More fun with stats! CFBStats helpfully grabs every play off the NCAA's box scores and turns lines like "Devin Gardner pass complete to Jeremy Gallon for 14 yards" into downloadable data on receiver targeting. Here's where Gardner's passes went last year by down:
|Receiver||Target(%)||1st Dn||2nd Dn||3rd Dn|
|Total passes||395 (n/a)||142||144||105|
|Jeremy Gallon||137 (35%)||43%||28%||34%|
|Devin Funchess||92 (23%)||25%||18%||28%|
|Drew Dileo||30 (8%)||6%||5%||12%|
|Jake Butt||27 (7%)||3%||13%||4%|
|Jehu Chesson||24 (6%)||4%||8%||6%|
|Jeremy Jackson||10 (3%)||3%||3%||1%|
|Joe Reynolds||7 (2%)||2%||3%||-|
|A.J. Williams||2 (1%)||-||1%||-|
|Fitz Toussaint||20 (5%)||4%||8%||3%|
|Other backs||23 (6%)||6%||6%||6%|
There were four passes on 4th down: two that Funchess converted and two that Dileo didn't. For our purposes I'm going to count them with 3rd downs because they're functionally the same (i.e. not converting is a failure). When every preview this year says defenses will be focused on taking away Funchess, you can see why: most every other target from last year is graduated or not immediately available (Butt). The data also show whether each reception ended up in a 1st down:
|Receiver||1st/2nd Dn||Conv%||3rd/4th Dn||Conv%|
I don't know if the conversion rate for 1st and 2nd down will be that valuable except as a measure of team dink-and-dunk-iness. The numbers for conversion downs show tendency and success. Again, nothing surprising here. Gallon and Funchess remained equal targets, with Dileo the only other likely 3rd down destination.
Was it common for teams to be so focused on a few guys? Well those 3rd down targeting numbers are high. Gallon was the recipient of just over a third of Michigan's 3rd/4th down attempts; that's 7th in the nation at go-to-guyness. The rest:
|Receiver||School||Tm Att||Tgts||Conv %|
|Alex Amidon||Boston College||106||43 (41%)||42%|
|Jordan Matthews||Vanderbilt||104||39 (38%)||38%|
|Shaun Joplin||Bowling Green||114||41 (36%)||49%|
|Willie Snead||Ball State||131||47 (36%)||55%|
|Allen Robinson||Penn State||129||46 (36%)||43%|
|Ryan Grant||Tulane||133||46 (35%)||46%|
|Jeremy Gallon||Michigan||109||36 (33%)||42%|
|Ty Montgomery||Stanford||100||33 (33%)||55%|
|Titus Davis||Central Michigan||98||32 (33%)||56%|
|Quincy Enunwa||Nebraska||112||36 (32%)||33%|
Gallon was as important of a chain-mover for Michigan as A-Rob was to Penn State. What's weird is Michigan's 2nd guy was also really high on the list. Funchess (29% of 3rd/4th down targets, 39% conversion rate) also appears on the national leaderboard, at 19th, right behind Jared Abbrederis.
[After the jump: Michigan was the most obvious team in the country, finding Dileo-like objects, target types.]
This hurt. [Fuller]
Longtime readers will know the MGoBlog policy on sacking: sacks and sack yardage should be counted as passing, because they are pass plays, not rushing, as the NCAA and thus everybody else is wont to do. Counting sacks as passing leads to a better understanding of success and where yards come from, and prevents problems like the computer in the NCAA videogames passing every play because the sacks that generates keep making the rushing numbers look progressively more awful.
For the Hail to the Victors preview books (kickstarter coming soon) each year we put these "At-a-Glance" boxes into the opponent previews, complete with offensive and defensive stats that we've adjusted for this. Having done the calculations for that, I thought I'd share them with you.
First, the difference it makes to passing stats:
|Team||Pass Att||Pass Yds||YPA||Rk||Sacks||Sack Yds||YPA||Rk|
By counting sacks as passing Michigan drops from 8.15 yards per attempt (good for the best passing team in the conference last year) to a more realistic 6.85 YPA, dropping them to fourth. Minnesota's passing game dropped from middling to awful, Iowa's climbed from the bottom to the middle.
