Like all of you, my entire weekend was a tire fire because of the game and I succeeded in pissing off my family and friends to boot. I need more creative ways to dissipate my anger.
I saw a thread like this in TWIS a couple of weeks back, and I think we can use one right now as a group, so go ahead and post your image that best describes the state of football that we are in today.
As a bonus, this will provide some easy content for TWIS (if Brian is up for writing one this week).
Here is my vote:
After week 7, Michigan total offense is ranked 8th in the league (396 yards/game) and 8th in rushing (1,039 yards). Michigan's rushing performance is not quite 100 yards better than pass-happy Indiana. Let that idea detonate in your brain for an hour.
What? Hurray! The three best total defenses are yet to play on the schedule!!! (MSU, Iowa and Ohio State)
NOTE: For purposes of showing everyone where the conference is at in a more meaningful way perhaps, we’ll go back to cumulative statistics for this one - report-card (sort of) style.
SCORING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
All in all, the conference is not having a lot of problems scoring points. Indeed, all but two teams are currently averaging 30 points or more on the season. On the flip side, only two teams are giving up more than 30 points on average, which isn’t the best but also isn’t bad within the whole of Division I. You’ll know that four teams, in fact, are typically giving up less than 20 points per game. The point differentials are also mostly positive (save for Purdue).
TOTAL OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
We’ll focus on Michigan here for a moment – we’re ninth in total offense by total yards, but fourth in the same metric on defense. That might not help with anyone’s confidence right now per se, but it should be noted that we still give up less than we gain. You can see on the differential chart that we still maintain a positive yards per play differential, something which I believe is far more telling when it comes to success.
RUSHING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
I’ll keep the focus on Michigan here since the running game is foremost in a lot of minds. Compared to our conference compatriots, we don’t excel in this regard but we do a decent job of stopping it, which might even be more important in the end. The top performers here on offense are pretty much the same as they’ve been all year, and the bottom performers on offense also have not moved much.
PASSING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
The stats were posted in a few threads yesterday, but from a production standpoint, Michigan is improving here even if you don’t think of being fifth in the conference as stellar right now. Indiana and Penn State top the conference in passing offense right now, but we’re not in bad company. On defense, the numbers after six or seven games (depending) are interesting. A fair number of teams appear to be having similar success here.
The chart here is top-heavy on offense – it takes ten teams before you find someone with less than 40% success on third down conversions. On the other side of the ball, there are six teams that allow less than 30% of third downs to be converted, and I am sort of pleased that Michigan is – if nothing else – the first team below that bar, not that 37.1% is impressive. The differential chart now might be starting to paint a picture of how the conference might pan out.
Here is the first down differential chart, which shows us that Michigan is getting only slightly more first downs per game on average than their opponent. I show this as a supplement to any discussion of third downs.
SPECIAL TEAMS STUFF:
Preface: (a) I am prepared for the downvotes and hate messages and (b) this has little to do with the Penn State game and more to do with the now years of sweating out games with the likes of UConn / Akron and knowing a typical game versus a program like Purdue or Illinois is now a sweat it out game with a >35%+ chance of a loss.
I cannot remember the last time we had a servicable OL that did not require a superman QB to create offense. I am sure it was 2007 but it sickens me to see we have a MAC level OL - whatever the age - with an All American holding down 1 of the 5 spots, and a theoretical NFL pick at another. It sickens me that this is not a 1 year issue, or a 3 year but with the youth of 2014 will be a year 7 issue. At Michigan.
We have let the Big 10 down, and our biggest rival down. It is not just since Rich Rod got here, but aside from one special season, and a few other very nice ones, UM football has been quite "average" (I don't know the right adjective and I know the board police will attack whichever adjective I use so insert your own) not for 6 years but 20 versus our "pedigree". 5 Big 10 titles, outright or shared in 20 years. Wisconsin has more in that time.
Being a statistic geek I took a look at the top programs in all time wins, excluded the Harvard/Yales and added in Florida and we don't compare very well at all for the past 20 years. By that I mean 0, 1, or 2 loss seasons. [i.e. my ARBITRARY signal of what would indicate you have a pretty damn elite team, allowing for 1 screwup a year - it's a basic eye test, not science] We have been consistently meh (insert your adjective here) - and well below our rival OSU who both share a very average conference for about a decade now. We laugh at Notre Dame here on so many levels but frankly we have become Notre Dame North. For comparison sake, the previous 20 year period, we had 13 seasons of 2 losses or less; we had an elite program.
Since 1993, the # of years UM has lost less than 3 games: 4.
We sit here on our boards and so many are all high and mighty and mock Notre Dame. Yes they have only had 2 of less than 3 losses in 20 years. Somehow they have been even worse. But what a lame yardstick at this point. Hey we are better than Charlie Weiss and Bob Davie - yippee.
Our rival? They are making us look pathetic. OSU with 12 years of 2 losses or less.
