Beating The Shotgun Horse

Submitted by Brian on July 7th, 2011 at 2:14 PM

MGoBlog: where no sleeping dog is left to lie, and no dead horse is to remain unbeaten.  -Blue in South Bend


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In re: shotgun + Denard + site obsession with Denard in shotgunFootball Study Hall put up a post with interception rates that highlights one of the many problems Michigan had turning yards into points last year: Denard's interception rate. Amongst a sample of 100 D-I quarterbacks* he finishes 84th. The only BCS quarterbacks to do worse were Garrett Gilbert, Stephen Garcia, Jeremiah Masoli, Steven Threet, BJ Daniels, and Jacory Harris. This is not good company. Harris and Garcia are 1-2 on this list


1. Jacory Harris. The nation's leader in zesty interceptions won't let being benched stop him. If it gets too bad with new boss Al Golden, he'll just go throw 'em in the street if he has to, because swag like Jacory's never sleeps, and when it does it lands wherever it wants.

2. Stephen Garcia. With confidence. With verve. With GARCIA.

…and the omission of BJ Daniels, who either throws an 87 yard touchdown or three interceptions every play, must have been an oversight thanks to South Florida's ability to fade into the background.

Denard's interceptions weren't zesty. They were like—and I say this in all seriousness—watching the cutest puppy in the world fly headlong into another puppy's head, killing both. The defense was like watching the puppy blood run into the gutter. This is the most precise analogy ever made. Also the field goal kicking was like watching the deceased puppies reanimate just so they could poop all over everything. The Rich Rodriguez era: defined.


Right. So forwards into the endless and admittedly pretty pointless discussion about the best thing to do for the team the next couple years when they have a 5'11" dreadlocked bolt of lightning at quarterback. My position is blindingly clear: Shotgun Today, Shotgun Tomorrow, Shotgun Forever. For the next two years, at least.

Objections raised from the comments largely revolve around the idea that last year's turnover and redzone performances were flukes that should be expected to magically repair themselves. An example:

I think its a pretty big reach to say there's any "evidence" to suggest that the offense will revert to the mean.  College Football  red zone offenses are not random occurrences within a normal population.  Oregon and Auburn weren't so good in the red zone because they got randomly lucky.  Michigan wasn't terrible because we weren't randomly unlucky.

The offense was terrible in the red zone because:

1) Nobody could make a FG longer than 25 yards (this isn't something that will revert until someone can kick the ball)

2) Our offense simply didn't work as well in the red zone (I don't know why---playcalling, B1G defenses, nerves, but it isn't something that happened because of random chance)

There is no guaranteed regression to the mean in nonrandom circumstances, like football.  Michigan was terrible in the red zone because being terrible in the red zone WAS the mean for Michigan in 2010.

You hope #1 will be solved by the addition of Matt Wile. We are all gunshy about this but highly rated kickers—which Wile was by the end of the year—usually do well. That actually turns out to be irrelevant, about which see this long footnote**. The redzone issues come down to two things: turnovers, about which see above, and giving the ball back on downs.

Michigan did the latter four times last year, all of them late in already-decided games (one against Wisconsin and OSU, two against Mississippi State). They missed one field goal. They failed to score eleven more times because they straight-up turned the ball over.

As far as #2, the whole reason people do these study things and use stats is to have something to argue against people who use the word "simply" as their conversational gambit. Oh, it's simple to you, is it? Well, fine then. I guess you and your galaxy-spanning intellect win. It is possible that NFL football is so different than college football that studies do not cross over, but it is extremely unlikely, and that FO study showed really good redzone teams one year are almost precisely average the next.

In Michigan's case they should expect more than randomness to work in their favor. The common thread of Rich Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan was young or terrible quarterbacks. Three years of Threet/Sheridan, Forcier/Denard, Denard/Forcier should see you give away turnovers like they're candy. There are no upperclassmen on that list except the walk-on; there's only a few confused snaps from a hopelessly raw Denard preventing that list from having any sophomore starters.

The spread 'n' shred in general and Rodriguez in particular haven't shown they are turnover-prone. On the contrary, being able to run 70% of the time and have a good offense should cut down on turnovers since passes are inherently more risky.

