Hokepoints Goes to Plaid

Hokepoints Goes to Plaid

Submitted by Seth on October 22nd, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Going up early 'cause we're going on WTKA this morning to yap about HTTV Hoops/Hockey from 9-10 with Sam Webb and several of our authors.


What have I done? My brains are going into my feet!

Brady Hoke said his team was prepared for Indiana's ludicrous speed offense, in other words: "Buckle this." Following the science fiction movie at Michigan Stadium last Saturday, the old hypothesis is again making its rounds: teams that don't play up-tempo tend to not be as prepared for teams that do, leading to an uncharacteristically negative defensive performance.

Ludicrous Speed

Fortunately there are data here (thank you once again cfbstats.com). They say Indiana is indeed the fastest ship in galaxy.

To get a tempo stat I just divided time of possession (in seconds) by total offensive plays. Games against FCS opponents are removed entirely. The Big Ten by Tempo (all FBS in Google Doc):

Team T.o.P/Play Nat Rk %ile YPP
Indiana 18.5 1st 100% 6.56
Penn State 22.3 26th 71% 5.52
Northwestern 23.4 38th 63% 5.86
Nebraska 24.8 54th 52% 5.84
Purdue 25.8 73rd 45% 4.37
Ohio State 26.0 77th 43% 6.40
Illinois 26.1 78th 42% 6.22
Iowa 26.2 80th 42% 5.52
Michigan State 27.4 95th 32% 4.55
Michigan 28.3 105th 26% 6.35
Wisconsin 29.6 118th 16% 7.45
Minnesota 30.5 122th 9% 5.24

It's not perfect since you can't pull out the seconds actually spent in a play, or the actual seconds during clock stoppages because of out of bounds or incomplete passes or first downs, but in the aggregate I think it does the job.* Michigan, as you supposed, is pretty low: 105th, and in the 26th percentile at 28.3 seconds per play. Nothing before or since on Michigan's schedule is like Indiana; for objects in the mirror: CMU is 97th, Notre Dame is 85th, Akron is 58th, UConn 55th.


* Anomaly: thanks to all the stoppages Penn State's offense vs. Michigan charted as fast as Indiana's. That's why I didn't use game-by-game stats, since those sorts of things average out and betray the offense's truer intentions.


High tempo does not equate or really even correlate that strongly with Yards per Play. Observe chart:


Click embiggens (updated)

Cal's offense functions at warp speed but its output isn't any better than Florida's ambles through the swamp. Wisconsin and Alabama both manage to move even slower than we do, and FSU is hardly faster, yet those are elite scoring machines. The linear tilt might be tempo teams winning a few more plays here and there, or it could simply mean the spread guys who run many of the great offenses today are just accidental carriers of up-tempo alleles (like how blue eyes followed the path of Vikings, but didn't necessarily provide any advantage).

The question, however, is not what tempo can do for you, but whether teams on the right side of the chart are more susceptible to those on the left. [Jump to see]

Hokepoints: First Down and a Long Way to Go

Hokepoints: First Down and a Long Way to Go

Submitted by Seth on October 15th, 2013 at 10:47 AM


One of the most frustrating problems with Michigan's offense is they appear to be burning a lot of first downs by running Toussaint into stacked lines. Whether it's zone blocked or man, they've been tipping it the same with the same results. The concept has been discussed on here and will be again until it stops; my purpose today is to add some numbers to that discussion.

Love Affair with 2nd and Long. Excising all the non-normal situations (4th quarters, burning clock, attempting a comeback, 2-minute drill at the end of a half) here's a a quick breakdown of playcalls this year on first down:

  • 101 handoffs to running backs for 3.0 YPC and 6 TDs
  • 28 passes for 10.7 YPA, one interception, and 2 TDs
  • 20 play-action passes for 17.8 YPA, one interception and 4 TDs
  • 17 options for 5.6 YPA and a TD
  • 7 called Gardner runs for 2.7 YPA
  • 7 wide receiver runs for 10 YPA
  • 4 screens for 5.8 YPA
  • 2 false starts

Like basketball the efficiency of the things you do goes down the more you do them, and the efficiency of the counters goes up. I don't doubt that the ridiculous numbers for PA passes above are because it's five times more likely to be a handoff.

