OT: How well does Durkin have to do to move on from Maryland?

OT: How well does Durkin have to do to move on from Maryland?

Submitted by Caesar on December 25th, 2017 at 3:14 AM

The former Michigan DC is doing some great work recruiting. He's in the hunt for the B1G's 4th best class (behind the usual suspects--OSU, PSU, and Michigan). Noteably, he looks close to flipping a 4 star running back from USC (YTUSC). 

How many wins will it take for blue bloods to take a chance on him? I don't think he's likely to win the B1G East in the next decade, but maybe consecutive 8-9 win seasons in the next few years with an upset against any one of the B1G East's top 3? 

5-Star DE Eyabi Anoma: so you're saying there's a chance...

5-Star DE Eyabi Anoma: so you're saying there's a chance...

Submitted by Arb lover on December 19th, 2017 at 3:08 PM

For the internet trolls who are purely concerned with crystal balls, read no further; 100% of crystal balls have Eyabi Anoma going to Alabama. However as ACE put it yesterday:

The coaches have mostly narrowed their focus to a short list of high-level prospects, including DEs Eyabi Anoma...

Michigan appears to be making a big push for him and they aren't shy about letting reporters know when asked. Echoing Ace, the freep reported yesterday that Michigan continues to make a heavy push for him. So I'm saying Michigan thinks they have a chance.

I've outlined below paraphrasing rationale for why 100% of crystal balls are saying Alabama, as well as hopefully more information on Eyabi and his situation. In any case we will all know tomorrow as he has moved up his announcement date to tomorrow at 2pm instead of Friday.

Essentially from what I can gather the crystal ball calls have been made for the below reasons:

1) Eyabi has visited Alabama four times, the most of any school, and is their top DE recruit of the year. He lists only Alabama, Michigan and Maryland as his top choices.

2) Sam Poggi, one of his current coaches has ties to Alabama (suspend your knowledge of the Michigan connections for a moment).

3) It makes a pretty trend; Eyabi would be the second five star DE recruit out of the North East to go to Alabama recently, after Terrell Hall (he changed his name to Terrell Lewis ) (suspend your knowledge, this time of Rashan Gary).

4) Most importantly, Eyabi is looking for two things that Alabama can provide- Training to get him to the NFL and a winning schedule. In the words of his own head coach:

Alabama does a great job of getting guys to the NFL and putting their players in position to succeed. Coach Saban runs a great program. You have the academic support in place. All of the little things are taken care of in that program. Eyabi is also super competitive and hates losing. Alabama is that type of team. They don’t lose much. He thrives in those types of environments. I think that’s why he’s very attracted to what they offer.

However this is far from a normal recruit, and the predictions on this guy deserve a second pass.

I've compiled what I hope is a better understanding of Eyabi and his decision process.

Eyabi has played football for eighteen months at this level, and had been focusing his high school career on playing basketball prior to transferring to St. Francis as a Junior. However having seen him up close and in action I'd say that his frame is too big to play the kind of basketball he does, though he could easily put on more weight as a DE. His assistant coach is none other than Sam Poggi who hopefully needs no introduction. In Poggi's own words:

He's the best player I've ever coached

Michigan first became aware of him at a satillite camp Harbaugh attended in the summer of 2016 as he was preparing to start playing for St. Francis. In his Michigan interactions he attended the summer BBQ, the MSU game, watched the Maryland game, and took his official for the OSU game. He has indicated that he's looking for two things out of a program. First, he's looking for a school that can really challenge him to be a better defensive player

So when I go up (to Michigan) I want to see how they coach. Are they aggressive? Are they conservative? Are they (relaxed) or are they on me? I want my coach to be consistently on me. If I’m going to do something wrong, yell at me. I take criticism pretty well when it comes to football, so I want that. I don’t want nothing given to me. I don’t want no promises. As long as that happens, I think that will be a good visit.

The second thing he is concerned about is getting to stay close to his sister Amiya who is also a senior (though they are not twins). He's the only boy in the middle of six sisters, so that should tell you all you need to know about his ability to thrive under constructive criticism. Amiya is looking at schools also, and they really want to compete together athletically at the next level. As a junior she was a state champ for track and field and also set the all time state record for the triple jump. In an interview with 247 Eyobi talked about the competitive nature between himself and his almost twin, and it doesn't seem like getting in together somewhere will be an issue. 

(We) have many of the same scholarship offers and talk about attending the same school.

As far as what Amiya wants, academic wise the choice between Alabama and Michigan is fairly clear. While the SEC (to a lesser extent Alabama) has been a traditional powerhouse of women's Track and Field, Michigan just completed a state of the art track and field facility and roped in a very competitive 2017 recruiting class as a result. Amiya would be hard pressed not to consider Michigan if that's what her brother is doing. 

With his two stated considerations above, I'd agree that at one point he may have made an informal decision with his sister to attend Alabama. However there's an important timeline that bears review, a narrative of facts if you will. 

The day before Eyabi made his official visit to Tuscaloosa, Alabama's Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced he was leaving the Tide to be Tennessee's new head coach  and was taking with him one of his assistants, Brian Niedermeyer. Pruitt then began a recruiting blitz for the Vols and wasn't around helping to prepare Alabama for the Clemson game (let alone helping with recruiting for Alabama) until the beginning of this week. Consider this development with Eyabi's need for good coaching as a new player, his desire to mesh with coaches, and not even knowing who the new Alabama defensive coordinator will be. 

