YAR - A Disagreement with the Blogmaster

Submitted by Deep Under Cover on September 4th, 2012 at 12:22 AM



YAR - Yet Another Rant

EDIT DISCLAIMER: Post your opinion and know I do not downvote anyone here. Tear me down and let's talk, that's what this is about.

DISCLAIMER:  This is a rant. This says some things that some may not like.  This is in no way designed to discourage people from reading or trusting what Brian says.  I like Brian's analysis, in most cases, and his writing style.  I LOOOOOVE this blog and what it brings to the UM and sports world, maybe in an unhealthy way. I am not a football expert, but was raised with a fundamentally sound understanding of football concepts and ideas.  Having said that, there are some things I, and I believe many readers, grow tiresome of.

If you cannot read an opposing opinion, take it in objectively and not personally, nor take "peeves" as any thing less than personal assaults, don't bother reading and go ahead and neg away. Brian is entitled to his opinion (this is his blog), but since he allows user comments and user driven content, I am entitled to mine.


I like that Brian writes with passion. I like that he speaks his mind. I like that he introduces and encourages heavy statistical analysis to follow with his opinions and predictions.  Those things separate this blog from just about every other sports blog out there.

I will be in honest and say that there are a few things I don't care for about Brian sometimes:

  • He does not seem to like anything he cannot emprically measure (the idea of "brand", "luck", "effort", etc)
  • From my perspective, does not understand football scheming well enough to make SOME of the statements he does [see note 1].
  • Everyone writing here seems to hate DB, or at least I never seem to see anything positive posted about him or his decisions around here.
  • I think Brian has an unhealthy obsession with Denard's running ability.

THIS IS NOT MEANT AS AN INSULT, just my opinion about how things might be different around here if writing aptitude was substituted to some extent for more "traditional football minded analysis", or at least a more diverse thought pool.  Having said that, I come here all the time, like literally, even if I am not an active commentor in the offseason.

What drives me crazy is that the biased thought process leads to unfair or incorrect assumptions.  I am sure that Denard's few runs of the game, upon further analysis, will show a larger YPC than Smith's.  Well, yes, they will because they were the exception, THEY WERE THE "CONSTRAINT" PLAYS. They are the plays that catch the defense offguard or cheating, so they can find some room that the standard plays may not.  The problem is if you keep going back to them, they are not constraint plays, they are just more stopped plays.

I understand none of these assertions have been made at this point, but I assume they will.

Here is the joy of the read option:

  1. There is one read to make [also see note 1]
  2. It introduces the QB as a viable threat on a run play (thus an 11th offender to the 11th defender)

This will give you a tactical advantage when you are outsized AND can count on a less disciplined defense.  HOWEVA, it does not work when you are outsized, out speed-ed, AND the defense is ridiculously disciplined as Alabama was (look at Oregon-LSU, 2011).  I was at the game and was watching those read options... A play that sticks out looked like a read option, but was a pass (is that a veer? I don't know that terminology here) and there were TWO Alabama defenders literally standing there waiting for Dendard to take off running.  This is how Alabama players are coached, this is how they play, and I promise you priority number one was shutting down Denard.  It just so happened to be the rest of their defense was talented enough and we were depleted enough that they could shut down most other aspects of our offense as well.

A common theme around here is how "NFL ready" much of Alabama's team is.  How many NFL teams run an offense around the read option?  That, to me, is very telling.

Like I said, I was there. I felt the disappointment, ANGER, despair... But the doom and gloom wore off quickly.

My point is, as MANY have pointed out, we were in the wrong weight class here.  We did not outscheme ourselves because, even if we ran things differently, THERE WAS NO WINNING this game with the current state of our program.  Maybe we could have made it look more competitive... but would 10 more QB iso's or sweeps and 7 more points justify potentially injuring Denard more seriously than his "boo boo"?  I think we would all agree, no it would not have been worth it.