From Maize 'n' Brew:

And that is what this comes down to. Common sense. Your eyes. If your eyes are telling you that you're watching a turd of a football game, well... you are. If your reaction to the Wisconsin Michigan game was that Michigan just got completely curb stomped by Wisconsin in the first half, mounted a minor comeback when Wisconsin took a third quarter nap, and then still got blown out by 20 points at home, well... that's what you saw. Perhaps the stats tell a different story. Maybe. But while the stats say that Michigan ran up an astounding 442 yards against Wisconsin they don't relate what actually happened at the game.

I try to back up my opinions with statistical evidence because the use of tools is the thing that separates bloggers and chimpanzees from other primates like newspaper columnists and sports talk radio hosts not on WTKA.

If you want to go on your gut, I can do that too: Michigan has a 5'11"-ish quarterback who ran for 1700 yards last year and an offensive line that's now 100% recruited to zone block all day. They don't really have a promising running back. I feel, like, not good, man, about Michigan in the I-form.

Or I could say that "common sense" suggests that Wisconsin was not trying to let Michigan score in the third quarter and that the overall results should be taken in appropriate context, but then we're back to feelings, man.

What Is The Core?

I just don't see how the spread offense is responsible for turnovers except insofar as it puts an erratic Denard Robinson on the field instead of a finely-polished artillery piece, and who wants to fix Michigan's issues by replacing Denard Robinson?


/Munn Ice Arena

/people stapling each other's hands to their sides just in case they have a hand-raising seizure

Not having Denard drop back from center does not make his throwing mechanics worse. If anything it allows him to ignore a complicated facet of football—NFL coaches are constantly bitching that college quarterbacks no longer know how to execute a five-step drop—and focus on throwing it to the guy who's really open because you're not running the ball.

Meanwhile, the run game was kind of good last year despite having the worst set of tailbacks at Michigan since at least that year BJ Askew got half the carries. This is directly attributable to putting Robinson in a position to run, something an I-form doesn't.

There are quarterback draws and waggle plays, yes. Opponents will be all over them because those are constraint plays—not your base. Smart Football on how you build an offense:

The idea is that you have certain plays that always work on the whiteboard against the defense you hope to see — the pass play that always works against Cover 3, the run play that works against the 4-3 under without the linebackers cheating inside. Yes, it is what works on paper. But we don’t live in a perfect world: the “constraint” plays are designed to make sure you live in one that is as close as possible to the world you want, the world on the whiteboard.

Constraint plays thus work on defenders who cheat. For example, the safety might get tired of watching you break big runs up the middle, so he begins to cheat up. Now you call play-action and make him pay for his impatience. The outside linebackers cheat in for the same reason; to stop the run. Now you throw the bubble screen, run the bootleg passes to the flat, and make them pay for their impatience. Now the defensive ends begin rushing hard upfield; you trap, draw, and screen them to make them pay for getting out of position. If that defensive end played honest your tackle could block him; if he flies upfield he cannot. Constraint plays make them get back to basics. Once they get back to playing honest football, you go back to the whiteboard and beat them with your bread and butter.

The argument here is about the core of the offense: in the I-form that's Denard dropping back to pass or handing off to someone else. In the shotgun it's the zone running game. As the core of the offense you can't remove Denard from the game. You cheat and then there's a guy wide open. While Denard's legs are a terrifying constraint, Michigan has to force the opponent to cheat to use them.

I'll believe these tailbacks and this offensive line and this almost total lack of fullback and tight end can do that running power up the middle when I see it. If they can't you've just taken the most dangerous weapon in college football*** out of the game. You shouldn't do that. It's common sense.


*[I'm not sure why there were 100 quarterbacks instead of approximately 120 + a few injury replacements, so keep that in mind.]

**[Long aside on Michigan's historically awful field goal kicking goes here. Nonnair posted a diary asserting that the lack of field goal kicking was not a factor in red zone efficiency because Michigan actually scored more points than they could have if they kicked it:

The other seven fourth-down attempts I am dividing into two groups: (1) FG is the likeliest option and only a riverboat gambling coach or a team without a FG kicker would go for it, and (2) FG is only a possible option, either because it'd be very long, or because there was only 1 yard to gain for a first down so going for it is a viable option.