Soon after this Eyabi posted two similar tweets in what I can only consider a shot across the bow to anyone listening. 

I am not committed to any school still weighing my options

Fan Satisfaction Index: Maryland Results

Fan Satisfaction Index: Maryland Results

Submitted by OneFootIn on November 16th, 2017 at 10:54 AM

Since I live just outside D.C. I was lucky enough to catch last week’s game in person with my son. I’m pretty sure Michigan fans outnumbered Maryland fans, if not at kickoff then for sure by the second quarter after the drubbing was in full effect. It ain’t the Big House, but Maryland’s stadium is nice enough and the whole parking/getting in/getting out aspect was about as easy as I’ve ever experienced. Plus I got to sing the Victor's at a game, with actual Michigan fans, for the first time in about a decade. Overall gameday satisfaction level: high.

Harbaugh called it Michigan’s most complete performance of the season. I, on the other hand, gave it a “meh.” So, apparently, did the fan base, which gave the game a solid 73.5, which ranks fifth among Michigan’s wins, just behind Rutgers but well above Air Force, Cincinnati, and Indiana. Harbaugh is undoubtedly looking at the more important elements of the game here, but from a fan perspective the 73.5 seems fair. Michigan crushed a team they were supposed to crush, but didn’t look all that dominant for much of the game. The defense gave up more yards than expected to Maryland and its Nth-string quarterback, the offense looked good in spurts but fell short of exerting total dominance, and Quinn Nordin, #collegekicker, missed an easy one.

Figure 1. Maryland Game Satisfaction

Nor did the fans find much in the Maryland game to move the needle on their assessments of the season so far. Beating another cupcake this late in the season just isn’t going to change anyone’s opinion of the team and it isn’t going to erase the bad taste of losing to MSU and PSU. For that reason, even though it felt pretty good to thump Maryland, season satisfaction for the week checked in at 69.9, up less than a point from last week.

Figure 2. Season Satisfaction after Maryland

 

For the third week in a row game satisfaction outpaced season satisfaction. But one way or another Figure 3 is going to look very different next week…

Figure 3. Season Trends

Themes, Thoughts, Trends

Calibrating Our Instruments*

As good scientists it is critical that we be sure that our measurements are measuring what we think they’re measuring. In the context of our project here, we’d like to know that when Person A says a game gave them a satisfaction level of 80 that it means the same thing as when Person B gives us an 80.

Let’s take Netflix movie ratings as an example of this problem. If your family is like my family, some of you have discerning minds and impeccable taste, and rate movies accordingly, while others…do not. I, for example, give okay movies 3 stars, good or very good movies 4 stars, and I reserve 5 stars for things that are incredible. My daughter, on the other hand, hands out 5 star reviews like Halloween candy. Needless to say no one should pay any attention to our Netflix account’s overall ratings of movies. We would obviously like to avoid this problem with the fan satisfaction index.

Like Netflix, I have given very little in the way of guidance to respondents as to what they “should mean” when they answer a certain way. Other than telling them a zero is the worst and a 100 is the best, I figure your average MGoBlogger can handle scoring their satisfaction in a way that most folks will understand. We all have plenty of experience with tests that are scored from zero to 100, and most people have taken an infinite number of other surveys; there is good reason to expect that the hive mind will produce a reasonably tight consensus around what any given number means.

On the other hand, since I’ve never asked anyone to explain his/her response, I have had to assume that my interpretation of the hive mind is more or less the standard interpretation that anyone would give. But hey, I could be wrong. When I was surprised at how satisfied the fan base was about beating Rutgers, for example, I might have simply been misinterpreting what a 73.9 meant to the typical respondent. Maybe a 73.9 is really code for “adequate but not particularly invigorating victory over a crappy opponent.” If that’s the case, not only did I whiff a bit interpreting fan reactions to Rutgers, but my interpretation of other games should also be amended.

Here’s another interesting thing about trying to measure attitudes with surveys like this: most of the numbers on the scale are seriously underutilized, while a few more way overrepresented. As you can see in Figure 4, some numbers serve as something like a cognitive anchor. People are a lot more likely to answer 60, 65, or 70, than 51, 63, or 77.

Figure 4 Bumpy Data: 1875 Game Satisfaction Responses through Maryland

 

In fact, people are so much more likely to use certain numbers that it makes you wonder sometimes why anyone would use a 0 to 100 scale in the first place. Table 1 shows what I mean. The even numbered “primary anchors” (10, 20, 30, etc.) made 47% of all responses, the odd numbered “secondary anchors” (15, 25, 35, etc.) made up 33.5% of all responses, but the numbers adjacent to the anchors have been woefully under used. Even sadder: thirteen lonely numbers haven’t been used even once so far!

