no wonder we hired Hunter Lochmann
Quick refresher on how this works-everything here is listed in terms of points versus average performance. For more info you can go here.
Wanted to do an overview of the leading Heisman candidates, look at a few of the interesting fringe candidates, and throw in a few controversial candidates (one especially around these parts).
The defensive candidatesI have struggled with how best to evaluate defensive players. My numbers give every play a value based on the success of the play relative to competition, down and distance and field position. For offensive players its pretty easy to assign value to RB's on running plays and QBs and WRs on passing plays. Sure there is a substantial effort put in by the blockers and fakes and the like, but overall, this works pretty well for offense. For defense, it's a little trickier. The 11 players on defense have a much fuzzier role in the outcome of any given play. A tackle is a tackle in normal stats, whether its after a 20 yard gain or for no gain. What I ultimately decided on was that players should be rewarded for making a play that has a negative value change for the offense. Sure a touchdown saving tackle could be a huge play even if its after a 20 yard gain, but for the most part a play that puts the offense in a worst position should be credited to the defensive player or players who made the tackle/forced the fumble/made the pick. All of this is limited by the quality of the play by play information available to me.
Players are awarded points in two categories, quantity and quality. A big fumble or interception can be worth up 10 points depending on the length of the return and the field position of the offense. That play has huge value, but is somewhat of a fluky hard to repeat type of play. By looking at both the quantity and quality, you are evaluating defensive players based on their ability to consistently make plays (quantity) and their ability to make really big plays (quality).
Obviously the scorching hot candidate this year, currently leading 1st place vote getter.
The rankings tend to favor linebackers, but that didn't stop Mr. Suh from tearing up the numbers. For the season, he was good for 72 negative plays (2nd nationally) and nearly 43 points of lost value on those plays (6th). Overall his total of 115 points (not sure if this is the right way to combine them, welcome to any thoughts) puts him 2nd overall. An absolutely outstanding year for a member of the #2 rated overall defense, worth 12 points a game as a total unit.
The Beast of Mgoblog has obviously not gotten any national attention, but let's look at how his numbers compare nationally.
Graham made 53 negative plays on the season, a respectable 23rd nationally and those plays took away 41 points in value from opposing offenses. 94 points overall ranks him 9th overall.
What becomes debatable is whether this 9th overall rating is more impressive considering Michigan's total defense was ranked 70th in the country or less impressive.
No matter what your take on the team defense issue, it is clear that whether you are looking UFR or By The Numbers, Graham was truly a beast and its a shame that the team's lack of success has limited his exposure.
Wide ReceiversNo Receivers are getting much attention this year, but the ones that are getting a bit of pub seem to be getting it deservedly so.
Danario Alexander, Freddie Barnes and Golden Tate hold the top three spots in my rankings and are 3 of the 4 receivers noted to be receiving votes. The fourth is the scorned Mardy Gilyard who comes in at 28th overall, but is also the key return man on the nation's #2 kick return unit.
Running BacksMy numbers value quarterbacks much higher than they do running backs. The top QBs are directly worth 10-12 points per game above average while the top RBs are "only" worth 4-5 points per game.
With that said, there is a clearcut leader in my tightly backed running back rankings, and it's not the guy who is going to win tomorrow. Toby Gerhart of Stanford is the only running back that has rated out +5 or better on the season.
Mark Ingram comes in at a respectable 7th and is 5th of players from the Big 6 conferences. However, the 2 point per game gap between Ingram and Gerhart is the same as the difference between Ingram and the 75th rated running back in the country. And this is after you account for competition. If you look at the unadjusted numbers, Gerhart comes in second to Donald Buckram of UTEP at nearly +7 while Ingram stays around +3. The gap between them is now as big as the gap between Ingram and the 150th rated RB in the country. If you are going to pick a running back this year, Ingram is a good choice, but Gerhart is clearly the best choice.
For those interested, CJ Spiller only checks in at #25 and stays just outside of the top 5 if you add in his prowess as a kick returner.