Michigan's is not the only bad offense that does this. The thing that MSU was doing when they had Le'Veon Bell was running him into stacked lines again and again to open up the occasional big play for a receiver or tight end. This burned a lot of first downs and killed a lot of drives but when you just need 17 points to win you'll take a high variance in drive results. What made it worthwhile was Bell was one of the best backs in the country at getting yards after contact. If a safety came down to fill the hole Bell could still run (or leap) over that guy and thus set up 2nd and manageable. This year they don't have the OL or the RBs to do that, so they line up to pass on 1st down far more often.

Borges doesn't have the RBs or the OL to do that and haven't adjusted. Instead he's gone the other direction, selling out even further with the unbalanced lines, and running even more often.

    UFR database (through Minn) says…
YPA, 1st Play of Drive YPA, All 1st Downs
Year Pass Run Total Run% Pass Run Total Run%
2008 7.0 4.3 5.3 63.2% 6.1 4.3 4.9 64.8%
2009 5.6 6.8 6.3 56.7% 5.6 6.1 5.9 65.3%
2010 9.2 6.1 7.2 63.1% 8.8 5.3 6.4 66.7%
2011 10.5 6.7 7.7 73.8% 8.1 6.2 6.7 70.9%
2012 8.6 5.7 6.6 70.9% 10.0 5.1 6.9 64.2%
2013 8.8 3.4 4.9 73.2% 12.7 3.7 6.3 71.6%

…that Michigan's drives are starting off with a whimper. If I take out 4th quarters and situations when Michigan is down more than two scores we're getting just 2.9 YPC on 1st down runs, which is over 73% of 1st down playcalls. But I showed the above because that's what Bill O'Brien was probably looking at when he and his coaches strategized for this game.

Let's play Being Bill O'Brien. This is how he responded. Here's the first play of the game:

[after the jump]

I'm Scared of Gardner on the Road

I'm Scared of Gardner on the Road

Submitted by Seth on October 11th, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Fuller - 8152019327_6331a78619_o
Road Gardner has been rough Gardner. [Fuller]

I'm putting this here because it's been brought up a few times on the board and the discussion was getting too long for dear diary. Gardner's (admittedly limited) stats in road games are not great:

Opponent Comp Att TD Int Yds YPA
2011 (all) 8 15 1 0 119 7.9
2012 Minn 12 18 2 1 234 13.0
2012 OSU 11 20 1 1 171 8.6
2013 UConn 11 23 0 2 97 4.2
Career (A) 42 76 4 4 621 8.2
Career (H) 104 165 14 9 1681 10.2

We're really just going on three starts plus spot duty. But later today and tomorrow you'll see some Penn State preview posts that claim the depleted Lions are more like their basketball and hockey squads than the typical PSU outfit, so let me be on record that Michigan in that stadium is not a great matchup given Gardner's season so far and his history in away games. In fact I've got a UFR database open right now so let's show that by yards per play on called passes (includes scrambles/sacks):

Season Home Road
2010-'11 9.85 (BG, Minn, Pur) 6.75 (Ill, MSU, NW)
2012 9.78 (Iowa, NW) 7.35 (Minn, OSU)
2013 9.34 (CMU, ND, Akron, Minn) 4.06 (UConn)
Career Avg 9.54 6.22

Before you say "why is his sophomore year…?" there aren't very many attempts there so the weight is mostly on the 10 starts this and last season. That seems pretty stark. The UFR charting bears this out.

Devin in Blue Chart:

Minn 2011 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 2 75%
NWern 2012 4 16(2) 2 1 3* 2(1) 2(1) 2 5 79%
Iowa 2012 3 16(4) - 2(1) 2 1 - 1 4 83%
CMU 2 10(1)+ 1 1 2* - - 1 3 82%
ND 7+ 16(1)++ 4(1) 2 3* - 1 4 4 82%
Akron 3 14(2) - 5 3** 2 1 3 1 59%
Minnesota 4+ 7(1) 4 1 - - - 1 2 92%

Devin in White Chart:

MSU 2011 - 1 - 1 2 - - - - 25%
Illini 2011 - 2++ - 2 - - - 1 - 50%
Minn 2012 3 7(1) 4 2(1) 2* 2 - 3 4 72%
OSU 2012 3 11(1) 2 5* 2 1 - 3 2 65%
UConn 2 13(1) 1 5*+ - 1 - 5 5 76%

Forever in Blue Jeans Chart:

Thing Does Doesn't
Money talks sing, dance, walk
Honey is sweet compare to baby's treat.