Table 1 Anchoring Effects and Survey Responses

Anchor % of all responses Anchor Adjacents % of all responses
0 2.13 1 0.43
10 2.61 9 & 11 0.05
20 2.61 19 & 21 0.1
30 2.4 29 & 31 0.0
40 3.31 39 & 41 0.05
50 3.73 49 & 51 0.7
60 4.91 59 & 61 0.16
70 8.37 69 & 71 0.85
80 11.52 79 & 81 0.7
90 4.59 89 & 91 0.95
100 .85 99 0.11
Total 47.03   4.1

Fun stuff.

In the spirit of getting it right, then, this week is Calibration Week. In the comments, tell me what you think the numbers mean. What’s a 50 to you? What’s a 75? How did you figure out what number to use?

* Get your minds out of the gutter. This is a family friendly site.

The Road Ahead

To Wisconsin we go…time for another test of our fan satisfaction system. This could get interesting. The game is at Camp Randall, a horrendously difficult road test for any team under any conditions, and the Badgers are favored by 7.5. Wisconsin’s offense has issues, but its defense has been stifling – not a great omen given Michigan’s aggressively mediocre offense this season. And yet…I’m sensing an awful lot of hope, even maybe the stirrings of expectations that Harbaugh and Co. have been keeping their powder dry and will finally unleash the Messiah’s true firepower in Madison to lay waste to the already frozen tundra. We shall see.

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Stats Matchup Analysis – 2017 Michigan at Maryland

Advanced Stats Matchup Analysis – 2017 Michigan at Maryland

Submitted by Ecky Pting on November 8th, 2017 at 11:00 PM

Advanced Stats Matchup Analysis – 2017 Michigan at Maryland

Introduction

As usual, this matchup analysis draws upon the Advanced Stats Profiles published weekly by Bill Connelly on Football Study Hall. The profiles feature Connelly’s well-known Five Factors, and also include the more detailed groups of S&P+ metrics that break down elements of the game such as Rushing and Passing, as well as the down-and-distance scenarios known as Standard Downs and Passing Downs. This new interpretation is an updated take on what you may recall from last season. It assesses the complete set of 26 advanced stats metrics using an approach that displays the matchups graphically, in a way that more clearly distinguishes and gauges the significance of any net advantages. For more details regarding the definition of and concepts behind each of the metrics, the Advanced Stats Glossary is a handy reference to bookmark.

Methodology

If you’re interested in the approach to analyzing Bill Connelly’s base metrics, the formulation for deriving the matchup metrics and the data visualization concept for the charts, you can read more in the previous Michigan at Indiana diary. Nonetheless, nothing here is etched in stone, and certainly suggestions for improving any of the aspects of the methodology are welcome and appreciated!

Michigan at Maryland Matchup Analysis

So, on with the matchup analysis!

The Five Factors Matchups

Here are the matchups for the core Five Factors metrics that compose the actual S&P+ ratings from which the game scoring margin is derived. As of the beginning of this week, that margin stands at 10.4 points in favor of Michigan. Keep in mind a couple of things: the weightings of the factors into the projected scoring margin are not uniform and, a team has control of only the first four. Of those first four, UM has an advantage in two, and Maryland holds an edge in two. However, the factor that is weighted most is Efficiency, and that is the factor in which Michigan hold the greatest advantage.

Efficiency

In Efficiency, the UM Offense is below average, while the Maryland Defense is well below average, which gives the UM Offense a bit of a boost. On the other side, the Maryland Offense is also well below average, while the UM Defense remains the elite-est, moving back up to #1 in this category. The net matchup gives a significant advantage to Michigan in Efficiency.

Explosiveness

In Explosiveness, the UM Offense is actually above average, but the Maryland Defense is well above average, which pulls the UM Offense down to below average. On the other side, the Maryland Offense is well above average, while the UM Defense is also well below average, which boosts the Maryland Offense even higher. Explosiveness is really the story for this Maryland team, both in creating them on on offense, while mitigating them on defense. The net matchup gives a sizeable advantage for Maryland in Explosiveness.

Field Position

As for Field Position, the UM Offense is about average, while the Maryland Defense is above average. The matchup, which is the average of the two (not the geometric scaling as with the first two), pulls the UM Offense down to slightly below average. On the other side, the Maryland Offense is well above average, while the UM Defense is just above average, which boosts up the Maryland Offense. The net matchup, is a slight Field Position edge for Maryland.

Finishing Drives

In Finishing Drives, the UM Offense is about average, while the Maryland Defense is well below average. This matchup, also a simple average, gives a slight boost to the UM Offense. On the other side, the Maryland Offense is above average, while the UM Defense is about average. The net matchup is a slight advantage for Michigan in Finishing Drives.

Turnover Margin

Michigan has improved, but has yet to turn the corner with its Turnover Luck; whereas Maryland has had more good luck than bad this season. What this means is that Michigan’s actual turnover margin has significantly lagged expected turnover margin based on measurables (e.g. Fumbles and Passes Defended), and it’s been just the opposite for Maryland thus far. Setting luck aside however and just comparing the statistically-based expected turnover margin, Michigan is actually well above average (ranked #16), whereas Maryland has not created so many opportunities (ranked #33). The net difference amounts to about 1.9 PPG. Thus, the net matchup is a sizeable edge for Michigan in Turnover Margin.

