at least it's not just us?
punting: just say no
A win over Ohio, a BCS game win and a couple of killer recruiting classes have quickly escalated expectations of the Brady Hoke era. It’s time to put those expectations on ice. Not forever. But for another year or two it's safer to look at last season as the exception not the expectation.
The defense has been better than expected and I think this Greg Mattison thing is going to work out. They even have a fancy #7 ranking in total defense and a #13 scoring defense rank that’s not aided by fluck this time.
The offense has been a disappointment as Denard and Borges still seem further apart than ever, the offensive line has struggled and Toussaint hasn’t shown much when he does have a rare look at space.
I mentioned this in my season preview, but based on recruiting profiles and experience, this is the least talented Michigan team over the last 10 years [ed-S: I'm guessing attrition isn't taken into account?]. The Rodriguez recruiting bubble has arrived.
The other issue I was surprised to find this week is that Michigan is third nationally in a stat I call Garbage Points. For all of my analytics I exclude second half plays where the game is beyond two touchdowns, the approximate range at which teams deviate from their game plan and possibly individual effort in order to close out a less-competitive game. Garbage value has a pretty high correlation to team success because if you are good when it's close and in the first half you are having more drives in garbage time and probably having more success then, as well. Alabama and Kansas State are 1st and 2nd, Ohio cracks the top 10, but Michigan is the top team with a loss at #3 with a +57 EV during garage time. Lead extensions against UMass, Illinois and Minnesota all contributed to a Michigan spread that is one of the highest in the country. I have Michigan as the #28 in the country based on non-garbage time so a big spread between the two would likely indicate that Michigan has more of an issue with their official NCAA rankings being off due to extra time against over-matched teams.
Next year will be a first year starter at the most important position, which could be the newly popular Devin Gardner or five star Shane Morris. I’ll have more on this in the offseason but let’s just hope Gardner is able to win the job because the data on true freshman starting quarterbacks is emphatically troubling, even when they are elite recruits.
The defense should still continue on at a solid level, at this point the question with Mattison’s defenses is are they going to be good or great. A strong floor has been established.
Overall though, the talent/experience level isn’t going to be improved in 2013, in fact they may be worse. The upper classes will be Rodriguez’s final as well as the transition class. The elite classes will still be young enough that their contributions will likely be limited by playing time or play quality. By 2014, the team should be on par with the Carr-recruited, Rodriguez-coached teams in terms of talent and in 2015 back to the elite level of the late model Carr teams.
Michigan Talent/Experience Level By Season
Talent isn’t everything but it is certainly significant. At this point, the ability to overcome talent deficits seems more likely on defense than offense for Michigan, although the national trend is for talent to be more highly correlated to defensive success than offensive.
The other point of reference is that we aren’t talking about 2008-style drops, and especially in the current state of the Big TENNNNN! it could even mean conference championships. But don’t expect Michigan to make vast strides towards national elite until at least 2014.
Things keep coming back to eight wins. Northwestern is about 70%, Iowa 80% and Ohio 25% for the games remaining.
This week is probably Michigan’s last opening for the B1G Title game. If the Huskers survive a
trip to Happy Valley visit from Penn St it’s hard to see them losing to Iowa or Minnesota.
Another little chart I put together shows who controlled their own destiny to the B1G title game by week.
Leaders division on top, Legends on bottom.
Dumb Punt of the Week
Not a lot of suspense for this one. Mark Dantonio was staring in the face victory and chose what any man with a strong jaw does. Hands the ability to win to the other team for 19 yards. It was fourth and 2 at the Nebraska 39. 1:27 on the clock and Nebraska out of timeouts. Hand it off to the best running back in the conference, watch him get 2 yards, and that ices it. The WPA Calculator says that getting stopped gives Nebraska a 29% chance to win. A punt and touchback give Nebraska an 18% shot. Fourth and twos are successful 63% of the time, but even at 40% the return is positive. Even if you believe you can down them at the 1, going forward is at least neutral. Plus, Bell had just run five straight times in obvious running situations, gaining at least 2 yards on four of his five carries.
This week’s Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week goes to the refs in the Michigan St-Nebraska game for making Sparty punt the ball away.