QuarterbacksSo I tell you the QBs are where all the action is at but then I put up what feels like a Simmons-esque length before even talking about a single one.
Both finalists are obviously big name quarterbacks for name schools. They had good years, but neither had individual seasons that I would deem Heisman worthy.
Colt McCoy finished the regular season at +9 which is good for 9th nationally. Tim Tebow was good for +7 (19) on the season and that is factoring in his top 10 quarterback rushing rank.
So who does that leave left?
I think if Tony Pike from Cincinnati didn't get hurt midseason, this award would be all his. The combined QB play from the Bearcats was worth 10 points a game and would have ranked 5th overall if it would have come from a single player. Case Keenum from Houston (+12, 1st) and Max Hall from BYU (+10, 4th) had outstanding years for quality mid-major programs but they couldn't get the defensive help they needed to get the wins required to garner the national interest. Kellen Moore of Boise (+7, 16th) had a highly efficient season but his competition was too weak to keep his numbers high enough. Jimmy Clausen (+9, 5th) did all he could to give us more Weis but quarterbacks don't win the Heisman going 6-6. But there was one name that really surprised me that was at the top of the rankings all year long. Ryan Mallett. Before adjusting for competition, he had a very respectable +8 and 12th overall rating. But when you factor in the SEC defenses he did it against, his rating leaps to +12, a sliver below Case Keenum. The Michigan transfer put up one of the least talked about great seasons in recent memory. In SEC play, he played 7 of the top 35 pass defenses in the country and still he managed one of the top seasons by either traditional or modern statistics. Ryan Mallet posted a nearly 150 quarterback rating facing the number defensive strength of schedule in the country.
My Ballot(s)If I had a ballot here is how I would rank the 5 finalists.
If I had a ballot (and balls) this is what it would look like:
Had a request to do this for a couple more games, figured I would give the Game of the Century of the Year of the Week a shot.
Alabama Running GameAlabama rush offense: -1 (75th)
Florida rush defense: +3 (13)
Alabama has one of those deceiving rushing games that depending on your opinion, is where advanced analysis can shine some counter-intuitive light or completely falls apart.
Despite averaging over 200 yards a game on the ground, on a total value basis, the Bama rushing attack is a net negative for the team. A lot of that is due to the fact that they are accumulating the 200 yards on nearly 40 attempts per game. I believe there is some unaccounted for value to an offense that is able to stick with the run that many times in a game, but this is still not a rush offense that is going to light up the scoreboard. Keeping Tim Tebow off of the field with grinding drives will be good enough.
Mark Ingram had been getting serious Heisman talk until last week's stinker. Going into the game Ingram rated +3 and was a top 10 running back. But after Auburn held him to a -8 he dropped to 31st rated and barring a dominating performance Saturday, likely out of the Heisman consideration.
Florida's rush defense has been one of the nation's best, allowing a NCAA low 3 rush TD's on the season. Florida's rush defense will be called upon to not only slow but to shut down Alabama's rushing game. As the Crimson Tide look to keep the ball away from Florida's offense, Florida's defense will look to continue its trend of scaring teams out of the run, seeing only 23 rushes during non-garbage time a game, 4th lowest in the NCAA.
Projected Outcome: -4, 30 carries, 110 yards, 1 TD
Alabama Pass OffenseAlabama pass offense: +4 (17)
Florida pass defense: +8 (3)
Alabama's success in the passing is likely a direct result of their ability to run the ball. Teams are loaded up to slow it down, which as seen above can be done to some extent, but the efficient Alabama passing game has been able to take advantage of the opportunities they have.
Greg McElroy has been solid at QB this year but his individual rank of 38th, 20 spots below the team, is a direct result of an offensive line that has not allowed many too take him down.
