Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Notre Dame

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Notre Dame

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Gratuitous Video of the Week:

Formation Notes: The most interesting thing was Michigan's deployment of an unbalanced line on several plays to good effect. The PA FB flat and throwback screen both game out of the unbalanced line, as did a two-yard Hopkins power.

Substitution Notes: Barnum went the whole way in place of Schofield. Shaw, Smith, and Hopkins seemed to alternate snaps about evenly. Odoms got in for a little bit towards the end; other than that the WR rotation was about how it was.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M23 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel tight Run QB power off tackle Robinson 7
It's Nix, not Cwynar in for the first snap, FWIW. Michigan runs at the left side off the line, pulling Omameh and using Shaw as a lead blocker. Molk(+1) and Barnum(+1) double Nix, blowing him off the line; Lewan(+1) handles Johnson by himself. ND is not exactly surprised by this playcall and has the intended hole full of bodies. However, Nix has started to flow hard and Molk(+1 again) has peeled off to kick out KLM, so there's a cutback lane... Molk then peels off KLM to get a third(!) block on the play. Safeties ten yards off the LOS come in to keep the gain down.
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan, Barnum, Molk(2) RUN-:
M30 2 3 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel tight Run Zone stretch Robinson -3
Excellent diagnosis by Teo, who flows hard right into the intended lane. Shaw and Huyge both try to pick him off but he gets outside their blocks. Denard(-2) needs to cut his losses and cut behind this mess to pick up a minimal gain and a third and short; instead he tries to bounce it out. If he'd cut it up Nix had fallen (he is a battleship of a man) and he might have picked up the first. This is the kind of fast flow stuff that Michigan exploited last year. Didn't really do so this year. RPS -1.
RUN-: Robinson(2)
M33 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Penalty False start Barnum -5
Nerves from the debutant.
M28 3 11 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel press Pass Out Grady Inc
You can tell how scared ND is of Denard's legs. They rush four and have two linebackers flowing upfield right in the middle of the line, which opens up a huge gap for one of them to shoot. Instead they gingerly approach the line. Smith releases into a flare route that Fox belatedly realizes is his responsibility, he starts peeling out for it. Denard checks down to a three-yard out on third and eleven and throws it way upfield of Grady. He can't bring it in; even if he did this was zero yards. This is both a bad read and and inaccurate pass; this was a covered nothing route when he had full view of two linebackers in the middle of the field. A dumpoff to Smith had a much better chance of getting it done even without considering routes that are, you know, somewhat near the first down. (BR, 2, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M23 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass Out Grady Inc
LBs very spread out because of the... uh... spread. One safety creeping up, another at about 12 yards. This is the same route Robinson just missed, and there's an ND safety flying up on it to tackle on the catch if it gets there. It doesn't, as it's batted at the line. (BA, 0, protection 1/1.) Can't really blame Lewan here because he has to pass protect; he can't just cut because this is not necessarily a screen.
M23 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run Zone read dive Hopkins 2
This is our first indication that the zone read keeper is going to work all day. Michigan has Koger on the backside of the play; instead of going downfield he kicks out the backside OLB. Both MLBs flow hard to the playside. Denard(-2) should keep; he doesn't. If he keeps he's one on one with the FS for a big gainer. Since he handed off the blocking is five on five with Omameh(-1) doubling the playside DE instead of doing something about those charging LBs. Hopkins has to cut back and gets cut down by the backside DE, who Lewan(+1) had sealed away. Molk(+1) had blasted Nix way off the line, FWIW.
RUN+: Lewan, Molk RUN-: Robinson(2), Omameh
M25 3 8 Shotgun 4-wide bunch trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Dumpoff Smith 6
Good protection but Robinson can't find anyone. He checks down to Smith, who is immediately set upon by two ND LBs. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 7 min 1st Q. Robinson's second-down errors have killed both these drives.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Pass Waggle (sack) -- -1
Yeesh. Waggle suckers this entire insanely aggressive ND defense and gets Denard on the edge being chased by a single DE. Moore was late getting out because he got caught up in traffic but is wide open. Also wide open is the corner. Denard should run, or throw. He should do one of the wide open things. Instead he points a little bit, then slows up as he nears the line, then stops, then is snowed under. Horrible. (BR, N/A, protection N/A, RPS +1)
M19 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel 4-3 Run QB Iso Robinson 14
Notre Dame defends this well, then loses contain. Mediocre blocks along the line provide smallish creases but nothing major; Omameh(-1) whiffs on Calabrese, who fills the cutback hole Denard was aiming for. Let's cut back further. Koger(+1) is still blocking the backside end after all this time; that end has started to give ground in case he has to pursue and gives up the corner. Hypothetical ND UFR guy just gave him -2. I give Denard +3 for making 12 yards on his own.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Koger RUN-: Omameh
M33 1 10 I-Form Big Unbalanced 2 2 1 4-4 Under Run Power off tackle Hopkins 2
ND essentially has nine in the box with a safety eight yards off the LOS and charging at the snap. Michigan has a bunch in the box, too I guess. Barnum(-1) pulls and I'm not sure because I'm no expert on power yet but it seems to me like his path to the hole takes too long. When he gets there Fox is already at his feet chopping his knees out. Maybe that's too harsh, since this contact is happening right at the LOS. Maybe not. Bear with me. I've yet to see any attempt to exploit the insanely aggressive ND defense with misdirection. RPS -1.
M35 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Screen Smith Int
ND rushes three and lays everyone else back so even if this is complete this is going to die immediately (RPS -1). Denard pumps, then tosses it over the head of Nix... and Smith... and into the arms of Gray. (INX, 0, screen)
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-14, EO1Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 18
Reminiscent of a phase in RR's second year when shooting that TE backside was all the rage. Koger is lined up as an H-back and pulls across the formation as Denard executes the read. ND is so aggressive Michigan's inside zone blocking looks like they're blocking down on power with Koger the puller; Lewan(+1) blows Johnson down the line and Koger(+1) kicks out the OLB. Denard(+1) pulls, then hits the hole right next to Shaw. Johnson does a valiant job to shuck Lewan and almost get out, as does Teo, but Denard is too fast(+1) and hits the corner. This play does exploit the aggressive ND defense—suckering in Teo was key. Roundtree had a nice block downfield. RPS +1
RUN+: Lewan, Koger, Robinson(2), Roundtree RUN-:
M31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout post Hemingway Inc
Looks like a pin and pull zone on the line, but there are WRs. This does erase the safeties(RPS+1) while getting Denard time. He's got Hemingway with inside position on a post route, which is the perfect situation to put up an arm punt and let Hemingway get it... but he misses by five yards. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M31 2 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA Corner Roundtree Inc
A preview of the Great Gary Gray Garbage ExtravaGanza: dude just falls down after Roundtree fakes outside and then back to the inside. This is the WR equivalent of breaking someone's ankles on a crossover dribble. After a play action fake that does NOT suck the safeties in—contrast between this PA and the previous play is stark—Robinson sets up and hits Roundtree's corner. He zings it on a rope just out of Roundtree's outstretched hands. Live I thought this was a drop but on the tape it looks like it just glances off his fingers. Would have been a very tough catch. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)
M31 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Scramble Robinson 3
ND moves a safety down into the box and sends a fifth guy. M picks up a looping stunt but the delayed blitz from the LB comes around and gets in; Denard has had some time but can't find anyone and has to roll out. Nowhere to go, he scrambles for a few. (TA, N/A, protection ½, team -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-14, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O45 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Run Iso Hopkins 2
ND super aggressive linebackers are super aggressive, submarining the FB Watson at the LOS and giving Hopkins nowhere to go. RPS -1. The blocking is fine. It's just that there's no way for this play to work if the FB is going to get cut-blocked a yard behind the LOS and Teo is going to flow over the top.
O43 2 8 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Fade? Hemingway 43
Ah, the first of the impossible to chart things. Hemingway comes in motion to the short side, causing ND to reveal zone. The FS bails at the snap, not even considering play action. ND rushes five against seven blockers and gets nowhere. Robinson has all year. He eventually sets up and chucks a... back shoulder... fade? Is that intentional? Can it possibly be given what we've seen earlier today? It is to the outside and upfield and Gray is nowhere near it as Hemingway spears the ball, so... results based charting service. (DO, 2, protection 4/4) Hemingway catches it at the four and lunges in.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 10 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M18 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run Zone read dive Shaw -2
Same thing: ND sells out on the keeper and does not leave enough backside. Denard(-2) hands off and there's just no chance because both MLBs are shooting up in holes and there is no contain on Denard. If he keeps he's got Lewan crushing a guy, Koger blocking the backside LB, and he's one one with a safety.
RUN-: Robinson(2)
M16 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Fly Roundtree Inc
ND rushes three and is stoned. Robinson pumps and then lets a sideline fly route go; way long. Robinson throwing a fly to Roundtree with nothing relevant. This is what I am saying by grab-bag: when this happened last year the pump was to a bubble they'd thrown several times. This year it's to nothing. Roundtree is covered well and the throw is long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M16 3 12 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout out Hemingway Inc
Michigan rolls the pocket; Smith cuts the OLB to the ground to give Denard enough time to throw. He forms up and fires to Hemingway, who he did identify in a window past the sticks. Unfortunately, it's a couple yards too far inside. He could have hung it up for Hemingway to get, but not this time. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, special commendation Smith)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 4 min 2nd Q. M's next possession starts at the six with 1:31 left; they run the half out.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M10 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Nickel 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 39
They probably should have run this until ND stopped it. This is a virtual replay of the earlier zone reads: ND's linebackers are insanely aggressive and have already committed to the dive before the mesh point even happens while Koger peels off to block the OLB over the slot. There is no one assigned to Denard Robinson! Koger(+1) and Lewan(+1) do get blocks but this is just easy. Robinson(+2) for the read and the speed, Roundtree(+1) for good downfield blocking. RPS +2, though mostly because Diaco's kind of a twit.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Koger, Lewan, Roundtree RUN-:
M49 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 4
Thirty Borgeses agree. This time Teo is slightly more responsible but has still ceded the corner to Robinson; the difference on this one is the FS, who is ten yards deep at the snap and flows downhill on the read fake. If you're running play action out of this, what happens? Does Robinson throw into double coverage? No. This is our assertion. Right here. RPS -1.
RUN+: Huyge, Robinson, Koger RUN-:
O47 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB draw Robinson -6
Line sets up to pass block but doesn't actually do it at all. Molk(-2) gets beaten clean; Lewan(-1) and Omameh(-1) let Johnson into the backfield and don't try to, like, block him, until he's four yards upfield and right in Denard's path. I have no idea what they were trying to do here; it looks like they were maybe trying to go off tackle but then you kind of have to block the playside DE. RPS -2. ND gets an illegal substitution afterwards.
RUN-: Molk(2), Lewan, Omameh
O48 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Nickel Pass Hitch Hemingway Inc
Four rushers and the fifth guy coming on a contain blitz. Barnum is driven way back in the pocket, which may contribute to an iffy throw. Throw is not on time and Hemingway is not particularly open but does have position on the DB to box out; throw is okay but a little low and Hemingway cannot dig it out. (CA, 2, protection ½, Barnum -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-17, 8 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 Shotgun twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-4 Pass PA Deep Out Hemingway Inc
Zone read fake sucks up the linebackers and after the snap there are eight ND players within a yard of the LOS. Two of them eventually come through the line but it's too late; Hemingway has broken his route off and is wide open. Denard throws and hits him. Dropped. Throw could be a bit better but this is one you have to catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
M29 2 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Run Delay Hopkins 3
Safeties are rolled up just inside the first down marker; Denard checks; ND safety backs off into a deep zone, then rolls right back to where he was. This is fairly well blocked but KLM does not get far enough upfield to open up a big hole. Johnson does on the backside and Omameh releases into the linebacker back there; a cutback is the play. Hopkins(-1) misses it.
RUN-: Hopkins
M32 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide tight 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Koger 11
Johnson gets out of his lane as he tries to rush past Molk, giving Denard a lane to step up into. As he does this Te'o sucks up, understandably; Denard rifles one to Koger for the first down. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2, Molk had this under control IIRC)
M43 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA Post Gallon Int
The nadir right here. Play action on first down fools no one except Fox, who sucks up on it and falls down trying to re-direct on the wheel, leaving McColgan open forever. It is amazing how irresponsible these ND LBs are. Denard doesn't see it, instead throwing a post to a double-covered Gallon. It's easily intercepted. (BRX, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Interception, 7-17, 6 min 3rd Q. If Denard had looked for the FB this would have been a big +RPS, but he didn't.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass PA Drag Hemingway 77
Zone stretch fake into a rollout... should I not comment on Nix, the NT, getting reached and thrown to the ground by Barnum? No? Okay. Denard's looking, should dump it to Koger but doesn't, and then KLM is on him. He dodges the tackle, KLM latches onto him, and doom is en route. Denard throws a flat-footed pass 12 yards downfield that could not be better placed, and there aren't any safeties since Hemingway is free of Gary Gray. (DO+, 3, protection N/A.)
O6 1 G I-form 2 1 2 Base 4-4 Run Down G Shaw -3
Blitz off the edge gets a LB into the backfield before anyone can pull around. LB impacts puller three yards in backfield; slant under from below negates any cut inside. Barnum(-1) is the only player truly at fault. Shaw has to bounce and loses three yards. Nothing he could do there. RPS -2.
RUN-: Barnum
O9 2 G I-form Big 2 2 1 Base 3-4 Pass Waggle (scramble) Robinson 8
Not even ND's insanely aggressive LBs bite on this because it is bloody obvious (RPS -1). As a result everyone is blanketed and Denard(+3) is chased from behind. He makes a miracle happen to get down to the one.
O1 3 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Dive Hopkins 1
Shaw as the I-back and he motions out. Hopkins will run the same dive M ran against WMU. ND is prepared for this and sends everyone at the dive, getting both linebackers to contact Hopkins as the pile forms at the 1. (RPS -1.) Hopkins(-2) fumbles; Denard picks it up and saves everyone a nervous fourth down.
RUN-: Hopkins(2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-24, 14 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Pass PA sack -- -5
Man, I still think they should be running the read. Teo is less nuts now but I'll take my chances. Instead they go play action and Fox blitzes. Barnum(-2) doesn't read it and lets him through to double a DE; Smith(-1) does not cut him on the run fake. Fox sacks. (PR, 0, protection 0/3) RPS -1.
O45 2 15 I-Form Big Unbalanced 2 2 1 4-3 over Pass PA FB flat McColgan 15
I am in disbelief ND could be so dumb to let this work, but I think the unbalanced thing screwed them up. Still, Michigan's running for 2 YPC from under center and it's first and 15. ND's 55 picks up a hypothetical -3 by crashing inside and McColgan releases into epic space. Denard dumps it off and it's a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2). This was easy. Not much tonight has been easy.
O30 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 13
Pretty much the same story except now Teo is more responsible. He is not plunging right into the line. He stops and peels outside when Denard keeps but Lewan(+2) got an excellent block on KLM, forcing him down the line and causing Teo to stumble; Smith(+1) is now a lead blocker an finishes the job. Denard(+1) takes off for a first down.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Smith, Robinson RUN-:
O17 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel Run Down G Smith 3
Barnum(+1) cuts Nix out of the play as Molk, Omameh, and Huyge pull around Koger. ND shifted late to put the playside DE in a two point stance and he gets immediately upfield, forcing a cutback and making Molk useless. Because of the Nix cut Smith does have a cutback. Johnson ends up chucking Koger(-1) away after defeating his block to both sides. RPS -1.
O14 2 7 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Pass Back shoulder fade Gallon 14
Extra guy in the box, so one on one on the outside, Gallon vs Gray. So... like... what the hell do I do with this? Given Denard's accuracy earlier this may be a terrible read and a mistake. But it works. Is this brilliant? Lucky? Insane? I don't know. Since this is a results based charting service we will give the benefit of the doubt, and Gray did seem to have tough job given the timing and placement of the throw. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-24, 10 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M9 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA Deep hitch Roundtree 15 (pen -5)
Four man rush with a contain guy. Robinson sets up and finds Roundtree with a dart between two zone defenders for a big chunk. Quality throw. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) Michigan picks up a hold on Huyge that is exceptionally weak. Not relevant to the play at all and not much of a hold, either.
M4 1 15 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 6
Okay, ND has adjusted. Calabrese shoots the backside gap and tackles Smith. Robinson's read this and pulled; Teo is scraping over and waiting. Lewan(+2) pancakes Johnson, giving Robinson a cutback lane. Cavalry arrives. (RPS -1)
RUN+: Lewan(2), Robinson RUN-:
M10 2 9 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Pass PA Post Hemingway 45 + 15 pen
I was willing to give Denard the benefit of the doubt on the previous one but this is a throw into double coverage when he's got a huge lane in front of him that he can run up into for positively ages. It's underthrown and Hemingway high-points the ball but I can't condone chucking it up into double coverage. (BR, 2, protection 2/2) ND gets a terrible roughing the passer penalty after the play (refs +1)
O30 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Pass Fade Gallon Int
A terrible throw to a blanketed WR. (BRX, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Interception, 21-24, 4 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power off tackle Robinson 8
Omameh(-1) does not release downfield, instead doubling the NT that Molk has dealt with. God, Nix is such a tub. Huyge(+1) and Koger(+1) destroy Johnson; Smith and Barnum kick out guys who are maintaining outside leverage, forcing the play back to Teo. Denard(+2) WOOPs him and the safety who had come down, with help from Hemingway. A corner comes in to finish him.
RUN+: Koger, Huyge, Robinson(2) RUN-: Omameh
50 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Post Hemingway Inc
Wide open post since ND again has a single high safety who is ten yards deep at the LOS. Hemingway wide open for 30; Denard misses him. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
50 3 2 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB power off tackle Robinson 2
Molk(+1) chucks Nix to the ground again. Omameh(-2) again delays instead of getting out on Teo; Koger(+1) and Huyge(+1) flatten Johnson. Teo and Robinson meet at the first down line. I think this spot is accurate.
RUN+: Molk, Koger, Huyge RUN-: Omameh
O48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Corner Grady 27
Rush four this time with man coverage and a single high safety. Grady breaks a corner route off and gets open against a safety—mismatch. Denard hits him in stride, allowing Grady to rip off some YAC. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O21 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Pass Throwback screen Smith 21
The dagger for these linebackers. No one is keying Smith and six ND players are hammering after Robinson as the entire left side of the line fans out to block for him. Robinson flips the ball to Smith and he turns upfield to see... well, he should see nothing but green except Lewan(-2) totally whiffed on the OLB. Smith(+2) cuts upfield past him, then heads back outside as Roundtree(+1) blasts the last corner infield. Touchdown. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-24, 1:15 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Deep hitch Gallon Inc
Omameh(-2) gets beaten and is lucky that he doesn't get called for a hold; he shoves the OL past Robinson and Robinson steps up. He finds Gallon open for 20 yards and misses him (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Omameh)
M20 2 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Wheel Gallon 64
Better protection this time; ND does loop a guy around to flush Robinson up. As he's moving he finds Gallon open again, this time deeper, and nails him in stride about 35 yards downfield. Gallon rips off another 30 on the ground before being angled OOB. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O16 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Nickel Pass Fade Roundtree 16
This is only an okay throw; if Gary can get his head around he's got a play on the ball. But he's Gary Gray. He's all interfering and such, not looking back, and Roundtree makes the catch anyway. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-31, EOG





