spoiler alert: i linked this
As some noticed on the twitters I've begun putting together the stat boxes for this year's HTTV opponent previews. I figured I might as well share some of that data here in one place.
FEI and S&P+ things: Champion stats by the two resident best internet football stats guys. Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau) of Football Outsiders, and Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) of that and Football Study Hall on SBNation.
Connelly is responsible for, among other stats, S&P+ ratings (for offense, defense, etc.), which are derived from play-by-play and drive data of every FBS game. S&P+ measures four of five factors that determine game outcomes: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. The fifth, turnovers, is relatively random so it's left out except as extra weight on sack rates, a thing that will effect at least one weird number we'll see. Garbage time is removed, and it's all weighted by opponents.
He also puts out pre-season projections based on recruiting, returning production, and front-weighted S&P+ of the last five years. Michigan's opponents by Bill C's Projected 2016 S&P+:
Not a lot of play in that schedule; the big rivals look to remain tough tests but that's it for the expected Top 25. The first two games should be good tuneups for O'Korn/whoever.
Brian Fremeau made FEI and F/+, based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Clock kills and garbage time are filtered out, and strength of schedule is factored in. Since it's an overall efficiency thing I prefer to use FEI as a single-stat measure of an offense or defense, while going to the play-by-play nature of S&P+, I tend to use that and the raw, sack-adjusted* yards per play, to represent an offense and defense's run/pass splits.
Those and more after [The jump.]
* [The NCAA treats sacks as rushing, which doesn't make sense. So every year I take the NCAA's base stats and treat sacks as pass plays.This makes a huge difference. I've put them in a Google Doc if you want at 'em.]
Mailbag: Stats Love Us, Saban Manball Canary, Substitution Style, Cole Absence, Playcalling Approach
Number 3? For the statistically challenged, what do you think of this methodology?
S&P+ is as good as any other ranking system that drills into play-by-play data to get a clearer picture of a football game than scoring margin alone can give you. Bill Connelly, the guy behind it, also runs Football Study Hall. He does a lot of smart things. S&P+ is a valuable look at who is playing the best.
Unfortunately, it can only go on the data that exists and in early-season college football that's always going to be sparse. Meanwhile some folks will dispute lot of the assumptions S&P+ makes, primarily that turnovers are super random and not major factors in the rankings. It also values all games evenly in ways that humans aren't always big fans of. Utah is significantly below Michigan because:
- the Michigan-Utah game was about even down to down and turned on turnovers
- Utah did not significantly outgain Utah State or Fresno State
- Michigan yardage-murdered everyone other than Utah
S&P+ is not trying to be a descriptive ranking (ie: these teams have had the best season so far) but rather a predictive one (ie: if these teams were to meet who would win). Michigan has performed like an elite team so far according to S&P+, and I can see why it thinks that.
FEI, the other major ranking that takes more than score into account*, is more skeptical than S&P, but I think that's because that still bakes some preseason assumptions into the ranking.
*[AFAIK Sagarin only uses the final score.]
Can we manball it when even Saban flees to spread-type behavior?
It seems that Nick Saban has recently admitted that his current style is a bit outdated, that he needs to adjust to the recent trends in college football. It is pretty obvious that teams like OSU, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, even BGSU are seeing a lot of success by utilizing both up-tempo and featuring quick guys in space.
Can you speak to offensive philosophies such as Alabama and Stanford and how this may or may not be a concern for us going forward? I understand that "smashmouth" football is not mutually exclusive with up-tempo and quick guys in space. But it just seems to me that Harbaugh's style doesn't seem to emphasize either of these current successful trends.
Given how the season has gone so far I actually think Michigan might occasionally run into the opposite problem. They've been absolutely lights out against six consecutive spread offenses. (Not very good spread offenses, sure, but Michigan isn't holding these guys to 20 points and high-fiving afterwards. They are crushing opponents.) Meanwhile the Harbauffense is winning plays against teams that aren't always comfortable putting heavy D packages on the field or filling all the gaps Harbaugh creates.
Saban's move to a more spread and tempo oriented offense is a reaction to the many times his defense has been blown out of the water by those kind of attacks over the past few years. When the Tide get to line up against one of the remaining "pro style" offenses, the results are generally ugly. Ask Georgia.
Michigan might not have that issue. Durkin seems very comfortable devising ways to neutralize spreads. I will have trepidation when and if Michigan does come up against… well, pretty much just Alabama.
