Jimmystats: The 2016 Schedule by Stats

Jimmystats: The 2016 Schedule by Stats Comment Count

Seth February 23rd, 2016 at 4:24 PM


As some noticed on the twitters I've begun putting together the stat boxes for this year's HTTV opponent previews. I figured I might as well share some of that data here in one place.

FEI and S&P+ things: Champion stats by the two resident best internet football stats guys. Brian Fremeau (@bcfremeau) of Football Outsiders, and Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) of that and Football Study Hall on SBNation.

Connelly is responsible for, among other stats, S&P+ ratings (for offense, defense, etc.), which are derived from play-by-play and drive data of every FBS game. S&P+ measures four of five factors that determine game outcomes: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, and finishing drives. The fifth, turnovers, is relatively random so it's left out except as extra weight on sack rates, a thing that will effect at least one weird number we'll see. Garbage time is removed, and it's all weighted by opponents.

He also puts out pre-season projections based on recruiting, returning production, and front-weighted S&P+ of the last five years. Michigan's opponents by Bill C's Projected 2016 S&P+:

School S&P+ Rk/128 Recruiting Ret Prod 5-yr
Michigan 19.3 6th 14th 5th 17th
Ohio State 16.4 14th 5th 18th 3rd
Michigan State 13.5 22nd 18th 30th 12th
Penn State 11.3 28th 17th 39th 29th
Wisconsin 8.3 37th 33rd 60th 15th
Iowa 8.1 38th 49th 32nd 48th
Indiana 3.9 56th 55th 57th 75th
Maryland 2.9 62nd 47th 65th 77th
Illinois 0.4 76th 67th 76th 73rd
Colorado -2.2 82nd 50th 87th 101st
Rutgers -3.1 87th 60th 93rd 84th
Central Florida -7.0 99th 57th 113th 70th
Hawaii -13.4 118th 102nd 116th 120th

Not a lot of play in that schedule; the big rivals look to remain tough tests but that's it for the expected Top 25. The first two games should be good tuneups for O'Korn/whoever.

Brian Fremeau made FEI and F/+, based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Clock kills and garbage time are filtered out, and strength of schedule is factored in. Since it's an overall efficiency thing I prefer to use FEI as a single-stat measure of an offense or defense, while going to the play-by-play nature of S&P+, I tend to use that and the raw, sack-adjusted* yards per play, to represent an offense and defense's run/pass splits.

Those and more after [The jump.]

* [The NCAA treats sacks as rushing, which doesn't make sense. So every year I take the NCAA's base stats and treat sacks as pass plays.This makes a huge difference. I've put them in a Google Doc if you want at 'em.]


Mailbag: Shooting Metrics, Overused Announcer Memes, Spartan Guy Says Things To Comfort Self

Mailbag: Shooting Metrics, Overused Announcer Memes, Spartan Guy Says Things To Comfort Self Comment Count

Brian February 1st, 2013 at 1:20 PM


GRIII: "I see what you did there." Sobocop: "I THOUGHT THIS GUY WAS JUST A SHOOTER"
(Bryan Fuller)

One shooting metric to rule them all.

Hi Brian,

I was reading through your post from today about the game last night (solid effort, can't wait for Saturday!) and I came across the part where you summarized Trey's statline, part of which was that he had 18 points on 11 shots.  Is there a place that tracks "points-per-shot" (Kenpom maybe?), and do you think this is a worthwhile metric when tracking offensive efficiency of an individual player? I know the tempo-free stats usually look at eFG% as a major indicator of offensive prowess, but was wondering if points/shot would something akin to this for an individual player.

Thanks for your thoughts!

I just use points per shot as a quick-and-dirty evaluation method when I'm putting together a post because it gets the job done when we're running sanity checks on opinions from our eyeballs. As an out-and-out metric it falls short since it doesn't put free throws in the divisor properly—going 0-2 at the line doesn't hurt you. If you're reaching for an actual stat you can do better.

For a catch-all stat that encapsulates how many points a player acquires per shot attempt, I like True Shooting Percentage, which rolls FTAs into eFG% and spits out a number that's easy to interpret. Trey Burke is at 59%, which means that he is scoring at a rate equal to a hypothetical player who takes nothing but two-pointers and hits 59% of them. Easy.

For Michigan, there's little difference between eFG% and TS%—Burke is 175th in one, 189th in the other, etc—because they so rarely get to the line. Teams at the other end of that scale can see players with much larger differences. Iowa demonstrates this amply. Roy Devyn Marble's eFG% is 46% and his TS% is 53%—a major difference. FTA-generating machine Aaron White is around 200th in eFG% and around 100th in TS%. From an individual perspective, the latter is a more accurate picture of what happens when Aaron White tries to score.

The four factors everyone uses separate free throws from eFG%, so when you look at those as a unit you do see the impact of FTs. If you wanted to you could cram those factors down into a TS% factor and the other two factors into a Possession Advantage factor, but looking at four bar graphs seems to be okay for people.