Your enthusiasm is insufficient. I sentence you to death.

Look, man… it's just that… thanks to poker I have a model of the world in my head that holds two things as very different things: what happened and the likelihood of it happening. This remains a results-based charting service but that doesn't mean the charts are the be-all and end-all. They've always been useful guides but sometimes I disagree with my own numbers, for one. For two, results-based charting has always been an offshoot of the humility that comes from being amateur trying to figure out a very complicated thing. I'm not sure "chuck it up and hope" is that complicated.

As you'll note above, I did provide some credit to Denard/the offense for chucking it up. The diverse and sundry skyward heaves:

  1. Hemingway 43-yard touchdown: dead on
  2. Roundtree fly route: inaccurate
  3. Rollout post to Hemingway: inaccurate
  4. Double-covered Gallon INT: bad read XTREME
  5. Back shoulder fade for Gallon TD: dead on
  6. Hemingway 45 yard double covered arm punt: bad read
  7. Single-covered Gallon INT: bad read XTREME combos with inaccurate
  8. Roundtree touchdown: catchable

2 DO, 1 CA, two IN, three BR, two of the X variety. I don't know if that's sustainable. For whatever reason, Denard's accuracy is in the crapper this year, so having him heave it to covered WRs is a 50-50 proposition. I mean, what happens when the guy defending them isn't "atrocious"?

In a lot of scouting circles, Notre Dame CB Gary Gray was considered a draftable prospect entering the year with a possible mid-round grade according to some. However, when watching him on tape this summer I didn’t really like what I saw then and I certainly didn’t like what I saw Saturday night vs. Michigan as Gray was victimized time after time vertically down the field. And it wasn’t’ the fact he struggled to keep pace, as he is a solid straight-line athlete. It was his ability to look, lean and find the football that was downright atrocious. And it doesn’t matter how good a defensive back’s coverage skills are, if he can’t find the football he’s never going to make plays, which is my biggest fear concerning Gray as he looks nothing more than an “athlete” free agent at this stage.

What would the results-based charting look like if we tried that against someone average instead of atrocious?

So why is it the offense's fault instead of Denard's?

The possibilities as I see them:

  • The accuracy issues are a short-term fluke. Denard's only had a game's worth of opportunities to throw so far. People have bad games.
  • Last year Denard was restricted to a set of easy, short routes that he could hit and is now being asked to do other things. IE: last year was a mirage because he just threw hitches.
  • Denard is worse now for whatever reason. IE: he is legitimately regressing.

Hoping for the fluke explanation, but there seems to be some merit to Door B. He's a breakdown of passes in last year's Notre Dame game:

  • Hitch: 9
  • Flat, seam, bubble: 6 (one waggle FB flat!)
  • Deep curl, flare: 3
  • Tunnel screen: 2
  • Post, corner, fly: 1
  • Throwaway: 1
  • Run around like Tate: 2

This is a dedicated short passing game that ran a ton of curl/flat. Denard completes 60% for 1 TD and no INTs, averaging 6.1 YPA. This year we've got the eight downfield chucks, two throws behind the line (8% of attempts) instead of 11 (over 28%), and a total lack of free touchdowns in the seam or hitches to stationary targets that worked well last year when Roundtree wasn't dropping them.

This is kind of sexy in the long term since it indicates that Borges is partial to bombing it downfield; in the short term it leads to things like nasty—

I don't want to see your chart.

Charts anyway. I've left common opponents from last year in, because it will be interesting to compare.

2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%

Hello massively bipolar day and worst DSR since we crammed his entire freshman year together to get a single game. The number of throws were way down; the number of tosses into coverage and badly missed balls were way up. Why? Too early to tell.

Adding to Denard's tough day were a few bad decisions on the ground. On the first drive he could have cut it up on second and three for near first-down yardage; instead he lost three. It took him a bit to recognize that ND's linebackers had lost their minds, so he handed off for nothing gains a couple times on the zone read. He did manage a bunch of yards on the ground by being Denard, though, most importantly the Dance of Waggle Chicken Salad:

Mmmm waggle chicken salad.

