I'll do my best to fit in here amongst all the Saturday navel-gazing. For me, Saturday was an exercise in How to Go Nuts and not Wake Up a Sleeping Three Month Old. But on to this week in train wrecks. First, let's catch up on the first two weeks "action".
Week One brought some humdingers. Bowling Green versus Idaho featured punts of 71 and 81 yards. I'm not sure how you punt 81 yards, but the guy that booted one 71 has to feel pretty bad about it. Maryland versus Miami was as big of a mess as expected. Maryland kicked 4 field goals for most of their 24 points, then gave up a pick-6 in the last minute to blow it. That game should be in the UGotW Year in Review. Crab cakes and football, that's what Maryland does? Well, the crab cakes are good.
Week Two featured Iowa making a bold move by refusing the Cy-Hawk trophy by giving up a late TD to Iowa State to tie, then losing in triple OT. In a twist, TCU bombed Air Force 35-19. AF scored two 4th quarter TDs to make the score reasonable. Air Force then declared TCU a state sponsor of terrorism and left Predator drones circling the stadium. CSU/UNCO was attended by 25,000 students dressed as empty seats to watch CSU club the Bears 33-14. Three CSU picks kept this from getting really messy. CSU had 28 first downs to go with only 4-14 on third down. That means they didn't need third down very often.
This week is Mascot Week! First off is the UTEP Miners versus the New Mexico State Aggies. I'm a sucker for good ol' blue-collar mascots, preferably mascots wielding weapons. This one comes down to pick-ax versus pistols.
Next is one of my favorite categories: Non-Plural Mascot fights! The Alabama Crimson Tide play the North Texas Mean Green. North Texas's real mascot is some sort of eagle, but I don't think eagle wins against elephant, not even if it's one of the eagles from Lord of the Rings (nerd!). They've already lost to FIU and Houston, so we may have to watch North Texas for a possible 0-for-season.
Last is Creepy/Crazy Mascot matchup, featuring the Indiana State Sycamores versus the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. "Big Red" was created in 1979 and we can only assume there were drugs involved, and possibly a medical procedure. I guess calling your team the Fightin' Polyps was out of the question. Big Red in action:
If that's not nightmare-inducing enough for you, they are playing this:
Indiana State decided not to go the Stanford route and have a tree on the sidelines, and created Sycamore Sam instead. Why they didn't cartoonize Larry Bird into a mascot, a la UNLV I'll never know.
First off, I think Maryland clearly won week one. I tried to post a picture of the stadium before the game, but here are the uniforms just in case anyone missed the game on Monday:
Yeesh. The arm sleeve thing looked like they had an infection or something.
This week, in honor of Iowa/Iowa State and their Hummel-based pewter trophy disaster, I will be naming new hypothetical trophies for the best games of the week. But here's a reminder of where we started:
There's only one game on Thursday, Oklahoma State versus Arizona. Fortunately, they can play for the "Dust Bowl" trophy, which would be a normal cup-style trophy full of dirt. And not good, black, growing-stuff dirt. Just dry, pale, desert dusty-type dirt.
Friday has no games worth mentioning, so I'm going to double-up on Saturday.
First we get the "Jesus Versus Air Superiority" trophy as TCU plays Air Force. It's hard to cheer against The Jesus, but the Air Force does have some great (and really, really expensive) toys. This can also be a travelling trophy between TCU, BYU, Air Force and Navy.
We also get the first apperance of the "Tumbleweed Travelling Trophy" as Colorado State plays Northern Colorado. These two schools are only 22 miles apart, which is also known as "Right Next Door" out in the wide-open spaces. I'm in Denver, and no one here cares about this game. The travelling trophy will be used to determine best-in-class between CSU, Wyoming and New Mexico.
Back by popular demand, or maybe entirely despite it, I return for my third year providing your weekly primer in what not to watch. Last year, no team pulled off the shutout, but 12 teams had 2 or fewer wins. Welcome to the list, Memphis. Elsewhere, New Mexico managed to go 1-11 and not finish last in their conference. The mighty MAC had no less than 4 teams with two wins or less. So without further ado, let's get into it.
The reason I wanted to adjust the results for quality of opponent was to try to account for SDSU’s #88-ranked schedule versus Michigan’s #23-ranked schedule. The best I could come up with was: average the offensive PPG with the defensive PPG, then take that “projected score delta” and subtract it from the actual score delta to get a pseudo-PAN (to borrow the Mathlete’s term). Don't worry, there will be an easy-to-understand number at the end.
Offensively, SDSU averaged 455 YPG and scored 35 PPG. That compares pretty closely to Michigan’s 488 YPG and 32 PPG. So right off the bat the offense looks to be a little more “efficient.” More points + less yards = good. Defense is a whole different animal. SDSU allowed 355 YPG and 22 PPG, compared to Michigan’s 455 YPG and 35 PPG. They have a defense, we did not. SDSU is still capable of scoring lots of points, scoring over 40 5 times, and over 30 in 9 games. Again, number of drives is pretty variable, from 9 to 18. For the season, SDSU actually averaged more drives per game than Michigan, at 12.3 to 12.0.