Announcer meme overuse.

The announcers constantly having to tell us that Stauskas is more than just a shooter reminds me of last year's over used statement (story?), that Trey Burke played with Sullinger in HS.  Seriously, they told us that every freaking game.  So my question is, which one is worse?

I'm going to have to go with Burke.  First, that was mentioned every game, whereas the Stauskas thing only gets mentioned in games where he has a take to the hole, which only happens MOST games.  Second, at least the Stauskas thing is mentioned in context, as in, he just proved he was more than just a shooter which prompted the comment.  The Burke/Sullinger mention was almost exclusively brought up out of the blue, and had nothing to do with anything happening in the game.  It was as if the announcing team made note to make sure they mentioned it at a certain minute marker in the game because nothing plausibly could have brought it to mind otherwise.


P.S. If it had kept going, Dan Dakich's mention of that thing about Spike's dad would easily have been the worst.  Luckily, he only told us that Spike's dad was the former best biddy basketball player in the world during Michigan's first four games.

These are different classes of announcing crutch. The Burke thing—which is still happening—is the equivalent of Tom Zbikowski Is A Boxer, a biographical detail that will be crammed in every game to hook casual viewers. The Stauskas thing is a generally applicable sentiment that can be applied to anyone who takes a lot of threes but has decided to venture within the line.

Neither really bothers me. "Not just a shooter" means Stauskas has just thrown something down or looped in for a layup, and I am probably typing something about blouses or pancakes into twitter. I have good feelings associated with its utterance. The Burke thing is just background noise.


Hey Brian,

So, no one is more sick of conference expansion talk as I am. I'm 100% with you that it's bent our tradition over a dumpster and I agree it's foolish to base major long-term decisions on a dying profit model.

Here's the thing though, does the fact that the current profit model is dying really matter. I mean, we're moving (slowly) to a system where you pay only for the channels you want instead of being extorted for a bunch of channels you'd never watch. So, under this new business model, although it may be less overall money than under the old system, wouldn't they still get more subscribers to be B1G network if they add more schools? There's not a single UNC fan who would pay $5 a month or whatever for the B1G network, but if they were added them, you'd get more subscribers than you would normally. I mean there's the chance that you weaken the brand that you lose more subscribers than you gain, but I don't think that's a serious concern.

TL; DR - It's about the money, and won't expansion bring more regardless of whether the old model is dying or not?

Thanks again,


Expansion brings more money but it also brings more mouths to feed. From the perspective of a school in the league it only makes sense to add a team that is at least on par with you in terms of being able to bring fans and eyeballs. Penn State and Nebraska brought those numbers; Rutgers and Maryland likely do not.

The Big Ten can expand to acquire more subscribers but in a world where cable is a niche product to enjoy live sports, the amount of money you're getting is proportional to the number of fans shelling out. Right now it's proportional to population, which makes Rutgers seem like a good idea. Later maybe not so much.

People think things that make them feel better.

To Brian:

Brian, I have this constant argument with a Spartan at work...He says that Michigan's recruiting rankings are always high because when Michigan lands a recruit, the recruit gets a bump in ranking.  According to him, this is because a large number of Michigan fans pay recruiting sites for memberships so the sites keep Michigan fans happy by giving them a higher ranking than other schools with lower memberships.  He also says that MSU's coaches are just better at recruiting than the sites so that is why they do better than their rankings.  Any thoughts on how to prove / disprove his theory?


It will not matter since from the sounds of this conversation your co-worker thinks Mike Valenti is a gentleman scholar and will find some other way to wheedle himself positive feelings until such time as his team is crushed under the boot of history.

HOWEVA, you could just point out that literally every four-star member of Michigan's recruiting class fell in the most recent Rivals update except Jourdan Lewis, who hopped up sixteen spots. This is pretty much inevitable: unless you're moving up, you're moving down as more and more players are discovered. This dude will wave his face around in a disturbing fashion and ignore this data.

As for the thing about MSU's coaches, yeah, recruiting ratings are not infallible and there will be teams that deviate above and below when touted guys bust and low-rated ones break out. MSU's gotten massive outperformance from its defense recently, and maybe they can sustain that in the same way Wisconsin can sustain its running game.

They'll be trudging uphill when it comes to Michigan and Ohio State. State fans love to point out Michigan's class rankings versus their performance over the last half-decade and say "see, nothing there." Taken over larger samples, though, recruiting does correlate with success. Michigan's fade was largely a lack of retention and coaching ranging from lackadaisical to awful. If MSU fans are counting on those two items to sustain them going forward they're in for a rude surprise.


