Very interesting analysis. It is of course disappointing that we took so many games against bad opponents down to the wire, but outside of the MSU game (which was an awful matchup for us for all sorts of reasons), we really had a great shot in every one. I remember last offseason MSU fans were talking about how they lost every game by one possession or something like that, and that they expected that with another year of coaching and some better luck they could improve vastly - they have certainly been validated in that. With another year of coaching (and hopefully better coaching - knock on wood) we could be in a similar position next year.
Just One Play...
Michigan’s upset bid against Ohio State came up just short when Devin Gardner’s pass on the two-point conversion attempt was intercepted, leaving us with a disappointing 7-5 record on the regular season. This was not the first time Michigan was one play away from victory this season. Consider:
We had two attempts to make a game-winning field goal in overtime against Penn State but couldn’t.
We had the ball 58 yards from the end zone down by 4 points with two minutes left against Nebraska, but couldn’t pick up a first down.
We had the ball at the Iowa 39, down by 4, with 2 minutes left, but Devin Gardner fumbled.
If you change just one play at the end of these games, Michigan could by sitting at 11-1 right now and looking for a BCS bid. (MSU would unfortunately still be representing the Legends Division in the Big-10 Championship Game). On the other hand, Michigan escaped with some narrow victories this season as well:
If Michigan hadn’t stuffed Akron on two plays inside the 3 yard line, we would have lost.
If UConn could have managed a touchdown on their final drive, we would have lost.
Against Northwestern, If Brendan Gibbons had missed his field goals at the end of regulation or in overtime, we would have lost.
Just as easily as Michigan could have finished the season 11-1, we could be 4-8 and prepping ourselves from another episode of our least favorite reality TV show, Dave Brandon’s The Process. That’s a huge spread. I wanted to see how it stacked up to previous years. I’m looking at all the games in which just one late-game play could have changed the outcome.
Actual record: 7-5 (Bowl pending)
Best case: 11-1
Worst case: 4-8.
Range: 7 games
Actual record: 8-5
Best case: 10-3
Worst case: 5-7 (no bowl)
Range: 5 games
One play from a win: Couldn’t score go-ahead touchdown with 5 minutes left against OSU. Gave up touchdown with 11 seconds left against South Carolina.
One play from a loss: Stopped Air Force’s final drive to preserve 6-point win, kicked game winning field goal against MSU, Robinson to Roundtree bomb sets up tying field goal and overtime win against Northwestern.
2011: Hoke’s First Season
Actual record: 11-2
Best case: 12-1
Worst case: 8-5
Range: 4 games
One play from a win: Couldn’t score on 1st and goal from the 3 against Iowa (although Iowa let by 8, so a two-point conversion and overtime would have still been needed)
One play from a loss: Michigan gains, loses, and regains lead against Notre Dame all in last 72 seconds. Ohio State’s final drive ends with interception. Gibbons OT field goal beats Virginia Tech.
2010: RichRod’s Last Season
Actual record: 7-6
Best case: 7-6
Worst case: 4-8 (no bowl)
Range: 3 games
One play from a win: none(!) All 6 losses were by minimum of 10 points.
One play from a loss: Robinson scores with 27 seconds left against Notre Dame. Robinson scores with 17 seconds left against Indiana (had been tied). Michigan beats Illinois in triple overtime.
Actual record: 5-7
Best case: 8-4 (plus bowl eligibility)
Worst case: 3-10
Range: 5 games
One play from a win: OT loss to MSU, two-minute drill fails while down by 2 against Iowa, tying two-point conversion fails against Purdue.
One point from a loss: Forcier to Mathews gives Michigan lead with 11 seconds left against Notre Dame, Michigan takes lead with 2 minutes left and then intercepts Indiana’s last chance.
2008: RichRod’s First Season
Actual record: 3-9
Best case: 7-5 (plus bowl eligibility)
Worst case: 2-10
Range: 5 games
One play from a win: two minute drill fails down by 2 against Utah, game-tying 26-yard field goal misses against Toledo, Purdue drives the field for go-ahead touchdown in final minute, two minute drill fails down by 7 against Northwestern.
One play from a loss: Wisconsin’s game-tying two point conversion fails with 13 seconds left.
2007: Carr’s final season
Actual record: 9-4
Best case: 10-3
Worst case: 6-7
Range: 4 games
One play from a win: game winning field goal blocked against App State
One play from a loss: Penn State’s 2-minute drill fails with M leading by 5, MSU’s 2-minute drill fails with M leading by 4, Tebow goes 0/4 on Florida’s last chance drive.