UConn was an all-time low in YPP but part of a trend. The short history of Devin road games read:

  • Pre-2012: 3 inaccurate balls, 2 CA+ for 20-yard gains, a PA hitch for 2 yards against MSU and the Yakety sax, and a 4-yd scramble on a Denard Jet.
  • Minnesota 2012: Took most of 1st half to warm up, got bailed out a lot by WRs
  • OSU 2012: Sacked a few times and lots of late IN's from unset throws out of the pocket.
  • UConn 2013: Terrible horrible no good very bad day.

It's a small sample size with little good to recommend it. PSU's defensive backs, meanwhile, are kind of like Michigan in 2010 in that they have one safety-corner hybrid they trust and three they don't. However they've been pretty game so far; the two offenses that torched them were Indiana's Air Raid-like thing that is pretty respectable, and getting Bortles'd. Including their five sacks they're giving up just 5.81 YPA. They're about 40th in every category; 29th in passer rating. That doesn't seem so hard until you consider Gardner's opponents to date are 62nd (ND), 63rd (UConn), 93rd (Minnesota), 108th (CMU), and 117th (Akron). You can save discussion until Brian gets to this part of the preview but count me as nervous here.

Great Scott, Hokepoints Was Heavy

Great Scott, Hokepoints Was Heavy

Submitted by Seth on October 8th, 2013 at 12:24 PM


That is 2,728 pounds—1.24 metric tons—in the box for those weighing at home.
On 1st and 10. MANBRAAAHHHLLL!!!

Before the Minnesota game I tweeted that I'd be perfectly content if Borges debuted a completely new package and used it to beat up on the Gophers at home a la 2011. So here I am, being content.

The unbalanced stuff I'm sure Brian will picture page and Space Coyote and Burgeoning Wolverine Star will peel it apart as well; since they know more about that stuff I'll leave it to them. What I would like to do is look at the heavy formations in the macro: how Big did Michigan actually go, how effective it was on a yards-per-play basis, and whether it matches the personnel.

By "big" I mean fewer receivers in the formation. The lower that number, the more backs and TEs, and thus the "heavier" the formation. How big?

Average Receivers in Formation:

Season Overall Normal downs*
2008 3.14 3.14
2009 2.84 2.90
2010 3.13 3.15
2011 2.59 2.60
2012 2.52 2.55
2013 games 1-4 2.30 2.29
2013 Minnesota 1.83 (!) 1.79 (!)

That is big—like we should all have pronounced brow ridges and live in caves and the equipment sponsor is Mousterian big. I counted Funchess as a WR when he was in a 2-point stance; if you file him as a half tight end (you shouldn't) it gets even heavier. A lot of the three-wide was on the time-sensitive last drive of the 1st half—that you should count.

Did it work? Did it work better than the stuff Michigan has been doing until now? Did they always run to the side they unbalanced? We see after the jump.

Hokepoints: Point of Attack

Hokepoints: Point of Attack

Submitted by Seth on October 1st, 2013 at 4:53 PM


Taylor on an island [Upchurch]

Brian forwarded me a mailbag question regarding where Michigan's defense is getting attacked through the air, i.e. are there certain coverage areas that have been particularly weak? It took me most of a day to chart every passing play; the resulting post is rather straightforward. Consider this your bye week from my logorrhea.

Data are here.

What I tracked:

1) Where the ball starts (hash or center). If the tackles lined up inside the hash it was "center"

2) Which zone it was thrown to, on a telephone keypad grid. 1, 4, and 7 are around the numbers to the sideline; 2, 5, and 8 are the area around the opposite hash to the wide side only, and 3, 6, and 9 are down the middle.


If a ball was on the line I always erred to the zone closest to the quarterback. This makes sense if you imagine a player covering Zone 6 will be responsible for carrying a player through that zone, and would be in better position to defend that pass than a guy over him.