Sports Economists: Always Wrong About Everything

Sports Economists: Always Wrong About Everything Comment Count

Brian July 7th, 2010 at 1:47 PM

economists3_royalblue_white toxo

The last straw for Run of Play proprietor, Slate contributor, and Dirty Tackle blogger Brian Phillips were two articles on consecutive days citing Franklin Foer's assertion that dictatorships led to good soccer. Many of the nations that have been super good at soccer over the years have been run by dictators if you lump Vichy France in with them and think Hitler and Mussolini have anything to do with anything in the 21st century. The first problem with this piece of intellectual noodling is that the percentage of teams who have won the World Cup during or after a period of dictatorship (86%) is almost equivalent to the percentage of countries that have undergone periods of dictatorship since 1930. Twenty-five of the 32 teams in this year's edition have done so, 78%.

The second is that the statement means nothing. Phillips on the Kuper/Szymanski book Soccernomics, which endeavors to be a Freakonomics for the beautiful game:

You want to say that money is the secret behind soccer success, so you break down international games by GDP and find that, yeah, it matches up fairly well. But it doesn’t work as a theory, because China is terrible at soccer and the US is only okay at it. So you invent a variable called “tradition” and add it into the formula, which helps (now Brazil’s looking really strong), but you’re still left struggling to explain why, say, England doesn’t do better. So you add in population size, and on and on and on. Eventually, you have a delicately balanced curl of math that correctly reproduces the results of most recent matches (even if it accidentally predicts that Serbia will reach the current World Cup final). So you go to a publisher, but no one wants to buy a book about how GDP is covariable with national-team success 40% of the time, or whatever; they want a book that claims to have Uncovered the Secrets of Soccer© Using Funky Mathematical Techniques™. And so you’re led into making grand claims for the predictive power of research that really only demonstrates correlation. And there’s enough data swirling around a complex event like the World Cup that you could get the same results by collating fishing exports, number of historic churches, and percentage of authors whose names include a tilde.

You have no mechanism. Your correlation is extraordinarily weak. You have just wasted everyone's time.

The very same day, Slate (et tu!) published an article by a guy who studies a particular brain parasite claiming a correlation between soccer performance and infection rates of Toxoplasma gondii, a bacteria whose raison d'être is to get in a cat's stomach so it can make babies. An R-squared was not mentioned, but it was gestured to. Regression rules everything around me. This is why most published research results are false.

Soccer is not the only sport suffering from pseudoscience obsessed with elevating correlation above all else, mechanism be damned, and elegant curls of math that prove little other than the academic's talent for obfuscation in the name of publishing. Kuper and Syzmanski actually got to the party late. Princeton economist and Malcolm Gladwell fave-rave David Berri's been here for years, and he's packing the platonic ideal of delicately balanced curls of math that end up ludicrous on further inspection. Behold the best (and sixth-best) players of the 1999 NBA season:


the emperor's clothes are fine indeed. 

Berri made a splash in the sports world when he released a transparently silly book that purported to show that Dennis Rodman was responsible for more wins than teammate Michael Jordan. This drew the ire of the basketball statistics community and anyone with a damn lick of sense. People set about showing that Berri was peddling snake-oil. I even had a go at it in one of the erratic Pistons posts that showed up around here a couple years ago, noting that after Ben Wallace left the Pistons' rebounding changed not one percent on either end of the floor. Ben Wallace got his rebounds from his teammates. (It turned out that Wallace's major skill was an ability to keep opponents off the free throw line.)

This did not take, unfortunately, and Berri has been permitted to say silly things about all sports that apparently intelligent people take seriously because he has "Princeton" next to his name. He moved on from basketball to "show" that NFL teams don't care how well their quarterbacks perform, only how high they're drafted

Aggregate performance and draft position are statistically related. But as Rob and I argue, this is because in the NFL (like we see in the NBA) draft position is linked to playing time. And this link is independent of performance.

…that NHL goalies are indistinguishable from each other

... there simply is little difference in the performance of most NHL goalies.

…and has returned to state basketball coaches don't understand who their best players are:

"... the allocation of minutes suggests the age profile in basketball is not well understood by NBA coaches."

Berri's at least had the common sense to stay away from baseball, where a horde of men with razor-sharp protractors wait for him to make a false move. (We will see later that collaborator JC Bradbury has not.) The statistical communities in football, basketball, and hockey are considerably more unsure of what the hell is going on in their chosen sport and are thus vulnerable to suggestion from an economist, even if it's one who seems to have never watched a sport of any variety.

The problem with all of Berri's outlandish theories is that they are wrong. Not because of old guys who peer into the soul of Andre Ethier and see a ballplayer, but because of other, more careful numbers from people who are looking for things that are true instead of things that are impressive to Malcolm Gladwell.


Berri's study actually shows that amongst quarterbacks who play a lot, draft position is not a strong factor in their performance. This is his magnificent leap:

For us to study the link between draft position and performance, we can only consider players who actually performed.  It’s possible that those quarterbacks who never performed were really bad quarterbacks.  But since they never played, we don’t know that (and Pinker also doesn’t know this). 

Low draft picks who don't play only find the bench because of bias. A coach's decision to start one player over the other is a worthless signal. Coaches are dumb.

