This 'Merritt's Mention: How much punning has David Merritt had to put up with? Not enough that he balked at calling his fashion-brand-for-a-cause "Merit." The store donates a fifth of its revenues to college scholarships and educational enrichment programs, and he just opened one in Ann Arbor.
We Start Up Front. In 2009 Michigan started off pretty strong, including an encouraging win over Notre Dame. Maybe the shaky backfield got a little beat up for want of a safety or two but hey: Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. Then it got worse. Then it got worser. Then it got awful. And then there were lots of diaries (myself among them) blaming attrition and poor recruiting on the old coaches and all sorts of things that could explain it other than "this is what will get our coaches fired."
So…offensive line diaries.
A Single Unified Theory of Offensive Lineptidute? Provided by Yeoman and bumped early last week, "Short Ride in a Broken-Down Machine" is the definitive study relating Michigan's offensive issues to young starters on the interior OL. As to the small correlation he had a great answer:
Given those enormous differences in baseline levels of the various FBS teams it's amazing to me that we could see anything like 5-8% of a performance difference being credited to any one team demographic, especially when the difference is measured using an SOS-adjusted metric like Fremeau.
The rubber really hits the pavement when he thought to compare teams to their historical norm, which is a quite elegant stand-in for expectations (including recruiting). Ultimately he found teams that have significant depth and start freshmen are just fine because the freshmen are just that good, but teams in Michigan's situation typically have very large systemic problems. Because fans tend to overstate, there's a reactionary tendency from the more rational among us to think "it's probably not as bad as it looks." Reality check: it's as bad as if we had Idaho's recruiting problems. Yeoman did throw some hope for next year in the comments:
(1) [OTs Do Matter Theory] The Bust Index for the entire line will improve from 75% to 65%, which would improve oFEI by about .06 and move us (all else being equal which of course it isn't) up about ten spots, or
(2) [OTs Don't Matter Theory] The Bust index for the interior will improve from 69% to 46%, which would improve oFEI by about .175 and move us up about about 20 spots.
He followed up with a Kalis-centric study that tracks every (non-juco) 5-star offensive lineman since 2003 and what contributions that player made in Year X. Findings are the good ones mostly started by Year 2, but that there's no cause to worry until they're not starting in Year 3. Actually the biggest thing to worry about is how few actually make good on their promise, not that Kalis hasn't yet. Diarist of the Month, this guy.
Third Down and Guh. The guy in the running with Yeoman is reshp1, who had a great OL diary two weeks ago, and this week decided to get into all those failed 3rd downs. It's UFR-long, so if you promise to read it (okay if you promise to skim through it) I'll share the money table here. Promise. PROMISE! You know what, fine, I'll put it after the jump, so you still have to click on something you lazy straw man of a dear diary reader.
This isn't a stage of grief but it is a stage of life: at some point during the long process of disintegrating into a grotesque version of yourself, you stop asking rhetorically when the kids will visit, stop being horrified at the exponential indignities, stop trying to convince everybody you're still just as capable as ever, and just decide to be tickled to death at anything good. You're past caring what ol' so-and-so thinks, and save your opinion that Alabama is something to be ashamed of, not commit to, for the people at your bridge game.* When the doorbell rings you expect it to be Death; if it's the grandkids, we'll order subs and won't that just be grand!
MGoBlog, you've reached the Appreciation stage. Right now on the board you can see a thread for appreciation of Jabrill Peppers, and appreciation itself, and one for Al Borges, and I even made one for you, dear readers. Where are the rest? Where did they come from? I'll allow you this peek behind the curtain:
Poor Ace. We'll put that one with Treadwell's and Levenberry's. And Armani Reeves and Sam Grant and Josh Garnett and Bri'onte Dunn and Anthony Standifer (the second time) and all of Tim's 2011 opponent previews, and some weirdness Brian puts up every once in awhile. Okay ONE example:
<) )> ooohh
I don't know. But that's your user content this week: people admitting our program feels every year of 134. Next time we have Ohio State over let's wear our ratty sweatpants and make fun of their latest girlfriend. What is she 25? Really.
* [The Big Ten is analogously a bridge game.]