I apologize for the rant but I just see this loss as the confirmation Brian needs that RR's offense was the tactically best in college football (not saying he wants RR as our coach, in any regard), and I think I speak for a number of people who have not voiced their opinion.

We lost, were out played, but most importantly, outplay-ered.  As many have said, we will (hopefully) get there, but let's not lose site of what is realistic here.


*Note 1 - I have seen Brian analyze a play stating that Denard is looking at the end and the LB to decide to keep or not to keep. You read the end, and that is it, expecially with a 5'10" QB.



September 4th, 2012 at 9:31 AM ^

though, is that it keeps the defense honest. You don't run a constraint play 13 times and the 'primary' play three or four times. You run a constraint play just enough to keep the defense from cheating toward what you really want to do, or when you think it will burn a D that is already cheating. 


September 4th, 2012 at 1:47 AM ^


*Note 1 - I have seen Brian analyze a play stating that Denard is looking at the end and the LB to decide to keep or not to keep. You read the end, and that is it, expecially with a 5'10" QB.


I think that Brian is all for some good criticism, but this statement is incorrect.  Alabama runs a 3-4 defense.  The read on that defense would be the WILL or JACK linebacker (depending on which way the play is going).  Who you are reading doesn't depend on the height of the QB - it depends on how the defense is lined up.


September 4th, 2012 at 3:54 AM ^

The point isn't incorrect, you just missed the point, I believe.

The WILL or JACK linebacker is, for all intents and purposes, the end in a 3-4 defense. When the QB reads him, he's not reading anybody else. Which was the point that you seem to have missed: the QB is reading one player, not two.


September 4th, 2012 at 9:26 AM ^

Ummm...not sure if serious.

The assertion was that the QB reads the defensive end because he is 5' 10".  Whether you call a LB an end at this point is fairly moot, because he makes this the central argument against Brian's football knowledge.  Let me repeat it for you so you don't miss it -


You read the end, and that is it, expecially with a 5'10" QB.




September 4th, 2012 at 2:25 AM ^

The dislike about that sort of talk is mainly around how you can basically pre-write a story about a game and just fill in the blanks with whatever names you want.

It's hacky and insulting to imply that in a goal line situation one team wants to score more than the other team wants to deny them that score.  I'm sure you've noticed that Brian does awknowledge intangibles, whether it be Mike Martin's passion, Zach Novak's grit, or Jordan Kovacs' smarts. Some things are real and can be awknowledged.  Other statements like "Michigan wanted to win the Sugar Bowl more than Virginia Tech" are just plainly stupid.  it's hacky journalism at best and does nothing but fill column inches by doing the least amount of work possible.


Anybody who comes up with a sports and/or engineering background can probably be counted on to dislike "luck".  It is not better to be lucky than good, its best to win.  You guarantee victory by eliminating or minimizing stray variables that might hurt your chances.  Luck can explain things like recovering 75% of forced fumbles or winning a casino jackpot.  It is silly to continue to predict that such things will continue to happen.

Putting it another way, you can explain the past as being influenced to a certain degree by luck.  You should not use something that is inherently up to chance to try and predict the future.


September 4th, 2012 at 9:55 AM ^

Aren't the major disagreements on this site centered around times when Brian argues something IS based on luck, and the readers disagree? E.g. fumble recovery rate, regression to the mean, etc?

If anything, Brian is a defender of luck.


September 4th, 2012 at 5:17 AM ^

In response to the criticism of Brian:

Brian has always been reactionary and emotional whenever something significant happens (good or bad). At this point it's almost a part of his shtick. It's one of the aspects of Brian's writing that has made this blog so endearing to thousands of Michigan fans. It's also one of the reasons Brian can become temporarily insufferable (like in the aftermath of the Hoke hiring). You have to keep in mind that Brian is one part fan, one part journalist, and one part analyst. Occasionally the fan in Brian bleeds into the analysis, usually after something extreme takes place. That's not to say that he's always, or even mostly wrong when it happens, just that you should keep that in mind when reading his analysis post Alabama (or an event of a similair magnitude). 