In reality, backup quarterbacks perform measurably worse than starters, and many different metrics show a strong correlation between draft position and performance.


When you restrict your regressions to the top 20 goalies in terms of minutes, about half of the variation in save percentage appears repeatable. A standard deviation of talent is worth around ten goals. These days, a unit of five skaters who finished +50 at the end of the season would be heroes on the league's best team. Berri's undisclosed approach to the data set apparently takes goalies with far fewer than starter's minutes. A quick correlation run by Phil Birnbaum shows radically different r-squared values than those Berri finds just by upping the sample size. Maybe Birnbaum's numbers aren't dead-on—he doesn't use even strength save percentage, for instance—but he's not the one claiming a massive inefficiency. He's just showing that throwing a small r-squared out doesn't actually mean anything:

I don't know how the authors got .06 when my analysis shows .14 ... maybe their cutoff was lower than 1,000 minutes. Maybe there's some selection bias in my sample of top goalies only. Maybe my four seasons just happened to be not quite representative. Regardless, the fact that the r-squared varies so much with your selection criterion shows that you can't take it at face value without doing a bit of work to interpret it.

Age in the NBA

In the NBA, 23 and 24 year old players net more minutes than any other age bracket, and while the average age of an NBA minute is 26.6 this year there's a blindingly obvious explanation for this:

Berri and Schmidt think that NBA minutes peak later than 24 because coaches don't understand how players age. It seems obvious that there's a more plausible explanation -- that it's because players like Shaquille O'Neal are able to play NBA basketball at age 37, but not at age 9.

In sum: wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

So what's going on here?

When you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Berri's hammer is regression analysis, and he goes about hitting everything he can find with it until he finds something that seems vaguely nail-like from a certain angle. Then he proclaims a group of extremely well-paid subject matter experts dumb. When challenged about this, he says things like "regressions are nice, but not always understood by everyone." He calls the protestors dumb.

This is more than a logical fallacy: it's a worldview. In a post on a cricket study by another set of authors, Birnbaum points out the assumption built into a lot of economics studies. It, like most of Berri's work, runs a regression on some data and reports back that something fails to be statistically significant:

The authors chose the null hypothesis that the managers' adjustment of HFA [home field advantage] is zero. They then fail to reject the hypothesis.

But, what if they chose a contradictory null hypothesis -- that managers' HFA *irrationality* was zero? That is, what if the null hypothesis was that managers fully understood what HFA meant and adjusted their expectations accordingly? The authors would have included a "managers are dumb" dummy variable. The equations would have still come up with 4% for a road player and 10% for a home player -- and it would turn out that the significance of the "managers are dumb" variable would not be significant. Two different and contradictory null hypotheses, both which would be rejected by the data. The authors chose to test one, but not the other.

Basically, the test the authors chose is not powerful enough to distinguish the two hypotheses (manager dumb, manager not dumb) with statistical significance.

But if you look at the actual equation, which shows that home players are twice as likely to be dropped than road players for equal levels of underperformance -- it certainly looks like "not dumb" is a lot more likely than "dumb".

The goalie example is the most illuminating here: by adjusting the parameters of your study you can arrive at radically different conclusions. I'm not sure if Berri is intentionally skewing his results to get shiny Moneyball answers, but given how dumb his justifications are for the NFL study that's the kinder interpretation. Running around saying that we don't know that the average sixth rounder isn't John Elway waiting to happen because they can't get on the field is obtuseness that almost has to be intentional. On the other hand, he does blithely state he's "not sure there is much to clarify" about his assertion that NFL general managers are on par with stock-picking monkeys when it comes to identifying quarterbacks, so he may be that genuinely clueless. (The Lions tried a stock-picking monkey. It didn't work out.)

There's often a kernel of truth in a Berri study. When the Oilers were casting about for a goalie, smart Oilers bloggers were noting the glut of basically average goalies available and jumped off a cliff when they signed a mediocre 36-year-old to a four year, $15 million dollar deal when they could have signed two guys for something around the league minimum and expected about the same performance. That's something close to the criticism Berri levels with the volume turned way down. Hockey and football and basketball are not baseball. It is incredibly difficult to encapsulate performance in any of these sports in statistics. So when Berri makes a proclamation that NHL goalies are basically the same based on plain old save percentage—which isn't even the best metric available—he ascribes more power to a stat than it deserves and simultaneously ignores a raging debate about one of the most difficult questions in sports statistics to get a handle on.

At the very least, the questions Berri attempts to tackle with really complicated regressions are murky things best delivered with a dose of humility. Instead Berri and colleagues say there is "simply" no difference, that his research is "not understood by everyone," that a formula that declares Jeff Francouer worth 12 million a year is justifiable and that protestors are making "consistent basic errors in logic, economics and statistics" when any minor league player making the minimum could replace his production, and that David Berri went to Princeton. If he bothers to respond to what's admittedly a pretty shrill criticism, he will undoubtedly state that if only I had managed to understand his papers the many ludicrous conclusions easily disproved by competing studies (QBs, save percentage), simple facts that blow up the idea being presented (NBA minutes), or common sense (Rodman, Francouer) would have come to me in an epiphany.

