I GET IT
Members of the younger generation find this appealing.
Over the weekend BTN released an online survey (still alive) that let the fans opine on the divisions and their stupid names and how they ought to be reorganized and stuff. Online poll is online poll but I was ready to leap the second DIABEETUS posted it on the board because a.) Who Michigan plays and what is at stake for those games is important to me, and b.) There's been a growing sense since "Leaders and Legends," that sense emphatically underlined with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, that general fan-think matters diddly to Delany and co.; opportunities to put an opinion where they might see it don't come along every day.
One of the questions in the survey asked us to rate the importance of three divisional considerations: geography, parity, and keeping traditional rivals together. They're all kinda important, and if there's any silver lining to adding two broke schools from the east coast it's that 7-team divisions are a better fit than 6-teams for an alignment that doesn't sacrifice any of those ideals.
The reason is because our conference is clustered in groups of three or four. Minnesota-Iowa-Wisconsin always had their circle of hate that has just enough room to add Nebraska. Illinois-Northwestern and Purdue-Indiana are an intermingled Chicagoland group that shouldn't be separated. Our block is the Michigan schools and Ohio State. Penn State could attach to that except it throws parity off, their awful thing be damned. Maryland and Rutgers turn the eastern part of the conference into two groups of three to match the west's groups of four:
The thick dark blue lines are the rivalries that ought to be protected within divisions and played every year. The light blue are old trophies and close non-trophy rivalries you keep if you can. The little green ones are those with the recent derived trophies or a proximity thing that isn't yet a full thing. Divisions then ought to pair one of the threesomes with one of the foursomes. Since one of the foursomes has Nebraska and Wisconsin in it and the other doesn't, the divisions ought to be obvious:
|In the Weight Room Division||In the Community Division|
|Ohio State||Penn State|
Don't care about the division names just yet. Let's check this against the three considerations.
Geography: Well Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana make a nice little Great Lakes grouping. Here's a table of distances written in driving hours (HT Google). The upper left quadrant is our division; lower-right is the other one:
You'll note the other division has some very long drives. Minnesota to anywhere starts at four hours and goes to 18 (to Rutgers). Lincoln and New Brunswick are literally half the country away. How can Rutgers be in a division with Nebraska that's a 20-hour drive away? Well…
Last Saturday Michigan ran 51 offensive plays. Of those the Big Ten's best rushing quarterback ever participated in 19. Two of the sans-Robinson plays were on the goal line; here's how Michigan fared on the other 49:
|Denard||Plays||Run%||YPA||YPA-Adj.*||1st half*||2nd half*||In box|
Yards per attempt-adjusted (*) means I capped maximum gain or loss on a play at 20 yards so the outliers don't throw off the rest. It's not a quotable statistic but I think it provides a more accurate apples to apples comparison of the offense with Denard under center and without. It shows how Ohio State's defense seemed to have every part of Michigan's offense pretty much shut down except Denard running. Then they shut that down too.
Success rate is a thing they use at Football Outsiders at the start of their S&P+ calculations, and measures how much of the distance needed for a 1st down was achieved given the down. On 1st down you need to get 50% or more, on 2nd down 75% or more, on 3rd down or 4th down 100%. It doesn't account for the time of the game, so running for 8 yards on 1st and 10 from your own 25 with 75 seconds left in the half is considered "success" here. Here's the four quarters by success rating:
|Denard||1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||Total|
For all the Borges carping from the 2nd half, Michigan's ability to get chunk yards with Denard's legs despite having to double Hankins and the entire world knowing what's coming was some Level 4 Rodriguez 2010 stuff. Then the bad guys did something at halftime to shut it down and it went to 2008 Rodriguez stuff and Denard Robinson's Big Ten career ended with 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter down 2 points.
A lot of folks have taken the "keying" quote to mean Meyer did something by alignment to take away what Michigan was doing until. I don't think this means what you think it means.
[See THE JUMP for a Picture Pages of the Keying]
Depending on what hour you are reading this, Brian is somewhere on the Kübler-Ross chain between coming up with 20-team divisions sans Purdue, and emulating an otter. Since this thing is happening despite the sentiment expressed in our totally scientific internet poll, I thought maybe being, like, informative…?
Tell 'em what they've won, Jim:
+'s: Lacrosse power, soccer power, unique mascot, fits academic profile, unlikely to upset anyone's national title hopes.
-'s: Not a power in anything but sports nobody cares about. Almost Indiana in football. Were on their way to mid-majordom.
The School: Founded in 1856. Those who know their Morrill Act history could guess one sentence before you did that it's a land-grant school (Michigan State, Penn State). Original name: Maryland Agricultural College, later Maryland State College. They're AAU members, and about the same size as Michigan or Purdue. Academically they're solidly in the Purdue/Ohio State midpoint of the conference, although they only got super serious about being a research institution since the '60s so their endowment—$791 million—is easily last among the current conference, and only a tenth of Michigan's. They're also a system school—sharing a degree with UMD-Baltimore and an affiliation with a bunch of other in-state schools—so I don't know if the CIC plans on sharing dollars with just the flagship campus, College Park and Baltimore, or the whole system.