+15% Gardner to Dileo for Michigan’s opening score
+9% Kirkwood stopped on 4th and 1 at the Michigan 41
+7% Nelson’s pass falls incomplete, forces Gophers into attempting long field goal at end of first half
-8% Gardner is intercepted at the Michigan 49
-8% Minnesota is on the board first with an 8 yard TD pass
-5% Nelson to Engel is good for 32 yards on third down
Devin Gardner, +14 EV, +30% WPA
Fitzgerald Toussaint, +4 EV (all on final run), +1%
Defense, +12 EV, +20%
Jake Ryan now 17th nationally in defender rankings, 11th in BCS players, 4th in Big Ten
Northwestern has surprisingly turned into a slightly more defensive than offensive player this year. Venric Mark is one of the nation’s most valuable running backs and the biggest threat from the Wildcat’s offense. If Michigan’s defense is up to task, the offense should be able to generate enough for a decent win.
Michigan 24 Northwestern 14
Dumb Punt of the Week
I’m tempted to award it to Iowa for punting on 4th and 2 from the MSU 39 last Saturday, but that wouldn’t be fair to Greg Davis whose call sheet’s only play listed for 4th and 2 says: Hail Mary.
This week’s dumb punt of the week goes to the Virginia Cavaliers. Trailing the Fighting Edsalls by 11 with 13 minutes and change left in the game, Virginia was facing 4th and 1 from their own 42. Giving up a precious possession near midfield down two scores in the fourth quarter for the chance to kick a 21 yard punt earns Mike London the Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week.
Not too much exciting on a game chart from a 45-0 nothing for a game that started as a 20+ point favorite. Robinson to Gallon provides the big jump in the first quarter and it was a slow burn off of Illini hope between then and early in the third quarter.
Due to a 17+ point lead in the second half, only first half plays are used to calculate numbers from Saturday’s game.
Rush Offense: +5 EV, +10% WPA
Pass Offense: +6, +15%
Rush Defense: +6, +12%
Pass Defense: +0, –2%
Denard Robinson: +13, +28%
Fitzgerald Toussaint: –2, –2%
Thomas Rawls: +1, 1%
A detailed breakdown of each unit and key contributors. All numbers are opponent adjusted except field position and special teams.
EV+, National Rank (leader), B1G Rank (leader)
Michigan Offense: +3, 24th (Texas A&M), 3rd (Nebraska)
Michigan St Defense: +7, 1st, 1st
Denard Robinson: +4 (rush only), 7th among QB/RBs (Johnny Manziel), 2nd (Braxton Miller)
Fitzgerald Toussaint: –2
Thomas Rawls: -0
Michigan Offense: +3, 27th (Baylor), 2nd (Nebraska)
Michigan St Defense: +5, 12th, 1st
Denard Robinson: +4 (pass only), 21st (Nick Florence), 2nd (Taylor Martinez)
Devin Funchess: +3, 83rd
Jeremy Gallon: +3, 118th
Devin Gardner: +2, 164th
Michigan Defense: +2, 34th (MSU), 4th
Michigan St Offense: –2, 95th, 10th
Le’Veon Bell: -1
Michigan Defense: +4, 23rd (Bama), 4th (MSU)
Michigan St Offense: +0, 59th, 6th
Andrew Maxwell: –2, 109th
Dion Sims: +4, 71st
Aaron Burbridge: +1
2.04 expected points per drive (57th)
2.76 points per drive (30th)
135% conversion (26th)
2.03 expected points per drive (63rd)
1.63 points per drive (99th)
80% conversion (100th)
Michigan: –1, 82nd (TCU), 7th (Iowa)
Michigan St: +0, 52nd, 6th
The defenses should have the upper hand. Michigan’s offense has clearly been better than Sparty’s but the model thinks that so far this year the Michigan State defense has been one of the best in the country. Michigan’s faced two other elite defenses and lost both times. This time they have the advantage of home field and a more defined identity. This is a game that Michigan could certainly lose, but directionally there seems to be much more upside for Michigan than for MSU. Dion Sims’ status could be huge as he is the only Spartan generated much offensive value. If the Denard/Borges fusion can have a good game Paul Bunyan should return to Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Michigan 17 Michigan St 13
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I got lunch with Shashi Mara to talk about an advertising relationship and was impressed with the risk he was taking. He dumped a nice job for a pair of crampons he wandered around Switzerland in, finding wizened old men with amazing dexterity and inch-thick glasses to create an exclusive line of officially-licensed watches. He did this with absolutely no idea how it would work out, and still doesn't, but he was clearly thrilled just to have the things he'd set out to make. His attention to detail resonated with me, as did his desire to create something of his own.
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You can feel the Bo emanating from the walls.This one is from the hockey locker room:
Also, hello, I am six years old in a library.
Patrick Omameh a nice guy. He was one of 11 players on this year's Good Works team:
"I was in the room, and it was my first time meeting the kid," Kovacs said. "And then Patrick walks in. It's this kid's 13th birthday. And as soon as Pat walks in, this kid's face just lights up.
