mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
Brian mentioned a "triangle" route during the offensive UFR last week. I wanted to highlight that play, not just because I don't remember if we've covered what that means, but because it illustrates how the emergence of Funchess as a complementary deep threat to Gallon makes defenses do unsound (read: relatively easy to exploit) things.
A triangle is another passing concept for picking on zone, and works pretty well against different coverages. We've covered smash/high-low (which attacks the top and bottom of a zone simultaneously) and 4-verts (which gets guys to either side of a zone). A triangle is actually putting dudes to three sides of a zone. It's a slightly more complicated version of high-low, the triple-option version of it if you will.
Here's a play from the Indiana UFR. I want you to watch the bottom of the screen and how the Funchess, Gallon, and Toussaint routes work together:
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O24||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide tight||1||1||3||4-3 over||Pass||TE out||Butt||Inc|
|IME Gardner blows this read presnap by going to the short side of the field. He's got three guys on the wide side and Toussaint's flare is going to be open as M runs a triangle there. Instead he's looking at the wheel/out combo M is running a lot this year. Both are covered; Gardner tries to fit a ball into Butt in a tiny window, LB breaks it up. (BR, 1, protection 1/1)|
The left side is a high-low. The right side of the play, even though Gardner didn't go there, is the triangle we're looking at.
I don't know if Gallon's route was a deep curl or an out or flag or whatever; it doesn't matter. I drew curl just to make the picture smaller.
In this case Gallon and Toussaint are smashing the corner's Cover 2 zone, while Funchess's curl route keeps the SAM linebacker from interfering with that. The cornerback went with Gallon (from alignment it was obvious he was more worried about the deep part of his zone than anything underneath), and that left the SAM to deal with Funchess and Toussaint. He chose Funchess, and Toussaint's flare route was open.
Going up early 'cause we're going on WTKA this morning to yap about HTTV Hoops/Hockey from 9-10 with Sam Webb and several of our authors.
What have I done? My brains are going into my feet!
Brady Hoke said his team was prepared for Indiana's ludicrous speed offense, in other words: "Buckle this." Following the science fiction movie at Michigan Stadium last Saturday, the old hypothesis is again making its rounds: teams that don't play up-tempo tend to not be as prepared for teams that do, leading to an uncharacteristically negative defensive performance.
Fortunately there are data here (thank you once again cfbstats.com). They say Indiana is indeed the fastest ship in galaxy.
To get a tempo stat I just divided time of possession (in seconds) by total offensive plays. Games against FCS opponents are removed entirely. The Big Ten by Tempo (all FBS in Google Doc):
It's not perfect since you can't pull out the seconds actually spent in a play, or the actual seconds during clock stoppages because of out of bounds or incomplete passes or first downs, but in the aggregate I think it does the job.* Michigan, as you supposed, is pretty low: 105th, and in the 26th percentile at 28.3 seconds per play. Nothing before or since on Michigan's schedule is like Indiana; for objects in the mirror: CMU is 97th, Notre Dame is 85th, Akron is 58th, UConn 55th.
* Anomaly: thanks to all the stoppages Penn State's offense vs. Michigan charted as fast as Indiana's. That's why I didn't use game-by-game stats, since those sorts of things average out and betray the offense's truer intentions.
High tempo does not equate or really even correlate that strongly with Yards per Play. Observe chart:
Click embiggens (updated)
Cal's offense functions at warp speed but its output isn't any better than Florida's ambles through the swamp. Wisconsin and Alabama both manage to move even slower than we do, and FSU is hardly faster, yet those are elite scoring machines. The linear tilt might be tempo teams winning a few more plays here and there, or it could simply mean the spread guys who run many of the great offenses today are just accidental carriers of up-tempo alleles (like how blue eyes followed the path of Vikings, but didn't necessarily provide any advantage).