The Diary to Read if You Still Care is the one about how experience seems to matter a lot on the interior of the offensive line but not so much on the exterior. Get ready for Michigan and Purdue to be extreme examples of a gentle trend:
Having two 5th year senior tackles don't seem to matter at all. Having an average of 1 year in the program among the three interior guys is not good, but it's not death either: the second star to the left over Michigan is UCLA. Gandalf the Maize, you are the Diarist of the Week. Also I like your wizard hat.
You probably already saw the incredibly detailed one by Space Coyote where he disagrees with Brian over whether Kerridge should be able to make that one block. I have a unifying theory: the part of the brain that has the ability to release the enzymes with which to formulate excuses is often destroyed in the process of playing or coaching football. Ask a coach sometime about the Alabama game last year; he'll probably tell you that was on execution too.
The Other Diary to Read if You Still Care is by a former D3 fullback who went over three complaints we've had about the offensive coaching:
- Don't know their personnel/strengths
- Stubbornly sticking to an offense their players can't run.
- Tipping calls
The anecdotal approach both addresses where our expectations are too high (they can't run simple stuff AND not be predictable) but mostly confirms the general complaints about stubbornness and misusing the personnel.
Etc. I think Brian linked to the weeklies in previous posts, but if you missed it here's parallels between Michigan and the Soviet Space Program. Dragonchild wants to bring helpful signs for the other team that say "WE'RE RUNNING" or "WE'RE PASSING" that our fans can use to prove just how predictable they're being. Has nobody considered what would happen if Borges just starts calling whatever's on the signs?
IN JUG NEWS
I was right about where they'd put the new jug scores:
There are five lines up here, and room for six under each M—seven if they don't have header rows beneath. So that's maybe 26 years before we have to worry about how to fit more scores on the jug gain. How did we beat them 42-13 this year?
Your Moment of Zen:
Sedate me fast 'cause I don't want to think about this. /beats Alabama
It would seem obvious
Event reminder: MGoBlog is coming to Chicago next Friday. Moe's Cantina, River North, 6-9 p.m.
The coping mechanisms kicked in about Tuesday, and the diaries flowed. The best, I thought, was by Ron Utah, who took this base alignment
…from the UFR and pointed out why it's hard to attack this in myriad ways because MSU's defense is good. That is true, but it doesn't invalidate the primary complaints: it isn't cohesive. Indiana faced the same defense and their OL isn't all that great, but they have committed themselves to running option routes and tempo, and it works because it puts the offense mostly on the shoulders of three really good receivers to execute. A short list of some of the hands Michigan gambled on:
- Toussaint's pass blocking vs. Denicos Allen blitz
- Funchess's threat as an inline blocker vs. MSU having watched Funchess this season at all
- Half-hearted play-action on 2nd and 15 when Michigan hasn't shown a run out of that formation in ever vs. MSU safeties' ability to read play-action.
State's defense is great, and that gives teams limited options for beating them. But the offensive coaching was awful independent of that, on the game level more so on a macro level: They haven't been able to figure out from week to week what the hell kind of offense they are, let alone who's going to be playing it. Eventually they want to be a TE-mismatch outfit but right now there isn't a single TE or RB on the roster who can block. I get it, but it's not getting better because in three years nobody on that staff has been able to answer "what are we going to do about it?"
The OL can't block either. Well the freshmen can't and hey, they're freshmen. But since OL coaches are particularly difficult to judge (especially when their oldest recruits are all redshirt freshmen this year) Erik_in_Dayton went over all of Funk's previous OL charges going back to Ball State. No conclusions—almost everybody was a 2-star recruit—but interesting read.
Meanwhile Gameboy has been trying all sorts of ways of assessing Michigan's O-line experience versus that of other teams. In three attempts he's got a bunch of data and no sense to make of it still because Michigan has two extremes and the coaches don't do things to cover up for their weak points. The chart at right shows O-line starts and game experience. His big mistake I think is averaging: Team One has a tackle with thirty starts and a left guard with none; Team Two has a tackle and guard who've started next to each other for fifteen games. Both average fifteen starts, but Team Two has a big advantage that is hidden by your method.
Chunkums put up a survey to ask if you want to fire which coaches, but your feelings are irrelevant since this staff won't be budged unless there's wholesale failure the rest of the year and Dave Brandon's pimp hand has to step in. Even then, what are the chances Michigan grabs the soon-to-be-unemployed Nebraska OC we're pining over? What's that guy going to do with Morris and Speight? It's clear now that Borges should never have been brought here in the first place, but then a world where Michigan hung on to Calvin Magee for a few years (as OSU did with Fickell) comes with its own negatives. Either way the future is what matters now; if we're going to advocate anything maybe it's a consultant who can teach Borges constraint theory.