As the season develops we'll get a better idea about whether this is momentary jitters, an adjustment to a new offense, or a straight-up limitation that needs to be gameplanned around. Survey says ask again later.

But his receivers sucked.

No. There was one drop and a couple of maybes.

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway 2 - 2/3 1/2 2 - 3/4 1/2
Roundtree - 0/1 1/1 1/1 - 1/2 1/1 2/2
Odoms - - - - - - - -
Grady 1 - 0/1 1/1 2 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon -


- 2/2 - - - 4/4
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - - - 0/1 1/1 -
Jackson - - - - - - - -
Koger - - 1/1 - 1 1/1 1/1 1/1
Moore - - - - 2 - - -
Toussaint - - - - - - - -
Shaw - - - - - - - -
Smith - - - 2/2 - - - 2/2
Hopkins - - - - - - - -
McColgan 1 - - 1/1 1 - - 1/1

That's basically fine, better when you consider Gallon and Hemingway bailing Robinson out on jump balls. The receivers were a net positive.

The OL:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 7 3 4 A couple impressive pancakes.
Barnum 2 2 0 Down block, pull around, kick out, etc.
Molk 3 2 1 JAG in power scheme
Omameh 0 6 -6 Inexplicably doubling DTs on outside power instead of getting to Teo on second level.
Huyge 3 - 3 Comboed with Koger effectively.
Schofield - - - DNP
Mealer - - - DNP
Moore - - - Still pretty anonymous in limited PT
Koger 6 1 5 Gave team lot of room outside tackles.
TOTAL 18 13 5 Couldn't run for crap unless ZR was pulling LBs out of position
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 15 4 11 The only thing M had going.
Gardner - - - DNP
Toussaint - - - DNP
Shaw - - - Hardly got a carry.
Smith 3 - 3 Screen weaving a game-changer.
Hopkins - 3 -3 Welcome back to the doghouse
Cox - - - DNP
McColgan - - - One slamming block.
TOTAL 18 7 11 Just Denard again.
Player + - T Notes
Stonum - - - --
Odoms - - - --
TRobinson - - - --
Roundtree 3 - 3 Very helpful on screen, couple of Denard runs.
Grady - - - --
Gallon - - - --
Hemingway - - - --
TOTAL 3 - 3 Eh.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 44 6 88% Team 1, Barnum 3, Smith 1, Omameh 2

FWIW, I have the RPS as 10 – 14 = –4. Not quite enough exploitation of those LBs.

Getting a little concerned over here that the offensive line is being asked to do something it's not very good at even when there seems to  be an obvious reason to go back to the old well: a 340-pound nose tackle who's about as mobile as Woody Hayes. Sean Cwynar didn't play at all so this Nix battleship came in and fell over every time he was asked to move down the line. This seems like the perfect opportunity to zone stretch some dudes—and when they used stretch play action the backside G was usually throwing him on the ground—but we didn't get a single one all day. Thus Molk coming out of a game with a +1.

Misopogon already calculated this but it's something I was going to do anyway: runs from under center averaged 2.3 yards. Runs from the shotgun averaged 7.5. Small sample sizes apply; they are less small this time around.

What is your problem with the offense, buddy?

Mostly I miss the tender caresses of Rich Rodriguez, the moonlit walks we'd used to take as he described his decision to hire Greg Robinson's hair and have it run a 3-3-5 Greg Robinson's hair had never heard of, or his decision to recruit one OL in that one recruiting class, that a center, and lose 30% of his players a year in. I have no good reasons for thinking this and can be safely dismissed because I don't know what I'm talking about.

For my mother, the only person who can muster up enough love to keep reading this far: so the thing is, here's a screenshot. It's from the first play of what would eventually be Michigan's first go-ahead touchdown drive.


Denard's taken about two steps towards the line of scrimmage and all eleven Notre Dame players are within eight yards of the LOS. They are in man with no reasonable safety help. If Denard was to pull up and look for a receiver he'd have Odoms breaking open on a corner or post from the slot. This kind of thing didn't happen when Michigan went under center. Notre Dame did blow some stuff because their linebackers are stupidly aggressive; they were not forced to put every player they had level with the umpire.

Here's the next play, which is just a straight drop-back pass. This is a full two seconds after the snap:


You see that guy at the edge of the screen ten yards deep? That's the free safety. The deep middle is now ten yards. There are 100 seconds left! The free safety is ten yards off the LOS and Notre Dame is rushing three! This is the planet of Denard's legs!



A receiver wide open for 30 yards who Denard misses. This is easy. Two plays later ND will show a straight-up 3-4 on first and ten with one high safety and man coverage; Grady will break a corner route against man and Denard will hit him for major yards.

Michigan did not get much that was easy based on the structure of the offense. Te'o and Fox/Calabrese running headlong at anything that moved got them open FB wheels, those zone reads, and the Smith throwback screen, and then everything else was chuck and pray. It worked; I have doubts it is a tenable solution long-term.

This is not easy

Not easy

Not easy


The deep middle is 25 yards downfield on first and ten from under center. Yeah, all of Michigan's touchdowns came from under center. But they weren't, like, open except insofar as anyone covered by Gary Gray is open, nor was there anything about the structure of those plays that required playing from the I-Form—Michigan scored on a throwback screen to Martell Webb last year.

If you want to rely on Denard being able to diagnose and consistently throw back-shoulder fades against good, sometimes double, coverage, um… okay. I'd rather have him throw at the blitheringly wide open dudes. I think that the shotgun + Denard makes guys blitheringly wide open This is no doubt because I make my wife wear a Rich Rodriguez mask at night and not because I spent last year copiously documenting it.

Do you have an annoying disclaimer for us?

Yes. I spent large chunks of the offseason praising the coordinators and I'm not throwing that out the window after two games. There are a lot of things that concern me but these are not GERGs. I'm guessing we'll see things get figured out. God, this is tedious isn't it? Should I bother explaining things to the kind of people who see this as an attack on the coaches? Sure, I don't want Michigan to win anymore because Rodriguez is gone. That makes sense given the last six years of content here. Nevermind.

But Notre Dame's defense is really good!

I'm skeptical of that argument. ND finished 50th last year in standard yardage, 25th in FEI* and Bob Diaco is a weird guy. They coach their linebackers to be super aggressive, which is great when it works and stupid when it doesn't, like when a simple zone read with hardly a tweak opens up for big gashing runs. I suspect they might be vulnerable to misdirection all year.

*[If this sounds good in the context of 120 teams, it's in the Illinois-Iowa-UNC area, so… good, not great.]

So Bob Diaco is…?

I think not very good. His linebackers are incredibly irresponsible. You know about the two McColgan openings caused by linebackers not covering him and the zone reads where Teo flew upfield:

What you may not have noticed was that on two other zone reads where Denard handed off they did the exact same thing. This was the fifth(!) basic zone read where they had no one for Denard Robinson. Maybe they wanted the OLB to be the contain guy but dude was getting blocked. They did manage to adjust on the sixth one, though. Good job, Diaco!

This is how they did it:

By getting the free safety to tackle him four yards downfield. Which goes back to the earlier point, I think.


Denard. Also Hemingway, Gallon, and especially Gary Gray.



What does it mean for Eastern Michigan and beyond?

I've already given you my take above. They'll work on their stuff and try to get Denard more accurate and their tailbacks gaining more than two yards a carry out of the I, but when push comes to shove I don't think they really have a choice. We'll see.

Preview 2011: Five Questions On Offense

Preview 2011: Five Questions On Offense

Submitted by Brian on September 2nd, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Previously: The story, the secondary, the linebackers, the defensive line, the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs, the quarterbacks, special teams, defensive questions.

Is Al Borges going to play to his strengths or Denard's?

Borges has been talking about lots of wide receivers and lots of shotgun since people started him asking the obvious question of the offseason. This has not kept people from asking him "yeah, but how much?" The only thing Borges could have done to get people to cease and desist is present a signed contract guaranteeing a certain number of shotgun snaps and QB Draw Oh Noes.

He didn't quite do that in his interview with the BTN crew when they hit up Ann Arbor, but he came closer than he ever had before:

Point blank: Denard "is the priority." (Readers wishing to contrast with Rich Rodriguez are asked to focus on his obsession with a poorly-run 3-3-5, not his inability to squeeze maximum production out of the ragtag 2008 offense.)

The spring game disputes this version of reality:

They kept running the waggle and Denard could not get anything out of it. There was a guy in his face the whole time; the resulting throws were frequently incomplete due to inaccuracy. In the video above when Hoke references a couple of "drops" the best examples the BTN can dig up are Drew Dileo almost making a spectacular one-handed stab and Darryl Stonum almost making a spectacular sideline lay-out.

Maybe in a tackle football game he can escape that contain guy on the regular, but that seems like a high variance strategy with limited upside. Option 1: beats corner guy, is on corner, has shot at running some probably not immense distance or hitting a crossing route of some variety. Option 2: second and 20. There's a reason the waggle is strictly an occasional changeup—whenever you've got the ball and are spending time with your back to the defense there's a chance something awful is going to happen, like John Navarre getting blown up in that one MSU game.

But after the game Borges said Denard would run more "in the real world" and that's a long time ago now and every indication we've had since is that the offense isn't going to be a whole lot different than it was last year.

so happyI have been arguing for this to the point where I feel bad for annoying people about it. This makes me so happy. It makes me drool baby drool. Look at that.  I am so happy.

ONE: it suggests that Al Borges is awesome. His career has hinted from this as it rambled from scrambling Forcier-a-like Cade McNown to brutal play-action annihilation with Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, and Jason Campbell to a flexible multi-formation West Coast attack featuring Ryan Lindley in any formation you care to name. Now he's got the squarest peg he's ever run across and he's busily shaving his offense to match.

TWO: This is the way to go, especially now. In the NFL, shotgun formations are more efficient:

Shotgun formations are generally more efficient than formations with the quarterback under center.

Over the past three seasons, offenses have averaged 5.9 yards per play from Shotgun, but just 5.1 yards per play with the quarterback under center. This wide split exists even if you analyze the data to try to weed out biases like teams using Shotgun more often on third-and-long, or against prevent defenses in the fourth quarter. Shotgun offense is more efficient if you only look at the first half, on every down, and even if you only look at running back carries rather than passes and scrambles.

In college, running quarterbacks have a real advantage that the Mathlete stumbled across while trying to figure something else out:


In Denard's specific case the threat of a run from him is the reason he could surge to 20th in passer efficiency (Chad Henne 2006: 26th) one year after being totally incompetent.

Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.

How much will Borges's lack of familiarity with cheetahs in Porsches strapped to jet engines and dropped out of an airplane hurt the offense?

It is going to hurt somewhat. Pretty much the only thing Rodriguez was consistently awesome at was introducing wrinkles in the run game that consistently produced. Remember that dreamlike first half against Penn State in 2008 when Brandon Minor emerged from nowhere and raged his way down PSU's throat? Rodriguez was fantastic at that stuff.

It petered out in his first two years because he had nothing to go to—no constraints—when the defense started cheating on him. With Robinson the wrinkles not only to the run game but to the defense-crippling QB Draw Oh Noes resulted in either points or plays where the points were there for the taking if only the players could have executed. Maybe the fundamentals were lacking. I tend to think of these things as youth and bloody fate. Either way you could see the outline of something great and tentacled in Michigan's fumbling missteps and blown opportunities. Rodriguez's offense was gorgeous in how it gave defenses awful choices.

Al Borges can do that. In his first year at Auburn, Jason Campbell averaged 10 YPA. Ten! That is a great many yards per attempt.

I'm not sure he can do that with Denard. He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.