And the difference to running stats:
|Team||Rushes||Rush Yds||YPC||Rk||Sacks||Sack Yds||YPA||Rk|
Michigan's awful running game is still awful, but it no longer looks like the Scheelhaase option-running game was a disaster. Ohio State's 7.27 YPC isn't just first among the conference; OSU and Wisconsin were the #1 and #2 rushing offenses in the country. Michigan: 115th out of 125 teams.
This isn't perfect since quarterback scrambles still can't be pulled out of rushing stats, but that's not so big of a deal considering a running QB should be contributing to your rushing success.
[Jump for Devin Garder's passing season and profiles of next year's opponents]
Extremely tentative starters/base alignment
Michigan's spring game happened. As per usual, there were things to generate text about, e.g. Gardner going 2/8 with two interceptions was tailor-made for lazy columnists hoping to get some play from a false QB controversy. Actual information-like-substance is somewhat less available, and even the things that are trackable are not to be trusted.
But this is Spring(!), when we take the selective, incomplete microcosm that they deign to show us and extrapolate from it the meaning of the universe. So I decided to go one step further, choosing a single play to make sweeping judgments about Michigan's new offense, the 2014 defense, and the future of human civilization that hangs in the balance.
The screencap above was from the first play that was broadcast, following Gardner's interception, a play with Morris and the twos, and a run with the 3rd stringers. Let's pick it apart.
Offense: Houma lined up as a U-back and then motioned into an offset fullback or H-back position on the strongside, strongly suggesting a run to that side. They instead ran a quick curl to Funchess. The line pass-blocked, with just Deveon Smith staying in to help them.
Defense: The good ol' 4-3 under. When the U-back went in motion, Clark spread out a bit to give him better leverage for a supposed one-on-one battle with the RT—if Houma hadn't gone in motion Clark was going to be responsible for him. The play is zone blitz; Ryan is coming, Wilson comes down to a robber zone, and Clark dropped into a zone on the backside. The corners and FS are playing a Cover 3. This is "aggressive" defense only because the DL's gaps are not in front of them, and there's five guys coming. The frontside "C" gap will have Jarrod Wilson, and all other gaps are covered. Or should be…
What happened: You'll note that Glasgow and Ryan ended up in the same "A" gap. That wasn't by design; Jack Miller was looking for the 3-tech or a WLB blitz, even after it was clear Godin was stunting and Bolden wasn't coming. With the OL pass-blocking, Glasgow abandoned his gap and ran unblocked to the quarterback.
This means Miller was right where Glasgow was supposed to go, but blocking nobody. Since that is Glasgow it was enough time to get a quick pass off, but if that was Mike Martin (or Willie Henry) it would have been a spectacular sack. Cole handled Beyer, and Bosch actually got a good sideways kick at Ryan that knocked him into Glasgow, giving Garner just enough time to get rid of the football. Since the CBs were in cov 3, Funchess was open underneath.
Also: RJS was playing SAM right, setting up to take on a fullback block in case of a run, then attacking when Houma didn't seem interested in contact. De'Veon Smith was set up to block him, but the play was over before we got to see how that went.
Offensive line: As expected, just as frustrating as it was last year. Miller didn't adjust to what was in front of him and that gave the nose tackle (of all people) a clear path to the quarterback despite good blocks. This play is a good example of how a good offensive line's communication and experience could bail them out against weird things, and vice versa. The more snaps Miller and Bosch see together, the better they'll be able to wordlessly shift their pass blocking assignments when they see a blitz is coming at the gap between them.
Routes: The frontside was a triangle with Canteen squatting between zones, Heitzman running the seam, and Houma leaking into the flat. The backside curl was an outlet pass. The frontside guys ran good routes—notice how Houma broke a bit more to the sideline when he saw Raymon Taylor had his zone. That widened Taylor and provided a spot between his zone and Wilson's for Canteen to settle into. Funchess's route was an outlet
How'd they get the 1st down: Experienced senior quarterback Devin Gardner recognized he needed to get the ball off, saw his outlet open underneath, and got it to Funchess with time to turn; big Funchess versus a cornerback means there's gonna be YAC.
How Borges is this? If that personnel seems not very different than what Michigan did a lot of last year, that's because it isn't a very big departure from it. Having guys like Houma and Heitzman in there as opposed to NORFLEET!, or just about any receiver, was a constant complaint with Borges. It's more defendable given that Darboh (and Drake Harris) were unavailable, so after Chesson you're getting into the Jones/Dukes/York/Dever receivers who aren't any more of a matchup problem than the catchy-blocky dudes.