"It's just unreal, the spark in the room. It was a special moment."
Click through for awwww picture.
MSU injury checkup. Dion Sims is still not on the MSU depth chart, which generally means he won't play. I don't think we'll know until MSU's first offensive snap what his real status is; it seems doubtful he can return from what seems like a high ankle sprain in two weeks. In lieu of Sims MSU went with a lot of three-wide I-form against Iowa, FWIW.
Also, MSU starting safety Jarius Jones didn't dress against the Hawkeyes; guard Blake Treadwell only saw a snap when Chris McDonald's helmet popped off. Either could be available this week. Jones is listed as Lewis's backup; Treadwell is behind Jack Allen at LG.
Michigan is fully healthy save Countess and a couple backup DL, knock on wood.
Nebraskethockey. Corn Nation discusses the possibility of a Cornpack hockey team after an AP writer suggested it was going to happen:
After hearing Eichorst give nod to Mark Johnson, I predict#Huskers will play B1G hockey within next 6-8 years
Opinions are split down the middle. The situation at Nebraska is fairly attractive, though. Lincoln already has the USHL's Stars, who lead that league in attendance with a respectable 3,900 fans a game. They'd have a natural in-state rival in UNO, would get to join the Big Ten, are in the heart of USHL country, and could use the Stars' rink. A major gift has already been made for a couple of rinks near campus, and while those are not D-I ready a push from the athletic department could alter the course of that development. A new downtown arena has put in piping for ice facilities, as well.
If the Huskers became competitive—and if UNO can do it there's no reason UNL can't—they'd be an attendance success, I'm betting. We'll see what Eichorst wants to do—if he can find the money (and everyone has ALL THE MONEY these days) I bet he goes for it.
Lewan rising. Plz no leave think of the Jake Long?
Taylor Lewan*/T/Michigan: Lewan is the first of three offensive linemen rising up draft boards and an underclassman who continues to impress scouts. He looked outstanding in all areas against the athletic Illinois defense. His skills in pass protection were outstanding as Lewan had no problem controlling defensive ends or oncoming blitzers. Watching the big left tackle easily move down the field blocking in motion was especially impressive. There's a very good chance Lewan will be the first offensive tackle selected if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft.
Levert right now? Rothstein on Caris Levert:
4. Expect at least one surprise
With this much talent on the roster, there is bound to be a surprise one way or another. So in that vein, pay attention in exhibition games to freshman Caris LeVert. His teammates raved about him during media day, and it did not sound like empty hype. Instead, it has been a consistent theme throughout the summer -- Michigan's final piece to its five-man recruiting class has a chance to be really, really good. He has already put weight on his thin frame since arriving at Michigan and while he might not make an immediate impact, he could be a surprise for the Wolverines sooner than later.
Zack Novak followed that up with a tweet: "I'll go ahead and ruin the surprise on 4. The kid can play." Michigan did essentially dump a ready-to-commit Amadeo Della Valle for Levert, and ADV ended up at OSU so they weren't tossing a scrub aside. Levert also won an Ohio player of the year award with a pretty nice track record:
JJHuddle Players of the Year
2012: Caris Levert, Pickerington Central (Ohio)
2011: Trey Burke, Northland (Michigan)
2010: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2009: Jared Sullinger, Northland (Ohio State)
2008: William Buford, Toledo Libbey (Ohio State) & B.J. Mullens, Canal Winchester (Ohio State/Charlotte Bobcats)
2007: Jon Diebler, Upper Sandusky (Ohio State)
I'll take two, thanks.
Dumb punt of the week. BONUS: I reminded the Mathlete of the Dumb Punt of the Week, which I missed dearly, and he promised to revive it. Last week's—as in games on the sixth:
Midway through the first quarter Akron faced a daunting 4th and 3 from the Bowling Green 32 and elected to punt the ball away.
Special note goes to Randy Edsall who punted from the 48 on 4th and 2 trailing by 1 in the 4th quarter. They later went on to score and go up 5 with about 5 minutes left and then kicked the extra point, to protect against two Wake Forest field goals in the final 5 minutes. Of course Maryland missed the PAT.
These make me feel wonderful about Brady Hoke.
inigomontoya.jpg. Fuggin' Walverines:
In Ann Arbor now, f'ing hate these &$¥+&&. Such arrogant snobs
A-maize-ing. Every idiot is wearing their colors today and the nurses and docs that know I'm a huge MSU alum/fan are all consoling me over the weekends games.... They're all like. ... Well this weeks game will be close.... Blah blah blah... We're not that good.... Maxwell is the next Cousins...... Illinois is horrible.... Blah blah blah
[After the JUMP: Josh Furman's gonna kill that poor woman, Walter.]