Since we established that the raw drive data is pretty pointless yesterday, I’ll skip it and get right to YPD. Basic data and Chart:
|opponent||yards||drives||points||ypd||ppd||d-yards||d-drives||d-points||d-ypd||d-ppd||net ypd||net ppd|
Looking at YPD, SDSU averaged about the same as Michigan, at 39.0 vs. 41.9 YPD for the season. The anomaly in that data is the TCU game, where SDSU only managed 20 YPD. Michigan’s low for the season was Purdue, at 26.3 YPD. Once again, defense is much improved at 30.4 YPD versus Michigan’s 37.3 YPD. The defense was inconsistent, giving up 50+ YPD twice, a feat even Michigan’s Decimated Defense didn’t match. Overall, I think YPD is a useful indicator, but not as valuable as PPD.
On to PPD, we now get to see that SDSU was indeed more efficient in putting points on the board compared to Michigan, at 2.9 versus 2.7 PPD average for the season. Defense shows similar improvement, at 1.8 versus Michigan’s 2.9-PPD average. To put that in perspective, SDSU only had one game (Utah) where they allowed more PPD than Michigan’s average. So what the chart shows is that while SDSU’s offense doesn’t have the firepower of Michigan’s former spread (maxed out at around 5-6 PPD), the low isn’t so low, either. SDSU’s bottom end looks like it’s around 2 PPD, where Michigan could get down to 1.5 on occasion. Even in the win against ND, Michigan was below 2 PPD. On defense, we all know the story. Michigan flirted with 3 PPD for the season, giving up more than 3 PPD on 7 occasions. SDSU was more consistent, only giving up more than 3 PPD once.
I think there are a number of valid comparisons between SDSU’s schedule and Michigan’s. Their #1 game was TCU, against the #4 offense and #1 defense. They had 300 yards of offense and scored 35 points, and gave up 466 yards and 40 points in a loss. That game is comparable to the OSU game, against the #11 offense and #5-ranked defense. Michigan had 351 yards and only 7 points, while giving up 478 yards and 37 points. Advantage: SDSU. Overall SOS differences are obvious (Michigan’s opponents scored 28.6 and gave up 23.4, compared to SDSU’s 24.5/28.4), but “score delta” should let us normalize those results.
Looking at the “score delta.” Michigan averaged 1.4 points above expectation for the season, compared to SDSU’s 4.5. It is totally open for debate as to whether this stat has any meaning, but I think that it does. If you’re supposed to blow out your cupcakes, and don’t, it will be reflected. Conversely, if you play well against a better opponent, like say ND or TCU, it is also reflected. I think it does a good job of showing overall team performance versus expectations.That big -32 by the Bowl Game shows that We Got Blown Out.
|opponent||o-ppg||d-ppg||opp o-ppg||opp d-ppg||o vs d||d vs o||actual score delta||projected score||score delta|
|opponent||o-rank||d-rank||opp o-rank||opp d-rank||o vs d||d vs o||actual score delta||projected score||score delta|
Well basically I think that the defense would have improved regardless of what happened, but I feel that the improvement with the new staff will be greater than the improvement with the old staff. I’m also hoping the MANBALL worries will be unfounded. After all, SDSU scored more points than Michigan, had more drives than Michigan, and darn near had as many yards as Michigan. I’ll trade that for a defense that gives up 100 fewer yards and almost 2 fewer touchdowns per game. I realize that most of the defensive improvement is speculation, since Mattison wasn’t Hoke’s DC at SDSU, but here’s hoping for Defensive Mediocrity in 2011, and a return to Kicking Competency!
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hoke
Since it’s the offseason and there’s not much going on, I thought I’d take a look at last season’s team production, offensively and defensively. All the data is from either NCAA.org or ESPN’s drive charts, except for the Air Force and New Mexico games, where I had to extrapolate the drive data from the box score. That’s what’s known as foreshadowing. Offensive and defensive stats are broken out individually, to try to handle those phases of the game on their own.
All Spreadsheeted-up and no place to go
I started out planning to show that the offensive effectiveness remained somewhat consistent through the season, and that only the number of drives per game decreased into the meat of the Big Ten season caused the downturn in scoring. The data did not support that. The number of drives did vary between UConn’s 8 and the Illinois 19-drive trackmeet. But the numbers did not coincide with strength of opponent, final score, or much of anything. You need look no further than the Wisconsin game vs. the OSU game for proof. Against Wisconsin we scored 28 points on 10 drives, compared to 7 points on 12 drives against OSU. The chart doesn’t show any correlation between drives and points:
|Opponent||Yards||Drives||Pts.||YPD||PPD||D-Yds||D-Drvs||D-Pts||D-YPD||D-PPD||Net YPD||Net PPD|
So I need to look a little deeper, namely at typical markers of yard and points. The basic idea is straightforward: good yards per drive equals good “effectiveness” and good points per drive equals good “finishing.” First up: YPD. Offensively, YPD varies from unstoppable against weak competition (UConn, BG, and UMass) to not-very-good against MSU, the other MSU and OSU. Defense, on the other hand, was great in the rain against Purdue, better-than-average against ND and Illinois (per drive, remember), and shelled by MSU, the other MSU and Wisconsin. This should not be news.