Florida's pass defense is a whole other animal. Even without suspended defensive end Dunlap, Florida's pass defense should be quite a challenge for McElroy and crew. The Gator pass D ranks 3rd overall, but on a per play basis it's not even close. Averaging nearly 0.4 points per play, no other team in the nation averages more than 0.3.
Projected Outcome: -4 15/25 150 yards 1 TD 1 INT
Florida Rush OffenseFlorida rush offense: +4 (5)
Alabama rush defense: +4 (7)
Clash of the titans right here. Two great units will go head to head when Florida tries to put the ball on the ground. Florida features a variety of backs and of course, the Tebow child. Demps and Tebow add most of the value to the Florida rushing game, each contributing about 2 points per game on the ground.
The varied attack of the Florida running game will go against one of only two defenses in the country to allow less than 100 yards a game on the ground. Only Texas and TCU have scared off offensive coordinators from the run more than Alabama, who has only seen 22 rushes a game against them in competitive situations.
Projected Outcome: +0, 30 carries, 120 yards 2 TD
Florida Pass OffenseFlorida pass offense: +3 (28)
Alabama pass defense: +9 (1)
Although Florida has had a very solid passing game this year, this is the first category that Alabama comes out of with a clear advantage. Tebow comes in as the 17th rated QB in the country but as noted above, much of that is due to his prowess as a runner. If Alabama is going to be the SEC survivor, big stops or interceptions in the passing look to be their best opportunity.
Projected outcome: -6 20/35 160 yards 1 TD 1 INT
Rest of the PictureKicking:Alabama, big
Florida kickoff: Even
Alabama kickoff: Even
Alabama looks to have the advantage in special teams. Tiffin has been one of the country's top kickers and Florida's kicking crew has struggled. If their are going to be fireworks in the return game, Alabama's returns have been better however Florida has done an excellent job of limiting returns on the season.
Both teams have been in the top 20 in the nation in turnover margin. Florida's work has been worth about a touchdown more year to date, due in large part to a top 5 +58 from picking off opponent passes. Interceptions may be hard to come by, however, as Alabama is fifth best nationally with only 10 points lost to interceptions.
PredictionsFlorida 21 Alabama 19
Cincinnati 34 Pitt 27
Fresno State 31 Illinois 24
Clemson 31 Georgia Tech 30
Texas 24 Nebraska 14
Wisconsin 35 Hawaii 21
All numbers are points per game vs an average team. They are adjusted for strength of opponent. No 1AA games or stats are included. For more detailed questions on how the numbers come about, click here.
Expected PointsMichigan got exactly what it wanted here. The pace was theirs. For the game, Michigan had a season high 15 drives and a season high 29 expected points. Contrast that to Ohio State who had 13 drives (made possible by the defensive TD) and only 21 expected points. That is a huge gap in expected points for Michigan. Ohio State's defense definitely deserves a lot of credit, but Michigan had the opportunities to get some points, even if 28+ was a bit unrealistic.
Rush OffensePredicted: +0, 35 carries, 130 yards 1TD
Actual: -5, 29 carries, 94 yards 0 TD
For the second straight game, the Michigan running couldn't find it's footing against an elite rush defense.
For the second straight game, Vincent Smith continues to stake a solid claim to next year's starting spot. Smith posted his second straight +4 (adjusted for competition and includes receptions) and was Michigan's most productive back both on the ground and through the air.
Pass OffensePredicted: -6, 18/30 175 yards 2 TD 1 INT
Actual: -12, 24/43 224 yards 1 TD 4 INT
Michigan has only lost 21 points to interceptions thrown this year, which is best in the Big 10. And interceptions are where OSU has made their living this year, racking up a +54 on picks for the season. If Michigan can keep away from bad interceptions, and a pick up a lucky bounce or two, could be a ball game.About that...
Not quite HOLD ONTO THE BALL level jinxing going on there, but still, pretty disheartening to go back and reread it. The amazing thing is that the bounces generally went OSU's way and it was still a ball game. Good sign.
If you remove the INTs (wait, you can't do that?) the passing offense comes in at +0, not spectacular but still very good against this OSU pass defense.
