Mailbag: Tacopants In The Flesh, Esoteric Two Pointers, Zombie Armpit Jerseys Comment Count

Brian October 12th, 2011 at 12:49 PM

So there's this.

Attached is a picture I took at the game. I'm sure you've seen people wearing Tacopants jerseys before, but thought it was apropos per Denard's 3 INTs.


I'm not sure what's weirder: that there is an extant "Tacopants" jersey or the guy who emailed it to me thinks I've seen people—multiple people!—wearing them before.

I wonder why the Tacopants jersey guy picked 12. If I was going to create a Tacopants jersey he'd probably be 11 (his height in feet) or 8 (he's Jason Avant's imaginary friend) or 8i (obvious, probably not available). 12 seems random. I guess we are talking about a guy wearing a Tacopants jersey. Random is his middle name. Jason Random Tacopants.

Tacopants man! Explain your decision-making process!

Esoteric two-pointers.

The internets have been all "lolzook" this week after the Illini's esteemed coach decided to go for 2 after scoring to take a 20-13 lead, then told a reporter in the postgame presser that they had a 5-point lead when asked to explain his decision.  I'm not trying to push back on the lolzook, because obviously, but the situation brought to mind a piece of anti-CW Game Theory I've always held, although without a single shred of evidence to back me up.  Maybe you can draw upon your vast resources to look into this so that next time I bring this up while watching a game with somebody, they won't look at me like I'm Ron Zook at that postgame presser.

Now, to be clear, in the Ill-Ind game, I'd have kicked the extra point there.  With that much time left, you maximize expected value.

BUT, if it were the 2nd half with the same situation (scoring 6 to go up 7), I believe that the correct Game Theory move is to go for 2.  With possessions limited, the opportunity to make it a 2 score game far outweighs the advantage you gain by forcing a 2-point conversion, rather than an extra point, to tie. 

Additionally, if you miss the conversion, and if the opposing team comes back to score, the opposing coach will virtually always elect to kick the extra point to send the game to overtime rather than go for 2, and the win, in regulation.  In essence, with a standard-issue coach on the other sideline, the worst-case scenario in the "go-for-2" situation (miss conversion, opposing team scores, and kicks the extra point for a tie) is exactly the same as the worst-case scenario in the "take-the-point" situation (make the kick, opposing team scores and makes the 2-pointer to tie).  But, the upside to going for 2 in that situation is significantly greater.

I'm interested to know what you think.  I have a similarly insane Game Theory belief about going for 2 when you score to go from down 14 to down 8, but I'll save that for another day.

Brian in Charlottesville

I don't think I agree. In the event of going for two:

Win: P(you2)
Tie: 1 - P(you2)

Going for one:

Win: 1 - P(them2)
Tie: P(them2)

With 2PT%s generally under 50% it doesn't seem like the right move. You want the burden of making the two pointer to fall on the opponent.

Also, as the team with the upper hand I also think you want the information about whether the two-pointer is successful to remain unknown. If you get it you've changed the opponent's calculus about how to win by collapsing the waveform. Armed with more perfect knowledge of their situation they will press forward knowing they are down two scores. The temptation to think "we're just one score down" when they are actually 1.6 scores down is strong. It causes a lot of lackadaisical behavior you do not see in teams down two scores late, which you like. So don't accidentally make the opponent play better.

If you pick up a penalty or are Wisconsin or have a gotcha two-pointer or are in a game that's going to end 58-51 the probabilities could swing in favor of going for it yourself; in an average situation leave it to the opponent. As always, context matters.

As for your "insane" theory you should go for it when you score to draw within eight, that is never going to happen in a game but has already been discussed by stat nerd types. This piece even uses the 2005 Notre Dame game as an example:

On September 10th, 2005, the University of Michigan football team was trailing by 14 points when they scored a touchdown with 3:47 left in their game against Notre Dame. Their coach decided to kick an extra point to get within seven points. Even though this strategy is followed in the NCAA and the NFL almost without exception, it is, in general, incorrect. In this paper I will show that the correct strategy in this situation is to immediately attempt the two-point conversion.