Important alumni: Jim Henson and Larry David. Sugar daddy: Kevin Plank of Under Amour.
Colors: Red and white or yellow and black are good enough color schemes for most corn-fed Midwesterners, but marshaling of arms in English heraldry has no concept of clashing, thus the Terps are liable to favor any of those from George Calvert in any combination. They've been known to take the field looking like an unholy abomination of leftover Iowa running back parts and Rex Burkhead, or in maroon and chrome, or lattice bodices and cloaks of animal skins.
Mascot: A terrapin, or "terp" for short. It means turtle.
Athletics: Here's a guy answering my query on their SBNation blog:
Basketball school (right now like 80-20, but when we rebound in fball it’s more like 60-40). We hate Duke as much as you hate anything in your life. If something big happens we riot. A great deal of our fanbase already hates PSU, so yea, we can hate them for ya.
Really good at Msoccer (good womens), great at lax and field hockey. Womens basketball too
We don’t dress funny, you just dress like some 80 year old man with a hideous fashion sense and call it tradition.
Our college Bball atmosphere is way better than fball, but we do have Stefon Diggs who is likely god himself
Emphasis on the hating Duke. In re lacrosse: the ACC's deal
was similar to the Big East's, where they belonged to other conferences but the few schools who had programs played each other [EDIT: they had a conference, but didn't send a champion]. They're immediately the best lacrosse school in the conference. Women's lacrosse is probably the best in the country.
[JUMP: Meet Maryland athletics, and Rutgers]
A good idea. / Also a good idea. / Not a good idea. (Upchurch)
Before we begin, since this is a Denard/Gardner comparison post, let's get this part out of the way:
Is Gardner a palatable Big Ten QB?
Is Gardner a good QB?
Yes, I really think so.
So even if Denard is 100 percent…
NO!!! Two good starts from our 2013 starting signalcaller, albeit against two of the conference's worst pass defenses, are good things. Let's not ruin them by allowing the kind of people who see the world in Tall-Passer-Lloydball Pearl and Small-Scrambly-Spreadrod Onyx to, you know, start all that again.
But I am interested in knowing just how good Gardner has played. I'm also interested in how everything else about our offense changed when Gardner went in for Denard, and how defenses reacted to it. What did it do to the receiver corps to lose him, and what to the formations and personnel? 2012 is nice and all but I want to know what 2013 is going to look like now! Since this week was a better test and a better performance to the eye than what he did against Minnesota after one week of not being a receiver, I think we need Northwestern data. In fact I was so impatient I decided to not wait for Brian to UFR the offense this week and did it myself…in a mini version.
|5 plays, 13 yards, 13 mins left in the 1st quarter. Score: 0-0|
We establish a few things, like Michigan is going under center, and Northwestern is going to defend that with the 4-3 over, and even 6'4 quarterbacks get batted sometimes. Easy out to Gallon that was still open all day, one batted, one perfect downfield throw on a blitz that was dropped by Jerald Robinson. Northwestern gives up on blitzing for the rest of the day. Michigan gives up on receivers.
Drive 2: Borges makes it rain RPS…
10 plays, 78 yards, 2:30 left in the 1st quarter. Score: 7-0 Michigan.
This is the drive when Michigan started inserting superfluous apostrophes into the snap count (Wilcat's HATE that!). Note the CA on the 32-yard pass to Roundtree. That's close to "MA" since it's behind the receiver, but not so much that it changed Roundtree's momentum when he reached back to get it. Also note that NW's cornerback is awful.
[The rest of the drives, and how this and the other Gardner game compare to the Denard ones, after THE JUMP]
The dorm room has a shrine to Fred Jackson they call "Like Borobudur but more majestic"
Seth, doctor of blogging, is acting residential advisor for South-of-South Quad Residence Hall, Floor 1. Having heard reports that the occupant of Rm. 219, registered as "Michigan's Running Game" has 'not been himself' lately, the good doctor attempts to ascertain the source of his charge's recent morosity. He knocks on the door…
So, hey Michigan's Running Game.
Alright if I come in?
You've been kinda quiet this semester.
… Look, I haven't known you to be the kind of dude to go into a shell. Not since you broke up with DeBord, anyway. Um, you okay there man?
Oh you know, things.
|Year||Rush YPC*||Rush S&P+||Rk|
* (Called running plays when Denard is QB, no short situations. 2012 stats are through Nebraska because this is from my UFR database and Brian hasn't UFR'ed Minnesota yet. S&P+ is a
Fremeau EDIT: Bill Connelly (they're all football outsiders) stat that measures success based on down, field position, and strength of opponent. Higher is better. FWIW these stats have been screwy this year but I think rushing yardage is the part that's actually working.)