The best news of Saturday might have been the continued emergence of Roy Roundtree as the much needed go to receiver for Michigan. Roundtree posted his fourth straight outstanding game with a +10. In the four games that Roundtree has seen the time and the balls come his way (Ill, Purdue, Wisconsin, OSU) he has averaged +7.7, which if held (understandably big if) would be the top mark in the Big 10 this year and 7th nationally.
Rush DefenseProjected: -3, 45 carries 210 yards 3 TD
Actual: +0, 48 carries 264 yards 1 TD
The yards ended up higher than projected, but in terms of the value, Michigan got a number of big stops against the Buckeye ground game to warrant a very solid break even performance.
Pass DefenseProjected: -1, 15/24 160 yards 1 TD 0 INT
Actual: -8, 11/19 54 yards 1 TD 1 INT
When the Buckeyes have thrown the ball less than 20 times, they average +2.2 and have had their two best passing games of the year. When they have thrown the ball more than 20 times, they have averaged -1.1 and had their 3 worst games of the year. You have to think that the gameplan is going to be to keep the ball on the ground.Ohio State got the low volume passing game that they wanted, although it didn't quite go as expected. Michigan's pass defense took the conservative Buckeye game plan and did quite well against it. Even without the pick (+3), the pass defense did quite well, picking up nearly 3 points of value on a pair of sacks. Even removing the sacks and the pack, the defense still posted an above average performance, an outstanding day for a much maligned group.
The Rest of the PictureSpecial teams ended in a near wash. The missed chippy was a definite negative for Michigan, but it was offset by great play from both the punt and kickoff teams.
On the turnover front, the net of Forcier's 5 turnovers and Pryor's single miscue netted a 13 point swing for Ohio State. A neutral result on turnovers could have very well been enough for the Wolverines on Saturday that I thought they needed to 2 swing play advantage to have a shot.
PredictionsMichigan 21 - OSU 31
Almost nailed the spread, just a few less points scored than I thought.
Same story for Minnesota Iowa where my 27-14 pick was within a point of the spread but high on the total.
I nailed Wisconsin but underestimate Northwestern as my 31-17 pick missed the mark.
Also missed out on Purdue/Indiana. I had it a tight one at 28-27 and missed on an easy Purdue victory.
Another one that was not as close I expected was Penn State/MSU as PSU brought the posse and beat up on the Spartans. Still had the Nittany Lions covering, but didn't see a 4 TD win in my 28-24 pick.
Lost out on the Irish as well this week, picking them to cover against UConn, 35-28.
Overall - 3-3 ATS.
Rush OffenseMichigan Rush Offense: +2 (25th Nationally, 2nd Big Ten)
Ohio State Rush Defense: +2 (27, 3)
|New Mexico State||9||1.7||27||58||2.15||0|
After a slow start against Navy, Tresselball has been in full effect. Except for a mild let down vs Minnesota, Ohio State has been positive against the run since week 2. Michigan, on the other hand has been a bit all over the place this year. Michigan, although second in the Big 10 in rushing, has gone 4-4 in terms of positive and negative games vs non-MAC competition. On top of that, none of those 8 games have been within 3 points of 0.
Projected outcome: +0, 35 carries, 130 yards 1TD
Pass OffenseMichigan Pass Offense: +1 (44, 4)
Ohio State Pass Defense: +7 (9, 2)
|New Mexico State||9||5.6||16||0||1||16||7|
Ohio State presents a defense that, depending on how you look at it, either had a chink in the armor exposed last week to Iowa's backup qb, or a dominant pass defense that got a little complacent. Although this unit hasn't been as consistent as the rushing defense unit, it has generally wavered between good and great throughout the year.
Michigan hasn't been able to put up huge games (no Big 10 game as high as OSU's Big 10 average) but they have shown solid growth in the passing game over the last month or so, largely tied to the emergence of Roundtree.