Is anyone going to help Denard out?

michael-shaw-minnesotaFitzgerald Toussaint 2Michigan running back Vincent Smith (2) plays against Wisconsin in Madison, WI on Saturday, November 14, 2009. (Zachary Meisner/Daily)

I think so. Injuries laid up Shaw and Toussaint last year; both are apparently healthy. It's also possible that Vincent Smith will be closer to his late freshman form now that he's almost two years removed from his ACL tear. Add in a sophomore Hopkins and a couple freshmen and there are a lot more bullets in the chamber than there were last year, when Michigan was down to Smith and a fumble-prone Hopkins most of the season.

Without a similar plague of injuries, whoever emerges from those six guys is going to be better than the one who emerged from two. That's still going to hold true even when the grim reaper scythes one of Shaw or Toussaint down in the Big Ten opener. (Don't even think this isn't happening.) Getting production out of the tailback is key. If they can do that they can approximate last year's offense without putting undue pressure on Denard's bones.

In the passing game the #1 candidate to turn incompletions and short gains into longer ones is Junior Hemingway. He averaged 18.5 yards a catch last year and showed signs of being a guy you can just chuck it to because he'll come down with it. A fully healthy, senior Hemingway is a potential breakout performer.

Is the offensive line cut out for this?

Las year's offensive line was a B+. They didn't get an A because of a zillion Taylor Lewan penalties and mediocre play at right tackle. The interior line was very good. This year everyone is back save Steve Schilling and Perry Dorrestein. Dorrestein was a replacement level starter and Schilling has a touted, capable backup entering his redshirt junior year. Four starters return.

If this is not a great offensive line it will be because of a mismatch between what they were recruited to do and what they've been asked to do. Of late there has been a surge in OL skepticism from the premium practice reports on the message boards; I interpret this as a bunch of power being run not very effectively by a crew that should be running primarily zone.

If "this" is old-school MANBALL running, the answer is no. If it's a hybrid between last year and MANBALL, they'll get by. If they're making people cheat on the zone they will kill.



Michigan will backslide. But let's set the point from which they will backslide: I believe the advanced metrics. Michigan's field position was terrible, field goals were terrible, turnovers were terrible, and so forth and so on. We would have gotten a better picture of this offense if the field position they  gained was honored either by the special teams or the defense. What happened last year was a lot of excellent play marred by turnovers from a true sophomore first-year starter with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

If Michigan did not have the #2 offense in the country last year, they weren't far off. What we had going last year was both explosive on the ground (5.6 YPC exceeded Carr's best effort this decade by almost a yard and a half) and in the air:

Last season, his first as a full-time starter in former coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, Robinson had 16 runs that covered at least 20 yards and seven that exceeded 30 yards. He had at least one 20-yard gain in nine of the Wolverines' 13 games last season. He scored touchdowns on runs of 87, 72, 47, 32 and 32 yards. He also had 12 pass completions of more than 40 yards. That's more than Stanford's Andrew Luck.

Criticisms about Michigan's inability to score points against elite defenses mostly boil down to inopportune turnovers and bad defense. In games against Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, Michigan averaged nearly 440 yards. Because of the defense, special teams, and Denard's high turnover rate they didn't turn those yards into enough points—and they still scored 28 or more in three of those games. The bowl game was the only real clunker.

It was for real and it returns everyone save Steve Schilling, Martell Webb, and Darryl Stonum. Those three guys have upperclass replacements that should do just fine. The main issues with maintaining last year's level of productivity are:

  1. Regression to the mean.
  2. Keeping Denard upright.
  3. Not suffering more than two injuries on the OL or at TE.
  4. Having horrible enough field position to lead the country in long TD drives again.
  5. Not screwing it up.

#2 is the biggest problem. The most efficient version of the offense is also the one most likely to get Denard knocked up out. They'll move away from that when they can, which will mean a hit. This is some version of #4: not screwing it up. I don't think they will. We will get some symbolic MANBALL—the first play against WMU is probably going to be power out of the I-form that goes for three yards—to please the Great Tradition and then Borges will get down to the business of being a coordinator instead of Mike DeBord.

Let's hit shift and comma!


  • junior Denard > sophomore Denard
  • Toussaint/Shaw/Smith/Hopkins > younger, more injured versions of same
  • junior Patrick Omameh > sophomore Omameh
  • sophomore Taylor Lewan >> Huyge/Lewan/Penaltyfest
  • Huyge/Schofield > Huyge/Dorrestein


  • David Molk == David Molk
  • Junior Hemingway == Junior Hemingway
  • Roundtree/Grady == Roundtree/Grady


  • Ricky Barnum < Steve Schilling
  • Kevin Koger/Brandon Moore < Koger/Webb
  • Martavious Odoms < Darryl Stonum
    This is still going to be a very good offense, and this year they should have points to show for it.

Last Year's Stupid Predictions

Michigan 2010 finishes atop the rush YPC chart above without considering the UMass game and by a considerable margin.


Gardner ends up burning his redshirt in very, very frustrating fashion, because…

Check-ish. Michigan is trying to un-burn that redshirt.

Denard is pretty much your starting quarterback all year, but…


…Forcier plays in every game, bailing Michigan out in one critical fourth quarter.

Not quite every game but lots of them. Forcier did bail Michigan out against Illinois and came damn near doing so against Iowa.

Vincent Smith gets the most touches amongst the running backs. Second: Shaw. Third: Toussaint. Fourth: Hopkins.

Pretty close. Toussaint's injuries knocked him out.

Robinson is Michigan's leading rusher.

All too easy.

Darryl Stonum does not exactly go Chris Henry on the planet but does greatly increase production via a series of big plays: 30 catches, 650 yards, 6 touchdowns.

Stonum did see his production increase to 633 yards but it took him 49 catches to get there. The Chris Henry lite of the offense was Junior Hemingway, who had 593 yards on 32 catches.

Michigan breaks out the triple option with regularity, using Hopkins as the dive back and Shaw/Smith the pitch guy. They also dig out those WVU formations where the slot motions into the backfield, with Grady the man beneficiary.


This Year's Stupid Predictions

  • Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.
  • Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.
  • Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.
  • Michigan runs more zone blocking than gap blocking. When they do gap block they are a left-handed team thanks to Taylor Lewan.
  • Koger's production is up a bit but total TE catches only go up slightly: 20 last year, 30 this year.
  • Huyge gives way to Schofield mid-year.
  • Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.

Shotgun Yesterday, Shotgun Today, Shotgun Tomorrow, Shotgun Forever

Shotgun Yesterday, Shotgun Today, Shotgun Tomorrow, Shotgun Forever

Submitted by Brian on July 1st, 2011 at 1:12 PM


via flickr user larrysphatpage

Almost nothing drives me more insane than someone who proclaims certain numbers to be bad because these other numbers are better without suggesting a mechanism that would make this true. Via Slate, Murray Chass provides the canonical example:

The stats freaks who never saw a decimal point they didn't worship were ecstatic last year when Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young award while winning only 16 games. Felix Hernandez, who won 19 and whose 2.49 earned run average was second to Greinke's 2.16, would have been my choice, but the stats guys "proved" that Greinke was the correct choice because of his statistical standing in formulaic concoctions in which we mere mortals do not imbibe.
—Murray Chass, murraychass.com, May 9, 2010.

This makes me clench and unclench my fists helplessly. It seems impossible that you could be this venerated New York Times baseball writer without picking up on the fact that AL pitchers have no control over how many runs their team scores. The fists clench and unclench because attempting to model an argument with Murray Chass about this quickly leads into a cul-de-sac where Chass says something condescending about something he doesn't understand and repeats it ad nauseum as if he believes "no blood for oil" or "drill, baby, drill" is a coherent, self-contained, impregnable point of view.

Presenting Jonah Lehrer, who actually manages to write for Wired despite being able to compose the following:

Consider the case of J.J. Barea. During the regular season, the backup point guard had perfectly ordinary statistics, averaging 9.5 ppg and shooting 44 percent from the field. His plus/minus rating was slightly negative. There was no reason to expect big things from such a little player in the playoffs.

And yet, by Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Barea was in the starting lineup. (This promotion came despite the fact that he began the Finals with a 5-for-23 shooting slump and a minus-14 rating.) What Dallas coach Rick Carlisle wisely realized is that Barea possessed something that couldn't be captured in a scorecard, that his speed and energy were virtues even when he missed his layups (and he missed a lot of layups), and that when he made those driving floaters their value exceeded the point score. Because nothing messes with your head like seeing a guy that short score in the lane. Although Barea's statistics still look pretty ordinary — his scoring average fell in the Finals despite the fact that he started — the Mavs have declared that re-signing him is a priority. Because it doesn't matter what the numbers say. Barea won games.

A man who writes for Wired ascribes JJ Barea's value to "nothing messes with your head like seeing a guy that short score in the lane." Fists clenching and unclenching due to impossibility of refuting argument that stupid. Plenty of other people have tried to do so. Some guy at Deadspin who pointed out that the Mavs are amongst the most stat-obsessed teams in the league. A Baseball Prospectus guy tore apart Lehrer's introductory car analogy, in which car buyers who focus on a couple of barely relevant but easily understandable numbers instead of the important, hard-to-quantity data are Bill James, not Joe Morgan.

It doesn't matter, though. These articles always have a tautologically number-negating logic. The argument goes:

  1. I don't understand statistics*.
  2. People who understand statistics don't understand intangibles.
  3. ???
  4. Therefore my understanding is superior.

Now let's talk about Denard Robinson and last year's offense.

*[This lack of understanding can be many things but is always at least this: statistics are a suggestive tool, not math gospel. To be fair, some people use statistics like they are a golden hammer. These people are very annoying and should be yelled at. Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. ]



This came up a lot in the aftermath of the Spring Game, when the quarterbacks strove to make themselves indistinguishable from walk-ons and quite a lot of people put finger under collar and went "uggggghhh." This was met with a round of backlash largely consisting of people pointing at select—sometimes hilariously select—statistics from last year's team in an effort to prove the offense wasn't really that good.

The favorite was a focus on the first halves against good opponents, when Michigan did not score points. This did not escape notice even around here:

The Ohio State game has the power to make whatever happens in it seem like Michigan's season in microcosm, and so the overriding theme of the 2010 season is looking up at the scoreboard at halftime to see Michigan on pace for about 500 yards and about twenty points. Michigan had 238 yards and seven points this time around and instead of a competitive game we got the usual.

Michigan was frustratingly spectacular at getting to the half with almost 300 yards and something like ten points on the board. But using points to evaluate the output of an offense is like using wins to evaluate a pitcher. Events outside the entity you are trying to evaluate have so much impact on that number, it is only a fuzzy explanation of the story.

I have engaged in message board fights and observed many more about whether the Wisconsin game was a failure on the offense's part. At the half the score was 28-0 Wisconsin and the game was as good as over, whereupon Michigan came out of the locker room and scored three straight touchdowns against the UW defense. This would have made the game interesting if Michigan could have forced the Badgers to pass, ever.

My fists do the clenching bit whenever anyone tries to claim the Wisconsin game was evidence Michigan should move away from the spread. The Michigan offense's entire first half:

  1. Michigan drives from their own one yard line to the Wisconsin their 35 before punting.
  2. Michigan drives from their 28 to the Wisconsin 13; Seth Broekhuizen misses a 30-yard field goal.
  3. Three and out from the 36.
  4. Three and out from the 40.

(There was also a meaningless two play drive at the end of the half.) That's not a great four drives. It is a great seven drives if you consider the next three. Meanwhile, the final touchdown against UW is often dismissed as "garbage time" but Badger tacklers on that drive include JJ Watt, Patrick Butrym, and Aaron Henry—all starters—and Michigan hit Roundtree three times for more than 20 yards on a three-minute march. That was not Wisconsin's goal. Even if you still dismiss Michigan's last couple drives as garbage you have to acknowledge that the defense's inability to make them meaningful robbed the offense of opportunities to impress for real.