The question, however, is not what tempo can do for you, but whether teams on the right side of the chart are more susceptible to those on the left. [Jump to see]
One of the most frustrating problems with Michigan's offense is they appear to be burning a lot of first downs by running Toussaint into stacked lines. Whether it's zone blocked or man, they've been tipping it the same with the same results. The concept has been discussed on here and will be again until it stops; my purpose today is to add some numbers to that discussion.
Love Affair with 2nd and Long. Excising all the non-normal situations (4th quarters, burning clock, attempting a comeback, 2-minute drill at the end of a half) here's a a quick breakdown of playcalls this year on first down:
- 101 handoffs to running backs for 3.0 YPC and 6 TDs
- 28 passes for 10.7 YPA, one interception, and 2 TDs
- 20 play-action passes for 17.8 YPA, one interception and 4 TDs
- 17 options for 5.6 YPA and a TD
- 7 called Gardner runs for 2.7 YPA
- 7 wide receiver runs for 10 YPA
- 4 screens for 5.8 YPA
- 2 false starts
Like basketball the efficiency of the things you do goes down the more you do them, and the efficiency of the counters goes up. I don't doubt that the ridiculous numbers for PA passes above are because it's five times more likely to be a handoff.
Michigan's is not the only bad offense that does this. The thing that MSU was doing when they had Le'Veon Bell was running him into stacked lines again and again to open up the occasional big play for a receiver or tight end. This burned a lot of first downs and killed a lot of drives but when you just need 17 points to win you'll take a high variance in drive results. What made it worthwhile was Bell was one of the best backs in the country at getting yards after contact. If a safety came down to fill the hole Bell could still run (or leap) over that guy and thus set up 2nd and manageable. This year they don't have the OL or the RBs to do that, so they line up to pass on 1st down far more often.
Borges doesn't have the RBs or the OL to do that and haven't adjusted. Instead he's gone the other direction, selling out even further with the unbalanced lines, and running even more often.
- UFR database (through Minn) says…
|YPA, 1st Play of Drive||YPA, All 1st Downs|
…that Michigan's drives are starting off with a whimper. If I take out 4th quarters and situations when Michigan is down more than two scores we're getting just 2.9 YPC on 1st down runs, which is over 73% of 1st down playcalls. But I showed the above because that's what Bill O'Brien was probably looking at when he and his coaches strategized for this game.
Let's play Being Bill O'Brien. This is how he responded. Here's the first play of the game:
[after the jump]
|Road Gardner has been rough Gardner. [Fuller]|
I'm putting this here because it's been brought up a few times on the board and the discussion was getting too long for dear diary. Gardner's (admittedly limited) stats in road games are not great:
We're really just going on three starts plus spot duty. But later today and tomorrow you'll see some Penn State preview posts that claim the depleted Lions are more like their basketball and hockey squads than the typical PSU outfit, so let me be on record that Michigan in that stadium is not a great matchup given Gardner's season so far and his history in away games. In fact I've got a UFR database open right now so let's show that by yards per play on called passes (includes scrambles/sacks):
|2010-'11||9.85 (BG, Minn, Pur)||6.75 (Ill, MSU, NW)|
|2012||9.78 (Iowa, NW)||7.35 (Minn, OSU)|
|2013||9.34 (CMU, ND, Akron, Minn)||4.06 (UConn)|
Before you say "why is his sophomore year…?" there aren't very many attempts there so the weight is mostly on the 10 starts this and last season. That seems pretty stark. The UFR charting bears this out.
Devin in Blue Chart:
Devin in White Chart:
Forever in Blue Jeans Chart:
|Money||talks||sing, dance, walk|
|Honey||is sweet||compare to baby's treat.|
UConn was an all-time low in YPP but part of a trend. The short history of Devin road games read:
- Pre-2012: 3 inaccurate balls, 2 CA+ for 20-yard gains, a PA hitch for 2 yards against MSU and the Yakety sax, and a 4-yd scramble on a Denard Jet.