These things are all ridiculously complicated and it's obvious with every response to another Berri study that declares someone dumb that different views on the data produce different results. Berri's overarching thesis is that subject matter experts make huge errors because they refuse to look at data from all possible angles. Stuck in their ruts, they robotically bang out decisions like their forefathers.  Statistician, heal thyself.

There may be some social utility in distracting economists from theorizing about the economy, but there's no utility in the domain they're actually tackling.


Mailbag: Title IX and BCS Bo

Mailbag: Title IX and BCS Bo Comment Count

Brian May 28th, 2010 at 1:15 PM

Hey Brian,

I was wondering if you could give me some insight on why we haven't taken the leap in going Varsity with our lacrosse programs. We appear to have one more women's sport than men's at the varsity level (women's rowing is varsity, men's rowing is club), so would that make it easier to add a men's sport under Title IX? If Lacrosse were the next sport to go varsity, would we also take the women's program?


Title IX compliance isn't based on the number of sports but the number of participants, which gives football a big overhang and usually forces everyone to carry at least one more women's sport than they do men's. For some reason, even rostered walk-ons count in Title IX calculations. Here's an ESPN article about K-State's 124-member football team that takes the stance that the problem in this scenario is lots of walk-ons and not the stupidity of counting a player who's not adding anything more than the cost of his pads to the athletic department's expenses.

Adding lacrosse as a varsity sport will necessitate the addition of a women's sport. I am not aware of any that have the organization or success that lax does, but some club team is going to get lucky.

Title IX, at least as it applies to college athletics, seems outdated to me. When 57% of college students are women the gender to be concerned about has switched, and when a sport like football takes in millions of dollars it seems like it shouldn't count at all. It's supposed to be about equal support, and football doesn't require support in many places.


Have you ever determined, if it's even possible to determine, how many national championship games Bo would have coached, if the BCS system existed while he was a coach?


Jack Turner

It will depend on what crazy mixed up BCS system you want to adopt. Since the Harris Poll didn't exist when Bo was around, you can't replicate the current system. Since that current system is the final expression of "the voters are always right," though, we can just use the AP poll as a proxy. If we're going by that, Bo would have played in the national title game in 1976, when  Michigan was #2 and had eight first-place votes. They would have played #1 Pitt.

There were a ton of close calls, though: 1989 (#3), 1986 (#4), 1985 (#5), 1978 (#5), 1977 (#4), 1974(#4), 1973 (#5), 1971 (#4 despite being 11-0). With many of those votes close and between teams will wildly varying schedules, the computers might have been able to swing Michigan into a title game in one of those years.

Hey Brian-

this thought was spurred by your mention of Boise St potentially being included in the Mtn West. Do you think that if Big 10 expansion steals Missouri & Nebraska away from the Big 12, it might lay the groundwork for TCU & Utah (maybe Boise, as well?) to step in to fill those vacated spots? Given these recent bits I've read about the Pac 10 and Big 12 working together to seal the deal on TV contracts west of the Mississippi, it seems to make sense that both leagues might be up for welcoming in the hot non-BCS schools out there. In fact, maybe the PAC-10 opens it's doors to Boise??

I know you've been critical of teams like Boise rising into the spotlight, due to strength of schedule issues. I definitely see where you're coming from, but I think it's great for the game to have teams like that step up. I do think this kind of seismic shift/realignment/expansion is an opportunity for these non-BCS teams to come to the table with the big boys and really prove their worth. Funneling teams like Boise, Utah & TCU into the 2 major conferences on the left side of the country really would make things pretty interesting, and, IMO, ends the possibility of BCS-busters, at least for awhile. Boise St joining the MWC really just continues the problems that already exist, even if the conference moves toward an automatic bcs bid. I think I'd rather have the good teams from the MWC sucked out into the BCS conferences, and have the remainder of the WAC & MWC relegated into a B-league with little chance of bursting the BCS bubble. What do you think?

Will be interesting to follow, for sure.


The way the current system is set up there is almost nothing a team like Boise State can do to actually deserve placement in the national title game. Any team from a BCS conference with one loss and a decent nonconference game or two is going to vastly exceed Boise's worthiness. One or two games against Pac-10 teams a year does not make a viable candidate when the chances of you, or any other serious national title contender, losing against the remainder of the WAC is close to zero. That's my only problem with Boise. Move them to the Mountain West and now maybe we're talking.

If we're talking about my ideal version of college football, it would be seven setups like the Pac-10 has now: ten team conferences that play a round robin. This would never happen, of course. Personally, I'd rather have the MWC as a second Big East than jamming more and more teams into big conferences with no clear winners.


