That is 2,728 pounds—1.24 metric tons—in the box for those weighing at home.
On 1st and 10. MANBRAAAHHHLLL!!!
Before the Minnesota game I tweeted that I'd be perfectly content if Borges debuted a completely new package and used it to beat up on the Gophers at home a la 2011. So here I am, being content.
The unbalanced stuff I'm sure Brian will picture page and Space Coyote and Burgeoning Wolverine Star will peel it apart as well; since they know more about that stuff I'll leave it to them. What I would like to do is look at the heavy formations in the macro: how Big did Michigan actually go, how effective it was on a yards-per-play basis, and whether it matches the personnel.
By "big" I mean fewer receivers in the formation. The lower that number, the more backs and TEs, and thus the "heavier" the formation. How big?
Average Receivers in Formation:
|2013 games 1-4||2.30||2.29|
|2013 Minnesota||1.83 (!)||1.79 (!)|
That is big—like we should all have pronounced brow ridges and live in caves and the equipment sponsor is Mousterian big. I counted Funchess as a WR when he was in a 2-point stance; if you file him as a half tight end (you shouldn't) it gets even heavier. A lot of the three-wide was on the time-sensitive last drive of the 1st half—that you should count.
Did it work? Did it work better than the stuff Michigan has been doing until now? Did they always run to the side they unbalanced? We see after the jump.
* I took out passing downs, short downs, and clock killers i.e. 3rd/4th down and 6 or more, 3rd/4th down and 1, anything within 3 yards of the goal line, and anything in the 4th quarter with a lead greater than 16. Also fake FGs, etc.
Terminology and Methodology. (Skip this section if you don't care how sausage is made) To see how the heaviness and unbalancedness performed I had to go through and identify each formation since Brian is yet to do that for his UFR; results on Google doc. The "Unbal" column values refers to the side with the ineligible end (i.e. the side with double OTs). The "Dir" is the direction the run went if it was one. The data are how I have them in the UFR database, minus some extraneous sorting columns and the descriptions.
Here's the new formations:
1. I-Form Big H. This is the heavy formation they used a lot in this game. Michigan would come out like this:
And then shuffle Butt (top of the formation) into an H-back position on the strong side:
2. Shotgun Split Trips Tight Stack. I asked the internet to come up with a name for this:
Can we call it "Hide the Dileo?"
…which Michigan motioned into from double-stacks. Chris Brown came back with "Cluster Trey Set" and Space Coyote suggested "Shotgun Split Trips Tight Stack." It came out twice: this time they passed to Gallon, the second time they got confused and called a timeout, then motioned from it into double stacks and ran a pass play that was covered so Gardner scrambled.
How Unbalanced is Unbalanced?
Michigan ran 22 of 54 (41%) of its plays from an unbalanced formation—I counted just 42 unbalanced snaps in UFRs from 2008 through UConn this year. They usually covered Lewan (the outside OT) so they wouldn't lose an eligible receiver. Here's an example of him uncovered:
He's still ineligible because he's wearing an OL number. Williams at the top of the formation is covered by the wide receiver at the top, who is Joe Reynolds. Points you get for guessing Michigan is running: zero.
First a baseline: the offense moved the ball okay, not great. Just the normal situations (see * above):
|Opponent||Pass YPA||Run YPC||Normal YPP|
It didn't seem to do us any favors. Passing was made better by flexing Funchess and getting him great matchups, but the MANNNBRAAHHHL tipped itself and its side so hard that Michigan got little more than a cloud of dust from its attempts. On the other hand when they didn't double up the OTs it was awful. See:
|Type||Pass YPA||Run YPC||Avg|
|Unbalanced||15.00 (2 plays)||5.00 (15 plays)||6.18|
|Normal||6.38 (13 plays)||2.50 (10 plays)||4.70|
This doesn't seem sustainable. In the short situations I excised, Michigan converted 4/5; they were 0/1 when they didn't stack (the one they lined up 4-wide and tried to sneak Gardner). On the year they're 7/11 with unbalanced formations and 6/9 with normal ones—64% and 67% are the same thing with such a sample.
Did they tip? Well yeah but not as much as you thought. Of 20 unbalanced run plays:
|Aligned||Ran Left||Ran Right|
Just 70% of the time, not the 80-90% everyone was guessing.
Did Big Equal Big?
Going back to the normal downs here's yards per play by # of receivers in the formation, the number of attempts in parentheses:
|WRs in Formation|
|First 4 games||2.3 (3)||2.4 (12)||6.9 (133)||6.9 (82)||0.5 (2)||6.5|
|Minnesota||2.0 (1)||4.1 (16)||5.3 (15)||7.0 (6)||11.0 (2)||5.3|
Low sample sizes are making it hard to get anything out of this. Essentially they took about 35% of their plays—half from 2-wide sets and half from 3-wide—where they were getting 7 yards per play, and gave them to big formations that got 4 yards per play.
The last 5% they gave to 4-wide formations because adding Funchess to the group means they can put 4 wideouts on the field while keeping Jackson and Reynolds off of it. That was a win; the heavy stuff wasn't.
It's time for our annual "how the formations are faring" breakdown. Again, only normal situations. Survey says:
|O-Form||No WR||Big||2-wide||3-wide||4-wide||Avg YPP|
Just runs (plays in parentheses):
|O-Form (s)||No WR||Big||2-wide||3-wide||4-wide||Avg YPP|
|Shotgun||-||-||12.0 (4)||11.0 (15)||-3.0 (1)||10.5 (20)|
|Ace||-||1.0 (1)||5.0 (34)||2.3 (4)||-||4.6 (39)|
|I-Form||-||3.4 (20)||4.4 (46)||-||-||4.1 (66)|
|Pistol||-||-||0.0 (5)||5.6 (10)||-||3.7 (15)|
|Goal line||2.3 (4)||0.0 (1)||-||-||-||1.8 (5)|
Shotgun is still the best. Shotgun running plays are averaging 10.25 YPC because of long Devin Gardner runs; it would be even more massive if an iffy holding call on Lewan didn't turn a +49 into a –10. Going to that well more often will diminish its efficiency, but there's so much room for that I don't care.