Rushing Matchups

In going up against Maryland, Michigan almost manages to achieve a clean sweep. Indeed, Michigan captures a net advantage in five of the six Rushing matchups, with the exception being – as you may have guessed – Explosiveness. Most importantly though, Michigan captures the overall metric matchup. Here again is born UM’s best path to victory. So with that, on to the Rushing matchups.

Rushing S&P+

The aggregate Rushing S&P+ metric is an uninverted metric, meaning that higher values correspond to both higher-ranked offenses and defenses. Remarkably, some way, the Michigan Offense is well above average (at #12, up from #21); but, the UMd Defense is about average, which leaves UM about the same. On the other side, the UMd Offense is above average, but the UM Defense is top ten, which knocks Maryland down to well below average. The net result is a considerable advantage for Michigan in the aggregate Rushing S&P+ metric.

Rushing Success Rate

In Rushing Success, the UM Offense is about average, while the Maryland Defense is below average, which boosts UM slightly. On the other side, the Maryland Offense is well below average, but the UM Defense is top ten (#9, down from #8). The net matchup in the end is still a sizeable advantage in Rushing Success for Michigan.

Rushing Explosiveness

In Rushing Explosiveness, the UM Offense is well above average, however the Maryland Defense is also well above average, which pulls the UM Offense down a good chunk. On the other side, the Maryland Offense is also well above average, while the UM Defense is well below average. In the end, Rushing IsoPPP (Explosiveness) favors Maryland by a sizeable margin.

Adjusted Line Yards

In Adjusted Line Yards, the UM Offense is well above average, while the UMd Defense is below average, which gives a slight boost to the UM Offense. Meanwhile, the UMd Offense is about average and the UM Defense is top ten, which knocks the UMd Offense down significantly. The net matchup result is considerable advantage for Michigan in Adjusted Line Yards.

Opportunity Rate

In Opportunity Rate, the UM Offense is about average, while the Maryland Defense is below average, giving a slight boost to the UM Offense. On the other side, the UMd Offense is about average, while the UM Defense is well above average, which takes the UMd Offense down a chunk. The net is a sizeable advantage for Michigan in Opportunity Rate.

Power Success Rate

In Power Success Rate, the UM Offense is now well above average, while the UMd defense is well below average, which gives the UM Offense a tweak. On the other side, the UMd Offense is approaching rock bottom, while the UM Defense remains the elite-est, which sends the UMd Offense down even further. In the end, the matchup balance is a tremendous advantage for Michigan in Power Success Rate.

Stuff Rate

Last is Stuff Rate (a contra-metric). In this case, the UM Offense has improved and is now above average, while the UMd Defense is well below average, which benefits the UM Offense. The UMd Offense is well below average, while UM Defense is elite. Think “space hogs” like Moe Hurst, with some Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich sprinkled in. So, in the end, the matchup result is a significant advantage for Michigan in Stuff Rate.

Passing Matchups

The Passing matchups are technically a mixed bag with Michigan capturing 2 of the 3 metrics, but the aggregate metric is well in Michigan’s favor. If there is to be any game this season in which Brandon Peters’ wings are to be completely unfurled and allowed to catch some air, it’s against this team.

Passing S&P+

The aggregate Passing S&P+ metric is an uninverted metric, meaning that higher values correspond to both higher-ranked offenses and defenses. Here, the UM Offense is below average, but the UMd Defense is just as bad, which pushes the UM Offense up to about average. On the other side, the UMd Offense is slightly above average, but the UM Defense is top ten, which pushes the UMd Offense to well below average. In the end, the net matchup result is a sizeable advantage for Michigan in overall Passing S&P+.

Passing Success Rate

In Passing Success Rate, the UM Offense is well below average, but the UMd Defense is just as bad, which pushes the UM Offense up to about average. On the other side, the UMd Offense is also just as bad, but the UM Defense is the elite-est (returning to #1 in this metric). The scuttlebutt is that the UMd Offense is obliterated into nothingness. The net is a considerable advantage for Michigan in Passing Success Rate.

Passing Explosiveness

In Passing IsoPPP (Explosiveness), the average UM Offense is pulled down by the well above average UMd Defense. On the other side, the well above average UMd Offense is boosted by the below average UM Defense. Thus, the net matchup result is a sizeable advantage for Maryland in Passing IsoPPP.

Adjusted Sack Rate

Adjusted Sack Rate is an uninverted metric, meaning that higher values correspond to both higher-ranked offenses and defenses. However, it is not a contra-metric as is typical with the other Sack Rate metrics. You can blame Bill Connelly…

The UM Offense is bottom ten, but fortunately, the UMd Defense is nearly as bad (with only 13 non-garbage time sacks on the season), which makes the UM Offense look not so bad. On the other side, the Maryland Offense is well below average (giving up 24 non-garbage time sacks), while the UM Defense is elite, which pummels the Maryland Defense mercilessly. In the end, the net matchup result looks like a significant advantage for Michigan in Adjusted Sack Rate.

Standard Down Matchups

Michigan captures 3 of the 4 Standard Down matchups as well as the overall matchup with Maryland, with UMd’s only advantage of course coming in SD IsoPPP. It’s been noted before but is worth repeating that UM’s defensive scheme under Harbaugh, and under Don Brown in particular, is typically weak in the Explosiveness metric - these results are no different - and it’s not a bad thing. What’s important is that it is usually offset by a strong Success Rate metric, which is born out in these results as well.