Bottom line?  If we had tried FGs on all seven of those drives last year, even if we had Adam Vinatieri circa 2002 and he went 7-for-7, the most UM could have scored was 21 points.

As it was? UM got 27 points out of those drives. Six more points.

This is only one half of the equation, though, because Michigan did attempt a bunch of field goals and they went like this:


All that red in the Michigan zone is value earned by the offense that was lost by the kicker on obvious kicking opportunities. So on the field goals Michigan tried last year, we threw away 16 points, versus the six this study shows M getting back by being forced to do a statistically correct thing that teams don't usually do because their fans don't trust statistics.

Misopogon threw this behind a jump on Sunday.

Nonnair turns out to be right: the field goal kicking did not have much of an impact on the red zone efficiency because Michigan's misses are all clustered just outside. However, the statistically correct behavior Michigan engaged in also had no effect. Six of the seven attempts were outside the red zone and the one that was inside it, a fourth and one from the Penn State 13, was converted and led to a field goal anyway.

So we're down to just the massive turnovers. I hope this section has highlighted how goofy red zone efficiency is.]

***[Other than Charles Robinson.]



July 7th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

Soooo hard.

Denard's interceptions weren't zesty. They were like—and I say this in all seriousness—watching the cutest puppy in the world fly headlong into another puppy's head, killing both. The defense was like watching the puppy blood run into the gutter. This is the most precise analogy ever made. Also the field goal kicking was like watching the deceased puppies reanimate just so they could poop all over everything. The Rich Rodriguez era: defined.

You kill me.


July 7th, 2011 at 2:21 PM ^

but you're arguing against a strawman here.  No one in that thread that I saw (and I argued with like 95% of them) suggested that Michigan should go away from the shotgun.  People just got mad when you said that MIchigan's offense last year was excellent.  

You're conflating the "shotgun v. I-formation" argument with the "do advanced statistics tell us as much as some people think" argument in a way that I don't think is helpful.   


July 7th, 2011 at 2:22 PM ^

Has anyone gone on record saying the I-form is Michigan's base offense in 2011?


Oh. I'll go watch 2010 SDSU game film then.

Flying Dutchman

July 7th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

I anticipate (and hope) to see upwards of 50% of our offensive snaps come out of the shotgun this coming season.   Maybe not Sept 3 against WMU, but I think it will emerge.   Borges will adapt.


July 7th, 2011 at 10:22 PM ^

If I were starting a football team and a head coach, I want to do exactly what Brady Hoke has done. Offensively, I would want a balanced two-back, tight end set to have the ability to get under and run the football and throw the football. I think the trend and fad of the spread offense, unless you've got Pat White or Denard Robinson, I think it's going to evolve and get back to these type of offenses.


July 7th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

I understand the point you're making.

But I'm wondering about the argument you're opposing: I'm unaware of a soul - especially Hoke and Borges, saying that they're running an I-form base offense. When I look at SDSU play, I actually see exceedingly little I-Form.

I do, however, see a healthy amount of shotgun, and a preponderance of 3 WRs.


July 7th, 2011 at 2:51 PM ^

Brian laid about above why Shotgun >  I-Form for Michigan right now, I don't think anyone's really disagreeing with that.

The fear is that we'll get shoehorned into an I-Form anyway. The two main reasons for this are:

MANBALL!!!! And Hoke saying that "we will run the power play". This could be a stubborn refusal along the lines of the "spread is pussy football" or (hopefully!!!) it's coach-speak from a head coach who understands that a ton of alumni don't/didn't like change. Remember, Hoke isn't running the offense. 

Reason 2 is the spring game, which saw a lot of I-Form. However I think that the spring game was, and should be thought of, as a practice. Denard can run QB-Oh-noes! We know that from last year. If Borges calls a Zone Read, 10 people on the field ran that last year and practiced the hell out of it, it wasn't what we had to spend a bunch of spring ball learning. 

We won't really know what we're running until September, hell, I'm interested to see what our playbook is in NCAA 12 (my guess is "multiple") but I think a lot of shotgun would be a good thing, and I hope all we're hearing/seeing is coach speak.