Alright, so now we know we couldn’t stop anyone. How about scoring, PPD? Because we’re dealing with a smaller range, I think the data is clearer. Offensively, after throwing out the Bowling Green anomaly (seriously, 6 points per drive?), most of the games turned out be between 2 and 3 PPD, with OSU being a lowly 0.5. Defense tells the rest of the story. The season started out well enough, holding ND to 1.4 PPD, but the number crept up from there, 3 PPD to Indiana, up to 4 PPD to PSU and Wisconsin. Even Tressel-ball managed to score almost 3 PPD. And that chart just looks worse and worse as the season goes on. This is also the point where I get to mention 4-for-14 on field goals and lament.
So what does any of this say? I’d like to be able to adjust some of those values for strength of opponent, so that the 27 points against Iowa’s #7-ranked defense look a little more in line, but I can’t decide on a formula to adjust expected versus actual points. Someone wake up the Mathlete for me, if you don’t mind.
I think that all I can say at this point is that the defense was bad across the board last season, and performed worse against good opposition. The offense was at-best inconsistent, ranging from good to average from game-to-game. With a team consisting of mostly true sophomores at skill positions, I don't that should come as a big surprise.
Coming tomorrow: the same analysis for SDSU's season, and comparisons to what Michigan did.
Today, we fire up the MGoBlog Wayback Machine and return to December 17th, 2007: a day that will live in MGoBlog infamy. Specifically, Brian's Profiles in Heroism for RichRod. I thought it would be a good idea to look back at the last coaching change and compare the attitude and opinion around the previous coach to the current one, in the hopes of calming down the "Brian Hates Hoke" meme that's sprung up.
Remember that the situation was completely opposite last time: Michigan was striking out with big names, and we were preparing for Mike Debord-equivalent promotion from within the program. For what it's worth, the history starts around page 423, with the actual news happening on p. 422.The brief overview of the situation before the RichRod news was summed up in Adrift - basically internal guys or someone totally bonkers. Even at the time Brian was railing against the status quo from the AD, and that is what's being reflected in the current Hoke posts. Then RichRod blew up from out of nowhere.
Hindsight being 20/20 and all, Brian made this prescient comment:
RichRod was preceded by a coach somewhere between very good and excellent, though by the time Rodriguez arrived West Virginia was in a bit of a rut, coming off 7-5 and 4-7 seasons.
Rodriguez did not immediately fix said rut -- West Virginia bombed its way to an ugly 3-8 year in 2001 -- but after an initial adjustment period the program ignited in two phases. Phase 1: West Virginia ... hovers at the edges of the top 25 from 2002 to 2004, winning eight or nine games and losing four or five. Phase II: The White-Slaton rocket fuel era that features 10 and 11 win seasons, BCS berths and bowl victories, and one really ill-timed thumb dislocation.
and then added the following caveat:
the Big East got a lot easier in 2004 when Miami, BC, and Virginia Tech took off for the ACC. As far as back-to-back-to-back ten win seasons go, WVU's are somewhere between LSU's and Boise's in terms of impressiveness.
But it wasn't all roses, sunshine and puppies. Brian pointed out well-known issues with recruiting:
Maybe it's unfair to tar the coach when a couple of guys he got through school turn out to be world-class knuckleheads, but the idea of a Pacman Jones or a Chris Henry at Michigan is unsettling. ... Rodriguez also availed himself of JUCOs and academic risks that might not fly at Michigan. ...Michigan likes its high graduation rates and excellent APR numbers. If those start to come down he'll catch heat.
The conclusion wrapped up thusly:
the man does not have anything approximating the current Michigan staff's outdated philosophy. ...Rodriguez is everything a Michigan fan could want in a hire; to get him after the month-long disappointment train that was the coaching search is manna from heaven.
Better that Debord? YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES
It certainly bears mentioning that at the time, Mallett was still on the roster, Pryor was still considering Michigan, and the QB rotation was not WalkOn/Death.
So we come here today not to bury RichRod, but to remember him. He struggled to meet the lofty expectations placed upon him by the fans, the media, and the Athletic Department. May he have future success at a program not encumbered by ghosts of the past, a rabid and bored press core, and a fanbase able to accept change (all of which snowball around each other).
If anything, the "outdated philosophy" comment is the source of whatever animosity is directed at Hoke - not at the man specifically, but what he represents. We must temper our opinions until we see the product on the field, and hopefully we can minimize the roster attrition that was a major source of our struggles for the last three years.