Years ago, Brian posted a UFR of a West Virginia game in order to provide his readers with a feel for how the Rodriguez spread offense worked. Nussmeier's offense at Alabama isn't so different from Michigan's under Borges in 2013, and indications are he plans to be a little more dynamic than he was under Saban. But I wanted to get a feel for the subtle differences, for the kinds of plays he ran with the kind of talent Michigan has been recruiting. And I've been meaning to actually try my had at UFR-ing because I know a guy who learned an awful lot about football that way. So I put Nussmeier's last game under further review, in hopes of maybe separating what's Nuss from what was just the Tide.
I went with this year's Sugar Bowl since they faced a defense whose talent level was relatively close to their own. Unfortunately Oklahoma's 30-front defense is closer to Michigan's than any M opponents save Notre Dame, and things you do with a fake plastic tree at quarterback are not the same you do with Devin Gardner, Most Alive Man on the Planet. I've since been downloading some games from his time at Washington and might do one of those next week if this attempt doesn't put me off forever.
Meta note: UFR is really Brian's thing. I am an interloper here.
FORMATION NOTES: Nothing very fancy. Not a lot of fullbacks; when they went to a Pistol H-back formation usually it was just a U-back they motioned into that spot. They do have a hybrid Shotgun-Pistol formation that's Pistol (QB is 5 yards behind L.O.S.) with the RB offset like in the gun. This isn't uncommon:
Oklahoma spent a lot of time in the 3-3-5 nickel above that was sometimes more like a 4-2-4-1, by which I mean the Quick (Deathbacker, stand-up WDE, Thing-Roh-Was-And-Shouldn't-Have-Been) came up to the line, and they nearly always kept one safety deep. When Bama subbed in an extra TE they went to a 3-4 with a safety playing the backside OLB; I called this "3-3-5 Eagle."
…and later started cheating this (not like how Bama does) like hell to the field:
Later on they did this then audibled out of it, moving Striker to the other side of the line; Bama hit them with a 43-yard run down the middle.
Oklahoma also used lots of Okie and things like Okie, which led to this:
From top to bottom on the line of scrimmage that is a WDE/OLB rusher type, a 3-tech, the MLB, a 5-tech, and the box (not Spur) safety, and two more safeties in the LB area. I asked for help and decided to call it 3-3-5 Dime to differentiate it from the nickel look; usually the MLB backed off into coverage anyway.
[after the jump]
"Whatever you need to make you feel, like you've been the one behind the wheel, the sunrise is just over that hill."
—Cursive, The Gentleman Caller, The Ugly Organ
How about some good news regarding Michigan's football team? One runaway success you can attribute to this coaching staff is they've managed to hold onto their players, especially the ones they recruited. Better news: the thing about a lot of the teams that finished in the Top 10 in 2013 were they had lots of upperclassmen starters. Experience is still a big deal, and the only way to get that is to go a lot of years in a row without losing half your roster. Better better news: Michigan is (likely) going to be one of those teams in the not-too-distant future. Let's go right to the table:
% of PLAYERS REMAINING AFTER X YEARS FROM RECRUITING CLASSES 1993-'13
|Class||Recruited by||Class Size||1 year||2 years||3 years||P.O.E.*||Usage**|
|Average for 1993-2010||21||92%||85%||74%||58%||77%|
*(Played out eligibility, i.e. nonredshirted Sr's who played 4 years + guys who played 5)
**(Eligible seasons the class netted divided by 4 x class size)
There will be attrition from Hoke's classes as the position battles shape out, but for awhile there Michigan was regularly coming into a recruiting class's redshirt sophomore season with a third of that class already departed. As of now the only guy from that awesome 2012 haul not on the roster is Kaleb Ringer. You have to go back to the class of 2000*, which didn't qualify Reggie Benton, to find a class to make it this far as intact. It was so long ago that a guy from that class is now one of Michigan's coaches.
Plot the retention of the 2012 class to this point with the state of the classes before it coming into their 3rd season. It's stunning:
Years after coaching changes seem to witness an exodus spike, followed by a return to normal, which is to be expected. The last few years though…
*Even better was 1998. Henson (Yankees), Terrell (early NFL), Fargas (transfer to USC) and fullback Dave Armstrong (unrenewed 5th) were the only losses, and that was just a year of eligibility from each of them. Considering they were recruited after the championship year that's astounding.