Actual record: 11-2
Best case: 11-2
Worst case: 10-3
Range: 1 game
One play from a win: none (M/OSU was close, but never just one play away)
One play from a loss: PSU’s 2-minute drill fails with M leading by 7
Actual record: 7-5
Best case: 12-0(!)
Worst case: 4-7 (no bowl)
Range: 8 games
One play from a win: M’s two minute drill fails against Notre Dame, Wisconsin scores go-ahead TD with 24 seconds left, Minnesota kicks game-winning field goal with 5 seconds left, OSU scores go-ahead TD with 24 seconds left, Michigan’s desperation lateral-fest ends one lateral short of a touchdown against Nebraska.
One play from a loss: Michigan beats MSU in overtime, Henne to Manningham with 1 second left beats PSU, Michigan beats Iowa in overtime
Notes: This season’s record of 7 games decided in the final minutes is something we’ve not seen for 8 years. Those critical of Brady Hoke may compare this year’s 7-5 record to the 7-6 season that got Rich Rodriguez fired. However, it’s worth noting that unlike this year (where every game went down to the wire except MSU), the 2010 season featured losses by 10, 10, 17, 20, 30, and 38 points. A better comparison may be the 2005 season (known then as “The Year of Infinite Pain”) in which 8 of the games went down to the wire, including all 5 of the losses. Those looking for reasons for optimism may be reminded that the year following that, Michigan recovered and only a narrow loss to OSU (plus politicking by Urban Meyer) cost Michigan a spot in the National Championship game.
I don't like the loss... or ANY of the losses, but I agree that it gives one confidence that there IS possibly an intelligent long term plan and vision for this team. That Hoke's 7-5 is more reassuring than RR's 7-6 for that reason.
I'd also be interested in comparison with Urban Meyer's progress thus far. Is Ohio and Meyer's greater success due to:
A) Meyer starting out with more talent?
B) Not as dramatic a change in personnel needed to go from Tressel to Meyer than from Rodriguez to Hoke?
C) Meyer simply has a better staff and/or philosophy than us?
D) Ohio football enjoys more financial/AD/booster support than we do and this is ultimately a problem of lack of budget?
E) NCAA tinfoil conspiracy?
And, question X:
X) Do you feel that yesterday's game means we should expect to be MORE competitive or LESS competitive in the future?
Good analysis. Too often as a fan we just look at how the breaks go against our team and not how fortunate sometimes we are when the breaks go our way.
It also points out (1) how hard it is to have a great season, and (2) that we still need to improve - the really bad losses were Iowa and Nebraska - could have won those games without a break - and MSU was just badly outplayed on both sides.
was not exactly a slam dunk. Maybe not 1 play, but Countess intercepted in end zone at end of game. Turn that around and maybe one more play and M loses.
Seems like the margin between very good seasons and very poor or mediocre seasons has been pretty small for quite a few years no matter how you slice it.
You have to like the perseverence of this group this year and yesterday for sure. No matter what had happened along the way, they kept at it. Pretty good.
EDIT; In 2006, you could say the hit out of bounds in the 4th quarter against Ohio was the one play and call that cost M that game. So I'd say our best that year was a trip to National Championship game, at least if "best" is meaning optimistic.
I posted this elsewhere, but actually think it applies more here.
After this game, I think Borges' questionable playcalling over the season was less due to incompetence than wanting to groom this team for pocket passing & power running but not having the veterans at the skill positions capable of executing under that scheme efficiently.
With the Ohio game, all that temporarily goes out the window and Borges demonstrated what he could do when only thinking about short-term win-this-week-at-all-costs and not long-term offense development.
So I know I'll get skewered, but as long as Hoke wants him, I think Borges should stay, now more than ever (furthermore I don't see any compelling OC alternatives out there). And I'm sick of transitioning almost as much as I'm sick of losing to Ohio and MSU.
So Borges showed me he can play call, he recognizes his own team's strengths and weaknesses, but was playcalling despite those weaknesses in order to develop the youth in what will be the long term offensive philosophy. Maddening this year, but for the first time I am confident it will be much, much better next year.
Sick of the panic. Keep calm, Carry On.
Don't let the outrage blind you to what yesterday revealed about long term.
Why do you think the Ohio & MSU fans/guest analysts keep suggesting we shouldn't "settle" for these performances but need to change coaches again?
Because that is exactly what they want us to do: panic, overreact, become more impatient, and keep the program forever in transition.
I only hope the panicked rumor mongering, probably stoked by our rivals, haven't cost us Peppers.