In response to the criticism of the game plan:

I was honestly shocked at the "rage" a lot of people displayed after the game. Not because I didn't expect people would be upset about a 27 point beatdown on national television, rather, that people genuinely believed a different outcome was possible.

Not to toot my own horn, because Zeus knows I hoped for a far different outcome, but most of the things I thought would happen, happened.

  • Denard being held to under 30 rushing yards.
  • Denard throwing multiple interceptions.
  • Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls being completely ineffective at tailback.
  • Rushing for fewer than 100 total yards.
  • Alabama's offensive line crushing our defensive line and allowing their tailbacks to run all over our defense.
  • Losing by more than 3 touchdowns.

I think even the most starry eyed Denard optimist has to admit that when DRob has come up against "elite" defenses over the course of his career, the results have generally been awful. I love Denard, but I expected his ceiling for that game to be 2011 Michigan State type numbers (9-24 123 yards - 1TD-1INT - 18CAR 42 yards - 2.7YPC - 1TD), which was essentially what we got, minus 8 carries and plus a 71 yard bomb. 

Based on what I saw, giving Denard 10 or 15 more carries would have only been slightly more effective than handing it off to Vincent Smith, and probably would have resulted in Denard being more banged up than he was. 

The only real path to victory was the one Michigan was given, with Denard having to make accurate throws into the very small windows in Alabama's pass defense. Michigan also desperately needed to win the turnover battle. When neither of those things occurred, the outcome was basically a given. Denard simply wasn't going to beat Alabama with his feet.

MI Expat NY

September 4th, 2012 at 11:13 AM ^

I imagine everyone or nearly everyone thinks that we lose that game no matter what.  My only problem with the play calling was that we went with a strategy that was bad the few times we went with it last year against lesser defenses (Iowa, MSU, etc.).  We knew the game plan wasn't going to be succesful, yet we did it anyway.  

Denard would have gotten beaten up had we run him, but I think we also would have had more success.  He can do things that everyone else available couldn't.  Smith and Rawls weren't going to make Bama miss.  We needed runs like one of the few Denard called runs where he made a guy miss near the line of scrimmage and scampered out of bounds after a nine yard gain.  He was the only weapon we had that could do that in the run game.  

If we really didn't run him because we didn't want to get him beat up in a game we couldn't win, I guess I can accept that reasoning.  I do think the fan base wouldn't offer up that defense with a less popular coach, however.

Finally, to end this post on a positive note.  It looked like Denard was much more willing to scramble when he didn't have anything in the passing game.  That bodes well for us against defenses not stacked with NFL talent.


September 4th, 2012 at 5:12 AM ^

Against a defense like Bama's the offense must keep them honest. Michigans offens can't do that because of the limitations in the passing game. The good news is Michigan shouldn't face another defense that can stop the run until they play Sparty. The bad news is we will lose a fifth straight game to Sparty if our defense can't stop the run. I just hope the defense keeps improving. I can't handle another loss to MSU.

South TX MFan

September 4th, 2012 at 6:24 AM ^

They didn't run Denard a lot because they didn't want him to get murdered. They hoped his passing ability progressed enough to make Bama pay for playing the run. It didn't. He was either off target, the receiver ran a sloppy route, or they played great defense (or was able to shove receivers down when they felt like it). We've seen this before it's nothing new. That's my take anyways.


September 4th, 2012 at 7:21 AM ^

At this point after looking at so many posts about why this or that happened, it is getting very tiring.

The basic fact is this, we lost to a great team that we are no where close to at this point in time. Our Dline is too inexperinced, our QB is from a different system, and our WR's are an average of 5 10". With the exception of Devin. With our recruiting we will get there, it will just take a while.

So lets all do ourselves a favor, take the advice from the players and don't let the loss carry on.

We moved on from orgeon and app state, IMO this isnt as bad as those loss's.