3) Which side (strong or weak) of the defense. I noted "Strong" as wherever the SAM lined up in 4-3 sets and where Countess lined up in nickel sets. Once or twice this conflicted with the offense but it's better this way for identifying which players are being targeted.

Weakside/boundary players, usually: R.Taylor, Wilson, Ross/Bolden, Beyer (as WDE) on nickel, Clark on 4-3.

Strongside/field players, usually: Countess, C.Gordon, Beyer (as SAM) on 4-3, Clark on nickel, T.Gordon, Morgan/Bolden, Stribling/Hollowell/Lewis/Avery.

Sacks, throwaways, scrambles, and other such events that took the emphasis on coverage were excised. I couldn't reward those things which occurred because coverage was good enough to make them happen so keep that in mind as you read.




Upon Further Reviewy Hokepointsy Thing: Kick Return: First Four Games

Upon Further Reviewy Hokepointsy Thing: Kick Return: First Four Games

Submitted by Seth on September 26th, 2013 at 10:35 AM


Unlike other UFRs you may have read, this one comes with about 20x the NORFLEET! Michigan kickoffs were on Tuesday. Here's kick returns.

Michigan's deep set is usually Gedeon, Houma and Rawls then Dileo as a lead blocker (sets up opposite side of the field in case it goes there), and Norfleet returning. Houma and Rawls double the first guy to arrive while Gedeon's job is to wall off the second arrival so there's a hole between them. Up high it's like everybody else: four guys start just past the 50, two on the 40. Their job is to run downfield, then find somebody to hit and sustain that block. I'm sure Space Coyote is going to have a name for this but here's what it looks like:


After his injury Drake Johnson was replaced by Ross (vs ND) or Furman (elsewise). They change it up a lot up front. When Funchess was hurt Jackson folded back there. Hayes and Chesson rotated in at times.

Ball arrives after the...


Upon Further Reviewy Hokepointsy Thing: Kickoffs

Upon Further Reviewy Hokepointsy Thing: Kickoffs

Submitted by Seth on September 24th, 2013 at 4:07 PM


So I kind of misunderstood a direction by Brian when I said I wanted to address special teams—he wanted stats on dinosaur punting and I thought he meant UFR all the things he doesn't.

What sparked my interest was coffin corner kicking. NCAA moved the kickoff spot to the 35 and made touchbacks start on the 25 as in incentive to cut down on kickoff return (and ensuing concussions). Inadvertently (or maybe not) they took away the advantage gained by teams with big-legged touchback machines. To regain that advantage, schools that can recruit kickers are teaching them to put the ball higher and in a spot where returners have to field it but are likely to be swallowed short of the 25 after they do.

D-E-D zone.

Against CMU I noticed Wile seemed particularly good at placing balls right in that deep left corner, the same thing I've done on every football videogame ever once I mastered the timing of the kickoff bar. This seems very hard to do in real life: you need to put the ball high enough to let your coverage get there but not deep enough that they let it go through the end zone, and far enough from the sideline that it won't go out of bounds, but far enough inside of the hash that you can use the sideline as a force defender. Do it well consistently and that's perhaps 50 yards of field position a game.

It's my first time UFR'ing these so gonna have to set some ground rules:

Points: Number of points given out reflects where the play ended up, figuring 1 point roughly equals 5 yards of field position, baseline: 25 yard line.

Glossary: The "From" column is where the kick originated, given as yard line then horizontal position ("L"=left hash, etc.). "Rtn" (return) is how far the returner ran it, "Rlt" (result) is where the ball's placed. "Tchbk" (touchback) means it's on the 25. "Corner L" means they kicked it from the left hash and try to have it come down near the goal line and relatively near the sideline; "Deep L" means they just kicked it deep along the hash mark. "Center" means they kick it toward the middle and come down the same.

Things: Note that Michigan typically kicks off from the left hash despite their right-footed kicker.

Okay, got a UFR macro reverse-engineered in Xcel. Got some torrents. Got a…oh, bolded, chart-demanding subconscious, you there?


Okay let's do this.

[After the jump]

Hokepoints: Earning the Right to Rush Four

Hokepoints: Earning the Right to Rush Four

Submitted by Seth on September 17th, 2013 at 10:45 AM

That's my compilation of all the Zips passing plays and check-downs. What you saw:

  • Lots of quick, dinky-dunky passes (not on the DL)
  • A handful of screens the DL didn't chase
  • Black consistently getting into the backfield but nobody else.