[Jump for lots more charty charts.]
Bill Rapai [set]
I went to the second (consolation) game of the Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park. Michigan lost 3-0. Brian said I must write this up, which is just as well since I'm too depressed to write about the football team right now. So.
As a Detroiter (err…Metro-) I appreciate Mike Ilitch. He may be a king of the Sicilian Square people while I'm a firm Foldedsliceitarian, but he's the daddy who won't say no to a Brett Hull or a Prince Fielder even if he just got you a Robitaille/Cabrera. He also funds a third of Detroit charities, renovated FoxTown, and realized the United States needed a Canadian-like hockey development program 30 years before USA Hockey itself got serious about it.
For this, that, and the other thing, nobody in this town can begrudge him anything. Not for weirdly refusing to put Larry Aurie's number (6) in the rafters, or for putting Tiger Stadium in the ground, or for not paying his taxes, because Ilitch is the guy who bought the Dead Things, then stole the GM who built that Islanders dynasty, then drafted Yzerman, then began a postseason streak which has outlasted both of Michigan's.
So when they told him they wanted to have his Red Wings host the Winter Classic (and once the stakeholders could decide on which pizza to order)* nobody could begrudge Mike his demand that Detroit, as opposed to Ann Arbor, should play host city, and that his downtown, bank-monikered ballpark should get a carnival and an ice rink too.
When you got down there and saw the Hockey Hall of Fame tent in the middle of the stadium lot, you could be for this in a rah-rah-good-for-Detroit kind of way. But, like handing that long-term deal to Franzen instead of Hossa, Comerica Park as hockey rink was a contemporarily questionable decision which in hindsight appears to be an awful one.
* [My vote would have been Supino's**]
**[Yes, we are all about superfluous possessives in Detroit. What of it?]
The thing about outdoor hockey is it's supposed to call to mind "pure" hockey, i.e. the game you played with friends under a gunmetal sky after spending twice that long shoveling, until the half-frozen parent you left on the shore decided everybody's going to fall in/catch a cold. I realize not everyone knows what this experience is, and there are myriad social/cultural/class reasons why this is, including SE Michigan geography:
[Jump: CoPa makes for a bad hockey rink, Michigan makes like a bad hockey team, and a hockey stick serves as a passable bat]
Moe (1) and Jabrill (2), via.
In last week's roundtable on the state of the conference I pulled out this table grading the new Big Ten's teams on their 2013 seasons (by Fremeau Efficiency Index) and their futures (by composite 247 score for the 2012-'14 classes):
West | East School FEI Grade Rcrt | School FEI 2013 Rcrt Wisconsin 13th A C+ | OSU 8th A A+ Iowa 30th B C | MSU 9th A B Minnesota 49th C D+ | Michigan 29th B A+ Nebraska 51st C B | Indiana 62nd D+ C NW'ern 60th C- C | PSU 65th D+ B Illinois 75th D C- | Maryland 74th D C+ Purdue 114th F C- | Rutgers 98th E- B- AVG 56th 2.0 2.0 | AVG 49th 2.1 3.0
That's about how I feel: A conference baseline of "C" (ie ranked around 50th) teams with one division recruiting at a "B" level and the other "getting the most out of" C level recruiting.
This I pulled from a spreadsheet of FEI and recruiting data that I'd like to mine further, because if you're looking at a chart it still counts as doing work.
Recruiting = legit, yo/maybe not so legit. So here's a new look at the old stand-by: recruiting on the Y-axis, performance on the X-axis, and a nice, heavy trend line with an R-squared of 0.46 to show an inconvenient-for-narratives correlation. Performance is FEI expressed as a percentile. The composite ranking is a bit more complex: the 2009 (5th year seniors) is weighted at 0.5 the 2010 and 2011 classes at full, the 2012 class at 0.40 and the 2013 at 0.10, which are arbitrary values I assigned based on expectations of how much a class contributes to a given team.
Blicking on it makes it cig.