Attached is a spreadsheet showing our redzone efficiency since 2003.  I have tracked various stats from the 2003 season forward and this happened to be one of them.  This is % of points scored based on 7 pts per trip.  Before the Illinois game we were right about average on offense and much better on defense (about the only thing the defense had consistently done well, thank God, otherwise things could really be ugly).  I couldn’t find the national numbers prior to 2007 so I used an average of 2007-2009 (to date).  The national numbers are assuming no 2 pt conversion and no missed xps. At that sample size I can’t imagine the other years straying too far from this figure. 


BGS 2003

National average: 69%

Offense RZ Trips RZ pts RZ efficiency Defense RZ Trips RZ pts RZ efficiency
2003 47 277 84% 2003 33 142 61%
2004 48 215 64% 2004 39 191 70%
2005 58 256 63% 2005 36 166 66%
2006 45 239 76% 2006 25 100 57%
2007 54 259 69% 2007 44 210 68%
2008 35 162 66% 2008 45 212 67%
2009 (wo/ Ill) 31 153 71% 2009 (wo/ Ill) 30 120 57%
2009 38 166 62% 2009 34 144 61%

What does this say? I'm not really sure other than maybe Red Zone efficiency isn't incredibly important. The horrible 2008 offense was not that far off the average and actually better than the 2004 and 2005 teams; the beyond horrible 2009 defense was actually considerably above average.


Big Ten Red Zone Efficiency, 2009

Big Ten Red Zone Efficiency, 2009 Comment Count

Brian April 9th, 2010 at 11:47 AM

Via Friend of the Blog Craig Ross, offensive and defensive red zone efficiency in last year's Big Ten:


  • Opp = number of redzone opportunities.
  • FGM = made field goals.
  • Poss Pts = possible points
  • RZEff = Pts / Poss Pots
  • Trad = The traditional, stupid way of calculating red zone efficiency: (TD + FGM) / Opp.



Team Opp TDs %TDs FGM Pts Poss Pts RZEff Trad
Wisconsin 32 24 75% 6 186 224 83% 94%
PSU 25 17 68% 7 140 175 80% 96%
Purdue 22 15 68% 4 117 154 76% 86%
Minnesota 28 18 64% 3 135 196 69% 75%
Illinois 22 13 59% 3 100 154 65% 73%
Northwestern 26 13 50% 9 118 182 65% 85%
OSU 23 13 57% 4 103 161 64% 74%
Iowa 20 9 45% 8 87 140 62% 85%
MSU 24 10 42% 11 103 168 61% 88%
Indiana 30 15 50% 7 126 210 60% 73%
Michigan 30 12 40% 6 102 210 49% 60%

Note how dumb the traditional measures of redzone efficiency can be: Michigan State finished ninth in the league in points gained as a percentage of the maximum and third by traditional measures.

It doesn't matter which metric you use, though: Michigan is thunderously last in this category. That's not a huge surprise when you're as turnover-plagued as Michigan was. Add on the First And Goal Of Doom against Illinois and there you go.


Team Opp TDs %TDs FGM Pts Poss Pts RZEff Trad
OSU 18 9 50% 3 72 126 57% 67%
PSU 19 9 47% 5 78 133 59% 74%
Wisconsin 21 10 48% 6 88 147 60% 76%
Iowa 19 9 47% 6 81 133 61% 79%
Illinois 33 18 55% 7 147 231 64% 76%
Northwestern 26 14 54% 6 116 182 64% 77%
Purdue 34 18 53% 9 153 238 64% 79%
Indiana 32 20 63% 4 152 224 68% 75%
Minnesota 24 16 67% 5 127 168 76% 88%
Michigan 31 19 61% 11 166 217 76% 97%
MSU 25 17 68% 6 137 175 78% 92%

No surprises here. Defensive red zone efficiency seems much better correlated with overall performance than the offensive variety, Illinis respectability nonwithstanding. Michigan isn't last by a mile this time, but they're not far off the bottom. No fancy explanations needed here: the defense sucked anywhere on the field last year.

Combined Totals

Just start screaming now. It will save time. PPT is "points per trip," and it hates you:

Team OREff DRZEff Delta PPT Diff
Wisconsin 83% 60% 23.2 1.6
PSU 80% 59% 21.4 1.5
Purdue 76% 64% 11.7 0.8
OSU 64% 57% 6.8 0.5
Illinois 65% 64% 1.3 0.1
Iowa 62% 61% 1.2 0.1
Northwestern 65% 64% 1.1 0.1
Minnesota 69% 76% -6.7 -0.5
Indiana 60% 68% -7.9 -0.6
MSU 61% 78% -17.0 -1.2
Michigan 49% 76% -27.9 -2.0

On average, Michigan gave up 2 more points per redzone trip than they got. Over the course of the season this cost them 122(!!!) points relative to the opposition.

I don't have any idea how much year-to-year correlation there is in this stat, but if I had to guess I'd say there was a moderate amount. It's not as loopy as turnover margin, certainly—Wisconsin's always going to be good inside the five—but I bet crazy numbers like Michigan's have a tendency to head for average the next year. Let's hope so, anyway.