Just remember, This is a "Power" play:



July 7th, 2011 at 3:02 PM ^

As for MANBALL......stop it. Every football team needs to run with power to be successful. Did you enjoy Michigan getting stuffed on 3rd and 1 last year? How about 1st and goal on the 1 versus Illinois in 2009? It's a legitimate complaint for this fanbase - a football team should have the confidence to line up needing 1 or 2 yards and to be tough enough to get those yards.

As for point 2, the spring game......oh dear god stop it. Denard had 20 snaps. Do you think it would have been a good idea for the team to practice 10 Denard QB runs, or to actually run plays that needed work and practice? Of course not, you actually said it. Anyone taking anything out of the Spring Game given the context, the available roster, and the abbreviated and open-ended nature of the practice needs a head examination.



July 7th, 2011 at 3:05 PM ^

To add to this, I feel like half of our running plays last year were power.  We just did them with the QB instead of the RB and had a tight end blocking.  As far as the spring game, calling a bunch of QB runs when you aren't allowed to tackle the QB would just be silly.


July 7th, 2011 at 3:17 PM ^

I agree with you: we should run a power I and I agree with you, the spring game was practice on things that need practice (as in not Denard running)

I was just voicing 2 things that have fans concerned that we might not see as much shotgun as we should this year


July 7th, 2011 at 3:22 PM ^

I would really like to see this play and other QB designed runs that don't necessarily come out of the zone read incorporated.  For one, I think they're a great counter to anyone who watched the MiSt game and said "okay, we're fire zoning the shit out of this team" (that and the speed option), but for two, they allow the offensive line to move toward the offense they want to become (presumably, something like the Moeller-Lloyd era Michigan multiple pro-style offense) while preserving the aspects of the offense that work beautifully for Denard.

QB Counter, Sweep and Power with a mix of zone read stuff would be a great run package, all of which have the run fake, step back and throw counter to attack cheating alley defenders and safeties.  That plus a 3-step game and 4 verts variants and you've pretty much got an offense.  It's basically the offense Auburn ran last season with fewer reads.

So that gets the run-blocking more along the lines of stuff they want to run on a regular basis post-Denard, but obviously it doesn't really get close on the pass packages or get the QB under center.  But anything they spend beyond what I outlined on I-form (or even single back under center stuff) is more or less time you're deciding to spend practicing for the future at the expense of the present.

Given how Denard-oriented that offense is (i.e. he'll need some rest and/or injury time) and how clearly Devin is better suited for the offense they eventually expect to become, isn't the best solution a two-QB approach?  Especially since there's going to be a relative weakness in 3rd and long anyway? There's going to be some amount of inefficient practicing pretty much no matter what.  So why not cut down on it by providing the two QBs with complementary packages?


July 7th, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

Right, but he was forced off the field last year due to injury anyway.  It's obvious that he can't quite take the playload that he was given last year.  So are we going to try to let him develop as a passer despite the fact that D1 coaches were very nearly unanimous that he couldn't be a traditional QB?  Or can we run his stuff a majority of the time and let Devin take over as needed?


July 8th, 2011 at 7:03 AM ^

But sophomore Henne threw for 23 T's and had 8 INT's.  Denard had 18 T's and 11 INT's.  Henne had Mike Hart, not a bad running back in his own right, although I thought he had an ankle injury for much of his second year.

Denard's rushing load needs to be lightened.  I felt all of last year that we were lucky that he only got dinged up virtually every game and did not incur a much more serious injury.


July 7th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^


With all due respect, just becuase someone criticizes your interpretation of data you should not straw man them by essentially implying that they're stupid for not agreeing with you.  Some of your critics may not be able to synthesize their arguments in the most coherent way, but what they should be saying is not "your stats are wrong/meaninlgess/pointless," but rather "your models/interpretation are wrong" - which I think they sometimes are.

For example, I would argue that your conclusion - based on the yardage Michigan posted against Wisconsin - that our offense was performing well is an overly-simplistic interpretation of the data.  Or alternatively, that you're model (measuring gross yards) is not sophisticated enough.

You say, "I could say that 'common sense' suggests that Wisconsin was not trying to let Michigan score in the third quarter and that the overall results should be taken in appropriate context, but then we're back to feelings, man."  This is in jest, perhaps, but unearths your model's assumption that scoring on Wisconsin's defense in the third quarter while trailing by 30+ points is the same as scoring in the first quarter when the game is tied. 