This is because you can make your choice about the second two-point conversion with the knowledge about whether the first one succeeded. So your chances, assuming that the 43% number given in the article is correct:

WIN: 43%
TIE: 57% * 43% = 24.5%
LOSE: 57% * 57% = 32.5%

By adopting that strategy you shift your chance of winning should you come back from the two TD deficit from 50-50 to about 55-45. They use a lot more detailed numbers to reach that conclusion but that's it in a nutshell.

A much better strategy is not be down 14 points.

On the armpit jerseys never dying.

Any thoughts or ideas as to why the defensive linemen switched to the road jerseys of the RR regime in the second half with the yellow piping?  Also, Denard was wearing that one of those jerseys on the last drive.  I like the look of this year's road jerseys without the yellow piping but wondering if if it is a fit or comfort issue although this year's home jerseys looked like they have the same fit with the wide, open arm-pit area.

Let's let another emailer answer this for me:

You've probably observed the same, but there are issues with the new Adidas techfits. I've seen them getting ripped to shreds at various points this season, and so you have guys like rvb, martin, roh, switch to last year's model in previous games. They were presumably asked to wear the new ones tonight given the more drastic change in appearance with elimination of the thick yellow piping. However, we've already seen rvb change back anyway despite the old piping.

I wouldn't normally care about this except for fact that underlying issue appears to be their tendency to be grabbed in a game-impacting way. Even fitz changed to the old jersey last game against Minn after being dragged down by the new techfit variety. We've seen the same thing happen to denard, although he hasn't switched. This is more annoying than anything else, especially to see potential big(ger) gains get stopped shorter than they should because some defender who was beat desperately was able to get a few fingers on some cloth.

We have seen a lot of guys dragged down by the jersey this year, haven't we? Could the Nike zealots have a point all of a sudden?

On OSU timelines.


I’m writing because I am a little confused about the status of the Ohio State Investigation.  I understand the NCAA came out with some findings earlier this year, but is that it?  Are there still ongoing investigations?  When will the findings/punishment be released? 


OSU has proposed (laughable) self-sanctions at this point and had their meeting with the NCAA; they are now waiting for the final word. The comparable moment in the stretching Jihad is the middle of last season for Michigan, when they'd proposed and implemented the practice time penalties. Three months later the NCAA slapped on a token extra year of probation and issued their final report. OSU is in that period now.

Their ongoing issues with Posey, et al., complicate things. The NCAA is supposed to get back in 90 days—which would have been in the next few weeks—but has notified OSU that even more cripplingly obvious evidence the Buckeyes lack institutional control will have to be considered and then ignored.

So we just don't know, dude. Hopefully the new information pushes the decision date past the end of the season, just in case the NCAA decides to toss a bowl ban out. I'm actually surprised Gene Smith didn't announce one after the Nebraska game, because there's nothing the OSU athletic department loves more than brazenly late, transparently insincere actions designed to piss off the nation.

On instant replay ritual.


I'm noticing more and more people are saying that when referees say: "The ruling on the field is confirmed" versus saying: "The ruling on the field stands as called", that they mean two different things, as if there's a level of indisputability that you need to "confirm" a call.  I think that it's just two equal ways of saying that there wasn't enough indisputable evidence to overturn.

Can you clarify?

Boston, MA

They do mean two different things now. The "ruling is confirmed" means the replay official agrees with the call and "the ruling stands" means he just doesn't know, dude. This doesn't prevent replay officials from being violently wrong all the time, as they were when they did not overturn the Hawthorne interception, and still declaring the ruling "confirmed." This is because replay officials are crazy old Estonian men who have never seen football before in their lives.



