The #20-ranked Michigan Men’s Lacrosse team kicks off the 2019 campaign tomorrow on the road against Cleveland State. Michigan is on the rise and made major strides last year under second-year coach Kevin Conry. The Wolverines are coming off their second straight 8-6 season and last year knocked off rivals Notre Dame and Penn State. Their #20 ranking is their highest-ever in the preseason poll and shows that the rest of the lacrosse world thinks they are poised for a big jump. But, Michigan’s 2019 season, like the last few, is a mysterious box with a big question mark on it.
Google is telling me that there's a 30-60% chance of rain just before kickoff and during the game. How do you think this will impact the game?
As a follow up to my earlier thread here, I performed a deeper dive on offensive holding. In the initial thread, I found that in 2014-2017, Michigan's defense had only drawn 10 offensive holding calls, significantly less than all other B1G teams.
TL;DR: Defensive line performance is a poor predictor of offensive holding calls, but Michigan and Alabama both draw holding at a much lower clip than other NCAA teams.
About the Data
I downloaded the 2010 – 2017 Play by Play data from the ESPN API. This contained 1,234,271 plays, during which, 82,570 penalties were called. Additionally, I correlated this data with Football Outsiders’ Offensive Line and Defensive Line statistics, found here.
Each of the 1.2M plays has a “free text” field which describes the play, and if there is one, the penalty and whom it was called on. As an example, this means Michigan could be referred to as Michigan, UM, UofM, Mich, etc. I very carefully developed an algorithm to assign the penalty called, and who it was called on and drawn by, based on this field for all NCAA games involving an FBS team. While I’m sure it wasn’t 100% accurate, I do think I did a pretty good job and designed some good tests to check this process. Probably 99%+ accurate.
Are there any good predictors of Offensive Holding being called?
Honestly, none that I could find. I found evidence that holding calls are generally random…with a slight edge given to the underdog team or team currently losing. This means the argument “Michigan’s D-Line has been amongst the best in the country, we should be getting more holding calls than everyone else” probably lacks merit based on the data.
Comparing Football Outsiders Offensive and Defensive Line metrics (and score differential at the time of the holding call) to holdings drawn. All three lines are downward sloping – suggesting a slight edge is given to the underdog. However, the r-squared value is low; you can see visually it is generally quite random.
Michigan – we’re getting screwed, right?
I’m going to go with a yes. As it turns out, Michigan and Alabama are in a special kind of unlucky streak, stretching for many years. The below is a graph of all FBS teams 2012- present (B1G teams are represented by their logos) for all games played. Michigan is towards the top right – in the “we’re getting screwed” category. The only team that has fared worse is Alabama. A lot worse. Since 2012, Alabama has drawn a holding once every 260 plays. That is nearly 2.5 times the average.
If you zoom in on the B1G for in-conference games over the same timeframe, you see Michigan has drawn half as many holding calls as their peers.
Why limit the analysis to conference games?
Because if there is a bias within the conference, it wouldn’t perpetuate itself in nonconference games. Let’s take a look at holdings drawn in conference vs. out of conference games in the B1G, 2012-2017:
The red teams (Illinois, Michigan, and Nebraska) each have holdings drawn much more frequently in the nonconference schedule vs. B1G play. In reality, this chart likely has as much to do with scheduling choices than anything else. But you see Michigan has a very unfavorable variance, while Indiana and Purdue have a very favorable variance for in-conference play.
Alright. Let’s grab the torch and pitchforks. How long has this been going on?
Well, there is a reason why I keep showing 2012-present. Beyond this reflecting 5 full years (plus the partial season currently being played), it also reflects how long Michigan’s misfortunes on drawing offensive holding has been going on. The below table shows the rank within the B1G each year on plays per offensive holding. A “1” would represent the team that least frequently drew an offensive holding call in the current year. Michigan finishes in the top (err…bottom) 3 in 5 of the last 6 years. Before that time, Michigan fared much more reasonably.
What else did I find?
