This morning, there was a secret meeting of the various conference commissioners aboard the Death (to the BCS) Star, and the following was overheard:
THE BIG TEN AT REST (UNLESS YOU ARE BOWLING)
Well, even though we did not win on Saturday, we still get to go to some manner of a bowl game and that means we get the practices and the additional time to work on some of the known issues. There is something to be said for this, even if the record is not exactly what people had in mind at the beginning of the season.
In any case, this will be the final installment of this particular weekly for 2013. The remainder of December will be filled with some summary diaries of the football season and then I am planning something like this for Big Ten basketball – I should be prepared for this hopefully by the time conference play rolls around in January.
SCORING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
Michigan ends the regular season with the 4thbest scoring offense in the Big Ten, averaging 33.8 points per game and trailing Ohio State, Indiana and Wisconsin in that order. Far and away, Ohio State’s offense was the most prolific, averaging almost 10 points more per game than its nearest competition. We end the year with the 8thbest scoring defense in the conference in terms of average points allowed at 26.5 points per game. Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue all were more generous than Michigan. The average scoring margin is below – Boilerquest has fulfilled its destiny:
TOTAL OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
By yards per game, Michigan’s offensive performance is probably where you think it is – in the bottom third of the conference at 9that 382.8 yards per game on average. Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue would be our company in that particular tier of teams. On the other hand, we were 6thin the conference for yards allowed at 367.4 yards per game on average, which is near the conference mean – in other words, we were average in the Big Ten. The tempo-free differential ends up a bit in the positive overall at 0.3 yards, which is not great, but means we did gain a smidge more than we gave up in the end.
RUSHING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
There is not a lot of change here from the previous week. We still have only Purdue to laugh at when it comes to average rushing production, and indeed, we fell from 4thto 5thbest rushing defense after giving up nearly 400 yards on the ground to Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.
PASSING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
For all the concern and hand-wringing about our pass rush as well as the secondary, we sort of end the year respectably. We still maintain the 4thbest passing offense by yards in the air, and 7thbest passing defense, sitting more or less by the conference mean. We ended up…average.
In the end, we actually end up in the black, if you will, for both third and first down differentials, so we managed to maintain a pace that was – on average – ahead of our opponents. We merely did not make it easy on ourselves sometimes, or in some games, most of the time. That being said, 1.1 more third downs than your opponent on average doesn’t look great when you look at what some of our compatriots achieved. This could also be said for only averaging 1.4 more first downs per game. In a way, we managed to essentially break even on these measures.
After reading countless opinions from different sources, it seems to me that the central issue with this offense this season is that the coaching staff attempted to run a style of offense that the team was not very well suited to execute (particularly the line, but also notably Gardner, Funchess, Toussaint). The line couldn't generate much of a push and was abysmal at maintaining their assignments, Devin was typically late in his reads and misread defenses leading to a lot of early interceptions, and the other skill position players that were in tight couldn't handle their blocking assignments to say the least.
Once it became completely clear that they weren't be able to run the offense as they had originally intended, they in essense doubled down on the playstyle in what seemed to be an increasingly panicky personnel and scheme changes. Instead of adapting to the personnel, the staff:
- Swapped out the at-least-reliable-snapping Jack Miller, for Glasgow. Glasgow is admittedly a better and more powerful blocker, but he has killed several drives with bad snaps, and moving him only added to the problems at -
- Guard, where they had a revolving door that continued all through the season.
- Brought in more blockers who were unprepared and unable to handle their blocking assignments.
- Moved Lewan all over the formations, in ways that worked for a drive but then became unsuccessful as he principally took on lesser assignments while becoming a 6'8", 315lb "RUNNING HERE" flag.
Ultimately, as the season went along, they began to make changes that seemed painfully obvious, like spreading Devin out wide, or running bubble screens and using them as a constraint (although as it was the only thing that could work, it got ran into the ground, literally).
It didn't seem like the coaching staff wanted to make any changes that might make it more difficult to run their intended style until desperation set in. And it seems like it took the looming expectations of a blowout to OSU to finally make the basic change in scheme: going from a team that attacks the middle of the defense to open up the edges and deep routes, to a team that spreads the defense horizontally by attacking the edges and flats to open up the inside running game.
Borges obviously has a lot of leeway with the offense, but he has in the past orchestrated some fairly wide open offenses that spread the field with receivers in a way that he now seems allergic to.
Hoke, meanwhile, has maintained since he arrived that he felt that it was necessary to run that sort of pro-style running game in practice to toughen up the offensive and defensive front, where he believes games are won.
So the question is two-fold:
1) How much do you think Borges ran the offense as he wanted, and how much do you think he was handcuffed by what Hoke wanted to see run, especially against his own defense in practice?
2) Do you think the offensive struggles that occurred year-long, as well as the defenses inability to handle OSUs power rushing attack may have led to Hoke/Borges to abandon that belief to some degree?
After reading almost every post on the game over the weekend, and seeing the big disparity between those who thought it was great game despite the loss and those who thought it was a terrible game because of the loss, I started wondering if there was a difference between parents and non-parents, especially parents with kids who play sports.
I thought it was a great game and that there's a lot to be learned from the experience. I still feel positive towards the experience, and even though I now wish we had run a different play for the 2 point conversion, I'm not letting that color my whole sense of the game.
I'm a parent of two kids who play sports, and have seen my share of heartbreak through their eyes, plenty of crying, plenty of "I'm never playing again," and have had to pick them up off the ground after playoff games that could have been won if only.....
Anyone else think they're great?