- PSU with a "over the hill Paterno": 6
- Nebraska: 8
- Texas: 7
- Oklahoma: 7
- USC* (*cheaters): 9
- Florida: 11
- Georgia: 5
- Tennessee: 6
- Bama: 6
Aside from consistency over 20 years most of the teams above had 4-5 year periods of super elite status where they were "dominant", before cycling back down. Unfortunately while we got our 1 NC, we also have not had that sort of "consistent elite/feared for a # of years". Georgia is probably the only other one along with our friends in South Bend.
Our recruiting classes have, aside for maybe 2-3 years out of 20 been consistently top 10ish. We tsk tsk at Texas for doing less with more but the reality is many of us (myself included) are living in glass houses as we have been doing the same.... or one could argue less with the same.
I get caught up in the day to day and week to week analysis as much as anyone, but when you really sit back and look at the big picture it has been a relatively mediocre era, thankfully to a degree covered up by a supernova in 1997. Just very frustrating to analyze and compare to what Ohio is doing - we are not in the same conversation anymore. Hopefully our "cycle" comes soon (latter 2010s) but it's been a long time waiting for it.
We still control our own destiny in the Leaders.
Are MSU and Nebraska world beaters? No, and they play each other and Northwestern.
If we can sweep the Legends, there's a good chance that we'll be tied for 1st and win the head-to-head tie breaker.
Hopefully, Hoke will feel the sting and play to win from here on out.
SLIGHT MOD EDIT: Hopefully, the OP does not mind if I do this, but let's make this the Monday Snowflakes thread too. Threads about more specific aspects of the game can exist separately, I would think. - LSA
"We want to be able to run the football with a back in the backfield."
- Brady Hoke in 2011 interview upon hiring at Michigan
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”
- Sun Tzu in The Art of War
Offense: Who We Want To Be
Coach Hoke has made it clear from the word 'go' that his vision for Michigan includes a stout offensive line that fuels a power running game. Wear the opponent down. Use the run to set up the pass. Control the clock. Preserve your defense. He walked into a roster ill-equipped to play this style of offense, but he promised to be patient and flexible during the transition. Denard Robinson can probably tell you whether this was successful or not.
Regardless, Hoke must feel pretty good about making progress toward this goal of a power running game after his first few recruiting classes at Michigan. Top tier offensive line classes in consecutive years. Stud workhorse running backs. Tight end restocked. The pieces are in place for a good power running game at Michigan in the future.
This season is not the future.
Offense: Who We Are
Who are we as an offense? This is a tough question to answer. Let's start with who we are not. Yesterday, we ran 34 plays on first down. Here are the results:
|Play call||No.||Yards per play||<2 yard plays|
|Running back run||17||1.8||11|
In a power running offense, you rely on three to five yard runs on first and second down to gain short-yardage situations on third down. Yesterday we averaged 1.8 yards per play on first down runs, including 11 of 17 plays that went for one yard or less. When Devin Gardner ran on first down, he gained 8.4 yards per play with only one run for less than two yards. On the 12 occassions that passed on first down, we averaged 13.8 yards, including incomplete passes that gain zero yards.
We are not a power running team.
It is not clear that the coaching staff yet appreciates this, and as a result we are succumbing in every battle. It seems that the staff thought that this would be the year that they could transition fully to a power running game base offense. They tried to impose their will against Akron, UConn, Minnesota, and Penn State. In each case, it hasn't worked.
Whatever our opponents' self-knowledge, they can all be sure that when they play Michigan, we will try to operate out of a base offense that runs on first down. Whatever you think about our talent/youth/experience on the offensive line, we have consistently run into walls of defenders who are happy to not have to make decisions but rather just move ahead and fill a running lane.
We need to recognize who we are on offense and make a fundamental shift in approach.
A Note On Psychology
Albert Bandura's theory of self-efficacy explains how people come to believe that they are able to do something well. How people develop confidence in their ability. Devin Gardner's confidence is in the tank right now. It was clear that by the second half of the UConn game, he was trying to not throw interceptions more than he was trying to complete passes. But the coaches aren't helping him.
Self-efficacy theory holds that the best way to build confidence is to cultivate "mastery experiences," opportunities to be successful in the task at hand. In our case, this means giving Gardner easy passes--like screens, quick slants, and running back passes--to allow him to have little successes and rebuild confidence. Right now, we're doing the opposite. We've reacted to his turnovers by going into a shell and reducing his throwing opportunities. This has created a vicious cycle with us running into a loaded box of defenders, failing, then giving Gardner throwing opportunities in third and long situations, where he has less opportuntiy for "mastery." Gardner makes a mistake, loses further confidence. Coaches lose further confidence in his passing ability. Rinse. Repeat.
So, Who Are We, Again?
I'm not a coach, but it seems like, at this point, we need to fundamentally alter our approach to de-emphasize the early down running game. Power football doesn't work with 1.8 yards per first down run. We have had success in the short passing game, including last night. These plays have to become the new normal on first and second down. Whether this is spread or west coast or whatever, the pass has to start setting up the run.
That's not what Hoke wants, but it's better to be honest with oneself than aspirational. Will we make the change? We'll see. We know coaches to be a prideful race.