Sorry, but that's genuinely how I feel.
could argue that he has it in himself to be a good, not great, OC. However, Funk has no such track record. In fact, looking at his resume, he has the weakest resume that I can think of. Why Hoke picked him is beyond me. So the least Hoke could do is to replace Funk and there are plenty good OL coaches out there.
I am still pretty down on Borges. I think you play to win every game. But a very strong showing in the bowl could change my mind, I suppose.
oh man.. it still haunts me too. Who was the lineman that hit him?
Shawn Crable. I was at that game and I will never forget it. When can we get instant classics to go our way?
Notre Dame would like to have a word with you.
Penn St. 2005
Michigan St. 2005, 2007
Washington 2001 (?)
Northwestern last year and this year
Alabama (Orange Bowl)
We've had a couple go our way. I bet Ball St. would still like pass interference called in 2006.
But what about instant classics against OSU? Gotta dig deep for that. 1997, I guess?
Interesting analysis. It just goes to show how the difference between mediocrity and either greatness or suckitude is often just a few plays here or there, and it's one of the reasons playing numerous underclassmen is usually not a recipe for great success. Sure, there are the exceptional atheletes who sometimes come in and right of the bat and make the team better. But more often, their mistakes lead to a missed opportunity to keep a drive alive here or inablitilty to get a stop on third and long there.
tally of "what could have been" in our heads, even discuss it in conversation ... "We should be 11-1 right now if it weren't for _____!" Or even "Ohio should have been 8-4 in 2001!" Thanks for taking the time to put it in writing visually.
Some of your example are not exactly "one singular" play away. I think scenarios where either we or our opponent "failed in a 2-minute drill" are a stretch, even though granted, one play could be a touchdown bomb or something to get us into the needed field goal range (in which case we'd need to Execute™ the field goal). The '11 Iowa game was painful but as we just witnessed yesterday and earlier this year, a two-point conversion PLUS an overtime win are not 50%+ propositions.
The number games we can really look at through this lens of truly coming down to "one play" are remarkable though.
'13 - The Akron final play, the Northwestern fire drill field goal, a handful of chances to seal the win against Penn State, and the Ohio 2-point conversion. That's a best case 2-win swing to 9 but can also be looked at as a wash, as we could have lost to Akron (gulp) and NW ... the Nebraska and Iowa losses were frustrating but there was no single play that could have won that game. Because M was down by 4, Devin fumbling did not ruin a tying field goal chance it only would have extended the drive. Also, Morgan's INT against UConn was a huge single play (UConn could have run the clock way down if not for that) but even so, at the time there was still a lot of time left in the game.
'12 - The pass to Dileo to put us in FG range to beat MSU; the hail mary to Roundtree against NW; us stopping South Carolina on that final pass ... another 2-win swing.
'11 - I think MSU was more of a one-play scenario than Iowa. Remember we had the ball inside the 5 yard line and could convert on 4th down to tie the game ... but even that is a stretch. We could have easily been 8-5 that year with losses to ND (we had NUMEROUS chances to lose that game, much like the '13 PSU game only in reverse), VT and OSU, but I'd call the "one play" against Ohio the overthrow of Posey just before the interception.
I'm not going to go back any further but once again, it's incredible how ONE PLAY in each game can make a huge difference. I think that's why we admire these kids so much and love this game.
My initial reaction when seeing the 2010 results was the same as yours. This season looks much better than that when you consider we could have had a (much) better record, while in 2010 they won all the close games.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for winning all of your close games.
I have found that very few sports fans are willing to admit that chance plays a great role in a teams record. But the reality is that any game is simply a series of plays that are not necessarily connected to each other. A bounce of a ball, the sun getting in the eyes of a receiver, a referees call (or non call)- these can determine a game and a season. People love to praise or trash coaches rather than say they got lucky or unlucky. A team that just barely beats another team 5 times in a row is viewed as "dominating". Fans invest their egos into their teams- they don't feel comfortable with the idea that chance often plays such a large role in sports. But chance plays a large role in life too. Were you ever nearly killed? Was their a decision you could of easily made that would have really hurt you? Chance isn't everything- some teams really do dominate- but chance accounts for a lot more than people are willing to admit.
is a good thing now?
Wow. The spin doctors are in full effect.
The problem isn't us missing the kick against penn state... but that we put ourselves (in part due to the ineptness of Borges) in a position where it came down to that point.
Championship teams don't have coaches that put the team in situations like that against team they outmatch, period. This will not be a Championship caliber team if the coaches throw away downs from the outset. At least with Mattison's defensive performance outside of the 4th down against nebraska, the players were largely put in the correct optimal place, but could not execute. (See Furman giving up touchdowns to OSU).