I would contend that it's not the same and the data (gross yards) are not one-for-one comparable to supprot the conclusion that Michigan can put up a lot of yards on a great defense. 

For example, were Wisconsin's starters in the game during the third quarter?  If they were, were they playing as intently?  Or how about this, let's study the yardage gained by an opponent when the game is tied versus when the defense is leading by 3+ touchdowns?  We could study blowout games with meaningless touchdowns in the second half.  My gut (and experience for watching games) is that the defense plays tigther when the score is closer.

My belief that your stats are inconclusive is not based on a disdain for stats, but rather based on my disdain for your model and interpretation.  It's a simple interpretation of data points that supports your conclusion. 

There was a trend that Michigan was able to finally score after being down by major deficits against good teams.  Stats need interpretation and that's where, I think, your arguments often fail. 


July 7th, 2011 at 3:03 PM ^

Your suggestion that the team's performance (and, by implication, Denard's) was higher than average whenever Michigan was getting blown out isn't backed up by the numbers.  I can't find a game-by-game source of stats (anyone got a link?) but a quick look at Denard's 2010 stats on tells us this:


Situation G Att Comp Pct. Yards TD Int Rating Long 1st 15+ 25+
Winning By 15+ Pts 1 5 3 60.0 20 0 0 93.60 10 0 0 0
Winning By 8-14 Pts 4 23 19 82.6 243 1 1 177.01 46 11 7 3
Winning By 1-7 Pts 8 54 29 53.7 330 1 3 100.03 74 14 5 2
Tied 11 54 39 72.2 662 7 2 210.57 75 27 17 7
Losing By 1-7 Pts 9 61 35 57.4 601 5 2 160.63 75 24 15 8
Losing By 8-14 Pts 7 29 17 58.6 217 1 2 119.07 66 8 5 3
Losing By 15+ Pts 5 65 40 61.5 497 3 1 137.92 60 17 12 5


Situation G Att Yards Avg. TD Long 1st 10+ 20+
Winning By 15+ Pts 1 6 39 6.50 0 9 4 0 0
Winning By 8-14 Pts 5 24 136 5.67 1 47 9 4 1
Winning By 1-7 Pts 8 59 477 8.08 3 87 16 15 5
Tied 12 54 389 7.20 2 28 15 13 5
Losing By 1-7 Pts 10 54 364 6.74 3 72 19 10 4
Losing By 8-14 Pts 6 28 183 6.54 1 20 12 8 1
Losing By 15+ Pts 5 31 114 3.68 4 19 7 5 0

...which shows that his performance was actually significantly worse when the team was down by 15 points or more. Makes sense, IMO; there was likely a reason we'd gotten into that hole in the first place.

Kilgore Trout

July 7th, 2011 at 3:17 PM ^

It seemed like last year's offense struggled the most with getting that add on score to push a lead up.  Looking at the winning by 1-7 points lines, it's interesting that that was time when Denard was most effective as a runner (AVG) and least effective as a passer (RTG) (excluding the small sample size when winning by 15+).  Attempts were pretty equal.  Maybe when we got up we should have kept it on the ground with Denard a bit more.


July 7th, 2011 at 4:06 PM ^

A million times yes, Kilgore - apart from field goal kicking, the most frustrating thing for me was Michigan's inability to score when up by 1-7 points. I'd see the D finally make a stop, and then it all be for naught when the offense went from unstoppable to 3 and out. A TD to go up two scores would have turned a lot of the nailbiters (ND and Indiana, in particular, come to mind) into comfy victories.


July 7th, 2011 at 3:18 PM ^

The comparison has to be within a single game - and then studying several similar games, not just by Michigan. Not across the season on an accumulated basis. The point is whether yards gained against Wisco are meaningful after being out of the game. The stats you just posted are irrelevant.

And this wasn't my first, I just got dinged into the negative for saying Rich Rod sucks.


July 7th, 2011 at 3:29 PM ^

Surely the question "did Michigan's offense perform at a higher level against Wisconsin *merely* because they were down by 3 scores" is a subset of the first question "did Michigan's offense perform at a higher level in 2010 *merely* because they were down by 3 scores?"