Standard Down S&P+

The aggregate Standard Down S&P+ metric is an uninverted metric, meaning that higher values correspond to both higher-ranked offenses and defenses. Here, the UM Offense is slightly above average, while the UMd Defense is slightly below average, which gives the UM Offense a tweak. On the other side, the UMd Offense is also above average, but UM Defense is significantly above average, which pulls the UMd Offense down below average. The net matchup result is a sizeable advantage for Michigan in overall Standard Down S&P+.

SD Success Rate

In SD Success Rate, the UM Offense is well below average, but the UMd Defense is just as bad, which boosts the UM Offense to about average. On the other side, the UMd Offense is well below average, and the UM Defense is elite (ranked #5, down from #3), making the UMd Offense also look well below average. The net matchup result ends up being a considerable advantage for Michigan in SD Success Rate.

SD Explosiveness (IsoPPP)

In SD Explosiveness, the UM Offense has improved to slightly above average, but the UMd Defense is well above average, which pulls the UM Offense back down. On the other side, the UMd Offense is also well above average, while the UM Defense is well below average, giving the UMd Offense a nice boost. The net matchup result is a considerable advantage for Maryland in SD Explosiveness.

SD Line Yards per Carry

In SD LYPC, the UM Offense has improved to above average, and the UMd Defense is well below average, which further benefits the UM Offense. On the other side, the UMd Offense is near rock bottom, while the UM Defense is top ten, pulling the UMd Offense down significantly. The net matchup result is a significant advantage for Michigan in SD Line Yards per Carry.

SD Sack Rate

In SD Sack Rate (a contra-metric), the UM Offense is well below average, while the UMd Defense is about average, which leaves the UM Offense unperturbed. On the other side, the UMd Offense is well below average, while the UM Defense is back to its elite ways (ranked #2, up from #7). In the end, the net matchup result is still a considerable advantage for Michigan in SD Sack Rate.

Passing Down Matchups

Last, but certainly not least, are the Passing Down matchups, in which Michigan manages to make a clean sweep of all the metrics, with the net result being a significant advantage for Michigan. One thing to keep in mind is that a Passing Down metrics are not measures of passing efficacy. These metrics are situational, in that they reflect performance in down-and-distance situations that are usually, but not necessarily, attacked with passing plays. Clearly, the PD LYPC metric implies a rushing play on a passing down, whereas PD Sack Rate would imply a passing play.

Passing Down S&P+

The aggregate Passing Down S&P+ metric is an un-inverted metric, meaning that higher values correspond to both higher-ranked offenses and defenses. Here the UM Offense has advanced to a level that is surprisingly well above average, while the UMd Defense is below average, which boosts the UM Offense even further. On the other side, where the UMd Offense is slightly above average while the UM Defense is elite (slipping to #3 in this overall metric), which sends the UMd Offense plummeting. The net matchup result is a significant advantage for Michigan in Passing Down S&P+.

PD Success Rate

In PD Success Rate, the UM Offense has moved up to slightly above average, while the UMd Defense is below average, which boosts the UM Offense up even further. On the other side, the UMd Offense is also well below average, while the UM Defense is elite (holding steady at #3), which sends the UMd Offense plummeting. The net matchup result is a significant advantage for Michigan in PD Success Rate.

PD Explosiveness

In PD Explosiveness (IsoPPP), the UM Offense has improved to be well above average, while the UMd Defense is above average, which erodes the UM Offense somewhat. On the other side, the UMd Offense is slightly above average, but the UM Defense has improved to be above average, which pulls the UMd Offense down slightly. The net matchup result ends up as a slight advantage for Michigan in PD Explosiveness. This is the only Explosiveness category that Maryland does not have an advantage.

PD Line Yards per Carry

In PD Line Yards per Carry (LYPC), the UM Offense is now well above average, while the UMd Defense is below average, which tweaks the UM Offense up slightly. On the other side, the UMd Offense is perfectly average, and the UM Defense is well above average, which knocks the UMd Offense down a chunk. The net matchup result is a considerable advantage for Michigan in PD LYPC.

PD Sack Rate

In PD Sack Rate (a contra-metric), as everyone should know by now, the UM Offense is well below average, but the UMd Defense is even worse, which helps the UM Offense considerably. On the other side, however, the UMd Offense is well below average, while the UM Defense is elite, which degrades UMd beyond all reality. ThE net matchup result is a tremendous advantage for Michigan in PD Sack Rate.