That's…that's not so bad man, 5.77 YPC is pretty respectable.
Yeah but I'm supposed to be much better than 'pretty respectable.'
Cause Denard and Toussaint and most of the line back?
That and I'm MICHIGAN fergodsakes. Plus I think a lot of that 5.77 is Denard shooting off long runs against Air Force and Purdue. Here's a table so you know what I mean.
I see. Wait, what the hell is that?
A table of all the runs charted in that stat. So like that gray peak is the 2010 offense getting lots of 4-yard runs, and the yellow peak is the 2011 offense getting stopped for just 2 yards a lot. And the lines at the bottom are polynomial trend lines.
Poly—? Dammit man, I'm a doctor, not a physicist.
See how the yellow and gray lines follow the same trend but the blue one doesn't? The 2012 offense is ripping off big runs more often, but not getting those 5- to 12-yard runs with the same regularity.
I understand. I'll see if I can find what's going on. You mind if I ask some questions?
[After THE JUMP: Is it for want of play calling, tougher competition, or Molk?]
So you saw Michigan's backup plan in case Denard gets knocked out early in a competitive game. The plan was Bellomy. And you saw Bellomy. With regard to the skills, talent, and preparation required to be a competitive Big Ten quarterback, Bellomy was terrible. The offense immediately imploded, Michigan's Rose Bowl chances dropped to "not likely" and we were left facing the bleakness of a Robinson-less future.
So long as nards were left to nard we were perfectly content to ignore things like an apparent lack of receiver talent, or whether the redshirt freshman backup QB we snake oiled away from Purdue could perform well enough in an important game scenario that nobody would think to ask about Jack Kennedy. We could even be blasé about what appears to be persistent offensive coaching mistakes. It was all masked by Wheeeeee!! Saturday the whee was taken away and we got our first real glimpse of the structure they're building underneath it. We've got questions.
1. When your freshman QB is 4 of 21 with 4 interceptions on the year, why not try the junior 5-star quarterback you've got playing receiver?
Everyone can pick a moment. For me it was Russell's first completion of the game, a 12-yard pass to Kerridge:
Alright open man! Get there! … It's still not there. Okay coverage isn't there yet either. But what's taking so long? Did it just sail? No it's on target. Okay here it comes. Catch! First down on the Utah thirty-eigh…oh dear god.
We already knew how bad it could get, but this suddenly looked like we had an outer bound for how good it could get. The feet weren't set, and a guy was coming toward his face, and he got rid of it to the open receiver for 12 yards. Except Kerridge had been open over there for several seconds. And then with that entire windup the ball delivered is a full Sheridan.
With the opponent blitzing their brains out there's going to be open receivers, and Bellomy can learn to find them quicker. But the guys can't stay open so long that defenders won't arrive sometime during the three seconds the ball's in the air. The weird dropsies when Bellomy is throwing the ball could be related to this as well. Accustomed to catching zippy Denard passes, the receivers I imagine are getting thrown off by the the extra half-second of waiting for the ball to arrive. They're losing focus, putting their minds downfield or setting off internal alarms that the coverage is arriving. You'll note in this game more than a few of Russell's open targets were lit up upon reception—the personal foul on Jackson is a good example. Simply the anticipation of such a hit is a known cause of drops.
The scary lack of arm strength raised a few questions, like why he was recruited in the first place if a cannon is a pre-req for Borgesian offense, but a more pressing and more dire query is how bad can Gardner be if they've got this dude under center instead of him?
He's playing receiver. In fact, for all his faults at receiver, he's better at that than our other options. It falls a little flat to say if he's not out there Jeremy Jackson would be, since Jeremy Jackson is out there all the damn time. More to the point, Gardner practiced all week at receiver, and sending him in unprepared would have been unfair, would undermine his confidence, and probably resulted in yackety crap like that which ended the 2011 Michigan State game.
Your brain as it watched Bellomy could not compute this because fan brains tend to hit the panic button and authorize the flinging of excrement in the hopes of finding anything that sticks. This is why it nodded sagely at things like "throw Cullen Christian in there" when the 2010 secondary was staggeringly bad. It cannot compute that things could possibly get worse. The thing is, things can possibly get worse. Obviously the coaches felt that putting an unprepared Gardner in to run "Gardner and stuff" wasn't an option.
Hoke made sure to stress the "if you don't practice during the week at quarterback you don't play" thing in his postgame presser, getting it in as a response to questions about Denard's readiness for Minnesota. I take that as a not-so-subtle reminder that this staff has more patience than the last one, and more patience than the fan-brain. Their plan seems to be if Denard goes down in-game it's Bellomy, but if we lose Robinson for a week or more, Gardner will be preparing for that game.
[More things I don't want to ask after THE JUMP]