I understand you are specifically concerned with the Wisconsin game, but if you don't think that end-of-season stats have any relation to games-within-the-season, I think you'd have to argue why (especially because there appears to be a very direct relation: end of season stats are based on game stats).

Mitch Cumstein

July 7th, 2011 at 3:47 PM ^

I think what he is saying is that the item in question is whether Wisconsin let off the gas on defense.  I'm not sure that is entirely related to these stats.  Sure there is some overlap, but it would be better to have the same table except expressing Wisco's defense.  That might be more relevant. 


July 7th, 2011 at 4:11 PM ^

1) I doubt Wisconsin let off the gas, based on what happened in 2008.

2) Wiconsin won a lot of games by a lot of points last year, so most of their opponents had "garbage time" in which to get offensive stats if Wiscy was soft on D. Michigan performed better against Wisconsin in "garbage time" than most other teams, ergo our offense was pretty good. Note that only Iowa and MSU scored more points against Wisconsin than Michigan did. (and Iowa still lost).


July 7th, 2011 at 7:02 PM ^

I meant to say "pretty good against Wisconsin" which is the game that seems to have the biggest gap between "perceived performance" and "statistical performance".

My main point was that when someone says "We got 100 yards and 1 TD more than average against Wisconsin's D" the fact that the game was effectively out of reach isn't really relevant, since the "average" team also got a lot of garbage time against Wisconsin's D, potentially inflating the "average" statistics.

Anyway I think my point 1 is more important, since I don't think Wisconsin was as generous defensively in the second half as everyone seems to assume given the score.


July 7th, 2011 at 4:32 PM ^

I don't think it's much more relevant, but the same chart for the Wisconsin game is pretty easy to generate from the UFR (except passer ratings, which wtf).  It's also an extremely small sample size, being a single game and all.  

Situation G Att Comp Pct. Yards TD Int Long
Tied 1 2 1 50.0 14 0 0 14
Losing By 1-7 Pts 1 4 1 25.0 3 0 0 3
Losing By 8-14 Pts 1 1 1 100.0 2 0 0 2
Losing By 15+ Pts 1 18 12 66.7 220 2 1 34


Situation G Att Yards Avg. TD Long 10+ 20+
Tied 1 2 7 3.5 0 6 0 0
Losing By 1-7 Pts 1 5 43 8.6 0 29 1 1
Losing By 8-14 Pts 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Losing By 15+ Pts 1 14 71 5.1 2 15 4 0

...aside from "we passed more and had Denard run less" once the game got out of hand, I don't think this tells us anything.


July 7th, 2011 at 3:52 PM ^

Yes, but you don't have any support for your position, besides saying I feel that defenses play tighter when the game is closer. Without knowing who was playing for Wisconsin in the third quarter, one can't really say conclusively that the yards gained then were not as worthwile as the yards would have been if they were gained earlier or throughout the game. Maybe the defense was backing off a bit, but it would be just as likely as Wisconsin wanting to embarrass and pulverize Michigan. There is always animosity in league games and after our win in 2008 they crumpled, so maybe Wisco wanted revenge. Additionally, other factors can play in, such as a lack of morale for Michigan's offense. Being down that many points is quite disheartening and it would have been just as easy, probably easier, for Michigan to go to pieces (defense did anyways but more because lack of talent and coaching) then rally back when being blown out. If we had a good defense that could keep the game closer, maybe the game would not have finished a blowout. For example, the 2006 Michigan TSIO game. Our offense struggled in the first half (so did defense), but came out with a renewed passion and gameplan in the second half playing quite well. Granted it was only 28 to 14, but the big difference is that team had a good defense which was able to allow us to make a great game out of it.  At the end of the day we are making subjective analysis of Michigan's performance in the Wisco game. We had a great offensive year, with a good offensive line with two new/young starters, no elite RB, good receivers, but basically a first year QB who was erratic at times and turnover-prone to good teams who basically figured out our gameplan was, well, Denard.


July 7th, 2011 at 4:35 PM ^

I get Brian ridiculing the notion that we are talking about "feelings man" if we don't back up an offensive argument with stats. And I get his Maize and Brew reference for the same reason. But I would like to ask Brian or any of those who agree with him re: Wisconsin game a "simple" question: Did any of you, while the Wisconsin game was going on, actually think to yourselves "the offense is playing pretty damn good against a strong defensive team?" I know I didn't. Maybe that makes me an uninformed football fan.