Conclusion

It’s been fun while it lasted, but the days of seeing matchup charts that are predominantly and overwhelmingly maize-and-blue-colored may be coming to an end. That said, this Team 138 has still made significant progress metrics-wise in recent weeks, most noticeably on the offensive side of the ball, including even the Penn State game. One might argue that the level of competition has something to do with it the past two weeks, but the metrics now are opponent adjusted, so there’s that. Clearly, there is still a great deal of room for improvement. This Maryland matchup is going to be the last and best opportunity for an offensive tune-up, particularly in regard to the passing game. The metrics suggest the most benign of all possible pass-rush environments, which may finally enable Brandon Peters to stand in the pocket long enough to make accurate downfield passes. Of course, that also depends on receivers being able to get open, but at least Peters appears to have some inkling of ability to throw a receiver open. This really needs to be done at some point if for no other reason than to get it on film - for those who will be viewing it in the next couple of weeks – and demonstrate that a downfield threat exists, and needs to be respected. Nonetheless, Michigan would be remiss to not move forward with continued emphasis on the rushing attack. Just seeing how tantalizingly close the Wolverines got to having two 200-yard rushers in one game for the first time in history on Saturday makes the progress this team has made all the more impressive. There really is no reason why reaching that milestone should not be a goal for this game with Maryland.

On the other side, once again, Michigan’s Defense can reasonably expect to shut down the Maryland Offense for the most part. Nonetheless, Maryland’s explosive tendencies will always be lurking about throughout the 60 minute game. If nothing else, those tendencies (and Michigan’s) may well enable Maryland to avoid a shutout.

So, that concludes this week’s Five Factors Matchup Analysis!

Yours in football, and Go Blue!

Best and Worst: Maryland

Best and Worst: Maryland

Submitted by bronxblue on November 7th, 2016 at 1:46 AM

This weekend both BronxBlue Wife and BronxBlue Daughter had birthdays, which included a 3-year-old birthday extravaganza, two sets of grandparents, multiple trips to places like Party City and Stew Leonard’s (which is like if half a Meijer was pushed through a Cracker Barrel and named after a guy who looks like an older, less Camaro-obsessed Papa John), and a sinking realization this will be my life for the next 10-12 years as BronxBlue Son joins the fray.  So that’s a long way of saying that if this diary cracks 3,000 words, it’ll be a minor miracle.  Or I started rambling.

Best:  The Best Cable Providers in America!

When the Big 10+2 decided it wanted to become the B1G4, fans discussed the possible new additions with a fervency usually reserved for new apparel deals.  There were the usual suspects like Notre Dame, the proximal options like Pittsburgh, Missouri, and Cincinnati, the stretches of varying lengths like Oklahoma, Colorado, and Georgia Tech, and then the fun-sized options like Texas.  Rutgers was never the answer unless the question was “What is closer to New York City than Syracuse or UConn?”  There was no sports rationale for bringing on the Scarlet Knights in 2012 (I mean, they have a Wikipedia entry about their Quidditch team, FFS), and they’ve probably become even less palpable in the proceeding years.  Plus, as a middling academic institution in the conference, it wasn’t like they raised the prestige of the conference scholastically.  This was always a naked cash grab, and no more was Delany’s lust for revenue dangling limply in the breeze like it was when he announced the New York cable market would be joining as a member.

As these stories tend to go, all bad decisions must come in pairs, so the addition of Maryland was met with similar derision.  Even though lots of alumni from current conference teams live in the Mid-Atlantic, adding Maryland “opened up” access to the Washington Metro area (and its cable boxes).  And in return for letting the Big 10 get a tiny sliver more from a couple million cable bills, Maryland would be able to actually pay its bills and keep fielding D1 programs.  Plus, the Terrapins were just embarking on the Randy Edsall Era, proving that “coach who took a team to a BCS bowl” isn’t always a positive on the resume.  So the general consensus was that Maryland and Rutgers wouldn’t add any real substance to the conference beyond the bottom line, and even though that has largely borne out to be true, hasn’t helped quell the anger.

But I never thought Maryland was a bad addition.  Sure they weren’t some juggernaut, but from 2000 to the present they finished the season ranked 4 times, were ranked at some point in the year 4 more times, and won 9+ games 5 times.  Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, and Purdue would kill for that level of recent “success”, and it wasn’t like MSU was any great shakes before Dantonio’s last 7-8 year run of success elevated that program.  Plus, they won an NCAA basketball title more recently than anyone else in the conference, and have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence on the basketball court these past couple of years. 

My point isn’t to say expansion was a good idea, because it wasn’t.  You already call yourself the Big 10 but have first 11 teams, then 12.  The footprint of your conference spans almost 1,100 miles, and already seems to cover most of the major television markets you could ever care about (I was getting the B1G network as part of a sports package in NYC by 2010).  You had already strained conference rivalries by scheduling large gaps between teams matching up, and adding even more teams to the mix would strain the organic faux elitism and tribalism that drives fan bases to show up to your noon kickoffs in late November that much more.  And by the way, you’d be further proving the point that the only “amateurs” taking part in college sports are the people trying to run it, since none of these newfound riches would find their way into the hands of the players who generated it, only the pasty, outstretched hands of old men (and they’re always old men) in jackets standing on sidelines and failed pizza barons looking for ways to blow wads of cash.

But despite all that, adding Maryland was defensible.  Adding Rutgers should have gotten someone fired, not (what I assume was) a nice bonus check and a nicer more corner-er office.