While you're assessing, here's a handy chart of Michigan's games under Hoke by dnak438, with the betting lines included. I think jamiemac once told me that Michigan's final lines, like ND's and other power programs, are worse predictors because they're responsive to the huge number of people who bet knowing nothing more than that Michigan is traditionally pretty good. Early lines are more accurate. By the way dnak took my suggestion of rotating the chart 45 degrees. This week I'm suggesting overlaying last week's to see progression:
[Jump to find out how Brian got banned, and you can too!]
Full name: The Paul Bunyan Governor of Michigan's Wife Was
Going to Throw It Out Otherwise Trophy.
People don't get this rivalry, why the board seems to get obsessed with it, and why it means so much to take home a tacky statue from an off-highway store in West Branch.
Those Michigan fans not from Michigan, or from a part of Michigan that regularly sprays for Spartans, are often suggesting a bigger second rivalry than this one. They'll grant that game's importance goes as far as winning the Bo Division, with the Dantonio-fueled addition of protecting the purity of the game from one if its biggest dicks (see: press conferences devoted entirely to asking Michigan coaches how they plan to defeat inevitably bad officiating).
|Besides, the guy who went 4/4 vs. MSU can talk all he wants.|
That's because this thing is really for the mitten-staters: those who know what it means to be thrown into the back seat of the station wagon, to defend the middle seat arm rest, to decide who can put whose feet where, and fight to ensure the integrity of fart justice for five hours of pure Michigan hell.
Mercury Hayes, I feel you, man. That's a diary from a former MSU student who has maintained his Michigan fanhood despite four years and assorted change of East Lansinginity. There was another from ttifiblog (formerly Blue Seoul) that went into some of the stuff that'll get retread this weekend, like Narduzzi's quote, and MSU's fake mascot, and Gholston. Let's not leave out the great sin of shopping at non-campus outlets, because when 80% of a state's fans choose one local school over the other, it must mean rooting for a place you didn't graduate from isn't okay (somebody please inform the Ohioans).
I think this rivalry is done a disservice when glib reporters only focus on that time a 22-year-old made a 50-year-old analogy, and a 50-year-old was a total baby about it. Rivalries aren't just as base as hate; they're analogues for human relationships, with all of the sameness and quirks those have. In this case it's two brothers close enough in age to be competitive, and young enough to not have the maturity to appreciate each other.
The inferiority complex is bred out of inferiority; the smugness is bred out of superiority that most of us had little to do with earning. All shit talk is good and encouraged, so long as you remember nobody really believes any of it. Of course it's immature! Rivalries for athletes are motivation to excel; rivalries for sports fans are about finding an outlet for our primal child.
Weeklies. The FEI chart from dnak now includes past opponents. Suggestion: turn it 45 degrees: teams higher vertically are better, and left-right says whether it's the offense or defense doing the pulling:
MSU is off the charts defensively and just under okay on offense, which puts them with Wisconsin and Ohio State among the conference elite. Michigan's about equal with Notre Dame and a clear 2nd tier in the Big Ten. When you look at this and realize State played Illinois instead of Penn State and Purdue instead of Ohio State you get a better appreciation for how vastly different our route to Indianapolis is than theirs.
Turnover Analysis says MSU puts the lie to the "turnovers are random" assertion: their safe offense and high-pressure defense put them far to the good despite recovering just 17% of their fumbles. Purdue remains an outlier of awfulness. MSU miniprogram should have included criminal records.
Etc. Bentley event the Friday night before Nebraska.
Meta: Chicagoans—if we did a Q&A-type event downtown the night before NW'ern would you come? Jared of SPW offered to host it as part of his killer Northwestern package; trying to gauge interest.
As per tradition, bye week Saturday is Wife Day, when sports fans stop to appreciate those who married us—only to discover they had also married this thing that makes us sometimes psychotic, often inconsolable, and constantly spending vast sums for tickets and road trips and apparel. Oh, you are perfectly right to bitch about somebody who plans their wedding on any October Saturday (I hope your every anniversary falls on top of a rivalry game, a hated hockey opponent, the opening throws of basketball season, and the World Series). But let's recognize—male and female (17% of our readership)—that this does make us a particularly needy breed of spouse.