The first complaint of many from the near-disaster on Saturday was the front four's continued inability to get any pass rush, with the bonus problem this time of no contain. Many observers noted, and the coaches confirmed, that part of the problem was the pass rushers were often chasing the quarterback instead of keeping him boxed in so the rest of the rush could arrive. Other culprits mentioned: Akron was doing a lot of max protect, a lot of uncalled holding, and of course the biggie: our DL getting completely owned.

So let's look at some Akron passing plays and see who to blame:

While the Zips are mostly a dinky-dunk offense, when they do go long they tend to leave the running backs in to help with pass pro. Max protect is generally a win for the DL already since spending seven (or eight!) guys on four DL gives the DBs an easy time. You usually want to call it against blitzes, since defensive linemen who don't have to worry about the run will break through eventually. (Unless they don't).

They did this a lot in the first half. On Akron's first drive there were two long pass calls on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 10 that give us a baseline.

All Day

Michigan was in their base 4-3 under and rushed four. Akron had the RB and both TEs both stay in to block. Both back and the TE to the strong side help the RT block Heitzman; he's not going anywhere. Washington gets off slowly and is doubled by the right guard and center; he gets no push on the center and the guard only has to help a little while watching to see if Bolden comes.

Clark is doubled by the weakside TE and the LT—he tried to bull rush the TE, got stood up, then ripped around him and was in the middle of trying to split the two when the pass got off. Black gets the only single-team, but he tried to go inside of the LG who ran him right into Washington's mess; Black tried the other side and got held but that wouldn't have mattered since the pass is already gone.

Blame:  Knock QWash for not even moving his center, and Clark and Heitzman can't split their double-teams.


Hokepoints: Charting Defensive Rotation

Hokepoints: Charting Defensive Rotation

Submitted by Seth on September 3rd, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Wot it sez up dere^. Despite the blowout nature we got a good look last Saturday at the various positions that Michigan will rotate this season. So I charted who was in at what spot for every play. The results (link to Google doc):


Here's your starting defense, with everybody in their base 4-3 under spots. I want to self-congratulate the MGoStaff for nailing the starting lineup in HTTV with the exception of free safety, since Avery, though out of the lineup, was nominally ahead of Wilson on the depth chart.


The corners lined up to the field or boundary; the line was usually aligned to the formation but then CMU usually aligned to the boundary anyway. The safeties were always lined up to the formation. They split who ended up the deeper guy; usually it was the field guy, and usually that was Wilson.


There was heavy rotation in the front four, an almost even three-man rotation in the linebackers, and the secondary stayed put until it was time to empty the bench. It was rotation, not platooning; guys would go in for a certain number of plays then come out. I charted 44 non-garbage (before 14:59 of the 3rd quarter) plays; rotations as follows:

[Jump for breakdown, nickel, garbage time]

Hokepoints: Jack the Magician

Hokepoints: Jack the Magician

Submitted by Seth on August 27th, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Highlights from 1948 Rose Bowl

Every five years or so, a group of old Michigan players from mid-1940s would gather to share old stories and relive the camaraderie of one of the closest teams to ever put on the winged helmet. The team featured the All-American backfield duo of Bob Chappuis and Bump Elliott, not to mention Howard Yerges, Bob Mann, and future All-Americans Alvin Wistert, Pete Elliott, Dick Rifenburg, and Robert Wahl. But when you ask the history guys who really made that team go, their answer is always the same guy, and not one of the above. He was also, coincidentally, the guy organizing the reunions.

As they last met in 2008, 2013 was supposed to be the next such get-together. Some of the guys are still out on the golf course, but the years have dealt the losses to these men that their 1946-'49 opponents never could, and of those that remain to us, too few can responsibly make the journey for a 2013 reunion. So we'll have it here instead, as MGoBlog had the opportunity to interview the man at the heart of one of Michigan's all-time greatest teams, spinning fullback Jack Weisenburger.


Last week I had the opportunity to spend a short time speaking with Jack on the phone about his time at Michigan, from his recruitment to the changes he witnessed in wartime, to the team. His story and theirs, after the jump.