Northwestern and replaces it with the clock running out because the defense can't get aligned in time and should be immediately stricken in the name of fun… except maybe it doesn't exist?
Game ref Bill LeMonnier:
“When a team is coming out and it’s the last play of the game and they substitute with their field-goal team, the defense is not given the opportunity,” referee Bill LeMonnier said. “Usually there’s match-up time on substitutions. When it’s the field-goal attempt like that on the last play of the half, then there’s no match-up given.”
This is in direct contradiction of the rulebook. So… yeah. I don't know. The only thing that may reconcile these two points of view is the rulebook stating that the team getting the FG unit out there spent 20 seconds doing nothing, whereas Michigan was clearly going GO GO GO as soon as Gallon was tackled.
Spiritually, if you can't get your FG block team on the field in that situation and the other team can get the play off, screw your field goal block team. Fire drills forever.
[After THE JUMP: talking Funk, safety rotation, and the latest bizarre email.]
GIS throws this at you when you google for Darrell Funk, so congrats Firstbase