Consistency. It may the most talked about word in Michigan football right now. It's what Coach Hoke says is holding us back. It's what Coach Nussmeier says is holding us back. It's what the players say is holding us back.
They're not wrong. While many here on the board (myself included) may have underrated both Notre Dame and Utah, it's clear that we also overrated Michigan. Once again, we find our offense is unable to do anything against a good-but-not-great opponent.
In 2014, Michigan is currently ranked #94 in scoring offense. This figure is glaring not only in its ineptitude, but also because we have already faced the two worst defenses we'll see all season in App. State and Miami (NTM). We are 97th in TFLs allowed. We are #128--dead last--in turnover margin. Yes, Notre Dame and Utah are pretty good, but App. State and Miami (NTM) are terrible.
There is a glaringly bright side: Michigan's defense is #8 in the country. It appears that while our CBs aren't the lockdown, interception-machines we hoped for, they are at least adequate and are paired with a run defense that is absurdly good. Lewis and Peppers look to be capabe and constantly improving. That said, in the red zone against Notre Dame, Utah, and even ASU and NTM, TDs came far too easily. It's a very, very good defense. Good enough to win a B1G championship. It's not yet an elite defense that can cover for its offense's sins.
What's so awful about this state of affairs is that we were just here.
In 2010, Michigan finished the season ranked 107th in the country in scoring defense. We were 93rd in sacks and #109 in turnover margin. The level of incompetence of that defense is an almost perfect match for the 2014 offense. While we could argue all day about whether or not the 2010 offense was as good as our 2014 defense is, the point is that both units were very good, but not elite enough to paper over the struggles of their counterparts.
The opposite comparisons don't stop there. Rich Rod was famous for his stubborn adherence to a set of defensive principles that didn't seem to fit his players or his matchups. Brady Hoke continues to run under-center play action passes despite his O-line's inability to block the plays, even against high-pressure, blitzing opponents like Utah. Rich Rod was a revolutionary, schematic genius on offense, Hoke is a players' coach that understands old-school, championship defense. Rich Rod was almost buttery soft--crying in press conferences and summoning Josh Groban as a motivational tool; Hoke is all about MANBALL and "physicalness" or "physicality" or whatever. Rich Rod seemed oblivious to Michigan's past, Hoke seems firmly cemented to the 1990s in virtually every way. Rich Rod's teams improved a bit each year, Hoke's seem to take a step back each season.
I could go on, but the point is clear: Hoke, in coaching terms, is almost the perfect opposite of Rich Rodriguez.
I have not given up hope that this offense can turn it around and be good enough to allow this defense the chance to win a B1G Championship. I will root as hard as I can for Michigan on every down of every game we have left on the schedule. But I feel like I've seen this movie before--or rather, I've seen the opposite of this movie before--and it's hard not to feel like I already know the ending.
The only question that remains is one of consistency: will Dave Brandon judge Brady Hoke's incomptence the same way he judged Rich Rod's? Because if this season finishes it appears it is destined to do, the only logical conclusion is another "process" from the AD...or perhaps another "process" for an AD.
Coaching Change / Offensive Philosophy Change: Time of Possession v. Defense
I originally wasn’t going to post this because I thought it was just a question in my own head, and I didn’t find a signficant result. However, given the top item in Brian’s mailbag today, and since I had already done the quick analysis, I thought it would be worthwhile to share.
The question had to do with whether Michigan’s struggles on defense were related to the fact that its offensive philosophy often results in short possessions, exposing the defense to being on the field for a longer period of time. So I decided to see if there was a correlation between a team’s offensive Time of Possession and its defense.
R-squared is 0.03 - not significant.
“Ok,” I thought, “maybe the way that DFEI is calculated already takes Time of Possession into account. What if we looked at Time of Possession versus Total Defense (yards)? Surely there would be a correlation, especially since defenses that force short possessions by the opponent (3-and-outs, turnovers, etc.) would result in more possessions by their team’s offense, and more Time of Possession.”
R-squared is 0.14 - still not really significant.
“Fine,” I said, “maybe I should look at Time of Possession versus Scoring Defense - because that’s what really counts. An offense that can control the ball can help protect its defense, and keep the score down."
R-squared is 0.06 - not significant.
Finally, I reached back into one of the motivations for looking at this question to begin with. Why would anyone talk about Time of Possession on offense as if it were an important factor on defense, especially with respect to Michigan? Could it be because Stanford leads the country in Time of Possession, and one might try to argue that a CC that shifts the offensive philosophy towards a more ball-control, time-of-possession system would be a good way to help Michigan’s defense?
So what if we looked at the Change in Time of Possession from last year to this year, and compared it to the Change in Total Defense (least insignificant result from above)?
R-squared is 0.14 - still not really significant.
What this says to me is that there are too many variables that influence how a defense performs; one cannot boil it down to a simple thing like Time of Possession (or experience on a depth chart, for that matter). All of those factors may play a part, but no one individual factor is significantly correlated to a team’s performance on defense. Football is just too complex to boil down into simplistic truisms.
***** ADDENDUM *****
A related question has been raised - whether there is a link between the number of possessions and the performance of the defense. I used cfbstats.com to add up the number of 4th down conversion attempts, punts, passing TDs, rushing TDs, FG attempts, Interceptions thrown, and Fumbles lost to calculate the total number of offensive possessions (this may exclude offensive possessions at the end of each half where time simply runs out, and does not differentiate between an offense trying to score v. trying to run out the clock).
Looking at Offensive Possessions versus Defensive FEI:
R-squared is 0.004 - not significant.
What about Offensive Possessions versus Total Defense?
R-squared is 0.13 - still not really significant.
Finally, what about Offensive Possessions versus Scoring Defense?
R-squared is 0.12 - again, still not really significant.
Obviously, if the underlying parameters of a model do not show correlation, one should not expect a calculated value based on those parameters to show a correlation. Nevertheless, for the sake of completion, here is the Average Time per Possession versus Total Defense:
R-squared, as expected, is still only 0.12 - not really significant.
I'm afraid even looking at number of possessions rather than simply time of possession doesn't change the analysis. This suggests to me that the style of offense does not have a significant impact on the performance of the defense.
Every snap except the clock killing Bauserman drive.
Sandwiched between the Broekhuizen punt TD drive and the kick return there was 6 minutes of hope.
Choose your poison - Which would you rather have - our 2010 Defense or our 2008 Offense?
The Threet/Sheridamnit led offense ranked 109th in the nation in total offense (290.75 ypg) and 99th in scoring offense at 20.25 points per game. This year's defense is ranked 112th in total defense giving up 445.18 ypg and 99th in scoring defense allowing 33.55 points per game. Ironically almost identical suckitude.
As painful as it is to watch, I would much rather have this years defense rather than the 2008 offense. With our offense we have a chance to win every game (and it's fun to watch). On the other hand it is generally true that you can't win if you can't score any points- witness the 2008 10-13 Toledo debacle.
No, this is not another stoopid "lets have Lewan and Robinson line up in backfield as QB and put Denard at slot..." threads. I have a trick play guaranteed to work for the OSU game...and it has nothing to do with the offense.
Let's play 17 people on defense. We could have 4 linemen, 4 linebackers, 3 deep safeties and 6 cb (over-under double of all their receivers). I think we could hold them to few enough points to mak the game interesting.