It says they're correlated, but doesn't necessarily mean one is causing the other. FWIW the r-squared of the Rivals composite determined the same way was .4135; I haven't done Scout or ESPN yet. Look at how the correlation of recruiting %-ile of each class and 2013 performance %-ile changes by year:
|Class||247 R-Squared||Rivals R-Squared|
|2009 (5th yrs)||0.3681||0.3204|
The highest correlation is to the freshman class, and the 3rd-highest is to the class that's not even on campus yet. There's a strong echo effect going on here, wherein the teams that are good today are getting the highest-ranked recruits. The diminishing returns from seniors, I would posit, are because they're the classes hit hardest by attrition, and most likely to have been recruited by a different coach or to a program in very different circumstances.
The other thing that immediately jumped out at me about that chart is look at all the color on top of the black trend line. Those gray dots are mid-major programs, who are largely outperforming expectations from recruiting, versus only one SEC team managing to do so. I bet that's a system bias in the recruiting rankings: there's little to parse between an under-the-radar guy who commits to Purdue versus one going to NIU except one of those is a Big Ten school.
[Jump for MEETING EXPECTATIONS and THE FUTURE]
I write this column once a year to implore college football fans to use a standard, common, descriptive set of names for the bowl games. Try saying "Copper" instead of "Buffalo Wild Wings" for the next month, and just imagine the savings!!!
In the pantheon of annoyances, I admit that companies paying somebody to make you use their name out of context is far less destructive than, say, a university trading scholastic loans as private securities and then jacking up tuition so shareholders can make more money.
Still, it is annoying. The purpose of language is the communication of ideas, and elegance in this is a thing everybody should appreciate. Names are communicative tools that allow the listener to reference all information stored on that thing. When speaking to another college football fan, the name of the bowl ought to conjure up its history and location and place in the pantheon. A name sponsor is a jerk who butts into the middle of your conversation…
…and makes communication of the idea more difficult. Adding syllables (they couldn't call it the B-Dubs Bowl?) adds to the annoyance. It is cold here during bowl season, so I prefer to not expend what limited body heat I have in vocalizing "The Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office Or Mobile Bowl."*
What to Call Them?
Typically unless it's an older bowl just use the name of the city they play in, and if there are multiple bowls in a city start adding numbers (Tampa II, Cotton II, etc.) If everybody knows a bowl as something because it has been called that for decades, obviously use that.
After [the jump] I'll put up a handy chart of the current bowl slate, complete with sounds you can make to accurately relate meaning to another human, and commercial-free graphics that can do the same. You can keep that open as a tab on your phone or whatever as a reference this month.
The best reason I've been able to come up with for how this Michigan team could put up that kind of yardage against Ohio State is that Ohio State's defensive players are—man, how do I say this without being a total jackass homer rival?—more prone to mental errors than your average Big Ten starters.
|I hereby dedicate this post In memory of the too-short MGoCareer of Heiko "Bubble Screen" Yang. Who needs doctor money anyway?|
Another way to say it: the best and most representative player on that unit is Ryan Shazier, who is basically Jonas Mouton with five years of good coaching. Another way to say it: they're exactly as dumb as they are talented, and that's why a group of 5-stars are just an average defense. I am a total jackass homer rival.
The second-best reason, and the best you can say without coming off like a TJHR, is that which Borges himself apparently gave in the pre-game interview with Musberger: "We emptied the drawer." In other words, they finally ran all of those counters to the things they'd been doing all year.
There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to wonder why it took this long to throw paper, especially when that gamble came up just short (and the last play was a rock that OSU allegedly* RPS'ed) of paying off. For the moment, let's look at one of the "third" things they brought out for this game and what that did for the offense.
* Ohio State's players threw out one of those heartbreaking quotes about being uber-prepared for what was coming, but the play also had Gallon about to break open.
|It's hard to argue Funchess isn't an "ideal" slot ninja, isn't it? [Upchurch]|
The Bubble Package
Yards per attempt; attempts in parentheses:
|MSU||2.0 (1)||8.0 (1)||5.0|
|Northwestern||5.3 (7)||5.7 (3)||5.4|
|Iowa||3.0 (5)||1.0 (2)||2.4|
|Ohio State||4.5 (4)||7.7 (3)||18.0 (1)||7.4|
|TOTALS||4.2 (17)||5.6 (9)||18.0 (1)||5.2|
Michigan does the bubble differently than Rich Rod—he made it an automatic check against the slot defender getting too close to his running game—but both work under the same principle: keep your grubby SAM's hands away from my interior running game!