Not dog grooming. Good news! It seems like they're shelving "In The Big House" for something else. That would seem to be this from a couple of walk-ons:
According to the facebook, anyway. It's… not dog grooming. Horrible thought: this may have no impact on dog grooming. Let's move on to happier thoughts.
Vintage Fred Jackson. Man I just don't know how does this even:
"He's got Mike Hart kind of feet, but a lot faster than Mike."
That's about Thomas Rawls, and it goes in the Fred Jackson hyperbole hall of fame. Jackson also got this quote off:
"Usually a guy with good vision is a little bit taller," Jackson said. "Thomas is probably, maybe, 5-8. He tells me he's 5-11 and I'm 6-2, I think, and I look down on him and eat soup off his head."
Why are you eating soup off of someone's head, Fred Jackson? Why is there soup there anyway? What kind of soup? Does Thomas Rawls have a circular depression in the top of his head? Doesn't that seem unsafe for a football player? Are you #$*#$ing serious about this Hart thing? Do you remember Mike Hart? Fred Jackson I am confused.
BONUS I JUST DON'T EVEN HOW DOES I DON'T MAN: Rawls has a "bete noire" tattoo for this reason:
He says it's French for "accomplish your hopes and dreams."
I do not think your tattoo means what you think it means.
BONUS BONUS FRED JACKSON JACKSON:
Jackson said Rawls also reminds him of another former Flint star, Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama. Ingram (5-10, 215 pounds) and Rawls are similar in build.
"They were almost identical high school backs," said Jackson. "Obviously, Mark Ingram had a great (offensive) line at Alabama that helped him along, but Thomas is a lot faster than Mark, (and) has the same type of ability. I'm not trying to compare them in any way but when you watched them in high school, they were very similar running backs."
BONUS BONUS BONUS FRED JACKSON JACKSON JACKSON:
"Norfleet is as quick as any kid at Michigan since I've been here," said Jackson, in his 21st season. "I've not seen a guy that quick…."
But what about senior quarterback Denard Robinson? Is Norfleet faster?
"No, I don't think (anybody) is faster than Denard," Jackson said. "(Norfleet's) got the quickness that will put him in the same positions Denard gets in quicker than Denard will get in them."
Facial hair watch. Ace points out that walk-on and competitor at left guard Joey Burzynski has the makings of something special on his face:
With careful grooming and time, this man could be a facial hair All-American. This would give Michigan two, since Elliott Mealer either needs an acoustic guitar or a hammer fashioned by Odin to do justice to his face… thing:
STEP YOUR FACE HAIR GAME UP, KYLE KALIS WOOOOO
BONUS: Mustaches for Michigan, where have you gone?
They might do it. Brady Hoke's old defensive coordinator Rocky Long, now the head guy at San Diego State, has heard of Pulaski High School—the Arkansas outfit that never ever punts—and is thinking about doing it:
After reading articles about an idiosyncratic Arkansas high school coach who never punts, always onside kicks, and has tremendous success doing it, Long is toying with the idea for his Aztecs of no punts or field goal attempts once they’ve driven inside an opponent’s 50-yard line.
Conceivably, San Diego State would go for the first down whether it needed a couple of inches or 10 yards.
And yes, Long — who apparently hasn’t yet tried it all in his 40 years of coaching — is serious about this.
“It makes sense,” he said, seeming almost giddy in talking about the possibilities.
“Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points,” he said. “It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense.”
It's not a sure thing yet, but I can't think of any better way to memorialize the WAC. Do it. You'd look so cool.
Oh my gawd. Please CBS, call this show "Boss Hog and the Zooker" and make it a crime procedural:
CBS Sports Network announces Houston Nutt will serve as studio analyst this year. He'll be joined by Ron Zook.
If college football does not take me up on my extremely reasonable plan to have JLS coach a different team on an interim basis every year, he could join up in 2013, and then our piss would indeed be hot.
Are these different? The M-Den says the basketball jerseys are different. I can't really tell:
I can still complain about it, right?
Jolly good show, catching me. I am quite elusive, you know. Fitzgerald Toussaint's OWI hearing is four days before the Alabama game. He's probably still getting suspended, but at least he's nicer than the average DUI recipient:
"He was extremely cooperative and gave us no problems at all," Saline Police Department Det. Don Lupi said Monday. "He was even more pleasant than the average drunk-driving arrestee. He was friendly and easy to deal with, unlike a lot of arrest situations."