October 12th, 2011 at 2:28 PM ^

I always thought that Tacopants only played for Michigan. Is it true that he also takes the field for other teams as well?  In other words, in addition to his unlimited eligibility at Michigan, does he have unlimited NCAA-wide eligibility?  If so, how is he able to be on different fields at the same time?


October 12th, 2011 at 2:34 PM ^

That "Nick" who submitted the question is Nick Sheridan.  Every time he has seen that jersey it has been an in-game situation, and he threw to the dude.  Actually explains a lot, doesn't it?


October 12th, 2011 at 12:59 PM ^

after scoring to make it an 8 point game.

Not because he knows the maths, but because he's an idiot thinks going for two is fun.  


October 12th, 2011 at 1:06 PM ^

"Ruling stands" = we didn't have enough to overturn the call on the field.

"Ruling is confirmed" = we have enough to say that the call on the field was correct.


On another note, I thought the Hawthorne pick was clean (by the closest possible margin). 


October 12th, 2011 at 1:17 PM ^

Well looking it up I found this in the NCAA Rulebook:

Any forward pass is incomplete if the ball is out of bounds by rule or if it touches the ground when not firmly controlled by a player



Listed on page 77 out of 197 when discussing incomplete passes.

Edit: number derp



October 12th, 2011 at 1:15 PM ^

I didn't think the pick was good, but I got beat up in another thread for saying it.  It was really close, but they should not have 'confirmed' the call at all.  If anything, they could have defined it as inconclusive.  As Brian proves, I was right, and this is the internet.  I was right on the internet.


October 12th, 2011 at 1:07 PM ^

No, it's basically what Brian said.

"Ruling on field is confirmed" = video evidence says the call was correct.

"Ruling on field stands" = video provides no indisputable evidence.

Example: Lovie Smith challenged the spot on Monday night when the Bears failed to make it on fourth and 1 and I distinctly remember the referee saying "confirmed."


October 12th, 2011 at 1:10 PM ^

On the question of going for two when the touchdown has already put you up seven near the end of the game: this seems like the perfect time to fake a kick and go for two, if you are feeling ballsy.  You don't lose much by failing and you stand to gain quite a bit by succeeding, and the opponent is likely to assume you'll take the easy point and put them eight points down.  If you're getting that complacency vibe from the other sideline, it's a fantastic call IME.

Rufus X

October 12th, 2011 at 1:11 PM ^

the whole Tacopants reference  to me?  I've been reading this blog for a couple years now, and I still don't know where it comes from.  Thanks.




October 12th, 2011 at 1:19 PM ^

Here ya go:

"Tacopants"? Tacopants is Jason Avant's eleven-foot tall imaginary friend. Chad Henne spent much of 2005 hitting him between the numbers, which are unfortunately eight feet off the ground and made of dreams. Blessed with infinite eligibility and the ability to sneak on and off the field without alerting the referees -- made of dreams, remember -- Tacopants has taken a lesser role in the offense as Henne matures but still pops up at inopportune times. The term has its genesis in this post.


October 12th, 2011 at 1:19 PM ^

Hawthorne's interception should have been an incomplete pass.  He did control the ball just before it hit the ground, but when the nose of the ball hit the turf, it very quickly shifted from lying vertically in his hands to lying horizontally in his hands.  The ball "moved" and his hands weren't the thing that moved it; therefore, he didn't have control.

I'm glad Michigan got the benefit of the call, but it was a bad call.


October 12th, 2011 at 1:39 PM ^

I figured it was a close call, because he definitely had control of the ball when he hit the ground, but yeah the refs probably blew that.  Considering we saw about 3 missed holding calls on NW in that first half, holds that would have ended drives, this felt like a little karma.


October 12th, 2011 at 2:08 PM ^

Apparently the rule is if one "firmly controls" the ball and it hits the ground it is a catch. If he did control it (firmly, I suppose) and it hits the ground, then it would have to move, as a reaction to the force against an immoveable object- the ground. It wouldn't have to shift, because his arms and hands could completely absorb the impact and stay in the exact position in relation to the ball. But it would have to move as initiated by the ground and not his hands by the principles of physics.