Yeah, Urban Meyer would never allow that.
35-28 vs. Cal
17-16 vs. MSU
52-49 vs. Indiana
29-22 vs. Purdue OT
21-14 vs. Wisconsin OT
26-21 vs. Michigan
31-24 vs. Wisconsin
40-30 vs. Northwestern (end of game TD)
42-41 vs. Michigan
He'd never be in a close game vs. a team he completely outmatched.
I dont remember calling OSU a championship team.
So you wouldn't be happy with 24-0?
And Saban has lost games no more played close and still won the title. Heck, last time he wasn't SEC champ he was national champ.
You said championship teams don't play close games. You were wrong because the vast majority play close games to inferior competition. You're just trying to find some angle where what you said wasn't ridiculous.
Of course championship teams play close games. But they play close games against quality teams. And at the very least their coaches do not DERP the game away. Something on the field happens, fumbles, interceptions, 100 YARD FIELD GOAL RETURNS. Not just the coach throwing away downs putting the team in a bad place in 7 out of 12 games.
My point is championship teams do not have coaches that throw away a quarter of all downs in 7 out of 12 games. And none of those teams OSU played really compare to the Akron Zips. as bad as boilerquest looks, they ain't the zips.
The best coach in college football didn't have his team prepared to stop a missed FG return, and as a result they lost the game, the division, the conference and a shot at a national championship.
And before you say that was a fluke - of course it was, but did you see the return? Only one Alabama player actually hustled to the ball (#29, the holder, I think). Everyone else took a few seconds to figure out, oh, I guess we should try to stop that guy. There were maybe three Alabama players in the picture the whole return!
#4 Auburn equivalent to the Akron Fighting Zips. OK, good point, you got me there.
But if you are paying close attention, Alabama isn't going to win the SEC this year. so uh I geuss my point still stands. Even with the great Nick Saban, you can't make dumb calls and when a championship. Just one bad call and Alabama is done in terms of winning a championship. Better luck next year Saban.
Compare that to about a quarter of the downs that Borges throws away. We have no chance of being a Championship Caliber team.
We actually could have gone 11-2 in 2012. The other game was ND - we weren't quite one play away, but they converted a 3rd and long in the 4th quarter to ice the game. If that had fallen incomplete, we'd have gotten the ball back with a chance to tie.
Good post. Being a fan is really hard. Games come down to single plays quite often. Seasons come down to single games.
Nick Saban took a chance on a 57-yard kick. While watching, I suggested they try a Hail Mary instead, as the kicker was simply not going to make the kick and I thought there was a decent chance for a block, as we had already seen one. The kick is short and the guy returns it all the way. Sorry, Bama. Fire Saban?
If from this point on. Nick Saban continues to go for 57 yard field goals without fielding a coverage unit. and opposing teams keep getting 108 yard FG returns cause Saban decided to be a lizard brain and stick to his guns cause players "just aren't executing" on the field goal attempts.
Then yes, fire Saban. Until then I think Alabama should give Saban another year and let talent and depth on the field goal unit come in. It's only gonna get better for them. That Kicker is a redshirt freshman. He's only gonna get better.
The MGoCommunity, in defense of horrible calls, I feel like I'm in the twilight zone.
With another year of experience, I think some of these nail biters turn into more decided wins.
the analysis treats all close games as somewhat equal. This was an epically soft schedule.
We had a tendency this year to play to the level of our competition. In a year when so many of our opponents were (or should have been) overmatched from a talent standpoint, it's truly an indictment of the game planning that we struggled so much.
So I am not that reassured by the numbers here. I do, however, appreciate ther research. If we could find a way to keep the data collected here and then add something related to quality of opponent, home vs. away, etc., I think we'd really be onto something.
It's really helpful to have all the one-score games compiled like this. If anything, I think this suggests that our record pretty accurately reflects the way we've been playing. As a guesstimate, I'm assuming we shoud win about 60% of one-score games due to usually having a slight talent advantage (at least based on recruiting star levels).
If we saw Hoke or RR was something like 11-1 or 2-10 in one score games, I'd say that we were particularly lucky or unlucky, and that maybe our overall record doesn't really reflect how well we were playing.
But Hoke is 9-7, and RR was 7-7 in the one-score games compiled here. This seems to be just about right. It's easy to just look at the ones that didn't go our way and think we were a couple plays away from greatness, but this year we were equally close to 2008 levels. Nice to put some numbers behind those gut feelings though. Thanks, Brhino.