How Good Is The Offense? Are We Really Asking This?
Emotionally, this is an odd week for me. I find that I don't care about Ohio State at all. They're a very good team that's going to win in a not-that-competitive game on Saturday, like they always do. I get irritated at the hurr hurr coming from the Ohio State blogosphere but mostly because Michigan's so far from their level that it seems like a waste of time.
My hate still exists but it's focused internally, as the emails pile up and message boards pile on because I have the audacity to say if it was my decision I'd keep Rich Rodriguez on the condition he reshapes the defensive staff in such a way that we can expect them to do one boring thing reasonably well. I've explained why. In a sentence, the offense is excellent and should maintain that level over the next two years as the defense digs itself out from a massive hole.
This has caused the wing of the Michigan fanbase that thinks keeping Rodriguez is absolutely insane to search high and low for various metrics in which Michigan doesn't rate well. They can't take any of the basic stats...
|Rushing Offense||10||257.36||Georgia Tech||319.36||1||Michigan||257.36|
|Total Offense||5||514.55||Oklahoma St.||552||1||Michigan||514.55|
|Sacks Allowed||T-11||0.91||Stanford||0.36||1||Penn St.||0.91|
…and they certainly can't take any of the advanced metrics that rank Michigan second* and fifth nationally, so they resort to things like in-conference points per drive. Michigan is tied for third in the league in that metric.
If you are using this stat, you have decided that Rich Rodriguez should go and are backfilling reasons. If you're trying to downplay Michigan's second-half points against Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin, you're doing the same thing. Michigan got back in those games by scoring often and quickly, by bombing away. Michigan scoring drives against Wisconsin lasted 3:57, 0:22, 2:19, and 2:57. They could do this because defenses were aligned to stop Michigan's powerful ground game even with big second-half leads, which is why Denard Robinson racked up a bunch of deep completions against single-covered WRs in the second half. Prevent defenses do not give up sixty yard touchdowns to tight ends, as Penn State did.
The whole reason the FO stats exist is to smooth out differences in opportunities and schedule strength as best they can and they indicate that whatever problems Michigan has don't include being the nation's #15 scoring offense against a schedule with two real nonconference opponents and without Northwestern (82nd in FEI D) and Minnesota (98th).
David Brandon's got a tough decision ahead of him—something it only seems that people who are still in favor of Rodriguez returning acknowledge—because the offense is elegantly constructed and deadly. Michigan's quarterback couldn't throw a pass straight in the first half and the receivers couldn't catch it when he did, but they still ended the day with more points than any Michigan team had scored against Wisconsin since 1990. The 31 they put up on Penn State were the most since 2000. They're solidly in the top five of the best metrics available with two seniors and a sophomore quarterback. They're going to obliterate the best rushing YPC mark Carr put up since the turn of the century by over a yard and finish in the top 20 in passing efficiency.
Anyone seriously arguing that Michigan's offense is not a reason to keep Rodriguez around is a raving lunatic. Period. I'm tired of being vilified for using numbers in non-abusive ways, but that's what we've come to. My hate week is about other Michigan fans.
*(FEI ranks Michigan second but has not been updated for last Week's games. Since Michigan put up a touchdown better than Wisconsin's scoring average any drop from Michigan will be minimal.)