I breathed easier when we got that one, for sure. But I'm just saying him having the ball firmly when it touches the ground doesn't necessitate that it can't move at all.


October 12th, 2011 at 2:13 PM ^

I was debating this with my friend the night of, but could it have been because of the differing college and professional rules for when a player is down? If that was the NFL, he wouldn't be down when he hit the ground and thus would be a no-catch, but doesn't the ball (or his knees, didn't see if they hit before) hitting the ground fully in his posession make him down at that point?


October 12th, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

I love going for 2 in the scenario presented above.   I would like to present to Brian the added value of the surprise 2pt play.   At that point in the game nobody is expecting a fake extra point play.   A well designed fake fg seems like it would be highly successful pushing the success rate well above the theoretical 45% and essentially ending the game.

I understand all your other points and I think it does depend highly on too many variables, but let's look at 2011 Michigan vs Sparty.

We score to go up 7 with 2 minutes to go to make the score 37-30.  With 2 minutes to go it does not change the way they play.   Down 2 scores the game is pretty much ova.  Down 1 score they have a good shot, but they can't play any faster in either scenario they are going full tilt.  At that point a surprise 2pt play would just put the absolute dagger in MSU and if you have Denard from 2.5 yds out I take my chances with that as well.   At the least you probably draw a time out as the other team has the wrong package on the field when they see Denard trot back out there at the last second.

With time outs precious for the opposing team I think at a minimum coaches should rush the offense out onto the field with 15 seconds on the play clock to force the opposing coach into burning a time out.


Blue in Seattle

October 12th, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

In your scenario using the percentages that Brian listed, you make the other side go for 2pts.  So my only conclusion on how you think you are changing things is that a "trick" 2 point play is very close to 100%, and then just forces the other team to go for 2pts at 43%.  Because you're not really two scores up at all, you are only one score plus a 2 point conversion up.

I think the point of going for 2pts to catch up when 14 down is a statistically smarter play because the scenario assumes two chances at a 43% play that you only have to make once to have the same result as kicking twice.  So going for it after the first touchdown takes advantage NOT of surprising everyone, but just taking advantage of two shots at a nearly 50-50 play which happens to be equal to or slightly better than two chances at two 100% plays that are worth half as much.

The wierd thing about probability though is that fans don't remember what the expected value is in aggregate, they only think about what is happening now, and once you miss the first 2point try, you are back to a 43% chance or making the second 2 point try.

This is the same way I've felt about turnovers being random and thus our epic quest to return to the "norm".

I think the best example of when the fumbles aren't random is the following two;

1 - punt returner drops the ball.  It frequently happens before anyone has shown up, and there is a high probability he falls on it, thus not losing possession.

2 - Countess gets beat on a route, but only by a little, and not only can tackle, but can tackle in such a way that it pushes out the ball, and not only push out the ball, but continue to hold down the WR,  AND it's more likely his teammates are there to help with the tackle before anyone on the offense can see the fumble.

#2 seems to have been every Michigan fumble recovery this year.  I think there has been only one fumble recovered by the same person who caused it.  I'm of course counting this in my head from memory, and ignoring all the greased palm fumbles that the MICHIGAN PRIDE BEFORE THE FALL PUNSHING GOD is now allowing us to get.

Yes, that's right, I believe that Mike Hart's comment in 2007 cursed us, and in a way that reminds us that Hart never fumbled.  Except in the final bowl game of Carr's career when the offensive coordinator was possessed by the "ghost of spread and shred future, passing game only version" and Hart fumbled twice trying to score a touchdown instead of letting us possess it at the half yard line.

Gods of all kinds hate hubris

stupid gods



October 12th, 2011 at 1:59 PM ^

I saw #12 Tacopants walking to the stadium on Saturday and I pointed and told my wife, "Hey, look, that guy is Tacopants!!!."   I don't think she shared in my amusement.