Just think of how sweet it will be when all those MSU fans who were throwing crap at us end up losing to us. 

So please, move on and get over it. There is no point in any of it anymore.

Mr. Robot

September 4th, 2012 at 7:31 AM ^

I really don't think we were doomed to lose that game from the start. There were a LOT of plays in the first half that, had they gone our way, we would have been very competitive and perhaps even won the game.

In particular, Denard several times overthrew wide open receivers that would have at least gotten a first down. Alabama also got two trouchdowns off of two turnovers on us. Don't forget that missed facemask that, as a result of Lewan's penalty on the same play, effectively killed the drive rather than force a do-over on the down. Make a few of those receptions and take away the turnovers, and we're maybe down a touchdown at the half, if that.

Make no mistake, Alabama has the better team, and that's why the things that happened, well, happened, but even in our current state, they were in fact beatable. We just didn't execute anywhere near well enough to make it happen and it'll be a year or two before we can go toe to toe with them and be able to recover form some of the mistakes we made.


September 4th, 2012 at 8:09 AM ^

The keys to winning most football games are running the ball (we couldn't; they could) and stopping the run (we couldn't; they could).  Regardless of whether a few passing plays were there or not, it was somewhat inevitable that we were going to lose that game.  I'm not saying it was 100% etched in stone, but it was close...


September 4th, 2012 at 8:31 AM ^

And now two questions remain for this season of college football -- (1) Is what we saw of Alabama what we'll see every game?, and (2) Is there any team in the land that can match them?

I tend to believe what we saw of Alabama is what we'll see going forward.  I think what we saw on Saturday was a pretty good read of what Alabama's team really is this year.

As for (2) ... we'll see ... but I tend to think the team to beat is Alabama.  The Arkansas game in two weeks will be the first read on this.  USC's win over Hawaii doesn't tell us much.


September 4th, 2012 at 9:30 AM ^

I would normally agree w/ what u just said but the NFL is proving otherwise. Take Detroit, they can't run the ball at all but they have DECENT PASS PROTECTION AND A QB THROWING TO MEGATRON. The patriots do close to the same. So I'd say its more u need an accurate qb with some good wrs to overcome the lack of a run game. We had neither or good pass protection so in turn got killed.


September 4th, 2012 at 10:12 AM ^

You would have to admit in Detroit's case, that the run keeps the defense honest.  For the record, the top 3 running backs for Detroit piled up these stats in 2011 -

Jahvid Best - 390 Yards, 4.6 YPC, 65 YPG

Kevin Smith - 356 Yards, 4.9 YPC, 51 YPG

Maurice Morris - 316 Yards, 4.0 YPC, 20 YPG


That really isn't something you want to leave unattended.


September 4th, 2012 at 11:17 AM ^

But the NFL has also bastardized the rules to an extent that it's becoming Arena Football. And while that's still what makes an offense most effective, they do have a tendency to come up against less talented or successful grind it out teams, and losing the big game. 

The Giants have twice shown the dangers of not controlling the line of scrimmage against the Patriot's high flying offense, And the Steelers keep making it to Super Bowls when everyone expects the Patriots or Colts or someone like that to get there.

You can do it a lot of ways. But I think he original point that it all starts with running the ball and stopping the run stands. If you can run, you can probably pass it too. If you can pass it, there's no guarantee it'll open up the run.


September 4th, 2012 at 8:09 AM ^

Anyone who watched Denard score on that six-and-goal knows how dangerous he can be as a runner. He had nothing to work with, he wormed his way through the pile, and he got SIX YARDS. Smith would've bounced off the back of an o-lineman. Sure, maybe they were keying on Denard, but the great thing about him is that he generally gets positive yardage because he's so elusive. I have to think if he'd had some designed runs in there (not many, but 10-15 runs for the game sounds about right), we would've had another touchdown at least.