*****

This game was never in doubt.  While Durkin is a good, young coach and Maryland was a surprising 5-3 entering the game, the chasm between these two teams was immense.  Durkin’s Testudinals picked up their 5 wins against a bunch of stiffs (Howard, FIU, Purdue, and MSU) and one semi-competent (and common) opponent in UCF, which unsurprisingly was a 6-point game that ended in double overtime.  They had their pants pulled down to varying degrees by PSU and Minnesota, and their 6-point win against IU had a distinctive MSU stank to it, considering their scored the final TD as time expired.  That underwhelming slate produced an unsurprising statistical profile; this is a decent offensive unit (39th in success rate, 27th in scoring points inside their opponents 40) anchored to a terrible defense (127th against the rush, 100th in getting off the field).  Put another way, Michigan is #1 in S&P after this week, while Maryland is one spot below EMU.

Michigan dominated all 3 facets of the game.  I know there’s some hand-wringing about missed tackles, edge containment, tunnel screens and giving up almost 400 yards of total offense, but this was still a game where UM recorded 13 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 6 pass break ups.  Maryland scored 3 points on the day, and had 3 drives out of 11 go for more than 40 yards; hell, only 6 broke 30 yards.  The Terrapins were limited to 2/11 on 3rd and 4th down before the 4th quarter, and even facing the backups for long stretches of that second half still struggled to get above 300 total yards of offense before their final 3 drives. 

On the other side of the ball, UM averaged an even 10 yards per play on the day, spearheaded by Wilton Speight’s arm (79% passing, 362 yards, 15.1 (!) ypa, 2 TDs plus a rushing score) and a mashing by the backs (7.0 ypc, 5 TDs).  For the game they finished with 660 yards of total offense, gave up only 1 sack and 3 TFLs, never punted, and scored on every drive save 1, which ended on downs deep in the Maryland redzone.

In years past, this could have been a bit of a trap game, one where UM let an inferior team hang around and make it interesting.  But not this year, not this team, not under this coach.  Michigan did what they’ve done basically all year, which is blow out their opponents efficiently.  Whatever real or perceived missteps by the defense recently have been thoroughly covered up by an offense that has scored a touchdown on half of their drives the last 3 games (16-for-32). 

Best:  Great Speight Marty!

Okay, I’ll admit it:  Jim Harbaugh might have made the right decision at QB this offseason.  Or he’s a hell of a coach.  It’s probably both.  Wilton Speight has gone from a guy who nobody expected to be better than “another Al Borges recruit who never started at QB” to maybe the best QB in the Big 10.  Following up a really solid outing against MSU last week, Speight didn’t miss a beat.  He set a team record with 292 yards in the first half, systematically walking his team down the field for TDs on all 5 drives.  He reads the field like a seasoned pro, even if he still holds onto the ball a step too much, and you can tell Harbaugh is comfortable with his command of the offense because the playbook continues to expand.  Now, that 2nd-and-34 pass for 56 yards to Evans was a bit of luck, but he also fired a couple of bullets to Darboh and Butt in coverage, including on a cross-field pass from Peppers, that required a high degree of concentration and arm strength. 

I know the refrain is always “Speight needs to play like X to beat OSU” this year, but I’m fairly confident that the Wilton Speight we’ve seen since the bye week shows up at a game, UM would be favored to win against anyone in the country save Alabama.  And even that might be even money.

Best:  Everybody Brought Their Mitts to This Game

The best offense I saw at Michigan was either 2003 or 2004, featuring either a senior Navarre or a freshman Henne, Doak Walker-winning Chris Perry or first-year phenom Mike Hart (both solid receivers as well), and guys like Braylon, Breaston, Avant, and Massaquoi reeling in balls all over the field.  This was the 2-year span where even Carr’s distaste for passing was superseded by the talent on the field; Edwards caught 182 passes for almost 2,500 yards and 29 TDs over those two seasons, and both Avant and Breaston had their moments both in those seasons and beyond. 

This group of receivers doesn’t have the same star power, and it’s weird to say that in 2016 they won’t have the same prolific passing numbers (Darboh leads the team with 42 receptions) as teams over a decade before, but this is probably the 2nd-best collection of receivers I’ve seen at Michigan. And it might sound cliche, but it’s definitely a group that is greater than the sum of their parts.  Butt is the best receiving tight end in the country, but coming into the year I don’t think most college football fans considered Darboh or Chesson (outsized preseason draft hype aside) as top-flight receivers.  And yet, Michigan has a top-5 passing offense in the country, and that’s weighed down a bit by “mediocre” performances to start the year. 

Darboh has clearly taken a step forward in his play this year, showing some unexpected burst to complement his physical style, and the number of highlight reel catches is growing every game.  He’s more than a possession receiver at this point, and has helped pick up the slack a bit from Chesson, who until this game was scuttling a bit.  But against Maryland, Jehu had 5 catches for 112 yards and a TD, and repeatedly found himself blitheringly wide open.  One hopes this is a bit like the end of last year, when Chesson took flight and brought a gamebreaker element to the offense.  And has been the case for a couple of years now, Jake Butt is the best receiving TE in the country and continues to break records at the position. 

And to add a little bit of fun to the blowout, the backs had some great, juggling receptions.  Smith, Hill, and (in particular) Evans all showed they spent some time with the Juggs machine, particularly Evans, who bobbled a (slightly) underthrown ball before turning it into a 56-yard screen. 