"I say, you bobbies are really on your game."
Yes, imaginary Fitzgerald Toussaint is British. Because obviously.
The Fort. Man, running through my feeds and seeing open scrimmage reports from Arkansas and Ole Miss and Iowa plus A Lion Eye chastising himself for not checking out who the holders were at Illinois camp is a little depressing. Michigan's attitude towards this stuff is "please die, kthx." At media day it's clear the players were instructed to not answer questions about any freshmen:
I remember asking Jeremy Gallon how the freshmen receivers were coming along and his reaction was one along the lines of almost trying to keep things hush. He paused for a minute and then told me to talk to the coaches about it.
Will Campbell did the same thing on an interview I caught on WTKA.
Opening some stuff up is not just for mid-level programs (and Ole Miss), either: this space has noted some really cool access provided by Ohio State. Even Alabama, led by hater of all media Nick Saban, lets the media in to see some stuff. If Michigan's access is worse that Alabama's it's got to be the worst in the country, right?
I guess I get it since when Rodriguez was around the Free Press used the opportunity to talk to a couple freshmen to get them to issue misleading statements about how much time they were putting in, thus proving all long-held suspicions about the lizardmedia true. It's still frustrating that the hardest-hitting stuff we get is "what is your favorite Olympic event?" Not a 'wow' experience here. Someone put some pasta in a bread bowl or something.
It's on the up and up. The OHL came down harshly on Windsor for paying players under the table, which obviously never happens. My favorite part of all this is remembering the OHL's crocodile tears for their players when the NCAA was revamping their foreign player rules and hockey got an exception to keep CHL players out. They claimed it was just a shame that their entirely amateur league league was banned. Ugh. These guys are worse than the NCAA honchos.
Anyone want to bet a dollar that a pissed off Jack Campbell was a major source here? The WOTS about how these investigations came about fits Campbell's experience:
The league is choosing not to reveal names, though most believe some of the high-profile American players who played in Windsor could be responsible for the information leading to the sanctions. Some of those players were eventually traded, and it’s been suggested the trade could leave them feeling bitter and more prone to talk about their former team during an investigation.
But at least he's in the NHL already.
Etc.: More and more people are like WTF Emmert about this North Carolina thing. More photos from youth day, including a guy wearing an old old Rich Robots shirt. MVictors on achievable Michigan records. The Tigers are having a "Wolverines In The D" event next Friday—22 bucks gets you in, a shirt, and five bucks of it goes to the Pat Maloy Scholarship Fund.
My eccentric Oregon financial advisor doppelganger. Smart Football points to a fellow who goes by FishDuck and is all about zone reads, feeding his dog, the violent-yet-genteel devouring of Mike Patrick, and more zone reads:
An interesting point picked up from Chip Kelly's presentations: Oregon has tipped inside/outside zone for six years without ill effect because declaring the play causes people to overreact to it, which opens up constraint plays. More than that, the zone often acts as its own constraint as over-aggressive players flow playside or bunch up inside, opening cutbacks and bounces.
He's also got a video on Oregon's deployment of power, which it uses as a counter to their usual inside zone stuff. We haven't seen this out of Borges yet, but I'm hoping. My desire to see Michigan pair an opposite-side-of-the-line speed option with the inside zone borders on lust. And by "borders on lust" I mean "invades Poland with sexy tanks."
When he was hired in January, Hoke's mission was explicitly to roll back the Rodriguez era, to restore whatever it was that made Michigan feel like Michigan again. To that end, even Wolverine fans seemed to find the sudden proliferation of countdown clocks, macho posturing and various Buckeye-related eccentricities laying it on a little thick. But six weeks in, the Wolverines are right on schedule in the national polls, the Big Ten standings and the weekly stat sheets. If they clear the midseason hurdle Rodriguez's teams never could at Michigan State, they can claim one more phase of the mission accomplished.
Kind of a big deal, this game.
Point: Tim. Reportorial ex-girlfriend Tim, who now goes by the bizarrely long moniker "Tim Sullivan" over at Rivals, was a committed skeptic about Rob Bolden since he was one of a trio of touted in-state quarterbacks in the 2009 recruiting class.
Despite the rankings, Tim said the guy didn't know how to play football. It seems like his scouting prowess has been borne out:
Game Over, Man. Game Over. This quarterback contest is done. Urban Meyer remarked toward the end of Penn State's first offensive drive that at Thursday practice, he did not see Bolden complete a single pass over five yards. This makes sense, as Bolden did not throw a single decent pass on the entire first drive. …
Rob looks completely shattered at this point, and it's time for the coaches, players, and fans to embrace the crazy train that is McGloin Moxie Mania.