I actually have great respect for stats and research, but I also know enough from making business decisions in my career that one of the easiest things to do is to either A- blindly follow stats/research and allow that data to decide things for you, or B- to misread or too heavily rely on one set of stats when you are making decisions. Forgive me, and ridicule away if you like, but I do not believe that the data Brian provides eliminates the evidence of my eyes, which was that, against Wisconsin, we were getting waxed. 

BTW, despite the above, I agree with Brian that the shotgun is where I prefer to see Denard, almost exclusively if possible. That argument does not need the support of the Wisconsin offensive relative prowess as support.



July 7th, 2011 at 4:59 PM ^

If your stats tell you that our offense played great aganist Wisconsin, despite scoring zero points when the outcome of the games still hung in the balance, then perhaps your stats/model are flawed.

I think there was clearly a pattern last year when we played upper-tier B1G teams, which was we were unable to score while the game was close and then we'd score some meangingless TDs after the game was essentially over.  I also think that it seemed like our offense was able to get us to within one TD, but then sputter.  That leads me to suspect that opposing defenses were ultimately able to clamp down us when it really counted.

No - I don't have data to support it, but I think it.  I also think if the numbers were available, they might prove that I'm right.  Maybe I'm totally wrong and if the facts bore that out, I'd admit it.  However, I refuse to take the fact that we put up a large number of total yards against Wisconsin after the game was over as a proxy for our offense being "above average."

I'm not a scientist, but it seems to me there are a number of variables in a football game that influence our offensive performance.  I think the margin of lead is one of them.  I think the fact that we have no defense is one of them.  Based on those two points, I think there's reason to beleive defense might take more chances and could lead to us scoring more easily. 

Again, I'm not making a definitive statement, but rather saying that Brian has a little too much faith in his conclusions based on total yards coming in garbage time.  Points matter if the reason you don't get them is turnovers, but Brian loves to rationalize away points as a statistic, and I'm merely doing the same to his statistics.


July 7th, 2011 at 5:04 PM ^

Obviously one way to look into this would be to chart out the point of time each team scored points over the course of the game...and stuff...

I take your point. In truth, whatever the stats say, watching Wiscy, Ohio State and (in some ways worst of all) Penn State...the games were never really close. It didn't just look or feel that way, it WAS that way. You can tell when a team is not in contention, barring some come from behind run, which never appeared. You could probably prove it by certain measurables (not the ones Brian employs) but whether you do or don't, when you get rolled it's obvious.


July 7th, 2011 at 10:06 PM ^

"I think there was clearly a pattern last year when we played upper-tier B1G teams, which was we were unable to score while the game was close and then we'd score some meangingless TDs after the game was essentially over."

The FEI does not count stats that are obtained during garbage time of games. If what you say is true in that the offense only did well when it didn't matter, FEI wouldn't have Michigan's offense as #2, regardless of how else they make their calculation.


July 7th, 2011 at 4:05 PM ^

Ask the national champagne from last year if they think stats matter in the second half of games you are down 3 scores in. The only reason people say stats didn't matter that game is because we didn't end up winning the game, which is sort of the opposite of your point. Being down by 1 score in the second half is not out of the game. Go ask Wisky if they stopped trying...I bet they say no.


July 7th, 2011 at 5:16 PM ^

In all six of our losses last year, we trailed by 21 or more points in the second half.  How likely is it to come back from 21 points down and win?  We've done it once in school history.  Just because the best team in the country last year pulled off a miracle comeback once last year doesn't mean that it routinely happens.



July 7th, 2011 at 5:37 PM ^

I said it in another thread, but think if our defense could have held them out of the endzone once and to a field goal once in any of those games instead of 2 TDs. A 10 point deficit is a lot different than a 21 point deficit. But then we are talking about the defense, not the offense. People keep saying the eyeball test led them to see us out of the Wisky, PSU, and Iowa games with no way to win it. My eyeball said numerous times in those games "if our defense could get 1 stop, we have a chance to tie this up." And again, that means we are talking about the defense. 30 points should be enough to win all 3 of those games.