But you're sitting there and your fists are clenching and unclenching and everything is black and doom and blacky black doom, so maybe it's hard to tell.

Transistors don't give a damn


This is the disconnect. While what seems like a fairly large subset of the fanbase saw wholesale collapse in the Wisconsin game, computers saw two units failing immensely and an offense that put up 442 yards on a defense that gave up 321 on average, scored 31-ish points (computers will credit the offense with acquiring the field position for the field goal and deduct the miss from the special teams; if they deduct from the garbage TD they will use a lower denominator when trying to figure out expected points) on a defense that gave up 21. Statistically, Michigan's offense was at least a standard deviation above the mean against the Badgers.

While the Wisconsin game is the biggest outlier between the offense's actual and perceived performance, it's instructive. It is often lumped in with the crap from last year along with Iowa (tenuous case indeed there), MSU, OSU, and the bowl game. There is no reasonable case it should be. This is why statistics are useful, because meat-emotions often overwhelm our capacity for reason.

These are the questions I think we should be asking in our most robotic voices:

What aspects of last year's performance project most strongly to next year's?

There are three reasons for the gap between points and yards: field position, field goal kicking, and turnovers. The latter two combined to see Michigan's redzone scoring rate rank 109th nationally. The first two are almost entirely out of the offense's control. The latter was a huge problem all three years under Rodriguez. However, turnovers notoriously do not correlate year to year, are heavily dependent on quarterback, experience and saw Rich Rodriguez consistently in the black at West Virginia.

Michigan's turnover issues aren't fate, should improve naturally, and are not related to the spread. Most of Michigan's other issues at turning yards into points are not really the offense's.

That leaves an inherent flaw in the spread offense as a potential culprit that has the potential to repeat next year. Point in favor: Michigan was even worse in the redzone in 2009, finishing with just 49% of available points. Point against: Auburn and Oregon finished in the top ten last year. Further point against from a Football Outsiders study of the NFL:

We took … 20 overachievers and measured their performances the season after said overachievement; while their DVOA [ed: something value over average, a fancy stat they have designed to smooth out noise.]  in the red zone that initial season exceeded their total offensive DVOA by an average of 33.3 percent, in the following season, their DVOA in the red zone exceeded their total DVOA by an average of 1.3 percent. In other words, the teams' performances in the red zone mirrored how they did outside it, implying the overachieving was a fluke.

We also can measure this by using correlation coefficients, a way of measuring the relationship between two variables that results in a number ranging from minus-1 (at which the two variables have an exact inverse relationship) to plus-1 (at which the variables have a perfectly positive relationship). The correlation between a team's performance in the red zone and its overall offensive performance, year to year, is 0.08 -- essentially nil. Teams simply do not exceed their performance in the first 80 yards once they get to the final 20 on a regular basis.

The evidence suggests Michigan's red zone struggles should revert to the mean; the things that made the offense less than the sum of its yards last year are all small sample size outliers.

What's left that does correlate, or at least correlates better? Everything else. On a play by play basis Michigan's offense does well in standard and advanced metrics, and returns ten starters. If they should be better but weren't (because of things that should revert) and can expect similar performance next year (because of all the returning starters), then what should happen is that the expected and actual meet somewhere south of #2 nationally but well within the schwing range.

Is it better to play to Al Borges's strengths or the offense's strengths?

In 2008 this was easy since the offense had no strengths. In 2011 it's a difficult question. Michigan's transition demands that Borges or Denard (and, importantly, the OL) leaves his comfort zone. This is necessarily going to be suboptimal for someone.

The spring game suggests it will be vastly suboptimal for Denard if Borges gets his way, and it seems a lot easier to change playcalls than turn Denard into Jon Navarre. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. The last few years I've documented the ever-evolving Michigan run offense. Rich Rodriguez kept ahead of the curve by constantly adding new wrinkles to the ground game. He was able to do this because of his vast experience with the spread 'n' shred. Al Borges is a smart guy with a lot of experience but his history suggests his inventiveness may be more oriented towards the passing game. If a good chunk of offensive effectiveness is staying ahead of the game, Borges might be able to do that better from a pro-style offense.

But the following is true even in the NFL:

Shotgun formations are generally more efficient than formations with the quarterback under center.

Over the past three seasons, offenses have averaged 5.9 yards per play from Shotgun, but just 5.1 yards per play with the quarterback under center. This wide split exists even if you analyze the data to try to weed out biases like teams using Shotgun more often on third-and-long, or against prevent defenses in the fourth quarter. Shotgun offense is more efficient if you only look at the first half, on every down, and even if you only look at running back carries rather than passes and scrambles.

With an offense outright designed for the shotgun featuring a quarterback whose main asset is his legs, the cutting-edge effect would have to be absurdly important to make the offense more effective from under center.

Does I-form pro-style help you win in ways undefined by conventional statistics?

This is Brady Hoke's theory when he denigrates the zone-heavy spread offense as an impediment to having a good defense. A quick glance at the top defenses in both conventional and fancy measures suggests this is unlikely. TCU, Boise State, and West Virginia  were the top three teams in yardage defense. WVU, Missouri, Oklahoma, Auburn, Oregon, and Mississippi State are all in the top ten in defensive FEI. There appears to be little if any problem with having a top defense opposite your spread 'n' shred offense as long as you account for the increased pace of the spread.

Is it worth sacrificing effectiveness down the road for immediate results?

Unknowable, but there's no better way to quickly put the question marks on Brady Hoke's resume to rest than by having a breakout first season.

Extensive Conclusion Section



Coaching Clinic Notes: Offense

Coaching Clinic Notes: Offense

Submitted by Brian on April 21st, 2011 at 3:22 PM

The second half of Craig Ross's recap of the coaching clinic.

Borges and the Offense

Borges, unlike Mattison, obsessed over last year’s tape. This makes sense since the O was pretty effective for much of the year, and he wanted to evaluate what he had (particularly on the OL) to see what changes they might need to make. He noted (in a presser) that he felt that the zone blocking from RR’s tenure wasn’t a lot different from the style he prefers, but then said that they wouldn’t do a ton of zone. It is a part of the offense, but it sounds like it is like power was last year—a changeup. Borges has a lot more problems than Mattison even though we assume offense is going to be much better than the defense, because he actually has something that asks him to adapt.

Hoke made it clear that the “signature play” (their words, more than a couple of times) would be “power.” This is often out of a 21 package [ed: 2 RB, 1 TE—usually a standard I-form] with the FB kicking out/protecting the edge and the play being run through the A gap, with the backside guard pulling through the gap. Here’s what it looks like. The diagrams below were created by Borges when he was OC at Auburn and are found in Bill Mallory’s (and Don Nehlen’s) book Football Offenses and Plays:


[ed: Here's an excellent Smart Football primer. Also here is another diagram. Key player is the guy just to the left of the X representing the center:


That's actually a counter play that the Steelers used for a 75-yard touchdown in a Super Bowl a few years back. It's not "A-gap"—A gap would go right next to the center.

This won't be entirely unfamiliar. Michigan pulled guys last year. This Picture Pages covers a "down G" play—like power but with the playside guard pulling outside of the TE/tackle. Here's the C and frontside guard pulling against Indiana:

Here's an actual backside G pull on a power inverted read veer pickle sandwich (or something… Rodriguez's run game forced me to figure out/invent lingo every week):

Plenty of college spread teams use power. Here's seven minutes of it:

Yes, I am slightly obsessed with this. Also whenever this topic comes up I hear EA Kirk Herbstreit's disembodied head say "he used POWER… he used POWER… he used POWER." I'll stop now since this editorial aside is turning into its own post.]

Ideally, the back is reading the WILL who will be spilling over to the playside once he determines he has no gap responsibility on his side. If the Will pursues hard the back can even cut back to the weakside of the formation. Borges has said that they won't be in 21 and 22 personnel running power 14 times a game, but Hoke had a slightly varied message.

This Spring, power for the most part sucked against the #1 D, but it is clear that this is their primary running play. They run the Wildcat in a similar fashion. That has pretty much not been very good either.

The Borges article in the above book remains vital. My guess is he is still using slice plays: the slice pass, the naked boot and the wide zone. Funk says he has run the power for 25 years (he doesn’t seem that old) but he likes to run some zone also. He says, a la Landry, Bo and Lombardi, that they like to practice power more than it is used in games so that “the kids have seen everything a defense can throw at you and they are always prepared—we want to get to where they are always comfortable in blocking the play, regardless of defense.” Funk also said they will “never check to power” but they might check out of it.

On a personal level, Hoke has an extremely high regard for Funk. He implied that SDSU wasn’t very tough or fundamentally sound in 2009 but by 2010 Funk had created a different deal. Hoke says that Funk is the best OL coach in the country and, I have to admit, he is incredibly impressive.

At this point I don’t know what to think. I thought the offense was sketchy in the Saturday scrimmage. I thought offense was sketchy in the spring game. OK, Molk didn’t play a lot. Lewan didn’t play at all. These are two of our top three guys on the line. In both events the O was still working on reps as much as anything else. But I didn’t think either QB looked comfortable in this offense. Did the offense, really, look any better than the offense with Steve Threet in Year One of the Years of Complete Implosion? And, weren’t we running against the personnel that was the worst D in History last year? Well, everything has morphed. Wasn’t the D playing against a pretty damned good O from last year? Uh, yeah, except it was running a completely different system. [ed: DUCK!]

My sense/conclusion, though it is more mist than light, is that the D has truly improved. Part is experience. Part is growth by the younger guys, the natural progression. Part is Mattison and the HC’s focus on defense, not offense. Part is a scheme that gets guys in the right places. My sense/conclusion is also that the offense will decline, perhaps massively. Now, it is early. But doesn’t it feel like, as RR in Year One, that we are pounding a lot of square pegs into round holes? Doesn’t it feel like we have taken the best weapon in college football and hamstrung him? I can’t be right.



Special Teams

Place kicking remains a debacle. I have watched this a lot. These guys just can’t do it. If the frosh (Wile) isn’t the starter this fall we are (again) in trouble. Think four downs—not that I have any problem with that on just about any place on the field. But if you ain’t playing four downs from down 1—different deal. And, since no one but Pulaski High School is, well, we gotta get better here.

Hagerup, of course, isn’t a problem. He should be a better punter than last year and he was competent last year. He gets great hang time and doesn’t chunk them often. [Ed-M: provided whatever kept him out of the bowl is now behind him]

Punt returns: The coaches have tried a different idea re: training. Instead of hassling and bumping the returner (something I thought would have worked pretty well) the coaches are turning them around pre-punt and then forcing them to find the ball in the air, post punt. Another drill has them catching the punt with another ball tucked in one arm. Seems to be working or, at least, I didn’t see Junior, Dileo or Gallon drop one. Even when being turned around or holding another ball. Better than last spring. I will predict improvement here, for whatever reason, or only because it can’t continue.

KOs and returns I haven’t witnessed. Or, if I did, it wasn’t much and it didn’t register.


As an abstraction I could not (and still don’t) believe the offensive transition will go well in the short term. Now, Borges seems a very sharp guy. I have no concerns about his intelligence, experience or ability. His OL coach, Darrel Funk, is awesome: off the charts smart and personable. He seems less obsessed than Hoke about smashmouth football. He wants to be physical, but concedes that spreads are viable. He reminds me of Carr. Carr wasn’t a believer in zone blocking but was willing to be convinced and DeBo (plus Alex Gibbs) were able to convince him. Funk seems confident in his ability to teach any style. I am convinced he could teach anything, also.

I have zero issue with the hiring of this group. I am impressed. They stress that they never belittle or embarrass a player. Criticisms are constructive and positive. But they are more classical football guys who have inherited a lot of spread offense pieces. In this, I don’t see 2011 as much different than 2008. Lotsa round offensive pegs in square holes. In the long run, I have no doubt that Hoke will put high quality football on the field. But this might be three years away.