It's McGloin o'clock in Bolden's Penn State career. Beaten out by a walk-on, does a transfer again beckon? /NYT headline writer imitation
Point: Hoke. Shudder at the awful puntasaur display in the Iowa-Penn State game:
…Iowa got to the PSU 33, faced 4th and 8... and punted. That Guthrie was able to pin PSU on their own 10-yard line (a solid accomplishment) is irrelevant. Punting from the other team's 33-yard line is A F---ING STUPID AND TERRIBLE IDEA. I don't even need statistics to back me up on that one (although they would). Even if Ferentz didn't want to try to convert on fourth down (4th and 8 isn't easy, obviously), why not give Mike Meyer a crack at a field goal? It was a beautiful day, the ball was lined up near the middle of the field, and Meyer has made 50+ yard field goals in the past (this year, in fact). But no. Ferentz gave a vote of "no confidence" to both Meyer and his offense on that play. Iowa probably deserved to lose the game for that decision alone.
Of course, JoePa was determined to out-conservative -- or out-dumb -- Ferentz; he punted three times from the Iowa side of the field, including late in the game on 4th and 2 from the Iowa 36. If he really didn't think his offense could rip off a two-yard gain against a gassed and reeling Iowa defense, I... I just have no words for the level of neanderthal football thinking on display in this game.
Of course, that coaching blunder on Ferentz's part might be narrowly eclipsed by the decision to eschew running a two-minute offense upon getting the ball at the Iowa 20 with two timeouts and 1:42 to go before halftime. God forbid we try to score there. It's not like we don't have a no huddle offense that's been effective this year or a kicker with decent range. Nope.
Even if trying the field goal with Gibbons is a mistake, it pales in comparison to that business. I cannot express how much I love the Mathlete's new Dumb Punt of the Week feature. The inaugural winner is Ohio State's Frank Solich, who punted on fourth and one from the Buffalo 36. Buffalo has the #91 rushing defense. After an 11 yard punt, Buffalo drove for a touchdown. Ohio State lost by a point. The game theory gods do not take kindly to being spited so grandiosely. (See also: Kirk Ferentz.)
I missed another Hoke game theory bit: he got the ball at the 22 with about two minutes left and did not pull the Ferentz. Robinson rushed for a loss of one on first down, then five straight passes got Michigan to the Northwestern 44 before Robinson's third awful interception set up a Northwestern field goal drive. While we've seen Hoke eschew half-ending drives a couple times this year, those were with a minute or less on the clock, not two.
Now… it didn't work out that time, but these things are never 100%. Did it make sense at the time to try to score with a couple minutes left against Northwestern's defense? Yeah.
Glarb glarb glarb. So when Michigan shuffled its fullback on third and one and got owned I had a conniption fit. This was the result of DeBord Doom re-emergence:
That's the corpse of Steve Watson you see getting annihilated at the LOS. Glarb.
BWS picture-pages this and points out that the shuffling fullback opened up the Gardner rollout TD on which he had either the run or pass; I'm not so sure showing the first play is worth the cost to get a yard when your redzone offense seems to be able to get a yard whenever it wants. I like diabolical machinations better when they're like the above Oregon stuff—plenty diabolical in their own right without the counter.
Mitchbreaks. Mitch McGary's impending Michigan decision now seems far less certain:
Recently, reports came out that Mitch was nearing or had made a decision. However, Tim refutes that notion “He hasn’t made a decision. I just talked to him tonight (Monday night) and we talked about it a little bit. He’s coming home Wednesday night and we’re going to sit down and talk about it. They get a four or five day break this weekend so he’s flying in to O’hare and my older son will pick him up. We’ll be able to sit down and sort things out.”
Likely rumor vector: AAU coach to national guy, national guy tizzy checks in with coach a few more times, everyone wants to back off. Confidence level: reduced, but still high.
Etc.: Denard Robinson is healthier this year because he is homeopathic or something. Mark Huyge has had a tough year. Holdin' the Rope doesn't like "smug, pompous buffoon" Mark Dantoinio. Jon Merrill suspension 50/50 to end his career. Sad face.
Even before Brady Hoke started answering questions like this…
Q: How will Denard Robinson fit in this offense?
A: This is Michigan!
Q: What do you think about the goings-on in Columbus?
A: Though we have great respect for the Akron State Golden Bobcats, this remains Michigan.