Projected Outcome: -6, 18/30 175 yards 2 TD 1 INT
Michigan Rush Defense: -2 (96, 9)
Ohio State Rush Offense: +1 (33, 3)
|New Mexico State||9||6.1||47||313||6.7||3|
This is a unit that has killed Michigan all year long, and an Ohio State unit that has been their backbone. It is interesting to note that both teams have had 4 of their top 5 performances of the season in the last couple weeks. The difference is that Ohio State has gone from decent to really good and Michigan has gone from terrible to not totally terrible
Projected Outcome: -3, 45 carries 210 yards 3 TD
Pass DefenseMichigan Pass Defense: -1 (63, 7)
Ohio State Pass Offense: +0 (58, 7)
|New Mexico State||9||2.3||244||2||0||34||15|
The Michigan pass defense has a very strong negative trend throughout the season. The good news? is that it's can't get much worse. Seriously, the Wisconsin game was the 996th best performance of pass defense out of 1114 that I have ranked this year. The interesting thing about OSU is that with Tresselball this year, the more they throw, the worse they do. When the Buckeyes have thrown the ball less than 20 times, they average +2.2 and have had their two best passing games of the year. When they have thrown the ball more than 20 times, they have averaged -1.1 and had their 3 worst games of the year. You have to think that the gameplan is going to be to keep the ball on the ground. Although this could be a positive, efficient game for OSU through the air, the knowledge that our pass defense could only be exposed to a minimum of attempts sounds pretty good at this point.
Projected Outcome: -1, 15/24 160 yards 1 TD 0 INT
The Rest of the PictureKicking: Michigan
Michigan Kickoff: OSU
Ohio State Kickoff: Michigan
Michigan Punt: Michigan
Ohio State Punt: OSU
All Special Teams: Push
Pace: As we prepare for another fast vs slow, contrast in styles matchup on Saturday, I am wondering if picking up the pace could be a winning strategy? We are not the most talented team in this matchup and more possessions generally favors the better team, but I have to wonder if we can make the game move faster and take OSU out of their comfort zone (even if it exposes a weakness or three) if that could be a path to upset?
Turnovers: 55 points. That's the difference in value between Ohio State's turnover performance YTD (+38) vs Michigan's (-17). 55 points will get you a long way. It is also the hallmark of the grind it out strategy. You have to own the swing plays and there are no swing plays bigger than turnovers. Even with the large divide, there are positive signs. Michigan has only lost 21 points to interceptions thrown this year, which is best in the Big 10. And interceptions are where OSU has made their living this year, racking up a +54 on picks for the season. If Michigan can keep away from bad interceptions, and a pick up a lucky bounce or two, could be a ball game.
PredictionsMichigan 21 Ohio State 31
The regular numbers are pretty stacked against Michigan this week, but with the type of tight game Ohio State likes to play, a key turnover or special teams play could present a window of opportunity to steal one this weekend.
Minnesota 14 Iowa 27
Wisconsin 31 Northwestern 17
Purdue 28 Indiana 27
Penn St 28 Michigan St 24
UConn 28 Notre Dame 35
QuarterbacksNational POW: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas vs Troy +20 (405 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT)
Big Ten POW: Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin vs Michigan +19 (240 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT)
|Kirk Cousins||Michigan State||9||6.3||6.8||145.1||232||8.22||62%||1.6||0.6|
|Daryll Clark||Penn State||10||5.5||5.1||134.6||223||7.48||60%||1.6||0.9|
|Terrelle Pryor||Ohio State||11||3.8||4.2||131.2||157||7.42||55%||1.4||0.8|
|Keith Nichol||Michigan State||7||-0.2||0.3||129.6||76||7.93||52%||0.6||0.4|
The top five remain unchanged from last week and after his Big 10 POW against Michigan last week, Scott Tolzien moves up to #6. Pryor and Forcier's numbers are surprisingly comparable across the board.
