Mailbag: Computer Predictions, Legends Patches, OSU Game Plan

Submitted by Brian on August 29th, 2013 at 12:35 PM




I agree.

Season prediction by computers

I'm sure you've seen Brian Fremeau's FEI projections already. If I remember correctly, they had us at 8 wins last year...

This year it's 7 wins.  :(  To tell you the truth, there have been so many positive comments about Gardner, I was starting to get confirmation bias.  Your thoughts?


Statistical preseason rankings are often lagging indicators since in an effort to be at all reflective of reality they have to not only take data from the previous year but the previous few. This means they predict what has happened before will happen again. Fremeau's Program FEI rankings look at the last five years. For Michigan that includes the entire Rodriguez era.

They are therefore useless in this case except insofar as the 2010 recruiting class is still with us. Or not with us, as the case may be. I don't put a ton of stock into computer projections, and in Michigan's specific case it's barely any.

Reading the Braden/Bryant tea leaves

What do you/MGoBlog staff think about Braden being shifted to back-up OT?

1. Braden couldn't pull or otherwise do the things they want from their their guards?

2. Bryant has proven himself as a potential starter/legit back-up?

3. Some of both,

4. Completely unclear


I lean towards 1 with a bit of 3. It's clear they wanted Braden to be the guy, clear that Braden is a physical monster who demands you try to start him as soon as he's off a redshirt, and also clear that he's not really a guard. Or at least it became clear. Otherwise he would still be competing there, and Glasgow would be competing at center, and the possibility that Bryant's radiator goes out midseason would be covered by the prospect of playing Braden.

HOWEVA, I do think Bryant has legitimately emerged as an option. For one, chatter. For two, they moved Braden back outside, seemingly permanently.

Legends patches. Merph.


19 coulda been a contendah


As three more players get their numbers exchanged for Legends jerseys this year, I shake my head and pine for what #19 could have meant for Michigan fans in three years. My buddy's #10 jersey is now Just Another Brady. Are the jerseys taking away from the chance for new players to carve out their own place in Michigan history?

One man's solution: Assign Legends jerseys (and maybe even some retired numbers?) on one game a year. Homecoming is an obvious choice- the alumni presence will appreciate the old numbers more. Let the players assert, through the first half of the season, who deserves to wear a Legends number, and since it's only one game a year, they don't have to give up their own. Thoughts?


Yes, they are taking away the ability for players to carve out their own number legacy. I was looking forward to seeing #19 on the field and thinking about Funchess, having tight ends want the #19, having a Funchess patch on #19, etc. Now that's not happening. Funchess can annihilate TE receiving records and go zeroth in the NFL draft and no patch. Ditto Gallon: guy was #10, and now he's just the latest guy to wear #21 for one year. (I actually mind the Avery move less, since he's not likely to be a guy you remember forever and sigh about. Rewarding a senior captain who isn't an out-and-out star with the fancy patch is a good thing.)

While your suggestion is an upgrade on the current situation, they should just issue legends jerseys like normal numbers to incoming freshmen. Maybe hold them out and hand them out to promising sophomores—Jake Ryan getting 47 early in his sophomore year is much different than switching a guy burned into your head as some other number. But just hand them out to kids who want them when they show up.

Getting overly precious about numbers is blowing them up, as can be seen with the effectively-retired #1. Players should get numbers and never change those numbers, and I miss handlebar mustaches and gangrene.

Ohio State: what to do?

Hey Brian,

Now that you've looked at some of the OSU game (and I assume managed to stomach some of the run plays again as well), what are your impressions of Borges's second half game plan.

My feelings have been, after watching it a couple times, that the game plan wasn't nearly as much an issue as execution. While some of the play calls didn't lend when to Michigan's abilities, basic execution (such as the interior OL managing to make an effective double at the point of attack so Michigan could pick up a single yard) far out-weighed the possibly poor play calling aspects of the game. Even Lewan struggled to execute regularly in this game IMO.

Again, while I freely admit the game plan and play calling was far from perfect, as with most cases, I think 9 out of 10 times it's execution that is the issue more so than what most fans see as an OC screwing it up with play calling. IMO, if there is any issue, it was the offensive coaches not getting the players up to a point where they could execute fairly simple tasks regularly. What's your take on the situation.


Space Coyote

While execution was a major issue, Michigan had to know that was going to be a problem. The OL had been flailing since at least the Nebraska game. OSU had a front seven laden with players who were always going to overwhelm Michigan's interior line. So I was on-board with the three first-half running back carries. More than doubling that in the second half was foolish.