The scary thing is you can tell there are elements to this offense that are still works-in-progress.  Peppers, for one, will probably be used even more dynamically when the opponent requires it.  The running game, despite having consistently dominated teams on the ground and already surpassing 2015’s totals, still lacks that breakthrough threat that could turn the plethora of 20-yard gains UM has to 50 yarders.  But these are minor complaints; this is an historically good offense for UM wed to one of the best defenses in the country. 

Worst, I guess:  Stop Getting Parts of my Yards

I want to get annoyed with the missed tackles.  I know both Stribling and Lewis have struggled a small bit in coverage recently.  Gedeon and McGray have shown some limitations in coverage (a number of those screens were fired at Gedeon) and going sideline-to-sideline; in this game, Maryland attacked the edge a lot specifically because they wanted to see if the LBs would flake.  And some of these same issues showed up last week against MSU, at least in spurts, so it’s becoming more of a trend than a one-off data point created by a team that spent a non-insignificant part of their 2-7 season getting ready for a couple of drives.  I want to be concerned. 

And yet, I just can’t.  UM held Maryland scoreless until midway through the 3rd quarter.  They won the game by 56 points.  They collected 2 interceptions, held the Terrapins to under 100 yards rushing, and were living in Maryland’s backfield even when they didn’t get a sack. 

Durkin did what I think most smart coaches do; they figure out the side of the ball they know the best (in this case defense), focus more on that during gameday, and hire a guy to run a scheme that works with the talent available to you on the other side.  Walt Bell’s Arkansas State teams ran up and down the field on almost everyone, and he was part of successful offensive staffs at UNC before that.  Maryland runs a hyper aggressive, if somewhat inefficient, spread offense that can take advantage of the shifty athletes they have at RB.  And he knew that throwing downfield was going to be tough sledding, but screens and little crossing routes allow his athletes to be in space and rely on the reality that college football players aren’t always going to tackle properly.  It was a really good game pan, executed well in sections…that resulted in UM holding them to one of their lowest offensive outputs of the year (and their lowest when Hills is the starter). 

In this game, UM was caught flat-footed a bit, especially early on, as Maryland just kept running them sideline to sideline.  It was clear Maryland didn’t expect to get much push inside, and they ran away from the pressure as best they could.  I’d say about half of Maryland’s came on 2-3 tunnel screens, and so you hope Brown and co. figure out how to compensate for teams going to that well.  But that 56-yard catch-and-run to end the half was just a good playcall in a game UM was leading by 35 points with no time on the clock, and in most cases Maryland couldn’t really build on any chunk plays. 

Maryland is going to be a pain in the ass in years to come, especially as Durkin continues to recruit well.  He’ll probably never beat UM or OSU out for most recruits, but a decent collection of 4* and high 3* athletes can absolutely wreak havoc on most of the conference.  Next year, I could see them exploit some of UM’s inexperience and make this a game.  But I’m going to need more to get worried about this team, and saying “Indiana 2015” ignores so many injuries and context that simply doesn’t apply to this season. 

Plus, UM gets to play Puntasaurus Rex next week, so I expect most complaints to be about Iowa going for it on 4th down and cracking 100 yards of total offense.

Quick Points:

  • Kenny Allen hit another decent FG in this game.  Whatever was wrong a couple weeks ago seems to have been fixed.  Again, none of this should matter until OSU at the earliest, but having a competent kicker certainly doesn’t hurt.
  • It’s becoming blase to say, but Peppers had another great game.  He was a spark plug on offense, picked up another TFL as part of a 5-tackle day, and absolutely rattled Caleb Rowe(?) on an unblocked rush in the 2nd quarter.  Plus, he threw an…okay, it wasn’t that great of a pass back to Speight on that trick play, but the end result was still a big completion.  It does feel like there are a bunch of plays that Harbaugh isn’t going to roll out quite yet for Peppers, and if I’m OSU I’m getting really nervous.
  • Other than Kalis getting a dumb penalty (and a good berating by Harbaugh that ESPN picked up), the offensive line played really well.  Speight had time to throw, the backs basically got deposited 4 yards downfield before they had much contact, and they 3 TFLs for 6 total yards is impressive regardless of the opposition.  It seems like the unit has solidified after Newsome went down.
  • MSU found a way to lose to Illinois and assure themselves of a losing season.  Mark Dantonio has earned himself some leeway for a down year, but people can say “they could be in for a dogfight against Rutgers” with a straight face.  In 2016!
  • OSU beating up on Nebraska didn’t really shock me.  Nebraska shot to 7-0 on the back of close wins against Indiana and Oregon, meh wins against Purdue, NW, and Illinois, and Wyoming (that game was 24-17 heading into the 4th) and a blowout of Fresno St.  They are an okay team, but put them in the eastern division and they’re probably a shade better than Maryland, if that.  This is still a tractable team, and if you think J.T. Barrett is suddenly “back” throwing the ball, good luck with that.

Next Week:  Iowa

This looked like one of the toughest road contests even a month ago.  Now, my guess is Iowa keeps it close for a quarter and then UM opens up the flood gates.  I don’t see this team getting flustered on the road, and thanks to realignment UM hasn’t played at Kinnick Stadium since 2013.  It was a house of horrors for UM under RR and Hoke; methinks that won’t continue with Harbaugh. 

Go Blue!