Running BacksNational POW: Toby Gerhart, Stanford vs USC +8 (169 yds, 3 TD)
Big 10 POW: Evan Royster, Penn St vs Indiana +7 (134 combined yds, 2 TD)
|Evan Royster||Penn State||10||1.7||2.4||17||88||0.6||5.3|
|Brandon Saine||Ohio State||11||0.7||1.0||10||52||0.1||5.0|
|Larry Caper||Michigan State||9||0.4||0.7||10||42||0.7||4.0|
|Jordan Hall||Ohio State||6||0.2||0.6||8||41||0.2||5.2|
|Dan Herron||Ohio State||8||-2.0||-1.3||14||54||0.9||3.8|
A lot of movement at the top this week. Royster jumps up to #1 after a big week and John Clay falls to #3 since Michigan's weak rush defense negated a lot of his value last Saturday. The Buckeyes carries are relatively split, with no one back controlling a large share of the carries or value.
National POW: Danario Alexander (back to back) Missouri vs Kansas St +13 (10 rec, 200 yards 3 TDs)
Big Ten POW: Nick Toon Wisconsin vs Michigan +12 (5 rec, 98 yards 2 TD)
|Devier Posey||Ohio State||11||5.6||2.3||4.3||63||14.7||0.6|
|Derek Moye||Penn State||9||5.1||1.8||4.2||68||16.1||0.4|
|Blair White||Michigan State||10||5.1||3.0||5.1||66||12.9||0.6|
|Keshawn Martin||Michigan State||6||4.0||2.4||2.0||42||20.9||0.5|
|Graham Zug||Penn State||9||3.9||2.7||4.1||47||11.5||0.6|
|B Cunningham||Michigan State||10||3.8||1.9||4.1||54||13.2||0.3|
|D Sanzenbacher||Ohio State||10||3.7||2.9||2.6||50||19.0||0.6|
Keith Smith drops back into a virtual tie with Eric Decker and there are still no Wolverines on the list. Posey and Sanzenbacher from OSU both make the list, with Posey coming in 4th in the Big 10.
Expected PointsMichigan actually held a pretty nice advantage in field position for the day. Based on starting field position, Michigan had an expected advantage of 22 points vs 17 for Wisconsin. Both sides gave up points vs expectation as the offense scored 17 themselves, five less than an average team would given their field position. The defense was a little bit further from average, allowing 45 (and scoring 7) a full four TDs worse than average.
Rush OffensePredicted: +0
The first matchup, where the rubber meets the road. This is clearly a huge battle of strength vs strength. If Michigan is going to win on Saturday, they have to find success in the running game.Michigan did not find success in the running game and they did not win on Saturday, but you already knew that. Michigan's performance on the ground was really bad and in a matchup of strengths, it was clear that the Wisconsin defense was the stronger of the two forces. Michigan's -7 was the second worst rushing performance of the weekend, trailing only Virginia's performance at Boston College.
Pass OffensePredicted: +1
Michigan's offense will need to find points and opportunity wherever it can and a third straight [passing] game in the +'s could come in very handy.After the disappointing showing by the running game, the passing game continues to show marked improvement. This was Michigan's best showing through the air in the Big 10 this year and their third straight week of improvement in the passing game.
Roy Roundtree continued his progression as the most consistent threat in Michigan's evolving passing game. Roundtree went +6 after going +10 and +6 in the last two games.
Rush DefensePredicted: -5
Best case scenario here is probably a Penn State like performance where Wisconsin gets 150-200 yards but it takes 40+ carries to get there.All in all, for this run defense this could have gone much worse. At the same time, it did not by any stretch go well. Especially when you factor in what the Badgers did through the air, the ground game in a strange way became secondary and 250 yards against as a secondary is something any offense would love.
Pass DefensePredicted: -1
I don't consider anything a sure thing the way Michigan's pass defense has looked lately, but this is a Wisconsin team that doesn't show any major indications of being able to greatly exploit it either.I was wrong.