September 4th, 2012 at 8:18 AM ^

As I stated to my Bama fans, this is a game we would have loved to play in the 90's and up until about 2007.  We were built to handle Bama and they have simply caught us in a transition period.  I mentioned that 2015 is the mark on wall for me.  That being said, I thought that their "NFL" defense did not bring near as much pressure on Denard as I anticipated nor ol SEC-loving Herby mentioned.  Denard did miss several crucial drive extending passes.  This was a type of game where a Braylon or Terrell or Manningham would have fared very well. 

Our running game did about exactly as I anticipated.  I'm okay with the lack of designed Denard runs althought I wish he would have scrambled a couple of more times.  I truly think that is where he could have caused a crisis with the Bama D. 

I, for one, cannot wait for the UFR.  I am anxious to see how PeeWee and the other freshman performed.  I am NOT so anxious to see the ratings for our linebackers.  My gut reaction was that our DL fared better than the LBs. 


September 4th, 2012 at 10:29 AM ^

I think giving Denard time to throw was to some extent planned by Saban. The Bama Dline was plenty effective on running plays. If Denard had started throwing lasers, I think Saban would have dialed up some blitzes.


September 4th, 2012 at 8:33 AM ^

I disagree with most of your points but I upvoted your post anyway. I was dreading a rant when I clicked, but I thought iyou made your points but in an even-handed way, and that's a good thing.


September 4th, 2012 at 9:01 AM ^

I don't know nor pretend to know enough about football schemes to comment on much or the OP, but a couple of things do stand out to me.

1) The whole multi-paragraph disclaimer makes you sound like a douche bag, as though you think the posters here are mindless blog fans and we need to be told to be objective; the whole disclaimer takes up nearly a 1/ 4 of your post.  If it had been a sentence or two, it wouldn't been as bad, but I found your lengthy disclaimer insulting. It made me doubt your judgment and motives from the very start.

2) Your claim here suggests you must not read the blog that much or you are just making shit up.


Everyone writing here seems to hate DB, or at least I never seem to see anything positive posted about him or his decisions around here.



September 4th, 2012 at 9:02 AM ^

Especially this one:

"I apologize for the rant but I just see this loss as the confirmation Brian needs that RR's offense was the tactically best in college football (not saying he wants RR as our coach, in any regard), and I think I speak for a number of people who have not voiced their opinion."


Dude, you are so off base on this comment.  I believe Brian's fondness of RR's offense is only based on the fact that Denard is the starting QB, and likely gives a Denard-led offense the best chance to be successful.  Denard is obviously more talented at running the ball than he is as a traditional QB.  I highly doubt without Denard at the helm, Brian would even be bringing this up.


September 4th, 2012 at 11:10 AM ^

But I think the dude just likes intricate offense. That's his mind set. And there's nothing wrong with that. From Rich to Bill Walsh to Spurrier and lots of successful football minds love the offensive strategizing.  Others, like our current staff, are more defensive minded. Which interests me more, but all versions can work. As long as you get someone to take care of the side you have less interest in. (I mean, I'd say Bill Belichick is a defensive guy, but he obviously realizes when he doesn't have the defense he better score a lot of points, and gets guys who can do it). I'd like a bit more defensive analysis, but there's nothing wrong with Brian writing to his passion.


September 4th, 2012 at 9:12 AM ^

"Everyone writing here seems to hate DB, or at least I never seem to see anything positive posted about him or his decisions around here." - Deep Under Cover

As late as yesterday afternoon, there was a thread where numerous people were supportive of Brandon and his scheduling of this game, as well as supportive of what he has done for the university's athletic programs in general, so this statement is not exactly true. If you search back through the site, many threads revolve around decisions driven by David Brandon, and there is a sizeable contingent of MGoBloggers that are generally supportive of his running of the department, though we may criticize individual decisions or individual aspects of those decisions.


September 4th, 2012 at 9:30 AM ^

Brian is one of many many voices here.  I am sure we have all had the thoughts you are expressing.  Once Brian gets a thought in his head, he will defend/support it well past the point of reason, and Denard being able to run on ANY defense is one of his favorites.