Q: What kind of off—
A: THIS IS MICHIGAN TREMENDOUS
A: TREMENDOUS VAN OUSTANDING RIVER
/teaches journalist about Mad Magicians
…he expressed a certain disdain for fancy things like zone running, which is neither fancy or new or soft and has been used by teams from the Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos to, you know, Michigan under Lloyd Carr. He swore up and down to everyone who attended the coaches' clinic that "A-gap power"—three yards and a cloud of dust, think Jehuu Caulcrick—would be Michigan's signature play. He has expressed a certain approach to offense that sends spread friendly folk like yrs truly and Braves & Birds into twitchy fits. His stated approach is neolithic.
So… like… WTF?
SAN DIEGO STATE 1st DOWN RUN/PASS BREAKDOWN, 2010
|09/04/10||Nicholls St.||Grass||W 47-0||10||12||1||23|
|09/11/10||@ New Mexico St.||Grass||W 41-21||8||13||3||24|
|09/18/10||@ 18 Missouri||Turf||L 24-27||5||10||2||17|
|09/25/10||Utah St.||Grass||W 41-7||9||9||0||18|
|10/09/10||@ Brigham Young||Grass||L 21-24||3||9||0||12|
|10/16/10||Air Force||Grass||W 27-25||8||8||0||16|
|10/23/10||@ New Mexico||Grass||W 30-20||8||12||2||22|
|10/30/10||@ Wyoming||Turf||W 48-38||2||15||3||20|
|11/06/10||Colorado St.||Grass||W 24-19||8||10||1||19|
|11/13/10||@ 2 TCU||Grass||L 35-40||1||6||0||7|
|12/23/10||+ Navy||Grass||W 35-14||14||12||1||27|
San Diego State passed on 63% of its first downs. In tight games* SDSU passed on 79% of first downs. This was not a catchup effect. Missouri led by more than one score for all of 41 seconds; against Utah SDSU ran out to a 27-10 lead before bleeding it away down the stretch. This has something to do with Ryan Lindley and some all-conference receivers but SDSU was very slightly run biased in 2010 (51%), managing a respectable 4.8 YPC. In 2010, especially when it counted, San Diego State passed to set up the run.
Where the hell is A-gap power? Why the hell did The Mountain West Connection write this about Hoke's candidacy for the job?
Hoke would bring in another non-traditonal Big 10 offense to Ann Arbor. It would be a spread offense, but instead of having an offense where there is a dual threat quarterback he plays three, four and five wide receiver sets.
Where's the manball?
*[Missouri, BYU, Air Force, TCU, and Utah. CSU excluded because the narrow scoreline was due to a touchdown with 2:43 left.]
Is the manball in previous teams?
Hoke's previous SDSU team threw even more but was not very good. They were especially un-good at running, so numbers from that season reflect necessity instead of philosophy. And Hoke only had two years in San Diego, so maybe he wasn't able to mold his team into the A-gap power six fullback monstrosity he yearns for.
How about the apex of his Ball State career?
BALL STATE 1st DOWN RUN/PASS BREAKDOWN, 2008
|09/13/08||@ Akron||Turf||W 41-24||14||13||3||30|
|09/20/08||@ Indiana||Turf||W 42-20||12||9||3||24|
|09/27/08||Kent St.||Turf||W 41-20||8||17||1||26|
|10/04/08||@ Toledo||Turf||W 31-0||11||13||0||24|
|10/11/08||@ Western Ky.||Turf||W 24-7||9||9||3||21|
|10/25/08||Eastern Mich.||Turf||W 38-16||8||11||2||21|
|11/05/08||Northern Ill.||Turf||W 45-14||7||14||4||25|
|11/11/08||@ Miami (Ohio)||Turf||W 31-16||9||12||0||21|
|11/19/08||@ Central Mich.||Turf||W 31-24||13||8||2||23|
|11/25/08||Western Mich.||Turf||W 45-22||8||11||0||19|
|12/05/08||+ Buffalo||Turf||L 24-42||10||19||1||30|
|01/06/09||+ Tulsa||Turf||L 13-45||3||6||0||9|
Hoke's first downs under Stan Parrish were also pass-biased. Again, Nate Davis had something to do with that but Ball State was significantly more run-biased than 2010 SDSU: 520 rushes to 405 passes, with those rushes picking up 5 yards a pop. A team that ran 56% of the time threw on 55% of first downs.