Also foolish: expecting that Ohio State would not cotton on to the fact that Denard could not throw. The third-down speed option was doomed since the free safety was plunging down at the slot. Meanwhile, Borges called a ton of pointless rollouts (remember that John Simon was out) that ended up as inaccurate passes as Gardner couldn't set his feet.

The argument about execution always gets my dander up, because you as a coordinator are responsible for putting your players in a position to succeed. Their ability to execute opens up some possibilities and closes off others, but—for instance—asking Denard Robinson to execute on naked bootlegs on which a player will always be in his face the instant he turns around is on you, the coordinator. You have to execute as well.

I think Borges's options were limited, but three things stand out:

  1. Refusing to run Gardner. He had three attempts. Michigan could have used the extra blocker on short yardage badly.
  2. Telegraphing second-half run plays with Robinson. You had to know that 19 of the 20 minutes at halftime were spent saying "DENARD CANNOT THROW".
  3. Incessant rollouts.

(And he got super lucky on Michigan's final drive of the first half, as he'd managed to turn a two minute drill into a 30 second drill in two plays… and then Denard stayed up.)

I've detailed why I think Borges's gameplans in three games in particular were atrocious (2011 Iowa, 2011 Michigan State, and 2012 Notre Dame) because they asked players to do things they weren't good, over and over again.

Borges's philosophy is about as opposed to Rodriguez's as can be, and that's fine. He has track records of very efficient offenses in his past. He will have them in the future. But his desire to do Borges things with players ill-suited to do them cost Michigan a couple games over the past couple years. The Ohio State game is probably not in that category… but it's debatable.


Space Coyote

August 29th, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

Bubble Screens: Can he catch a bubble screen? Does he know how to run a bubble screen properly from the WR position?

Option Runs: He can't take a hand off properly, but you want him to have a feel for how to have the ball put in his belly and possibly pulled, something that takes QBs/RBs many reps to master? You want him to understand proper pitch relation and then catch said pitch while flow is coming at him and understand a feel for where his blockers are set so he doesn't get killed?

Draw out of pistol: Draw off what? He can't throw? What action are we faking here besides giving the defense more time to read run?

Reverse: People are keyed on Denard so you want to run a play that takes a long time to set up so that more defenders can get to him? The reverse didn't even work against Iowa if it wasn't for the fact that Denard was that much better of a runner and Iowa's defense sucked. And again your asking Denard to take a handoff, something he struggled with on that play the week before.

Fake Reverse: Maybe once, but again, your tipping run. And as soon as a defender sees a RB coming the direction of Denard he's attacking ball. There's a good chance the fake might not even happen before a huge negative loss. And again your asking Denard to take a fake handoff and sell it when he doesn't know how.

There were literally two options when it came to bluffing with Denard: fake flare screen or fake jet sweep.


August 29th, 2013 at 2:45 PM ^

Denard was essentially useless...but then how did he bust thru two buckeye tacklers and race into the endzone???....dollars to donuts he wanted to be in there and was able to do so, but Borges went Lloyd ball and would not change up the play calls, its that bring up some valid points, but at the end of the day it is just excuses after watching Denard pull off an heisman play!


August 29th, 2013 at 5:15 PM ^

Not asking for a completely different game plan where Denard has 25 touches. I think they could have done better and been more creative and gotten the fastest/ most explosive guy on the field 5-7 more touches in the second half. Nobody is saying put the ball in his hands every play like when he was at qb.


August 29th, 2013 at 2:15 PM ^

But I think you are dead on with the Borges assessment here. Much the way RR was unbending and inflexible with his system upon taking over at Michigan despite not having the players to run the spread, Borges ( while he really did try and wasnt as stubborn as RR) often regressed to his mean ( power I on 3rd and 1 death). Ultimately, I guess, you are who you are, and your philosophy and identity surface, sometimes in spite of you at the most inopportune times.


August 29th, 2013 at 7:37 PM ^

With all the manball recruits Borges will practice and run his preferred offense. Going forward issues will be much less about scheme vs. roster incongruencies and much more about execution. That being said, I do hope that the offensive philosophy remains at least minimally creative and diverse, instead of becoming Lloyd ball 2.0. Don't want to waste all this talent running Kirk Ferentz Iowa offense.


August 29th, 2013 at 2:31 PM ^

Denard carried the ball 10 times and only 3x did he not get at least 4 yds (one of the 3 was a fumble).  Smith ran the ball 5 times for 12 yds and Rawls ran it 5 times for 2 yds.  Outside of maybe Gardner, Denard was still UM's best weapon.