This Ace 2TE thing was the base formation. Often both TEs would have their hands down to make a truly balanced formation. Heitzman and A.J. Williams traded off first team duties, and your second-team catchy-runny-blocky guys were Khalid Hill at Y-tight end and Joe Kerridge at U-back. Almost every running play was zone blocked. If Nussmeier's plan is to go back to his Washington offense it wasn't evident here; this was the same offense Bama ran in its bowl game (my UFR of that).
A run look to a side with Heitzman/Cole/Bosch is going to be even less scary than it was last year with at least Lewan in there, but I was still encouraged by the show. For one, these guys are all doing something their skill set suggests they should, with the exceptions of Heitzman's unknown quality as a receiver and De'Veon Smith's as a blocker. And for once they decided to do something catchy-blocky with Houma. Putting him in motion effectively changed his matchup from the WDE to the SAM, which isn't much of a change against Michigan's 4-3, but could be a mismatch if the SAM, as is often the case these days, was more of a safety-like object. And it also changed a balanced Ace formation into an offset I-form, which screams a run in that direction.
Beilein by Fuller, Orr and Ooster via Bentley.
I got this question from PeteM on the board: Where does John Beilein rank among Michigan's all-time basketball coaches?
The question is subjective since everyone has their own criteria. Mine: wins (total), winning percentage, Big Ten regular season titles, tournament success, All-Americans/NBA prospects, and general good guy-itude.
Non-candidates for completeness:
I kept Cowles out of it since this was getting long and he only coached for a few (wild) seasons, wherein he dragooned football stars and developed the pick and roll.
For ease, I call the 2013-'14 season "2014" etc.
* Rather than winning % I showed their average record over a 30-game season.
** NCAA tournament factor, equivalent to average number of tournament games his teams would play in. A 1.00 means his average team will make the tourney and go out in the 1st round. I took out the play-in rounds.
† This could as well be 7 or 8: Manny Harris was recruited by Amaker but played his entire career for Beilein. Stauskas, GRIII, LeVert, and McGary at least can be counted as future NBA players. It's too early to say the same for Walton/Irvin but it's not a bad bet either.
I ended up breaking this up into two posts because it was getting long, so here's the candidates chronologically through Johnny Orr:
|Mather [via Wikipedia]|
E.J. Mather (1920-'28)
Career at M: 9 seasons, 108 wins (67%), 3 Big Ten titles (1 outright)
All-Americans: Bennie Oosterbaan (1927 & '28), Richard Doyle (1926), Harry Kipke (1924)
Pros: Kind of pre-dates that.
Story: Took over a young program and went 3-9 his first year, then tied for the Big Ten championship his second, winning his last 8 games of the season to tie Purdue and Wisconsin at the end. The 1926-'27 season, when Bennie Oosterbaan lent his talents, was the best; Michigan went 10-2 in-conference and 14-3 overall. Soon after that season Mather had major surgery for cancer, and wasn't the same after that. Yost coached the 1927-'28 team in Mather's name; the cancer claimed his life that August.
Thing: Mather was also a Yost football assistant, and two of his players later became football coaches.
Better than a Beilein: It's tough to judge that far back or guess what the future might have held, but he didn't have a nationally competitive team until his 8th year so I'm comfortable putting him behind.
[After the jump it gets tougher]
Tourney face. [Fuller]
Beilein teams go further in the tournament than their seeds. This is known. We've repeated it so often that smart bracketeers even calculate it into their expectations. I've saved the "why" and "wherefore" of this effect for a roundtable question since that gets into the basketball strategy stuff that I'm weak in.
What I can do is build a pivot table out of multiple bits of data; in this case it was lots of schmearing and pasting, column breaks, and vlookups from sports-reference.com's bracket history and annual coaches records. The important lesson here is you're supposed to know it was hard.
UPDATE: Here's the raw data.
