How Good Is The Offense? Are We Really Asking This?

Submitted by Brian on November 23rd, 2010 at 4:24 PM

Emotionally, this is an odd week for me. I find that I don't care about Ohio State at all. They're a very good team that's going to win in a not-that-competitive game on Saturday, like they always do. I get irritated at the hurr hurr coming from the Ohio State blogosphere but mostly because Michigan's so far from their level that it seems like a waste of time.

My hate still exists but it's focused internally, as the emails pile up and message boards pile on because I have the audacity to say if it was my decision I'd keep Rich Rodriguez on the condition he reshapes the defensive staff in such a way that we can expect them to do one boring thing reasonably well. I've explained why. In a sentence, the offense is excellent and should maintain that level over the next two years as the defense digs itself out from a massive hole.

This has caused the wing of the Michigan fanbase that thinks keeping Rodriguez is absolutely insane to search high and low for various metrics in which Michigan doesn't rate well. They can't take any of the basic stats...

Category National
Actual National
Actual Conf
Big Ten
Conference Leader
Rushing Offense 10 257.36 Georgia Tech 319.36 1 Michigan 257.36
Passing Offense 30 257.18 Hawaii 391.18 2 Indiana 283.27
Total Offense 5 514.55 Oklahoma St. 552 1 Michigan 514.55
Scoring Offense 15 36.82 Oregon 50.7 3 Wisconsin 40.91
Sacks Allowed T-11 0.91 Stanford 0.36 1 Penn St. 0.91

…and they certainly can't take any of the advanced metrics that rank Michigan second* and fifth nationally, so they resort to things like in-conference points per drive. Michigan is tied for third in the league in that metric.

If you are using this stat, you have decided that Rich Rodriguez should go and are backfilling reasons. If you're trying to downplay Michigan's second-half points against Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin, you're doing the same thing. Michigan got back in those games by scoring often and quickly, by bombing away. Michigan scoring drives against Wisconsin lasted 3:57, 0:22, 2:19, and 2:57. They could do this because defenses were aligned to stop Michigan's powerful ground game even with big second-half leads, which is why Denard Robinson racked up a bunch of deep completions against single-covered WRs in the second half. Prevent defenses do not give up sixty yard touchdowns to tight ends, as Penn State did.

The whole reason the FO stats exist is to smooth out differences in opportunities and schedule strength as best they can and they indicate that whatever problems  Michigan has don't include being the nation's #15 scoring offense against a schedule with two real nonconference opponents and without Northwestern (82nd in FEI D) and Minnesota (98th).

David Brandon's got a tough decision ahead of him—something it only seems that people who are still in favor of Rodriguez returning acknowledge—because the offense is elegantly constructed and deadly. Michigan's quarterback couldn't throw a pass straight in the first half and the receivers couldn't catch it when he did, but they still ended the day with more points than any Michigan team had scored against Wisconsin since 1990. The 31 they put up on Penn State were the most since 2000. They're solidly in the top five of the best metrics available with two seniors and a sophomore quarterback. They're going to obliterate the best rushing YPC mark Carr put up since the turn of the century by over a yard and finish in the top 20 in passing efficiency.

Anyone seriously arguing that Michigan's offense is not a reason to keep Rodriguez around is a raving lunatic. Period. I'm tired of being vilified for using numbers in non-abusive ways, but that's what we've come to. My hate week is about other Michigan fans.

*(FEI ranks Michigan second but has not been updated for last Week's games. Since Michigan put up a touchdown better than Wisconsin's scoring average any drop from Michigan will be minimal.)



November 23rd, 2010 at 5:07 PM ^

I find it fascinating that someone was neg-bombed on another post for saying something very similar:

We're light years away from playing with the top teams in the Big 10 and that worsens when Nebraska comes in next year...Anyone who thinks we're a year away is living in Fantasyland.

Perhaps his use of "light years" was a bit dramatic.  But anyone who thinks this defense can improve in one offseason to the point where it resembles the good (not great) defenses in the conference is probably being overly optimistic.

I'd love nothing better than to be wrong with this opinion.  But I'm just hoping for improvement.


November 23rd, 2010 at 9:31 PM ^

Auburn is averaging 28.5 points and 355 yards a game on defense, in the SEC, and they are on the cusp of the BCS Title game.  Currently we're doing 5 points and about 100 yards a game worse than them.  Is it really so hard to imagine improvement next season that approaches this level of competency with a healthy Woolfolk, Floyd, and Martin?  A more experienced Demens and Gordon?  A more mature Avery, Christian, and Vinopal?