The Borges Bubble game debuted against Michigan State as a bubble screen(!) that got a remarkable-for-that-day eight yards, followed by a fake bubble (out of the shotgun) to inside zone that got unfortunately blown up by a double-a gap blitz. It really came out in the Northwestern game: ten plays for 5.4 YPP. Of those, three were the bubble screen, four were a fake to an inside zone, and three to an iso. Once it was on film, Iowa adapted but Michigan ran the same (basically) two things they had against the Wildcats. The result was 2.4 YPP on seven tries: 2 bubbles and 5 inside zones.
They run it out of different formations, usually with two tight ends opposite the bubble twins (20/27 plays I have charted were from the Ace twins twin TE or I-form twins). They do run other stuff from these formations but twins (two receivers to one side) with Gallon on the line and Funchess in the slot is a good sign the bubble game is in play.
It's a good fit for this team since it: A) de-emphasizes interior blocking by holding the SAM outside and letting his OL play 5-on-5; B) Utilizes the surprising multi-threats of Gallon (as a blocker) and Funchess (as a slot receiver), and C) Lets them get Derrick Green running downhill.
I don't have Iowa video but I can show you how they adapted. The first time Michigan ran it they threatened blitz with the SAM:
Then had that guy back out and attack Funchess. The idea was to lure Michigan into a screen if this was a check, and then blow it all to hell. Like I said, it's on tape. Fortunately Michigan doesn't run checks; they called run:
Iowa got to play their base defense against that basic zone run, and the result was 5-ish yards. That is rock on rock: it's blockers versus the blocked until safeties arrive, however the SAM was kept away from the running game by the threat of Funchess. The thing is, up to then Michigan only had a rock and a scissors, so Iowa could spend all day in this defense, ceding 3-5 yards when Michigan ran it, and blowing up the bubble constraint.
Here's what this looked like when OSU defended it:
Same playcall as Iowa except since they knew it wasn't a check they didn't bother with fake SAM ("Star" in Buckeye terminology) blitz—just lined him up against Funchess. A screen is dead.
But watch Joey Bosa (#97 on the bottom of OSU's line) get way too upfield and try to knock down the screen pass that isn't coming, thus taking himself completely out of the play. He's matched against Lewan instead of Butt, though, so Michigan was probably going to get something out of that block anyway; you still don't want to make it so easy.
The middle linebacker (#14 Curtis Grant) compounded matters by Obi Ezeh-ing his way to the hole, which gave Kerridge enough time to arrive and pop in an advantageous position. Finally, the safety (#3 Corey "City in Pennsylvania" Brown) took a long time to read the play, backing out a few steps before setting up at the 1st down line. He might have been run through if the other safety (#4 C.J. Barnett) hadn't made his way over, got depth with a neat little athletic step, and helped stop it.
So rock on rock nets a big hole and big yards, because Ohio State's defenders are something-something box of rocks. But they're not the only talent-deficient guys on the field. Michigan's OL screwed up rock on the third bubble package play of the game:
That's inside zone. With the Star taken out by the bubble fake, everyone is blocked except the safety coming down (#3 Corey "a Jewish suburb west of Pittsburgh" Brown). And he was set up outside so if Mags and Glasgow can hold their downfield blocks this could bust huge. However Glasgow and Kalis didn't do a very good job on their exchange—or else the DT (#63 Michael Bennett) just did a great job fighting through it—and the Buckeye DT ends the play with a mouthful. Bennett was bent back when Glasgow released so my inclination here is to point at Kalis and call it ten-man football.
In the Iowa play I wish I had video of, that DE threw off Butt, and the middle linebacker, despite drawing Lewan, managed to attack quick enough to cut off escape until everyone else arrived, which didn't take long since Iowa's safeties were playing with their ears back. However Green's momentum vs the size of those guys got an extra two yards. Here his 240 lbs. are irrelevant against a wall like Bennett.
[After the jump: other things you can make your fist into]