The first thing I tried was straight-up expectations by seed: top seeds are expected to get to the Final Four, 2-seeds to the Elite Eight; 3- and 4-seeds to the Sweet Sixteen; 5-, 6-, 7- and 8-seeds to the round of 32. The results had Beilein #5 after Brad Stevens of Butler, Sean Miller, and some Mizzou coaches who often had 9 seeds. That suggested there's a problem with my figuring:
I'm expecting 9 and 10 seeds to never advance so they're always in the positive; every time an 8 loses to a 9 it's a hit. The actual distribution is, unsurprisingly, progressive:
With over 1300 teams in my study there's very little deviation from the logarithm. It suggests, for all our complaining, that the committee does a pretty good job.
|Seed||Exp Wins||Seed||Exp Wins|
Since I'm a history major who had to re-teach himself exponential functions this morning (if predicting basketball games required encyclopedic knowledge of Plantagenets I'd have Ken Pomeroy's job) please go easy on me if I dispense with the other stuff and just use the values Excel returned as a base expectation of tournament victories for each seed (at right). The formula according to Excel:
y= 1.1634Ln(x) + 3.2127
With an expectation for victories now I can get a reasonable comparison versus that, for example a 2-seed that advances to the Sweet 16 has 2 victories minus 2.41 expected = 0.41 fewer wins than they should have. The last thing was to remove coaches who've been to fewer than five tournaments. We're ready to rename March after a coach. But which one?
[Don't act all surprised; you knew I'd make you jump for it.]
Site note: As with last year, we'll be having a basketballgasm liveblog for Day 1 of the tournament, shifting to the hockey game at 3, and then going through the Round 1 matchup with Wofford. DraftStreet, whose 40k tourney is still filling up (as of this morning ~1600 of the 2000 spots are filled), is sponsoring, and a few former players will be joining us to promote the Go Blue Bowl.
Speaking of filling things, you're probably filling your brackets right now, so here's my now-annual post and tool for helping with that. Last year was the first since 2000 that I didn't win at least my buy-in back. Things I use:
The Power Rank (friend of the blog Ed Feng)'s interactive bracket. Ed is one of the cutting-edge guys in sports analytics. On his tool if you hover over any team you can see their probabilities to reach each round, or hover over a spot in the circular bracket to see every team's likelihood of getting there. Michigan is 58% to reach the Sweet 16; from there every game is virtually a toss-up.
The Wall Street Journal's blind comparison. They show you two profiles and say a little about the team, and you make your pick presumably without bias, though you can often figure out exactly who they're talking about:
Bracket Science's Bracketmaster tool. Peter Tiernan's blog is a standard for following bubble teams and gets things right that others don't (like Louisville as a 4 seed). The Bracketmaster+ tool lets you get into data going back to 1985. If you're a member it gets deeper but non-members can use it to do things like show Beilein's Michigan teams in the tournament:
Poologic Tool. This helps you decide how many upsets to pick based on the size of your office pool (in a large pool it's best to be the only one with a certain champ). Also you can calculate ROI on various picks.
My tool (download the excel sheet) Which uses straight-up Kenpom scores and provides a weak confidence score based on the premise that 16 seeds never beat 1 seeds. I also added injuries for each team. Looks like this:
What I do is normalize the closest 16-1 matchup (Wichita St vs. Cal Poly) as 100% for the 1 seed to win, set that as the "chaos factor," and use the KenPom ratings to percentile everyone else's games into a confidence number. Then I roll through anything under 70% and decide if my knowledge of those teams might justify taking the under.
If you're in a big pool, run multiple brackets, each with carefully selected upsets.There's no such thing as an NCAA tournament without lots of big upsets and at least one surprising run. The 1 seeds all made it to the Final Four just once. If you submit one milksop bracket you're up against every other milksop bracket and will get beat by the one crazy guy who had LSU going to the Elite 8 or something. Hitting on a carefully selected upset that rearranges a bracket and lets you ride a different high seed to the Final Four is the most typical route to a win.
If you're in a small pool, play conservative. One or two points won't usually make a difference in a small pool, but the likelihood of something crazy like that one guy's wife who picks based on the cuteness factor of mascots winning is cut down so you don't need to take risks to get ahead.
Pick the upsets the most carefully. I love picking 6-11 upsets because if you get it wrong they're bound to get wiped out by the 3 anyway. If you roll the dice on a 3-seed or lower losing early though, you'll feel like an idiot as the rest of your pool collects the easy points. A tournament without upsets never happens, but neither does a tournament with all the upsets. You can totally undo a great pick with a terrible one elsewhere.
Get value for your upsets. Know who's in your pool and the inefficiencies. This year, those of you in Michigan are facing the mother of all inefficiencies in that Spartan fans are bound to submit extra brackets just to have one that has State going all the way. Fans will generally take their favorite team to go two rounds later than they really belong and conference teams to go a round further. This is an inefficiency (even if MSU looked like they could dominate the tourney on Sunday).
Be really really lucky. This is really the only rule.