Football: Offseason Detente Ending Rapidly
Okay, this is half mea culpa, half debate. First the self-loathing: this post was unfair to Tom Orr, in retrospect. I picked out two sections of a season preview and dismissed the whole thing based on a few sentences, which I hate when people do it to me. Snark got the better of me and the whole thing was kind of an asshole move. Tom's regular column for the OZone is very good.
Tom pulls out Hart's game by game YPC, reproduced here with some additional data:
|San Diego State:||4.8||3.4||1.4|
Those average numbers don't quite measure what I want them to since they A) include sacks, making Hart look better than he was and B) include Hart's carries, making Hart look worse than he was (in general). A is a more powerful factor than B, so mentally revise the difference downward by a little bit. A quick calculation says that .2 is a good estimation.
I wouldn't place a whole lot of emphasis on the San Diego State numbers since most of them were garnered against weak competition.
Tom's contention was that Hart "disappeared" in the final couple games, which I don't think is fair. Focusing just on the rushing stats discounts a 39-yard reception against OSU that pushed Hart's total yards in that game to an even 100. In total over the last two games of the year Hart averaged 89 yards of total offense. He didn't crush the heads of either Texas or OSU, no, but he didn't drop off the face of the earth. Tom also asserts that Hart's performance against Iowa was "average," when it was statistically quite good relative to the other teams that attempted to oppose Iowa's #5 rush defense. In fact, the overall picture is one of consistent outperformance of backs nationwide save for a strange blip against Indiana and some tough sledding against OSU.
He then takes the numbers presented above and says the following things:
Really, I don't think you can say that Michigan consistently ripped off big running games against good defenses.
I guess that depends on your definition of good and your definition of big. Certainly the Purdue game was a huge game against a very good run defense (14th nationally). Northwestern was also a huge game against an okay-to-good run defense (47th nationally and only 0.1 YPC worse than OSU). Hart had 99 against #5 Iowa, as mentioned, and 163 against a not-awful Minnesota run D. Hart did not run well against OSU, but he was adequate against Texas. That seems like a good resume to me.
This would seem to suggest that the original statement "Hart disappeared against OSU and Texas" is significantly more accurate than Brian would have you believe. If you want to make it more accurate and change it to "Hart became a very average back against most good defenses," then I think the facts would support that as well.
I think the numbers above how that Hart was consistently and significantly above average against good run defenses.
Tom then totally demolishes my claim that Hart's carries were limited by the score of the OSU game. I got nothing to dispute that. Assertion totally retracted. One point I would like to make: it's entirely possible that Michigan saw what I did when I looked at OSU's stats last year, the fact that OSU could be had in the air, and adjusted their gameplan to more heavily emphasize passing. Henne finished with 54 passing attempts, triple Hart's 18 carries, and while that has something to do with the fact that OSU limited Hart's effectiveness, I think that was part of the gameplan. Michigan's opening drive featuring two runs, seven passes, and a touchdown seems indicative of a pattern that emerges from Tom's distribution.
He responds to my assertion that Henne didn't get sacked but got knocked down a lot without any numbers. Since I don't have any of my own and confirming or disconfirming our divergent opinions would require re-watching that game, something I'm not going to do unless threatened with castration, I'm just going to let it drop.
He then tries to buttress his point on Rivas:
He (as pointed out in the article) twice missed two field goals in a game. He's good, but far from automatic.
Yes, he missed four extra points last year, but in two years of kicking for Michigan he's hit 78% of his field goal attempts, which is close to great for a collegiate kicker. "Good but far from automatic" is a far cry from "every Michigan fan holds their breath when he trots on."
In summary, sorry for being a douche, Hart roolz but OSU controlled him very well, and Rivas isn't Nugent but there's a vast continuum between "Nugent" and "suck," Rivas being perhaps 80% of the way towards Nugent.