Let's Not And Say We Did

Let's Not And Say We Did

Submitted by Brian on March 24th, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Michigan's ground game stopped being effective in 1995.

I'm not sure if Jon Chait was reacting to the latest MANBALL quote from Brady Hoke or not, but when an article titled "You Can't Go Home Again" pops up the day after Michigan's new head coach says this:

"Once we get the power play down, then we'll go to the next phase. You know, because we're gonna run the power play."…

"We don't have a lot of fullbacks." Hopkins works out well at FB "for a lot of the old 49ers stuff" with split backs. Hoke wants fullbacks to block so hard they "come in at about 6-3, and leave the program at 6-1." …

It's hard to think otherwise. Of course, even ESPN folk have picked up on Hoke's love affair with the word "toughness"—the article could have been spurred by anything Hoke's said over the last three months. There are consistent reports that Hoke makes condescending comments about the spread at alumni events. Manball? Manball.

Some people love this. In my mind they all look like this…


yes, that's the Beckmann aficionado

…and could be coaching Purdue. I would not want to get in a conversation with any of these people because they would have very strong opinions about things they know nothing about. They would repeat inane aphorisms as if those were the final word on any subject, and they would regard any dispute as evidence of a diseased mind. I have talked to these people on the radio some. It's not fun. I close my eyes and imagine the exact dimensions and color of their mustaches. They are boringly consistent.

My hope is Hoke is a brilliant, innocent-as-snow delegator or a con man. He's got a quarterback who was an All-American as a true sophomore last year because of his legs. He's got an offensive coordinator whose track record suggests he prefers to air it out and that things get desperately bad when MANBALL advocates push him away from his mad bombing ways. He's got a set of running backs best described as underwhelming, a center who can teleport his way into tough reach blocks, and a guard who can block Manti Te'o twenty yards downfield. If the offseason could be spent fixing whatever it is that causes Robinson to turn the ball over willy-nilly, Michigan's offense would be insane. According to statistical things it already is.

Switching to an actual pro-style offense would be doing exactly what Michigan did last year when it installed the 3-3-5 despite the total unsuitability of its personnel for the scheme. It would be exactly as stupid. It can't be as bad statistically because instead of true freshman two star Ray Vinopal backed up by a duck, next to a walk on, and vaguely in front of more freshmen you have ten returning starters and Denard Robinson, but it would be just as dumb. If Hoke's bravado about being a bunch of tough bastards who love grinding out four yards on a power play is true I'm worried for the immediate and long term future of the program in the same way I was when hiring Greg Robinson caused me to dig out a picture of Tweek.

On the other hand, Beckmann aficionados love that stuff, and so do the newspapers that are no longer read by anyone other than Beckmann aficionados. English has developed lingo to distinguish words meant to be true from words meant to produce inoffensive newspaper blather: the latter is coachspeak. Rich Rodriguez was beyond awful at coachspeak. Hoke is a grand master. When IBM develops "Jim" and challenges Hoke to a duel, Watson-style, Hoke will destroy his opponent so badly smoke will come out of its nonexistent ears like that robot asked to rhyme something with "orange" in a story I read when I was eight. Hoke will lament Jim's lack of toughness.

This is a real skill the last three years have shown is way more important than you'd think. It's a relief when every press conference is Hoke being gently tickled on the belly and fed peeled grapes, and telling everyone you're establishing a mindset of toughness is fine. It's something that will help the program in the long run.

As long as you don't believe yourself. It won't help as much as winning a crapton of games, and even if the defense gets vastly better the best way to do that next year is to have an offense that puts up points, and the best way to do that is to very gently shift the offense towards your long term vision while still keeping Denard in the Heisman race.

This isn't 2008, when Michigan was screwed no matter what offense they put in. Getting Michigan's offense to go from explosive but inconsistent to world-destroying is a matter of getting a kicker, finding a good running back, working on Denard's reads and accuracy, and leaving everything else the hell alone. Michigan can't reasonably do that because they've got new coaches, but how hard is it to run a QB lead draw and follow that with QB Lead Oh Noes? The secret of Michigan's 2010 offense is that the zone read was hardly used. The other secret is it was a power running offense, one more effective than anything Michigan's run in at least the last decade and probably a lot longer.

Michigan YPC Career Leaders Since 1949 (min: 100 carries)

# Name Att Yds Yd/Att TD Lng From To
1t D. Robinson 325 2053 6.3 19 87 2009 2010
1t Jon Vaughn 226 1421 6.3 9 63 1989 1990
2 Kerry Smith 154 950 6.2 5 29 1980 1983
3 Tyrone Wheatley 688 4178 6.1 47 88 1991 1994
4 Tshimanga Biakabutuka 472 2810 6 24 60 1993 1995
5 Rob Lytle 557 3307 5.9 26 75 1973 1976
6 Allen Jefferson 175 1002 5.7 14 70 1987 1990

Michigan YPC, Team, Since 2001

# Year YPC
1 2010 5.58
2 2009 4.52
3 2006 4.27
4 2003 4.25
5 2007 3.97
6 2008 3.91
7 2005 3.89
8 2004 3.83
9 2002 3.82
10 2001 3.59

Borges should install his passing game immediately and Michigan should start running power schemes more frequently—power did feature occasionally last year—if they want to, but lining up under center to hand it off to Vincent Smith isn't going to be any better of an idea in 2011 than it was in 2010.

You can run a "pro-style" offense, but run it from the shotgun and run downhill using Denard Robinson as one of three primary tailbacks. You can't get rid of the scare quotes because he's Denard Robinson. If you do run a no-scare-quotes pro-style offense he's not Denard Robinson anymore. He's the guy handing off and you're walking back into the days where Michigan averaged less than four yards per carry and ran 65% of the time.

I think Borges knows this, but Hoke's coachspeak is going to make this the most terrifying spring game of all time.

The Tin Age Of Gold

The Tin Age Of Gold

Submitted by Brian on January 21st, 2011 at 12:51 PM

Tommy Tuberville, 1/11/2010:

"We're going to air it out," Tuberville said. "We're going to keep the Air Raid. I think it's something that Tech has hit upon that gives them that identity to recruit."

Rich Rodriguez, sometime in 2008:

“We’ll adapt. I like winning too much not to adapt a little bit to our personnel.”

Brady Hoke, 1/14/2011:

"I think you'd be remiss as a coach if you don't know your personnel, and you try to implement something that maybe you're not quite ready for. There's a way to grow to it. So we're not going to try to put any square pegs in round holes."

Midway through Rich Rodriguez's first season it had become clear that Michigan was spectacularly bad at football for the first time since the 60s, and the blame started to go around. A large portion of it was directed at Rodriguez shoehorning Michigan's pro-style personnel into the spread offense, and it was all dumb. Very dumb. I wrote a post explaining how dumb this was called "The Golden Age of Tin." In brief:

  • Despite having NFL talent up and down the roster Michigan was about 70th in offense in 2007. All of that talent left.
  • Michigan had moved to a zone running game two years before Rodriguez arrived and he changed very little on the line.
  • Four of the five starters skill position starters were freshmen who had never played in a pro-style offense. (Brandon Minor would later return from injury/discontent/quasi-suspension and play pretty well.)
  • The run-pass split was almost 50-50 a year after WVU ran 70% of the time.
  • The quarterbacks were bad in any system.

A couple years later, Nick Sheridan is a grad assistant, a redshirt junior version of Steven Threet has a 18-16 TD-INT ratio for a 6-6 Arizona State team, and Michigan's spread offense is one halfway decent turnover margin/defense/kicker from being awesome. Rich Rodriguez did a lot of things wrong in his time in Ann Arbor, but installing the offense he'd been running for 20 years wasn't one of them.

Because of all the things he did do wrong, however,


he's in a sad car with sad child. Al Borges is now in charge of Denard Robinson, a bunch of slot receivers, tailbacks no one except Fred Jackson thinks much of, and… well… a pretty decent set of pro-style outside receivers, tight ends, and (probably) offensive linemen.

Borges is going to do the only thing he can do with this personnel: coach a pro-style offense with a vertical passing game. This is not going to be as good for Michigan as continuity would be, but the person to blame for that is the athletic director, or Rich Rodriguez, or some of the things Rich Rodriguez did wrong. Al Borges has not spent the last 20 years figuring out how to get mileage out of quarterbacks who double as drag racers in the offseason. He's spent it saying "no, I'm not Jeffery Tambor" and passing to open up the run.

Coincidentally, the best example of what happens when you replace a Rich Rodriguez-type coach with a more passing-oriented guy is when West Virginia replaced Rich Rodriguez with Jeff Mullen. Mullen was the QB coach responsible for turning Wake Forest into a miraculously effective offense through 2007 and arrived in Morgantown promising more balance in the Mountaineer offense. He got it:

OC Year Runs Passes Run%
Rodriguez 2007 628 265 70%
Mullen 2008 517 305 63%

Unsurprisingly, passes got less effective as they became more frequent. The thing that dropped WVU from a national title contender to just another top 25 team was that despite rushing less, rushes also got less effective.

OC Year YPC YPA Pass Eff
Rodriguez 2007 6.2 7.8 11th
Mullen 2008 5.3 6.4 28th

If you're thinking Steve Slaton's exit for the NFL may have had something to do with that, replacement Noel Devine actually rushed for 6.3 YPC. What happened? Burgeoning Wolverine Star has a table of its own that highlights the severe drop in productivity from quarterback legs that started as soon as Rodriguez left. Pat White's rushes were exactly as frequent—down to a tenth of a percentage point—as they were in 2007 but his productivity dropped alarmingly. White averaged 6.7(!) YPC under Rodriguez and just 5 under Mullen.

While it's possible the schedule was tougher and the team weaker after Owen Schmitt and a few others graduated, Devine's numbers suggest the most likely explanation for that huge drop is that Mullen didn't know what the hell to do with White.


So. Michigan fans wishing to protect their soul-tingly-bits would do well to regard quotes like these from Borges as gentle untruths created for public perception: 

"I've been doing this for 24 years. I'm no genius and I do not pretend to be one, but I have a hell of a lot of experience with a lot of different types of quarterbacks."

But when Borges goes on to compare Robinson to Michael Vick and what he's doing with the Eagles…

"They said Michael Vick couldn't be a West Coast-style quarterback, and he's one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. Why? Because they put him in situations to run and throw. Denard is 6-feet tall, like Michael Vick. He can run and he can throw and make things happen. If Michael Vick can do that with the Philadelphia Eagles, why can't Denard Robinson do that at Michigan?"

…he suggests that "a lot of different types of quarterback" boil down to guys running NFL offenses with various scrambling add-ons. This is not a fluke. Borges has an array of quotes along those lines. It's also not very realistic. Vick's long and winding journey to becoming a good NFL quarterback took ten years of intensive coaching. When he was three years out of high school (like Denard will be next year) he had a 9-7 TD-INT ratio; VT ran 74% of the time. Their offense was a grab-bag of spread 'n' shred mixed with pro-style that featured a heavy dose of option and even more "Mike Vick makes one read on seven-step drop and starts running." It was pretty effective, but it was even more run-heavy than Rodriguez's Pat White days and took the most outrageously athletic player in the last two decades to make it go.

I'm not sure Denard is quite that, and if we're talking about putting Denard in positions to run or pass that just sounds like a lot of rollouts. And here's the weird thing about Robinson: the guy hates running the ball when he's not explicitly directed to. When he got to the edge this year he invariably chose to throw even when it was third and three and there wasn't a guy within six yards of him.

run run run run run nooooooo okay [ninja stuff] wooooo

Maybe that's because Michigan's offense revolved around Denard running 25 times a game and he didn't want to put any more tread on his tires, but seriously, how many times did you scream "run!" at the TV or field last year?