Weeklies: Gifs and F+-ing. Best and Worst made a comic book reference I actually got, and points out the defense was actually doing a good job until the point in the 2nd quarter when they got Roberson'd. He rightly calls out the staff for still making major offensive line changes this late in the season, though I think we're happy they made them. Inside the Box score also brought up the O-line carousel:
* Midway through the first quarter, Joey Burzynski got hurt. So let's review our situation at Left Guard this year. Glasgow started the season there, only to move to center in an attempt to shore up the middle. Chris Bryant was the next man in. He's either injured or not as effective as the staff would like, so he was replaced by Burzynski. When he got hurt, Kyle Bosch entered the lineup. Yep, our 4th string left guard.
Turns out the offensive line should have been playing Indiana all along.
…and a chicken coop parade for ND, and CMU as the crying Indian in that don't-litter commercial from the '80s, and Akron/UConn as Indiana Jones obstacles. These are going to be weekly he says.
More F/+ please! Here is dnak439 with an updated chart of Big Ten teams by Fremeau's F/+: offense (y-axis) and defense (x-axis).
Hooray for being in the good quadrant; hard to believe MSU's offense is as good (bad?) as Penn State's. Iowa's tracking higher than Northwestern since AIRBHG whiffed on Weisman and nailed the Wildcats' entire backfield. Dnack also made a thing that tracks your rooting interest to get Michigan the Bo Division crown.
[Jump for new and improved Stauskas, GRIII levitates, hand checking enforcement effect on Big Ten teams, the Seeya! chant]
Here is dragonchild's summary of Michigan's offensive gameplan versus Penn State.
Doing exactly what we've done 18 times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time! (Remote play prohibited; click the photo or here)
After studying abroad I spent two months backpacking Europe, marveling at their master works while being constantly amazed at the pointless waste accumulated over genera. Nearly every city and town has at least one monument (pre-Napoleonic ones are inside the churches) to townsfolk whose lives were the grist in one war or another's death mill. Overwhelming bodies marching toward an objective worked for the first Louis and Edward, and Europe kept running that same play—regardless of technology—for another thousand years.
Afterwards I spent a week ("The Long Shower") at a friend's apartment in London to get reacquainted with civilization, playing Perfect Dark, watching Black Adder tapes, and just appreciating the hell out of the fact that I was born to the one country in Western Civilization that expects tactical change whenever something isn't working. We lost one Custer (and frankly he probably deserved it) by telegraphing where our inferior force would be, then stopped doing that. From the Euro perspective America is the country that came to the trench war with tanks, and the tank war with an Air Force. Huddling isn't just outdated; it's un-American. As for sending barely trained draftees into machine gun emplacements…
It's not the Philosophy; It's the Fit. Here's Eye of the Tiger from his updated "Reading the Tea Leaves":
Now, as an aside, can we please bury the notion that this result had anything to do with inherent superiority of offensive scheme or philosophy? We didn’t lose because “MANBALL” (i.e. i-formations, power running, play-action and so forth) is inherently worse than “basketball on grass.” (i.e. shotgun spread formations, read-option running, constraint passing and so forth). We lost because our coaches called plays we don’t have the personnel for, then called them again and again when it should have been clear that we couldn’t execute them. Wisconsin, Stanford and Alabama can. We cannot. It’s that simple.
Before there was the UFR of the offense reshp1 tried his hand at identifying what went wrong with the run blocking. This leaves the coaches out of it and talks about the technique problems on the OL:
Conclusion. I can only imagine how frustrated the coaches are getting at this point. There is no one problem or even one guy. Quite the opposite, on any given play, we have the ability to screw up in 4-5 different ways, by anyone on the line save maybe Lewan. That’s wack-a-mole futility right there, where do you even start?
That was bumped. The other bump this week was bronxblue's Best and Worst weekly, which is beginning to really stand out for Sunday content after a game. Co-sign everything up until he says 5 wins and a crazy loss ain't so bad: immediately after it ended I was like "we deserved that," but each day since I'm convinced the level of persistent coach derp it exposed, has me terrified. How confident are you that they're saying to themselves "Wow, predicating our offense on the bet that our young guards will play like All-Americans was just about the dumbest thing we've ever coached; we need to take all of this criticism to heart." So how do things get better?