- Minnesota 2012: Took most of 1st half to warm up, got bailed out a lot by WRs
- OSU 2012: Sacked a few times and lots of late IN's from unset throws out of the pocket.
- UConn 2013: Terrible horrible no good very bad day.
It's a small sample size with little good to recommend it. PSU's defensive backs, meanwhile, are kind of like Michigan in 2010 in that they have one safety-corner hybrid they trust and three they don't. However they've been pretty game so far; the two offenses that torched them were Indiana's Air Raid-like thing that is pretty respectable, and getting Bortles'd. Including their five sacks they're giving up just 5.81 YPA. They're about 40th in every category; 29th in passer rating. That doesn't seem so hard until you consider Gardner's opponents to date are 62nd (ND), 63rd (UConn), 93rd (Minnesota), 108th (CMU), and 117th (Akron). You can save discussion until Brian gets to this part of the preview but count me as nervous here.
That is 2,728 pounds—1.24 metric tons—in the box for those weighing at home.
On 1st and 10. MANBRAAAHHHLLL!!!
Before the Minnesota game I tweeted that I'd be perfectly content if Borges debuted a completely new package and used it to beat up on the Gophers at home a la 2011. So here I am, being content.
The unbalanced stuff I'm sure Brian will picture page and Space Coyote and Burgeoning Wolverine Star will peel it apart as well; since they know more about that stuff I'll leave it to them. What I would like to do is look at the heavy formations in the macro: how Big did Michigan actually go, how effective it was on a yards-per-play basis, and whether it matches the personnel.
By "big" I mean fewer receivers in the formation. The lower that number, the more backs and TEs, and thus the "heavier" the formation. How big?
Average Receivers in Formation:
|2013 games 1-4||2.30||2.29|
|2013 Minnesota||1.83 (!)||1.79 (!)|
That is big—like we should all have pronounced brow ridges and live in caves and the equipment sponsor is Mousterian big. I counted Funchess as a WR when he was in a 2-point stance; if you file him as a half tight end (you shouldn't) it gets even heavier. A lot of the three-wide was on the time-sensitive last drive of the 1st half—that you should count.
Did it work? Did it work better than the stuff Michigan has been doing until now? Did they always run to the side they unbalanced? We see after the jump.
Taylor on an island [Upchurch]
Brian forwarded me a mailbag question regarding where Michigan's defense is getting attacked through the air, i.e. are there certain coverage areas that have been particularly weak? It took me most of a day to chart every passing play; the resulting post is rather straightforward. Consider this your bye week from my logorrhea.
Data are here.
What I tracked:
1) Where the ball starts (hash or center). If the tackles lined up inside the hash it was "center"
2) Which zone it was thrown to, on a telephone keypad grid. 1, 4, and 7 are around the numbers to the sideline; 2, 5, and 8 are the area around the opposite hash to the wide side only, and 3, 6, and 9 are down the middle.
If a ball was on the line I always erred to the zone closest to the quarterback. This makes sense if you imagine a player covering Zone 6 will be responsible for carrying a player through that zone, and would be in better position to defend that pass than a guy over him.
3) Which side (strong or weak) of the defense. I noted "Strong" as wherever the SAM lined up in 4-3 sets and where Countess lined up in nickel sets. Once or twice this conflicted with the offense but it's better this way for identifying which players are being targeted.
Weakside/boundary players, usually: R.Taylor, Wilson, Ross/Bolden, Beyer (as WDE) on nickel, Clark on 4-3.
Strongside/field players, usually: Countess, C.Gordon, Beyer (as SAM) on 4-3, Clark on nickel, T.Gordon, Morgan/Bolden, Stribling/Hollowell/Lewis/Avery.
Sacks, throwaways, scrambles, and other such events that took the emphasis on coverage were excised. I couldn't reward those things which occurred because coverage was good enough to make them happen so keep that in mind as you read.