August 29th, 2013 at 2:39 PM ^

I almost forgot about the 2011 Iowa game until this post. That was possibly the worst game plan I have ever seen. Borges just kept lining Denard up under center and in the I or Pro form. I kept saying to myself Borges is going to make an adjustment and come out with some spread. That never really happened. That loss was all on the offensive play calling.

Space Coyote

August 29th, 2013 at 2:47 PM ^

As well as the first half of ND in 2011. All were bad game plans on Borges because he believed his team was prepared to execute an offense he was personally more comfortable with. They were not. Those are bad game plans. A bad game plan isn't not being able to pick up a yard between the tackles or missing open passes.


August 29th, 2013 at 3:07 PM ^

I think this is part of the problem - "Borges called bad plays" is a reasonable explanation for our losses in 2011, and that sort of sticks with us the next time we see the offense struggle in a big game.

I'm coming around to your point of view. Still, it was really tough watching us go from fairly effective in the first half to totally impotent in the second half, and it's hard not to want to lay that on the OC for not having some counterpunches in his repetoire, even if that's not really fair. Especially when his defensive counterpart always seems to be able to MacGuyver up a brilliant playcall seemingly out of nowhere when we really need it (e.g. end of NW game).

So probably the fair assessment of Borges v. OSU is, "circumstances - good opponent, poor offensive execution - required Borges to be brilliant for us to win. He was not brilliant".

Space Coyote

August 29th, 2013 at 3:21 PM ^

Michigan needed a pretty good offensive game plan to have a chance to win. The game plan was probably below average. Under the circumstances, a good game plan wasn't easy, but also not impossible. Poor execution combined with what was probably a below average game plan and bad circumstances lead to terrible results. There are things I would have liked to see Borges run, and maybe he would have gotten to those things had they picked up a couple more first downs. But at the end of the day it's just not as simple as blaming the OC's game plan and play calling, especially in the OSU game.


August 29th, 2013 at 10:17 PM ^

Not fair to pin it totally on Borges as the line, including our NFL all American Jake Long clone played poorly, and overall execution was shit.  However, he does deserve a fair amount of criticism for not coming up with more creative solutions after knowing for weeks that our O-line was not going to allow us to grind out yards between the tackles and our running game was impotent without Denard at QB as both a running and passing threat.


August 29th, 2013 at 3:43 PM ^

I like the legends jerseys. I'll remember the players and their great moments regardless of what number or numbers they wear. Yes, looking at anumber and remembering somebody or multiple people who wore it is cool, but I think the legends numbers are cool too and doesn't take away from it (Jake Ryan... he wore the 47 jersey... Oosterbaan). I think it's awesome that we can connect modern players with the past. I see the drawbacks, but the complaining is getting a little tired. Funchess will wear 87. If he's awesome, we'll think 87... Kramer, Funchess, future greats. I like it. Kovacs... he wore the Wistert jersey his senior year. That's cool. It's like the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.

I find it a bit unfair and inconsistant that with RR Brian had the tone of 'this kind of sucks, but just wait until he has his guys' but with Borges it's much more of a 'you're not using our guys how you're supposed to.'

EDIT: Just want to add that I am giddy as hell about seeing Old 98 on the field. What are we thinking? D-Lineman?


August 29th, 2013 at 5:16 PM ^

I hold Borges responsible for last year especially (and the year before) because while he and Hoke espoused their own flexibility and not putting a system in place but rather letting the players dictate the offensive style, they ended up to some extent doing the same thing that system coaches are so often accused of.

To me it is mind numbingly stupid (still) that Borges, who is at every practice and who pours over so much game tape and likes to try new things, decided to run his undersized back into the absolute clusterfuck that was the interior line.  For those who hide behind  the argument that he's been a coach for so long and I'm just a stupid fan who doesn't know anything about really coaching football, you're right, but that just makes Borges' coordinating sins more egregious.  If a stupid fan like me knows that our interior line is horrid and that Denard can't throw, then maybe let's call something even basically deceiving.

 It's not so much that the game was all on Borges, it was (at least to me) a culmination of what could have been but wasn't.  Borges has had some excellently called games.  Too often, however, it was the system choking out the talent on our offense.  Coaches get off the hook too often when people defend them because they don't have "their players."  Al had a blueprint for success on offense that needed little tweaking.  He didn't have to run a hurry up version to replicate that success.  In that the offense has failed too often in the last two years IMO.

Now Borges is getting his players.  No more excuses that other coaching staffs are crucified for.  That is all for me about Borges and the past.