I don't think we are as far off as some want to believe.


November 23rd, 2010 at 8:30 PM ^

is that last Saturday, they started 1 freshman (DT) and 2 sophomores (CB, Bandit), 5 juniors and 3 seniors.

Of the other defensive players that participated, there was 1 freshman, 3 sophomores, and 1 junior.

So either the two-deep you're referencing isn't accurate, or Illinois doesn't sub very much on defense and being on the two-deep doesn't mean much.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 24th, 2010 at 10:02 AM ^

2 freshmen, 5 sophmores and 3 juniors the previous year (before the transition) which is what we are really looking at here.. They were in a very similar situation last year as we find ourselves this year.

The hope for us lies in the fact that Ill. showed dramatic improvement while bringing in a new DC (which some think will set us back) and keeping most of the personel (who were a part of a horrific defense the previous year) the same.

This shows that it is reasonable to expect improvement next year if a new DC is brought in.


November 23rd, 2010 at 5:21 PM ^

As has been pointed out in a million other threads, we don't need the defense to be Michigan 1997. In fact, the defense will never look as good as some other defenses because our offense will give the opponents more opportunities because we score and score quickly.

That being said, we just need a mediocre defense and competent special teams, which is definetely possible next year. Also, next year will be the year when Rodriguez has a few seniors he actually recruited playing. I think we should keep Rodriguez. And next year he has to have a really good year. (There are always extenuating circumstances but I am expecting 9-3 and zero blowouts suffered.)

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:34 PM ^

[T]hey resort to things like in-conference points per drive. Michigan is tied for third in the league in that metric. If you are using this stat, you have decided that Rich Rodriguez should go and are backfilling reasons.

This is disappointing to hear from Brian, especially coming in the wake of blublooded's excellent diary.  Is Brian really suggesting that blublooded's entire analysis was designed to find a reason to get rid of Rodriguez?  It certainly didn't read that way to me.

We know the offense is good . . . what's wrong with using advanced statistics to truly understand how good, and where the hidden weaknesses may lie?  In saying that there's no merit to this analysis other than backing into a chosen argument, Brian sounds like the hack newspaper reporters who complain about sabermetrics. 

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 23rd, 2010 at 4:39 PM ^

????  I quoted the part of Brian's post that I took issue with, which seemed to directly target blublooded's analysis.  I wasn't defending random commenters who claim that we only scored in the second half because Wisconsin let up, so I don't know how that's relevant to my comment.


November 23rd, 2010 at 6:29 PM ^

I don't think it was poorly worded.  Read the quote in context, he is clearly referring to people using the stat to try to argue that our offense is not that good, not to people who cite the stat at all.

By that reasoning he would also be complaining about himself since he also mentioned this stat.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:41 PM ^

a defense we've played that has let up at all.  They've all played the same schemes and same personnel throughout the entirety of every game.  Wisconsin up 24 was running the same thing in the 2nd half.  Adjustments at halftime (as well as I'm sure a good yelling) lit a much needed fire.  Had the offense started earlier, that game could have been different (though not likely the outcome based on defensive execution).


November 23rd, 2010 at 7:21 PM ^

I think that is what is so distressing--the "had the offense started earlier" excuse can be applied to 3 of our 4 losses (our offense against MSU never really came around). One or two slow starts is expected but three starts to seem like a pattern, We can debate the reasons until we are blue in the face but the fact remains that when we needed our offense to keep pace with the other teams', it didn't.


November 24th, 2010 at 10:12 AM ^

and encouraged to let this play out until Robinson and the rest of the underclassmen finish their careers. 

Listen, our first-year starter sophomore quarterback just broke an amazing record like it was nothing in his first full season starting, stands alone as the first ever to reach 1,500/2,000 (with two games remaining to extend that record), has improved from non-threat passer with garbage playing time to mediocre passer giving defenses fits in a single off-season, and has two full years left at the helm with an entire group of underclassmen getting better right along with him. 

To be able to look at two interceptions in the endzone and see the difference in a game we lost by 17 to a team about to win the conference with the defense we have in place right now is amazing based on what we've seen in the past two years.  Does Sr. Denard Robinson makes those mistakes?  I don't know.  But I'm willing to let it ride to find out.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:40 PM ^

blublooded's diary was excellent but lest we forget that we have a QB on just his 12th start at the position.  Nearly every game as incredible as Denard has played he has left anywhere from 7-21 points a game on the field in overthrown balls to wide open recievers or bad reads on the ground. 

I expect Denard to make as big a leap next year as he has this year so the offense truly will make the sound signature of a Porsche Boxster.