Unverified Voracity Wishes It Was Rocky And Arid

Unverified Voracity Wishes It Was Rocky And Arid Comment Count

Brian March 23rd, 2010 at 11:23 AM

"A fertile ground for dangerous upstarts lately." That's the accurate, expected, still painful knife Doctor Saturday gently slips between Michigan's ribs in his latest premature assessment, this of the UConn team that will inaugurate Michigan's luxury boxes and possibly clock year three of the Rodriguez era on the head before it can even kick over some MAC team's sand castle.

The assessment doesn't exactly live up the DocSat's foreboding tweet, which said he would be the first person to jump on the bandwagon of a "serious contender in the Big East." That sounds bad. It's not quite that bad in the final analysis, though:

The Huskies are a couple playmakers away from standing out as a conference favorite, and one of those guys may emerge on one side or the other. Unless they come up with more firepower on both sides, though, the existing talent level makes it hard to forecast anything better than 8-4. That's not a breakthrough, exactly, but it is a more generous guess than they've ever gotten before at this time of year.

UConn suffered through a series of painfully close losses before a breakthrough-ish game against Notre Dame launched them on a four game win streak. Syracuse, USF, and South Carolina were the other victims. In any case, UConn returns a crap-ton of starters from an 8-5 team that saw the breaks go against it last year. I don't think they'll end the year #2, but the specter of that Utah game has been duly raised.

Hypothesis damage. It's not like losing Manny Harris is going to help the team, especially if it continues to shoot zero point two percent, but I can't be the only person who has glanced at Harris's relatively meh efficiency numbers (47.7 eFG, basically equivalent to Novak) and thought that replacing him might not be the mountain it appears to be.

Here is a chart that slaps that idea in the face and tells it to sit in the corner. Presenting the top ten Big Ten players in John Hollinger's comprehensive PER stat:

1 Evan Turner, OSU 28 35.4 22 15.5 26.8 6.6 24.8 15.7 31.3
2 Robbie Hummel, PUR 27 30.3 12.9 6.5 19.6 6.5 21 13.7 28.31
3 Draymond Green, MSU 32 25.4 22.6 12.8 18.1 10 22.1 16.1 25.85
4 Damian Johnson, MINN 34 25.5 18.6 10.7 16.6 6.8 12.5 9.6 25.36
5 DeShawn Sims, MICH 32 32.1 5.2 8.4 23 12.7 18.6 15.6 25.2
6 Manny Harris, MICH 31 36.1 17.3 12.1 24.4 6.8 15.4 11.1 24.76
7 JaJuan Johnson, PUR 32 31.1 4.6 11.4 19.7 9.3 18.1 13.7 24.66
8 John Shurna, NW 33 36.3 12.7 9.9 21.8 6 16.1 11.1 23.68
9 Zack Gibson, MICH 32 10 6.8 13.5 15.1 12.1 16.2 14.1 23.66
10 Trevon Hughes, WIS 31 32.5 14.2 10.4 23.5 4.6 13 8.8 23.3

One-grunt observations on the three bolded folk: obvs, guh, wha?

Okay. I think that Michigan playing super small at all times skews this towards the players on the team who actually haul in rebounds. Still, this is one statistical measure that passes the sniff test—check out the top of the national leaderboard for Enter Samhan, Some UNI Guy, and Argh Running 40-Footer—that disagrees with the various Kenpom measures that declare Manny Harris a prolific but inefficient scorer.

Also… holy jeez maybe we could have figured out a way to put Gibson on the floor a bit more.

(HT: Inside The Hall.)

Money money money. Bleed Scarlet shouldn't feel too bad about missing USA Today's most recent FOIA rampage, a January database of revenue and expenses at public division I schools. It seems like the entire blogosphere whiffed on. I certainly hadn't seen it.

Anyway, this perked my ears up:

The vast majority of sports programs — even those that purport to support themselves — receive significant financial backing from their institutions to operate. Of the 99 institutions in the table below, all but four — Louisiana State, Ohio State, and Purdue Universities, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln — reported receiving at least some revenues in the 2007-8 fiscal year from one of four categories of “allocated” revenues: student fees, direct state or government support, direct institutional support (general fund money), or indirect institutional support (facilities, energy costs, etc.).

Eh? Really? No Michigan? A quick zip over to the database provides an answer. It is not earth-shaking:


As of 2008, six hundredths of a percentage point of Michigan's athletic department funding comes from the university. This is not a one-time fluke, as direct support went from zero in 2005 to about 30k the next year and 50k the year after before landing at its current totally insignificant amount. What is it? I asked SID Bruce Madej:

This is how we are required to report when we receive funds to pay for work study students who assist us during the year.

That mystery solved. 

Now let us ask the eternal question: why does Eastern Michigan have a football program? 86% of athletic department "revenue" comes as a subsidy.