Maybe this will work out. Maybe Michigan will run four verticals at opponents until their safeties scream for help, whereupon Denard will be able to enact one-read-and-scramble. It would be easier to imagine this happening with Braylon Edwards on the outside, but Michigan did have some success throwing deep in the bowl game and I'm guessing Denard's going to spend most of his offseason throwing fly routes.

But if it doesn't, there's no alternative. Coaches are old and crotchety and just are who they are. They have a very specific, gradually moving corpus of knowledge and when they deviate from that performance suffers. Borges is an effective coordinator with a certain sort of offense. Without it he's probably going to be a version of Jeff Mullen. This is no one's fault, really, just like it wasn't anyone's fault three years ago when Rich Rodriguez surveyed his offensive personnel and felt the crevasse beneath him inch open for the first time.

Tommy Tuberville, 12/27/2010:

"I still believe in running the football," he said. "More than what they did in the past. That's the biggest difference. We want to be a bit more physical and be able to run the ball, which will help throwing it down the field, too."

RIP, air raid. RIP, spread 'n' shred.

BONUS: we should put together a pool for when and where the first column approvingly citing Borges's ability to adapt relative to Rodriguez by comparing their first seasons shows up. Bonus points will be awarded for the most irritatingly shallow glossing over of the difference between junior Denard Robinson with seniors around him versus freshman Threetsheridammit surrounded by fellow freshmen.

DISCLAIMER SECTION: I expect these things next year: Denard is a better thrower, turnover margin is a lot better (fourth year running, that prediction), all yardage metrics drop, scoring drops slightly from 25th but is better distributed across the schedule, FEI plummets. Improvement from the defense and, god willing, kicker will mask a drop in offensive power.

How Good Is The Offense? Are We Really Asking This?

How Good Is The Offense? Are We Really Asking This?

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2010 at 4:24 PM

Emotionally, this is an odd week for me. I find that I don't care about Ohio State at all. They're a very good team that's going to win in a not-that-competitive game on Saturday, like they always do. I get irritated at the hurr hurr coming from the Ohio State blogosphere but mostly because Michigan's so far from their level that it seems like a waste of time.

My hate still exists but it's focused internally, as the emails pile up and message boards pile on because I have the audacity to say if it was my decision I'd keep Rich Rodriguez on the condition he reshapes the defensive staff in such a way that we can expect them to do one boring thing reasonably well. I've explained why. In a sentence, the offense is excellent and should maintain that level over the next two years as the defense digs itself out from a massive hole.

This has caused the wing of the Michigan fanbase that thinks keeping Rodriguez is absolutely insane to search high and low for various metrics in which Michigan doesn't rate well. They can't take any of the basic stats...

Category National
Actual National
Actual Conf
Big Ten
Conference Leader
Rushing Offense 10 257.36 Georgia Tech 319.36 1 Michigan 257.36
Passing Offense 30 257.18 Hawaii 391.18 2 Indiana 283.27
Total Offense 5 514.55 Oklahoma St. 552 1 Michigan 514.55
Scoring Offense 15 36.82 Oregon 50.7 3 Wisconsin 40.91
Sacks Allowed T-11 0.91 Stanford 0.36 1 Penn St. 0.91

…and they certainly can't take any of the advanced metrics that rank Michigan second* and fifth nationally, so they resort to things like in-conference points per drive. Michigan is tied for third in the league in that metric.

If you are using this stat, you have decided that Rich Rodriguez should go and are backfilling reasons. If you're trying to downplay Michigan's second-half points against Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin, you're doing the same thing. Michigan got back in those games by scoring often and quickly, by bombing away. Michigan scoring drives against Wisconsin lasted 3:57, 0:22, 2:19, and 2:57. They could do this because defenses were aligned to stop Michigan's powerful ground game even with big second-half leads, which is why Denard Robinson racked up a bunch of deep completions against single-covered WRs in the second half. Prevent defenses do not give up sixty yard touchdowns to tight ends, as Penn State did.

The whole reason the FO stats exist is to smooth out differences in opportunities and schedule strength as best they can and they indicate that whatever problems  Michigan has don't include being the nation's #15 scoring offense against a schedule with two real nonconference opponents and without Northwestern (82nd in FEI D) and Minnesota (98th).

David Brandon's got a tough decision ahead of him—something it only seems that people who are still in favor of Rodriguez returning acknowledge—because the offense is elegantly constructed and deadly. Michigan's quarterback couldn't throw a pass straight in the first half and the receivers couldn't catch it when he did, but they still ended the day with more points than any Michigan team had scored against Wisconsin since 1990. The 31 they put up on Penn State were the most since 2000. They're solidly in the top five of the best metrics available with two seniors and a sophomore quarterback. They're going to obliterate the best rushing YPC mark Carr put up since the turn of the century by over a yard and finish in the top 20 in passing efficiency.

Anyone seriously arguing that Michigan's offense is not a reason to keep Rodriguez around is a raving lunatic. Period. I'm tired of being vilified for using numbers in non-abusive ways, but that's what we've come to. My hate week is about other Michigan fans.

*(FEI ranks Michigan second but has not been updated for last Week's games. Since Michigan put up a touchdown better than Wisconsin's scoring average any drop from Michigan will be minimal.)

Unverified Voracity Minds The Gap

Unverified Voracity Minds The Gap

Submitted by Brian on November 12th, 2010 at 2:17 PM

This is real? Um, so, this is apparently what Michigan is wearing for the Big Chill:


That is hideous. It's going to be the worst thing I ever see a Michigan team wear live. That's not a Wolverine. It's a ferret or something, and the day-glo yellow is something Oregon would be comfortable with, and I can see the 1980s Vancouver Canucks think the shoulder striping is wicked.

Other people like it, I guess, but man… put me in the "no" column.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Depending on how you define luck, Michigan has either been lucky or unlucky. The lucky part: Michigan is 4-0 in close games, though I think defining the UMass game as "close" is a stretch since onside kicks are recovered about 10% of the time when the opponent knows it's coming. If the UMass game was close than Michigan's games against Penn State and Iowa were close since Michigan had ample opportunity to get a stop that would give them a chance to tie.

Anyway, so they're 3-0 in close games but they're also hammering opponents in total yards and have been undone by yet another ugly turnover margin and terrible special teams. Braves and Birds puts together a chart with various interesting numbers:

To the chart we go!

  YPP Off. YPP Def. YPP Mar. Sagarin SRS
Ohio State 6.1 4.2 +1.9 88.22 15.36
Iowa 6.2 4.9 +1.3 86.17 15.29
Mich. State 6.0 5.2 +.8 79.56 12.16
Wisconsin 5.9 5.4 +.5 79.37 11.59
Illinois 5.1 5.2 -.1 79.29 9.06
Michigan 6.9 6.3 +.6 74.48 5.21
Penn State 5.5 5.9 -.4 73.84 5.02
NW 5.4 5.8 -.4 66.94 -0.63
Indiana 4.7 7.3 -2.6 63.63 -0.08
Purdue 4.2 5.3 -1.1 59.62 -6.07
Minn. 5.0 6.4 -1.4 58.57 -9.43

(Note: the yardage numbers come only from games against BCS conference opponents. This includes games against Notre Dame.)

Michigan's yards per play margin is on par with the weaker teams challenging for the conference title and well clear of the conference rabble, even with a defense far worse than anyone save Indiana and Minnesota. Where Michigan falls apart are the places not found on the chart, in turnovers and special teams. At least this year there's a clear reason for the turnover margin: the defense. Michigan's lost 17 turnovers this year; the NCAA average is 15.75. The defense has only acquired ten. Assuming Denard can lower his interception rate like most quarterbacks do, next year Michigan can finally approach turnover parity if the defense takes the significant step forward it could.

Anyway, B&B pulled out this chart because he'd created one for the SEC as a vehicle to discuss whether Georgia had been unlucky (conclusion: yes) and tried to figure out if the same was true for Michigan. He concludes it's a mixed bag and I agree; Michigan may have been unlucky to suffer scads of turnovers against MSU and Iowa but since a lot of those TOs resulted from Denard's now-established tendency to throw behind his receiver that's more an effect of talent limitations than bloody fate.

There's significantly more wobble in the TO numbers than most anything else year to year but certain things do reliably cause turnovers: quarterback inexperience and pressure. Michigan's had a lot of inexperience, little pressure on the opponent, and little pressure on Michigan. Results are average TO numbers against and terrible for.

Arithmetic, yo. The fundamental flaw with Spread Is Dead rhetoric is a fundamental change in the nature of offense when the quarterback can both run and throw. In an article for the Wolverine, Jon Chait gets the point across:

It's worth keeping all this in mind when you hear sports commentators announce that defenses have "caught up to the spread." It's partially true, but only partially… The part they haven't caught up to is having a quarterback in the shotgun who can read an un-blocked defender and keep the ball on almost any running play. That is the real game-changer in the spread system. It alters the entire arithmetic of the game, allowing the offense to always have enough blockers to account for the defenders in the box, while also forcing defenses into stripped-down pass coverages. Defenses can't catch up to this dynamic because you can't "catch up to" arithmetic.

The most striking thing about the Rodriguez videos everyone pored over in the aftermath of his hire was his assumption about the number of safeties he would face: one… or zero? That's the arithmetic that sees Michigan averaging over six yards a carry along with two other true spread 'n' shreds (Oregon and Auburn) and two other teams whose quarterbacks average just under 100 yards a game (Nevada and Nebraska). At the same time Michigan averages 9.2(!) YPA, because the safety question is now one or zero instead of one or two*.

*(With some limited exceptions, like Iowa. Iowa gave up over 500 yards only to see Michigan thwart itself spectacularly; since the 28 they gave up there was only exceeded by Wisconsin—Arizona got a ton of points on ST—that's kinda sorta a reason the question about safeties has changed.)

Gapping it. Given the first two bullets this table from Doctor Saturday won't be a surprise:


The Mathete's been tracking this disparity too and by his numbers, which go back to 2002, Michigan has a bigger gap between O and D performance than anyone. In my eyes this is a reason to keep Rodriguez around since it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place than revamp the program considerably.

Ballin' out of control. If you didn't see this happen you are like me but I can appreciate it in retrospect:

Your offense has the ball on its own 12-yard line with a 30-28 lead and 3:39 to play in the fourth quarter. The defense has just used the first of three timeouts. Your quarterback, who you've already tried to bench on two separate occasions this season before injuries forced him back into the lineup, completes an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. You let the clock run down to 2:50, then call your first timeout. Now facing a 4th-and-1 from your own 19-yard line with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, do you:

a) Punt and play defense;
b) Line up like you're going for it in an effort to draw the defense offsides, then use your second timeout and punt if the defense doesn't jump;
c) Seriously, anything other than a punt risks a turnover with the ball already in prime position for the game-winning field goal. Just kick it already;
d) Are we really still debating this?
e) Spit as hard as you can and actually go for it.

Randy Edsall and mansome Jordan Todman went for it, got four yards, and got to kneel out the game after another couple first downs. This is spectacular for the following reasons:

  1. Todman finished with 37 carries for 220 yards and had already established he was capable of running down Pitt's throat
  2. Tino Sunseri had completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and had just brought Pitt within two two minutes ago.
  3. If you don't make it you sell out to stop them from getting a first down and get the ball back with a shot at the win, but…
  4. It's fourth and one and your tailback has 200 yards. You're going to make it.

You could tell Zook wanted to go for it on several fourth and ones Michigan forced, but the closest he came to pulling the trigger was taking a delay of game on one. A tip of the cap to Edsall for overcoming his dread and getting a well-deserved win. People invariably call this "guts" or "balls" and while it is gutsy it's also the right call. God, I just thought about Lloyd Carr punting from the OSU 34 in 2005.