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:47 PM ^

But yeah. 19 returning starters. Give this guy a chance dammit. 

If we don't destroy people next year, I'll eat my words. But we will be stupid good in 2011. We've beaten all of the teams we were supposed to beat this year (save maybe PSU). I picked us to go 8-4, the only difference thus far was I thought we would beat PSU. 

For all the "This is Michigan! 8-4 is UNACCEPTABLE people" I know it's Michigan - look at the roster. This isn't a "Michigan" defense with 4-7 NFL-caliber players on defense. Your expectations must change year to year. 8-4 would be GREAT for this group of extremely hard working 18-22 year olds. Next year we should contend for a big ten title. 

If you're a fan support your team, support your coach. And hate OSU.

Space Coyote

November 23rd, 2010 at 7:40 PM ^

we have a QB on just his 12th start

How long are we going to keep counting Denard's number of starts.  The offense is good, it will get better, but way too many people are all about saying "Denard is basically a Freshman" and will probably continue saying next year "Denard is only in his 20th start"

12 starts isn't a small number for a college QB.  He's been in he system two years.  This isn't Tate from last year, who was only in his first year and was a first year starter.  This number of start argument is lame, and should probably stop.  Cam Newton is just going to be starting his 12th game too.  Saying "he's only in his 12th start" comes off as saying he doesn't have any experience and hasn't played college football for 4 years so please please please give me comfort.

And the "left 7-21 points on the board" could be said for most college teams, including all the Carr teams, who people seem to think were all terrible and it was only made worse by screwy thought process thinking that they never missed opportunities and still only managed their crappy average.

\douche rant


November 23rd, 2010 at 4:50 PM ^

We know the offense is good . . . what's wrong with using advanced statistics to truly understand how good, and where the hidden weaknesses may lie?

Because there's no use to these "advanced" metrics other than to try to say the offense isn't as good as every useful metric says so we can FIRE RICHROD


November 23rd, 2010 at 6:11 PM ^

You ANGAR me with that comment. I'll freely admit that I don't know which statistics Brian is referring to in his post, and I'm not a fucking sheep but I believe him when he says you're (I'm throwing you in there since you're defending it) cherry-picking one stat that serves a onesided purpose.

I'm certainly not happy about the state of the program these days, but I can see the forest through the trees. I don't know how any sane, logical person can ignore the youth of this team and just say hurr, fire him, (the hurr part isn't directed at you, as you've generally backed up your arguments but there it is) and think it's going to fix the issue.


November 23rd, 2010 at 6:18 PM ^

Has Fuzzy argued for Rodriguez to be fired?  Perhaps he has, but I haven't seen it.  I ask simply because I'm observing that people who disagree that the offense is the 8th Wonder of the World or who are frustrated that it only kicks into high gear against top Big 10 competition seem to automatically be assumed to be part of the "Fire RR" crowd. 

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 23rd, 2010 at 6:21 PM ^

Thank you.  I haven't argued for Rodriguez to be fired.  I don't want him to be fired (assuming we replace the defensive staff).  I like our offense.

Yet some people have ANGAR because I thought blublooded's diary was great, and defended it accordingly.  And in their mind, I'm the irrational one.  Bizarre.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 23rd, 2010 at 6:19 PM ^

Hey prick, I'm defending blublooded's well though out diary as having value beyond saying "fire Rich Rod," which is something that blublooded never advocated.  Since I'm not in favor of firing Rich Rod, how do you get off suggesting that the only reason I would advocate the stat is if I want Rich Rod fired.

Another point -- the stat in question didn't suggest that our offense was bad in any way, and it was only one statistic in a very thorough and useful analysis.

Here's a tip -- when you start off by saying that you're not sure what the argument about, maybe you should stop right there before casting aspersions.


November 23rd, 2010 at 6:44 PM ^

You've been spouting this crap in damn near every thread for the past week or so. If you don't want Rodriguez fired, you sure fooled me. Cherry picking statistics isn't hard to understand, it's a tool for people make ridiculous arguments.

Thanks for the insults and name-calling though, always plays well. Especially when I tried to make a point to be somewhat respectful.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 23rd, 2010 at 7:20 PM ^

Yes, you were very respectful when you (i) accused me of "cherrypicking stats" when I did nothing other than say that someone else's analysis was worthwhile and he shouldn't be raked over the coals, and (ii) suggested, based on god knows what, that I'm part of some FIRE RICH ROD brigade.

And now you say I've been spouting "this crap" -- not sure what in the hell you're referring to -- in damn near every thread for the past week or so.  Yes, you've been a peach.