Etc.: Hidden in the night game announcement is a two-year break in the M-ND series in 2018 and 2019, which an mgoblog user picked out and MVictors confirmed was a new development. DocSat on the "cult of the bracket."


Unverified Voracity Wants To Kiss You, Sam

Unverified Voracity Wants To Kiss You, Sam Comment Count

Brian February 26th, 2009 at 2:47 PM

Do or die. So, good news about the game tonight: MGoBlog will not be hosting a liveblog. Therefore, Michigan has a chance. Bad news: gimpy Purdue star Robbie Hummel is a go.

I've laid it out before and I believe the equation still holds: Michigan needs two of its final three games and then one win in the Big Ten Tournament to feel pretty good about getting in. Gacking it up against Iowa has cut their margin of error down greatly, and I'm expecting the NIT. But if homoerotic hobbits on a trek into Mordor teach us anything, it's that short pasty white guys with curly hair can do anything. So rock on.

Fuller previews can be found at UMHoops and Hammer and Rails; Purdue is favored by 2.5. Hopefully no one gets ejected for an inadvertent elbow this time.

What with the Threet. While on John Bacon's show on WTKA I mentioned what I had heard about Threet's decision to transfer. MVictors recaps:

One of Cook’s insiders revealed that Rodriguez met with Steve Threet and basically told him he’s decided frosh Tate Forcier is getting all the snaps this spring. Thus Threet bolted. If this was posted on mgoblog I missed it (and maybe the info wasn’t solid enough to post).

Some clarification: I've heard this from a few different people, all of them on the Threet side of things. I didn't post anything on it because it didn't seem quite strong enough, but when I was LIVE it just sort of came out and there it is. The details are still fuzzy but Threet clearly felt he was not going to have a full opportunity to win the job and, not wanting to be David Cone, decided to go elsewhere.

It's a risk on Rodriguez's part to be sure; the upside is that Forcier gets all the snaps and will be as ready as he possibly can be when Western Michigan rolls into town. Which may not be particularly ready, but he's all we've got.

Risk and expectation and so forth and so on. Braves and Birds notes a Smart Football post on the appropriate amount of risk to take in a football game. This has long been a topic of interest here, too, as it was my longstanding opinion that Lloyd Carr's answer to that ("almost none unless we're playing Ohio State") was way too conservative. However, conservative strategy has its place. Smart Football:

Is it always "optimal" to set your strategy to maximize points scored?

In the NFL -- which is what Brian [not me, this Brian –ed] focuses on -- this is likely true and the assumption holds. NFL teams are almost all competitive with each other, and even the worst teams can beat the best in a given game. So any reduction in expected points is likely to hurt a team's chances of winning because they need to maximize that out to get wins.

But is that true in college? Or in high school? Think about when Florida plays the Citadel. The Gators have a massive talent advantage compared with the Bulldogs. As a result, what is the only way they can lose? You guessed it: by blowing it. They can really only lose if they go out and throw lots of interceptions, gamble on defense and give up unnecessary big plays, or just stink it up.

My theory as to why Michigan got so stagnant under Carr was an extension of the Florida-vs-Citadel mindset. Bo Schembechler pretty much believed everyone was the Citadel—or, more likely, never gave a whole lot of thought about the appropriate level of risk in a football game past the Woody Hayes maxim that "only three things can happen when you throw the football and two of them are bad." This worked out fine for him because everyone in the Big Ten other than Ohio State pretty much was the Citadel: it would take some seriously freak occurrences for Michigan to lose to them.

Carr's mindset was formed in this era, but he coached in an era of greatly increased parity. This was bad. When you give away expectation against the Citadel, you just win by less. When you give it away against a competitive but slightly inferior team you are going to find yourself in a lot of late-game dogfights and some of those are going to slip away. Carr started moving away from this philosophy, but it was a halting process, and I could write about this sort of thing forever. It's a digression.

Not a digression: no, it's not always optimal to maximize your points scored. It's pretty easy to set up a situation where it's not (you have the ball on the opponent's five yard line with thirty seconds left and you're down two, etc etc). While a lot of these things are specific situations they illuminate a larger issue: most of the measures, even the advanced measures we have at Football Outsiders and places like that, don't take variance into account.

Smart Football's got a theory that teams should strive for run-pass equilibrium in a different fashion than you hear about it on TV. Instead of running half the time or getting half of your yards on the ground, you should seek to have your passing plays and running plays gain the same number of yards. Just about no one does this except real weirdo offenses like Texas Tech. One possibility is coaches are just doing it wrong. The other possibility is that there's an institutional wisdom there.

What would that wisdom be? Well, gaining big hunks of yards a portion of the time and getting zero a lot is a different way of doing things than gaining small hunks of yards a lot and not getting zero very often. Is second and seven better than second and two half the time and second and ten the other half? That's an unanswered question.


[okay, /extremedorkmode, returning to standarddorkmode]