On and off and on and off
Brian or Ace-
Do you know, or, if not, could you ask someone, why Dan Liesman (I think that is who it is, at least according to my Mini-Program; it is #54) comes out a few yards onto the field between plays almost every time when we are on defense. It is as if he is not sure whether he is going in or not, but since he NEVER goes in, it is obviously for some other reason. Is there some rule about substitutions that this relates to, are we trying to confuse the opposition, or does he just like to pretend he might be going in? There has to be a reason, and I would think most MGoBloggers would love to hear it. Thanks
We've seen Ross and Gant also do this. It's just a substitution strategy. After the play Michigan sends guys who may or may not be in the defensive package, depending on what the offense does, to about the numbers. (Any farther could get you an illegal substitution penalty.)
If opponents send in two or more blocky-catchy types, the linebacker will stay in and a DB will be removed. Since every team Michigan has played almost never uses two or more blocky-catchy types the LB heads back to the sideline almost all the time.
Liesman specifically is interesting because Michigan usually has Ross available; I haven't noticed if sometimes he is poking his head on the field when Michigan's already in a 4-3. That would imply Michigan has a heavy package in case someone tries to manball them.
Someone was confused.
I wanted you to know how much I appreciate and enjoy your broadcasts of Notre Dame football. Your kind deference to Our Lady's University is a beautiful expression of the christian love that infuses your broadcast persona. Thank you so much! You are a good man.
May God bless you and yours.
I did flip over to the Notre Dame-UMass game when it was interesting for a minute and heard Hammond's dulcet tones. He's missed.
I assume that guy who made the Tom Hammond tie is in Congress by now.
[After THE JUMP: early drives allowed, Harbaugh's playcalling system, a search for superclusters.]
“Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude, in Los Angeles… But sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man. Aw. I lost my train of thought here. But... aw, hell. I've done introduced him enough.” –The Stranger, The Big Lebowski
In mid-2010 I got hired by a bank to be a
Customer Service Representative teller. This put me on the front lines of the never-ending war between people’s money and the financial organizations that hold it. I learned very quickly that there were two things that could turn a mild-mannered citizen into a venom-spewing troglodyte: bank fees and Rich Rodriguez.
I loved when people came into the bank wearing college gear because it meant I’d be able to easily strike up a conversation about football, and people are a little less likely to verbally assault you when you’re able to find some common ground. The operative word in that last sentence is “little,” but I digress. By the fall of 2010 people were so fixated on the abject disaster that was Michigan’s defense that they willfully ignored how incredible the offense was. This was the fuel they needed to turn the “RichRod isn’t a ‘Michigan Man’” fire into a raging inferno, and it got so out of control that I talked to people who were even criticizing Rodriguez’s wife for not being Michigan-y or Michigan-ish or something crazy like that. At one point someone complained to me about her having blonde hair.
The Microscope of Public Scrutiny was so zoomed in on Rodriguez and everything surrounding him that Dave Brandon was able to make the Free Press look stupid and then lie in wait. At some point in 2010 Brandon’s opinion aligned with the bank’s clients; to them, the Rodriguez experiment had failed. Enter: Brady Hoke.
Hoke represented everything that the anti-Rodriguez movement wanted: familiarity with the program, a defensive background, and the mixture of self-oriented humility manifest in his claim that he’d walk across the country for the job and the program-oriented bravado in the interminable fergodsakes claim.
The honeymoon phase lasted a full season, but by the end of Hoke’s fourth year the program was in a place similar to where he found it, a place all too familiar to Michigan’s fanbase. One side of the ball was above average, but the other side was in such shambles that the team collapsed under the dead weight.
"Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase. You know, because we're gonna run the power play."
Brady Hoke, 3/23/2011
The transition from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke was like switching from cold brewed coffee to run-of-the-mill drip coffee; a move away from the newer, higher-octane movement and toward what felt more traditional, the tried and true. The fallout from this was immediately apparent in the speculation that one of the most dynamic players to every don the winged helmet might transfer to a school with an offense better suited to his talents (i.e. a school that wouldn’t put him under center and have him hand the ball off).