In general. it might be more helpful to address these topics when they come up, rather than to write one giant "Brian is so stupid" post.  You might be surprised how well your ideas are received.  There isn't a lot of censorship here. 

And as to the whole Cowboy classic experience...Bama does that to everybody.  We're just too close to the situation to recognize it.  The only team to beat 'Bama last year scored 9 points in 9 quarters.  Michigan's output against Bama would have tied them for second best last year.  Denard/Scheme/the offense wasn't the problem on Saturday.

Michigan may never see an offensive line like that again.  Thank God for that.

BOX House

September 4th, 2012 at 9:59 AM ^

I think this may be the most down I have ever seen Mgoblog. I guess I wasn't reading the blog as heavily during the last Rich Rod years, but I've never seen the board as depressed as it has been since Saturday.


September 4th, 2012 at 10:26 AM ^

Compared to after the Penn State loss, this place is downright happy. The current air is more like the aftermath of the Gator Bowl, I think. Sure, people are pissed and down, but there's also a sense of numbness that just wasn't there for Penn State 2010 and The Game 2010.

To add something I was thinking about last night, I just don't get it. If we had scheduled the Patriots for week one and lost 150-0, would that change anyone's outlook going forward? We know we won't play them again, and there isn't a comparable team on the schedule. Sure, it sucked getting killed like that, but Alabama being great has nothing to do with how good or bad ND/MSU/Nebraska/Ohio are.


September 4th, 2012 at 10:24 AM ^

I think Brian and other contributors on this site have to be critical of coaching philosophy and decisions, even though they will readily admit the coaches know WAY more then they do; just as you are being critical of Brian even though he probably knows way more then you do.  As much as he has stated that he is a fan, he has an obligation to be objective.  I think coach Mattison would tell you that the all out blitzes on 3rd and long weren't necessarily the best idea in retrospect especially since Alabama had them sniffed out and called screens against them all day.  The point is even our coaches aren't perfect, they make errors and objective sports writers have an obligation to point out those errors.

I think Brian's position on the offense is that it should be predicated around Denard's running.  I don't think this is that bold of a position since our best offensive showings from last year were also his better rushing days.  I personally don't believe that our offense can be successful if we rely on Denard to beat other teams solely with his arm, which is what we tried to do on Saturday.  I understand we were playing Alabama and that they were keyed in on preventing him from running, but you can't allow a team to take away the one thing you do best.  Do you think Denard would be our starting quarterback if he had the speed of Elvis Grbac (not going to pile on Navarre)?  I don't, so how can you win with a game plan that limits  how much he runs?  I think these are legitimate questions and yes I am sure an increased workload would have exposed him to injury, but then what was the point of playing the game?   We were outmatched physically, they executed better then we did, they seemed to have better talent, and at the end of the day our coaches were probably out-coached.  I think given the final score even they would admit that there were things that they needed to do differently to give the team any sort of chance to win.  So how is anything Brian has said out of line?  



September 4th, 2012 at 10:38 AM ^

The only thing that bugged me about not running Denard was that we basically conceded it wouldn't work. Rather than matching our strength against theirs, we basically said, naww, you're better we're going to do what you want us to do.

Bama game planned to keep Denard from running. I don't think we would have had a ton of success, but I would have liked us to at least try. As it is, we don't really know how good Denard the runner is against the best D's we play, because Borges won't run him in that situation. I think that's what Brian meant when he said Borges outsmarted himself.

His Dudeness

September 4th, 2012 at 10:56 AM ^

I am not certain why you care so much about another persons opinion. I could care less if Brian likes pizza. I know I like pizza. I don't want to convince him to like pizza the same way I do because that would be crazy. He is free to enjoy pizza or not enjoy pizza just as I am. He may not like olives and maybe I do. I don't want to convince him to like olives. Why would I want to do that?