HOWEVA, that's not a huge difference from late-era Carr behavior. I know this surprises you. I clicked the link three times just to make sure it wasn't having fun, but in 2007 Michigan passed on 54% of first downs despite playing Ryan Mallett for significant chunks of the season. They also ran on 56% of all plays. That may be an artifact of Michigan not being able to run very well (4 YPC; insert infamous stretch against OSU here). In 2006, a monstrously run-biased outfit (62% at 4.3 YPC while the passing game was averaging 7.7) was 50-50 on first down.
Is the manball in the offensive structure?
Meanwhile, Chris Brown has the most interesting single factoid in Wolverines Kickoff 2011. It's about SDSU's bowl game, the one after which Ken Niumatalolo said "that's as good of an offense as we've seen." In that game, the Aztecs ran more zone-blocked plays than gap-blocked plays en route to a rout. Here's an inside zone:
A few plays later the Aztecs would bust out their first power of the night. Notably, it was a "constraint" play—one designed to keep the defense honest. They lined up in a pro set and handed it to the fullback for the second time all year. On third and two they manballed up. Result:
Starting running back Ronnie Hillman averaged 8.1 YPC without any distorting 80-yarders (long of 37) and finished the day with 228 yards. San Diego State's defense did not appear to have a stroke while watching this.
So how does that jive with this?
When asked recently about the influence of Oregon’s offense, Hoke subtly revealed his disdain for the tactical shift Michigan experienced under Rodriguez. He is convinced that modern spread option offenses can be counterproductive to the core values of smashmouth football and are, therefore, to be avoided.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time -- when you’re playing basketball on grass -- you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football,” Hoke said. “I don’t think you’re prepared.
It… like… doesn't. Unless Hoke just wants to have some power around so his defense doesn't turn into a bunch of lily-livered ninnyhammers and doesn't actually care how much it gets deployed in actual games. This would be good for the next couple years when what Hoke wants and what Hoke has will be severely mismatched.
Is the manball curling up in the fetal position with a narrow lead?
Unfortunately for manball-is-just-talk theorists, that above-mentioned close-ish Colorado State game featured an event familiar to Michigan fans. After Colorado State scored with about three minutes left to draw within five, SDSU ran three times for two yards and gave the ball back to the Rams having run only 53 seconds off the clock. They ran on 2nd 7 and 3rd and 9. Very MANBALL.
The way the Aztecs lost the Missouri game is also terribly familiar. They picked off Blaine Gabbert with 1:47 left, ran 25 seconds off the clock, and punted on 4th and 8 from the Missouri 35. It took the Tigers two plays to score the winning touchdown. To be fair, freshman Ronnie Hillman caused coaching blood vessels to explode when he ran out of bounds on the first play of the drive and the Aztecs did throw on third down. To be ruthless, that throw was a screen or something equivalently conservative (it lost a yard) and once it was completed the situation was 4th and 8 for the win or a 20-yard punt. Hoke chose the punt. He chose poorly.
Against Air Force the Aztecs faced a 4th and goal from the two with about nine minutes left. They led by eight. Hoke called for the field goal team. That's not indefensible*; it is conservative. Hoke watched his kicker Broekgibbons it anyway.
On the other hand, in the Utah game San Diego State kept firing after leaping out to a big lead (obviously). There's no evidence they ever put the scoring offense away except in a couple of end-game scenarios.
*[It's probably the right call. Going from 8 to 11 forces the opponent to score two TDs to win instead of one and a two-point conversion. Getting the touchdown gives you a tie in the unlikely event an option team with 12 points so far gets two touchdowns and a conversion in the final nine minutes. A failure does leave the opponent on its own two.
As it happened, Air Force did score two touchdowns in the final nine minutes. Unfortunately for the Falcons, sandwiched between them was a one-play SDSU touchdown drive and they lost anyway.]
The things that are said contradict each other
Hoke says he wants the team to act in a certain way—toughness toughness toughness—while simultaneously saying he will not futz with Al Borges. Al Borges has shown a predilection for lots of vertical passing and apparently does not care one way or the other about gap vs zone blocking. Hoke says he dislikes zone running and uses it plenty. He's recruiting large men to squash men who are not quite as large but has maybe 1.5 tight ends and Denard Robinson right now.
What Hoke wants is clear, and what he has is not what he wants. The record implies that he'll be relatively flexible. Michigan will still see a drop in yardage/fancy metric performance because they're spending time revamping instead of refining, but if under center isn't working they'll ditch it. Hell, against Navy SDSU's first drive formations looked like this:
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
- Shotgun 3-wide
They even ran a zone read. It went for a yard, but by God they ran it. When push comes to shove I think Michigan will go with what works, whatever that is.