In what may be one of the most significant events in program history (more on that later), Denard stayed. Al Borges still tried to put Denard under center and Michigan did rep power, but there were enough zone reads incorporated to allow Denard to continue waking up opposing defensive coordinators in cold sweats. You know all of this. You watched it unfold. That also means you watched crimes perpetrated against manpanda and an offense hell-bent on skinning its forehead running against a brick wall before finally, mercifully, abandoning their MANBALL-big-boy-football-noises ideals and exploding out of the shotgun.
This piece is intended to be the counterpoint to the memory’s emphasis on the spectacular. The intent isn’t to accuse, but to take a more calculated look at what exactly happened to Michigan’s offense over the last four years and see where things went well, as well as where and how things stopped functioning.
[After THE JUMP: charts and tables]
I am the proud father of a ferret.... Give me name ideas for her! pic.twitter.com/aoYSBBMlOf
— Wyatt Shallman (@WyattShallman) May 11, 2015
- Ferret Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson
- Ferret Queen Elizabeth
- Ferret, James Ferret
- Ferret Canteen
I also have names that don't start with "ferret," but those run the risk of having your animal misidentified as a marmot.
- Sir Toothsalot
- Not A Marmot, Esq.
- Aussie Punter
I would suggest you leave your candidates in the comments but I'm completely certain that would be superfluous after the bravura performance above.
They're #3. Softball gets the soft-quivalent of a one-seed in the tourney. (They only seed 16 of the 64 teams because they regionalize the tournament to save money.) That means a home regional and, should they win that, a home super-regional. Michigan has a real shot at it:
— Zach Shaw (@_zachshaw) May 11, 2015
Michigan plays Oakland at 6 on Friday. It's on ESPNU for those out of the area. Cal and Pitt are the other teams headed to AA.
This is a very Michigan softball record. Congrats to Sierra Romero for setting the NCAA record for grand slams. She is a junior.
This is kind of about sports. I've actually read this Daniel Kanheman book about the way brains work, and liked it. It has lots of things like this in it:
Professor Kahneman discussed an intriguing finding that people score higher on a test if the questions are hard to read. The particular test used in the study is the CRT or cognitive reflection task invented by Shane Frederick of Yale. The CRT itself is interesting, but what Professor Kahneman wrote was amazing to me,
“90% of the students who saw the CRT in normal font made at least one mistake in the test, but the proportion dropped to 35% when the font was barely legible. You read this correctly: performance was better with the bad font.”
I thought this was so cool. The idea is simple, powerful, and easy to grasp. An oyster makes a pearl by reacting to the irritation of a grain of sand. Body builders become huge by lifting more weight. Can we kick our brains into a higher gear, by making the problem harder?
Then he checked it.
The dot at the top is every study combined. The effect does not exist. Why do I bring this up instead of coming up with more ferret names? (MC Furo. There's another one.) Several reasons.
- I get irritated at sports stats that actively try to be interesting. Whenever a team goes up by score X and they have an interesting record, the sports people will tell you DETROIT is SIXTY BILLION AND ZERO when they LEAD BY A GOAL on TUESDAYS SINCE 120 AD. There are so many teams and so many events that somebody's got a stat like that. So they cherry-pick the outlier. You never see all the completely un-fascinating stats.
- You should be suspicious of anything that's cool and intuitive. These are just as likely to be accurate as anything that gets published. (When your sample size is 40: not likely.) They are way more likely to be picked up and passed around by frizzy-haired Explainer Laureate types. So many holy-crap stats evaporate when you try to replicate them… and those are exactly the things you're likely to hear of.
- Stats that sound crazy unlikely are almost certainly not checked. This study. Or a report from the CDC that autism has gone up 30% in the last two years that I looked up during an argument about how prevalent that was. That same article uncritically relates that the autism rates in New Jersey are four times higher than they are in Alabama. I read that and immediately think "all these numbers are horseshit." People in charge of numbers are just in charge of them. Etc.
There was a sports in there.
Sir you got some jay in your walk. Michigan reported some minor boo-boos to the NCAA since Harbaugh's hire. These include Mike Zordich accidentally mentioning Wayne Lyons at a press conference and this doozy:
Separately, on March 18, Jim Harbaugh sent an autographed team helmet and jersey to an auction organized by a former high school classmate of his to benefit suicide prevention and awareness. The donation was not reviewed beforehand by Michigan's compliance office, and the items that were auctioned ended up being used to assist a scholarship fund in the name of a student who had committed suicide, something Harbaugh was not aware of, according to U-M's self-reported violation. …
Per NCAA rules, programs/coaches may not personally donate items to benefit high school scholarship funds.