NEW TOPIC: no Big East team now has fewer than three losses and 8-4 looks like the best case scenario for the conference champion. Fire the Big East.

Scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me. Pro bowl cornerback supposed height chart from Touch The Banner:

Pro Bowl cornerbacks graph

Not much to tell except once you start getting shorter than 5'10" your shot at the super big time gets dim. I'd like to see an equivalent of this with All Conference teams to see what the breakdown is there. I bet it's shorter.

Four verts. Remember that second and twenty two Illinois converted easily? Yeah, that was four verticals against cover three, I think, and that didn't work so well. Here's a primer on what to do about it—mostly get those linebackers ten yards deep as soon as they read pass. In that down and distance that should have been "before the snap," but Michigan had them all tight and they didn't get sufficient distance, or a chuck, and Vinopal was way too deep, and bang.

Etc.: Soony Saad shot Michigan past MSU in the Big Ten soccer tournament yesterday despite Justin Meram getting a second yellow for celebration after he tied the game. They play Wisconsin today for a shot at the final. The bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace from last weekend. Holdin' the Rope reminisces about childhood visits to West Lafayette. An interview with Jon Falk.

Unverified Voracity Quantifies Special Teams

Unverified Voracity Quantifies Special Teams

Submitted by Brian on November 9th, 2010 at 11:57 AM

Profiling, again. The Daily continues its streak of crushing everyone out there with Michigan football profiles, this time hitting up Deerfield Beach for the Denard Robinson story. Cue adorable child who doesn't like you stealing her soul:


Also let's not forget that making Shoelace, Denard Robinson, for uh, shirt, you know, within the NCAA—that isn't legal.

The story itself is another epic five-pager. Sounds like he was a natural:

“He loved to run that ball,” Huggins says, looking over his old stomping grounds at Westside Park. “He’d tell me, ‘Coach, call quarterback sneak!’ I’d tell him no, to hand it off, and so he’d fake the handoff and keep it and run for a ton of yards.”

Zone read from the start. This is a read the whole thing situation.

From "it won't work in the Big Ten" to this. Illinois blog Hail to the Orange (wait… what?) on Saturday:

The difference is, and the major problem on Saturday, was that with Michigan when we bit, we paid dearly, every time. It seemed as though just one missed tackle, one bad angle and the punishment was a touchdown. We were running a contain game most of the day against Denard, and we paid because there was relatively little pressure against him, giving his receivers too much time to get open, and when combined with a play action always were open. The result: 305 PASSING yards from the Nard dog.

There were of course some bright spots. We have continued the trend of taking the ball away from the other team and not giving it back. (Five TO's recovered, to one lost.) Against teams not made out of tiny track stars coated in butter, this will equate to a win.

We will not see another team this offensively talented this season (pending a bowl bid) generally we can improve our decision making in the secondary enough to not give up constant 75 yard bombs, at least I hope not.

Here's the crazy thing: that first bit on "paid dearly, every time" isn't even true. You know that interception Denard zinged over Webb's head? That's either a touchdown or Webb gets run down from behind as Michigan switched up the QB Lead Oh Noes from the slot receiver to the TE. The safety who intercepted the ball was headed for Roundtree and dead meat until the ball went ZING. I've got two separate RPS+3 plays that end in disaster for Michigan already. If anything, Michigan's immolation of the Illinois defense is even more impressive on review because it could have been considerably worse if Denard makes a few better throws. I think we've established that Denard's not going to make great throws all the time, but man… in the UFR Michigan's going to have a huge RPS number.

The whole thing's driven Vic Koennig to despondency:

"They get you in a run, run, run mode then they drop back and hit a pass on you. They had us running around and not doing anything well."

Srs, his postgame presser is like watching a dog get kicked. Meanwhile on the Michigan sideline, Illinois has just scored to go up 45-38 aaaaand…


Fair? No. Accurate? Yes. User Tom Pickle with the win.

Sorry about nearly killing you. That guy who got plowed on the sideline during Tate's double personal foul keeper in overtime was actually Channel 7's Don Shane. The two shared a heartwarming moment afterwards:

He's got the flags to prove it, Don.

More advanced metricing. Michigan's moved up to #3 nationally in FO's S&P ratings… on offense. They're just behind Auburn and Boise State, #1 on "standard downs" and #6 on pass downs. Ohio State(!) is a surprising #5, and then the next Big Ten team is #17 Wisconsin. Michigan is #98 on defense. Woo.

I also asked Brian Fremeau for Michigan's kickoff numbers to see if that aspect of the game is actually hurting them much. I asked him last week and never got around to posting them, so these are a little out of date. In an effort to reduce confusion I'm going to flip signs so negative is always bad and positive is good. The units here are in average points away from expectation.

Kickoffs: –0.054 (79th)
Kick Return: –0.099 (95th)

Punts: +0.101 (13th)
Punt return: –0.023 (77th)

What this means is for every ten Michigan punts Michigan has saved a point in expected field position; for every ten kick returns they've lost a point in expected field position. So.

  • Points on kickoffs (58): -3.1
  • Points on kick returns (56): -5.5
  • Points on punts (30): +3.0
  • Points on punt returns(40): –0.9

Grand total: around –6.5 pending how Michigan's performance against Illinois changes the numbers (I'm guessing it doesn't change much since Michigan gave up some good returns but also busted the long one before the half).

Meanwhile, Michigan's no longer national-worst kickers (up to 117!) are –1.0 per FGA. They've attempted 11, so the field goal situation is almost twice as damaging as the rest of it. All told Michigan's losing about two points a game on special teams, which doesn't sound like much until you consider that flipping that stat would take Michigan's scoring margin from +5 to +9.

Belated Free Press denouement. I had football to talk about and didn't get around to this but a few bits and pieces to wrap up the jihad. A national take from Doc Sat:

The tepid infractions that came to light as a result of the Freep's digging are the minimum you'd expect to find at any sprawling program operating under a massive handbook, as the basic cost of employing fallible human beings while continuing to dead-lift with the Joneses. Other programs, however, weren't the target of an investigation by a major metropolitan newspaper that left no stone unturned in its efforts to make a splash against a high-profile coach who almost immediately cleaved the fan base down the middle. Michigan was, which is why it was Michigan that was forced to roll its eyes and slap itself on the wrist in halfhearted contrition as the "probation" label is applied for the first time in school history.

Chait drops Chaitbombs to the point where the fiancée thinks she should use this

Here's the headline of one report: "RichRod gets win, but still needs more on field" Here's the headline of a second: "UM's violations deemed major, but not serious" And here's a third: "NCAA's verdict: Rodriguez ignored rules; U-M gets more probation"

Those headlines came from ESPN, the Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press. You can probably guess which was which.

…as part of a media framing discussion in future classes she teaches. MVictors has audio from Brandon's appearance on WTKA wherein he said

“We apologized yesterday because we made mistakes.  I’m kinda waiting for somebody from the media to apologize for mistakes they made.  And I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen, but that would be a nice thing, wouldn’t it?”

And of course the guy who asked if Rodriguez would be fired and got a death glare was Drew Sharp. Brandon should have asked "when is the Free Press going to fire you?"

Etc.: Wisconsin's John Clay and starting center Peter Konz are "iffy" for this week's game against Indiana. Sounds like they should be good to go for Michigan but sprains can be weird. This Week In Schadenfreude does not feature Colorado because no Colorado fans care anymore. Anything can happen in dead coach walking situations and fans will just shrug and talk about who the next guy is going to be. Michigan State is 9-1 for the first time in a million years and they still can't sell out their game against Purdue without resorting to two-for-one deals.

Spread Is Dead Update: Still Not Very Dead

Spread Is Dead Update: Still Not Very Dead

Submitted by Brian on October 1st, 2010 at 10:16 AM


I feel happy!

Every offseason there is someone (often named Gary Danielson) who goes on record proclaiming the doom of the spread offense and a return to the paleolithic days when quarterbacks were pale and made of granite. The best and dumbest remains this from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

This may sound strange when coach Mike Leach's version of the spread has Texas Tech near a national title game, but Michigan's struggles this season while Rodriguez has implemented his system into college football's winningest program might be a sign: The spread, in fact, is dead.

The scheme was designed to give underdogs some hope, when a team could open up the field by recruiting a smaller quarterback with a sharp mind and a quick release, and a handful of speedy receivers. But the offense intended to confound the big boys has now been adopted by the big boys, and that may have started its demise.

But that was two years ago.

This year's evidence centered heavily on…

Texas abandoning the vestigal Vince Young-y bits from its offense after the graduation of Colt McCoy and ascension of monolithic Garrett Gilbert to the helm:

With the exit of Colt McCoy, so goes the shotgun spread for the Texas Longhorns. For the 2010 season, Mack Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis have decided to go under center with starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
Going under center could mean the beginning of the end for the spread, a style that was made popular by powerhouse SEC programs and then picked up by other conferences.

Florida abandoning the Tebow offense in favor of a conventional pocket passer:

Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio tweaked the spread offense to tailor Brantley’s strengths, putting him under center more and eliminating many designed quarterback runs.

The effectiveness of Alabama's traditional battering ram of an offense featuring returning Heisman winner Mark Ingram:

When Alabama prevailed last season, it was with gnarly defense and a vanilla offensive scheme — albeit led by Heisman Trophy-winning back Mark Ingram.

That profile in turn had ripples for Texas, a 37-21 loser to the Crimson Tide in the title game, that perhaps suggest a shift in the broader landscape.

and spread 'n' shred HQ Michigan sucking:

"lol michigan"


How are these memes working out so far?

Texas fans are livid that Mack Brown's handpicked talent couldn't manage a meaningful touchdown against UCLA:

What is the Texas offensive scheme? My answer- We have a spread that we pass out of 80% of the time, and an under-center formation we run out of 80% of the time.  We use the spread 70 – 80% of the time against quality opposition.  We call very few running plays for the QB- just a couple of called QB draws per game.  We don’t run zone read or lead option, which were core plays for us the last several years.  Our offense has an H-back that can block on running plays or be a receiving option on pass plays.

The proposed short term solution is to utilize "more zone reads and option runs" and use whichever quarterback has the best combination of running and throwing ability.

Florida fans were clawing their eyes out after managing just over 200 yards of total offense against Miami (Not That Miami) and just over 300 against Tennessee (Also Pretty Much Not That Tennessee) but found joy in the redzone in the form of one Trey Burton:

The freshman scored six touchdowns in Florida's 48-14 victory over Kentucky, including five rushing as a quarterback in the Wildcat formation. The feat broke Tebow's old record of five touchdowns against South Carolina in 2007. … On Wednesday, UF offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said Burton's role as a quarterback in the Wildcat package likely will expand as the season progresses. Burton's role might be similar to the role Tebow played as a freshman, when he was a changeup to starter Chris Leak, who led the Gators to the BCS national title in 2006.

Alabama's grinding non-spread attack is sixth in total offense and just took out their most difficult competition to date by doing this with Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson:

Ingram took eight handoffs out of the wildcat, nine from the pistol, three from shotgun and four when the quarterback was under center. Richardson only took eight handoffs, with his two biggest gains, 53 and 10, out of shotgun.

For those counting, Mark Ingram took four of 24 snaps from a conventional I-form against a top ten foe on the road.

Finally, no one's laughing at half of Michigan's team now:

Also there is Cam Newton, though Auburn highlight technology has a decidedly Soviet feel to it. FWIW four weeks into the season (almost nothing), three of the top four offenses in the country are dyed-in-the-wool spreads that feature a ton of quarterback runs: Michigan, Oregon, and Nevada.

We now return you to your regular programming, and Gary Danielson to the alternate universe he spends six days a week in.