OR: MICHIGAN'S 2013 OFFENSIVE LINE
This isn't actually a column, though it is titled like one. I just, I mean, you know… Bill Connelly at Football Study Hall has these metrics that attempt to rate offensive lines by massaging the available stats in a way that attempts to remove outside influences.
It's difficult, of course, to evaluate the coordination and strength of five to seven guys with crude tools like rushing yards. It's like bashing your XBox with a rock in the hopes it will interpret that as a desire to open Netflix. But no matter how crude the tool, Michigan's 2013 offensive line stands out as the pinnacle of inky blackness.
ADJUSTED LINE YARDS
A yards per carry mark modified to hack out long runs and emphasize getting across the LOS. Yards 0-4 are counted 100%, 5-10 50%, and yards past eleven dropped; TFLs are magnified by a factor of 1.2. So a four yard run is worth four points, a ten yard run is worth seven points, a twenty yard run is worth seven points, and TFLs are all 20% worse than they are in the normal stats.
MICHIGAN'S RANK: 118th of 126.
WAIT, THERE WERE WORSE SAD SACKS? Yes. Miami (Not That Miami), SDSU, Cal, FIU, CMU, Akron, Sothern Miss, and UMass. Just above Michigan were WMU and Buffalo. This is the company we are keeping. If you look further and further up you find West Virginia, Virginia Tech, South Florida, and Purdue. Looking up at Purdue.
LINE YARDS ON STANDARD DOWNS
IE, not passing downs. Hold on to your butts.
MICHIGAN'S RANK: 126.
GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY. Michigan acquired 2.19 yards per attempt in this metric. #125, Florida International, was at 2.25.
LINE YARDS ON PASSING DOWNS
Give up and punts.
MICHIGAN'S RANK: 107
THAT SOUNDS PRETTY GOOD! They had a lot more practice at this activity than other teams.
A stat with a dumb name that is a straight percentage of carries going for at least five yards. Ohio State was #1 with 56%. That sounds impossible.
MICHIGAN'S RANK: 111th.
ARE ANY OF THESE GETTING OUT OF TRIPLE DIGITS? Nope. And here's the thing. I am about to give you the number here. 34.5%
THERE IS NO GODDAMN WAY OVER A THIRD OF MICHIGAN'S CARRIES WENT FOR FIVE YARDS. I remember three, myself.
POWER SUCCESS RATE
Third/fourth and short conversion rate on runs. "Short" == one or two yards. Includes goal line carries.
MICHIGAN'S RANK: 120th.
YOU'RE ABOUT TO TELL ME ANOTHER IMPOSSIBLY HIGH-SEEMING NUMBER. 52%.
ARE YOU TELLING ME MICHIGAN MADE IT MORE THAN HALF THE TIME WHEN THEY RAN ON THIRD AND NOTHING. Yes.
Percentage of runs going for zero or fewer yards.
DON'T EVEN BOTHER TELLING ME. 126th.
I TOLD YOU NOT TO TELL ME. 30% of Michigan's runs didn't get past the line of scrimmage.
ADJUSTED SACK RATE
This one is rather complicated. From Football Outsiders:
Sack Rate represents sacks divided by pass plays, which include passes, sacks, and aborted snaps. It is a better measure of pass blocking than total sacks because it takes into account how often an offense passes the ball. Adjusted Sack Rate adds adjustments for opponent quality, as well as down and distance (sacks are more common on third down, especially third-and-long). More here.
MICHIGAN'S RANK: 112th. With two tackles about to be drafted.
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME
You knew the above things in your heart. The above things are a gremlin sitting on your heart, giving it noogies when your thoughts turn to football. I should not have brought them up without a reason.
Here it is: unless Al Borges was as incompetent as Greg Robinson running a 3-3-5 defense he didn't know anything about, there isn't much chance that Michigan gets into a place that would allow them to have a definitively positive season next year unless the defense is capital-E elite. I took Connelly's data dump and looked for big shifts in adjusted line yards to the positive.
It's not a good look. There are approximately 842 year-to-year transitions in the document; 70 of them are leaps of 50 or more spots. (One of them is a hundred-spot leap from 119th to 19th at… sigh, Arizona in 2012.) Amongst the truly weak, improvement is expected… barely. Teams ranked 80th or worse from 2005 to 2011 saw an average increase of 7.3 points in this metric. That would take Michigan from 118th all the way to 101st.
While this is still bashing something with a rock that is a pretty grim baseline to attempt to deviate from. Michigan's particular circumstances do not scream deviation, meanwhile. They lose two really good tackles. The depth chart at that spot is now flat-out scary, and the interior line looks like it will still be composed entirely of underclassmen and a former walk-on. In fact, Graham Glasgow is probably going to be the only upperclassman anywhere on the line.
So pray that every nasty thing said about Al Borges here was true, because it looks like the only hope for a Mattison-like bounce is an equal level of coaching malpractice from Doug Nussmeier's predecessor. Otherwise, digging out of this might take so long that Michigan changes coaches again.