I mean, I get the potential issue there—welcome to St. Thomas Aquinas's NICK SABAN TOE AUCTION—but you gotta be kidding me.
On grad transfers. Stewart Mandel hits on the goofiest part of the NCAA's PR campaign against grad transfers:
In short, it's patently absurd for officials who claim to have athletes' best interests in mind to be threatening one of the most athlete-friendly rules in their book, not to mention one that specifically incentivizes players to graduate. No, most of them don't go on to complete their master's degrees, but that doesn't mean they don't better themselves.
The rule gives guys who may otherwise be dubious about getting that degree a major reason to do so. You have to decide whether that's helping your achieve your goals or not. If you actually want players to graduate it is.
Jim Delany 0, always 0. Mere days after he stuck up for satellite camps whilst running down a number of activities both worthy of attention (oversigning) and not (recruits decommitting), this happens:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Someone was going to give Jamel Dean a shot. In stepped Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.
Dean, the former Ohio State cornerback who was medically disqualified by the Buckeyes before ever playing a game in Columbus, announced on Friday that he will be enrolling at Auburn with the intention of playing football for the Tigers.
That's just the way things go these days. Annual signing limits, please.
Etc.: Arguments against the end of intentional fouling are not real good. Michigan is courting 6'8" Brent Hibbits as a preferred walk-on. Hibbits has a number of MAC-level offers. Wagner doing things at the U19 level. Steve Shields joins Michigan as a volunteer assistant. My goalie buddy who follows these things very closely thinks that's a big help.
Georgia's AD is jealous of "Third Down For What." Larkin at the World Championships. Everett Golson has been barred from transferring to "a number of Big Ten schools." I guarantee you one of them is M.
Henry was not the same kind of risk Chris Barnett was [Bryan Fuller]
Fliers actually a good thing?
You mentioned in the last UV that "If Michigan hangs onto 8-10 guys
they could add a few fliers and be fine. The guys they hang onto are
actually touted recruits instead of the mess that was Rodriguez's last
It seems like a large percentage of the big names on the team today
were fliers in the Hoke/RichRod class and Hoke's first class. Names
that immediately came to mind as late offers that panned out better
than expected are Norfleet, Morgan, Taylor and Henry. I wonder if
taking a few more chances on last-minute fliers wouldn't pay off for
this recruiting class?
There's a difference between late fliers you take after scouting them in secret for a while and the kind of late fliers Michigan took after Brady Hoke was hired and they needed to cram ten guys into Rodriguez's battered final class. Morgan was a Rich Rodriguez add after extensive scouting; Henry was a Hoke add after the same; Norfleet was a highly touted spread guy Michigan had room for on Signing Day; he was well known.
Here are the guys Michigan added after The Process concluded in early 2011 (minus Chris Bryant, because Bryant was on the verge of committing to Michigan for months beforehand):
- Chris Barnett (flamed out before fall camp)
- Frank Clark (check)
- Thomas Rawls (never played, now CMU feature back)
- Russell Bellomy (third string QB)
- Antonio Poole (pec injury forced retirement)
- Matt Wile (kicker)
- Keith Heitzman (backup to AJ Williams)
- Raymon Taylor (check)
- Tamani Carter (transferred after one year)
They got two players out of eight swings and they got one of those because Frank Clark went from 210 to 280 like guys who get drafted from MAC schools. That's not a great hit rate, and that hit rate was about as expected. Only Taylor, one of the two hits, had a recruiting profile even on the 3/4 star borderline. All others were fliers picked away from Vandy, Minnesota, Purdue, etc.
Now combine that with the rest of the class, which featured four more guys who didn't make it through year one (Greg Brown, Chris Rock, Kellen Jones, Tony Posada) and that's a 20 commitment class in a year you could have taken 25 that has way too many washouts.
This year is different. A guy coming in at the same time Hoke did last year would only need to add four or five guys and the guys already in the class aren't particularly likely to flame out, because that's the thing Hoke has been terrific at. They would not desperately need the the late flier guys to work out, and that's a good thing because they would not be likely to.
It shouldn't matter in a class that looks like it'll top out at 15. So I'm just sayin' if it's January 1 and Michigan has just installed a new AD I wouldn't necessarily think Hoke is safe.
[After THE JUMP: anti-mascot concept art]