Not much else, but not for a lack of effort. I reviewed other attributes of when holding was called: Down and distance, quarter within the game, where the play was on the field, etc. – nothing jumped out. I even looked at other penalties to see if Michigan has had similar misfortune elsewhere…And couldn’t find much evidence behind it. So I’ll leave you with one final visual – the total number of penalties (holding or otherwise) called for each pairing of teams since 2010.
…And penalties called per game…as not every team has played an equal number of times:
Where do we go from here?
I don’t think the Big Ten is actively out to get Michigan. I probably should have led with that. There might be some subconscious bias, however. The way you combat that is by providing visibility behind trends in this data, and increased accountability for referees. Finding a way to better compensate officials - and not have this be their weekend job – is probably a good first step. But another step is to have this information be more readily available.
Umich1 is a data scientist in his professional job, and graduate of the University of Michigan. He spends a lot of time on Saturdays yelling at officials from row 67 in the big house.
Ohio State released thier depth chart for the Oklahoma game this week, and JK Dobbins was listed as a "co-starter" alongside Mike Weber. This is following Urban's announcement that Mike Weber is cleared to return this week from a strained hamstring during fall camp.
An interesting developing for a team with a returning/incumbent 1096 yard (6.0 ypc) rusher, but not surprising given Dobbins's performance in his first career start (205 total yards; 6.24 ypc). Good thing Don Brown and co. will have plenty of film on both running backs by November 25th.
- Nothing too crazy in their justification of Michigan's top 10 ranking. I do think it underplays the value of good o-line play, especially where they rank the o-line top five in the conference.
- Speaking of ranked units, Michigan is in their top five for all but LBs/DBs.
- Ohio State, which pretty much graduated everyone from their secondary, gets a top ranking for their DB unit. Bold stuff.
- No mention of Michigan State's offseason from hell. They expect State to go bowling.
- DPJ suggested by all three contributors as freshman of the year, which sounds like a definite possibility given his talent and Michigan's needs.
- Michigan sweeps the breakout player of the year--but it's not the same guy.
- Ohio State beats out Wisconsin for the B1G championship.
- Michigan finishes 3rd in the East, behind PSU and OSU.
Things move fast. The meeting tonight between Gene Smith and Creighton's McDermott apparently concluded with Smith offer the latter the position according to ESPN:
Ohio State has offered job to Creighton’s Greg McDermott, source told ESPN. Two sides met tonight.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 8, 2017
Hour to kill before Michigan dismantles Louisville. As a DC native, we hear a LOT locally about the ACC's basketball supremacy. Thought I would look at some of the well-represented conferences in the tournament. There are 4 that have won 6 games to date (B1G 7-3, ACC 6-6, PAC 6-0, Big 12 6-3).
What is perhaps most notable is the way the teams from each conference have been shown the door. While the 3 B1G losses have been relatively close (NW to the wire against #1 Gonzaga, and MD and MN losing by 11 and 9 respectively), the clunkers put up by highly-seeded ACC teams were absolutely atrocious (Miami losing by 20 to MSU, 5 seed UVA losing by 26 to FLA, 3 seed FSU losing by 25 to 11 seed Xavier).
Michigan's game against 2 seed Louisville looms large in either restoring a little ACC luster, or underscoring the hideous nature of Hollis/seeding crews efforts. Let's Go BLUE!!!!!
Per ESPN's Adam Rittenberg:
Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis will return for his senior season. Lewis was named the Big Ten's defensive... https://t.co/hPloWCYrBb— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) January 5, 2017
Tyquan Lewis is the reigning B1G DL of the Year with 29 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 8 sacks, 5 QB hurries, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 PBUs in 2016-2017.
Joining Lewis in foregoing the draft so far are DE Sam Hubbard, OG Billy Price, and OLB Chris Worley.
Already declared: FS Malik Hooker, CB Gareon Conley, and MLB Raekwon McMillian
Still too announce: HB Curtis Samuel, and CB Marshon Lattimore