Unverified Voracity Has Great Big Not Pointy Teeth

Submitted by Brian on September 19th, 2017 at 12:12 PM

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My God, the teeth. Spencer Hall is right. Michigan cannot lose to this jaunty-ass helmet:

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There is intimidation, and then there is "you lost to a cartoon gopher":

At least Alabama gives you the courtesy of just losing to a color and a number. This? This is horror, a beating served with an adorable smile on its face. This is potentially taking a beating from a cartoon rodent that only wants to serve you hot dish, and then crack the casserole over your head. Don’t lose to Minnesota when they’re wearing these helmets, is what we’re saying. The psychological damage alone could take years of therapy to undo.

Minnesota's ground and pound offense only makes this worse. Rodney Smith bounces off tackles. A lot of tackles. If he breaks your tackle and grabs a first down on carry #30 and pops up to yell "spew" you might disassociate from your body from sheer embarrassment.

Connelly brings numbers to the offense. It's not great:

Michigan has snapped the ball 88 times on first down. The Wolverines are averaging a not-completely-awful 5.3 yards per play, but of their 464 total yards gained, 211 have come on five plays. They have gained one yard or fewer 43 times. Success rate: 33 percent — 27 percent rushing and a much healthier 46 percent passing.

It gets even worse when the Wolverines generate scoring chances. Yards per play on first downs in the red zone: 1.1. They’ve gained zero or fewer yards in eight of 12 instances.

There's a lot of pointing and going THAT about Michigan's offense, which is fine in a post like Connelly's that is a stat post drawing some high-level contours.

To date I've seen little or nothing that goes any deeper about Michigan's redzone issues, if those even exist. "Redzone efficiency" clearly does not exist separate from general efficiency at the NFL level:

We went back and looked at the past five years to compare how teams did in the red zone during the first seven weeks of the season with how they played overall. Let's call this "red zone advantage." ...

The correlation of total offensive DVOA in the first seven weeks to total offensive DVOA in the final 10 weeks is .64. That makes plenty of sense: Teams that play well on offense early in the season are likely to play well on offense late in the season. The same correlation for defense is .48, a little lower but still fairly significant.

However, the correlation for "red zone advantage" is practically nil: .01, to be exact, on both offense and defense. During the past five seasons, at least, "red zone advantage" has done nothing to project how well a team will play in the red zone during the second half of the year.

College might be different if running QBs are a real advantage, and I'd buy that.

But unless you've got a magic potion that gives Wilton Speight dreads and a 4.4 40, talking about Michigan's "redzone issues" is a waste of time. The redzone offense being bad is just the stuff that makes the offense bad in general. There's nothing about Harbaugh's approach that makes Michigan inherently bad at scoring touchdowns—Michigan was 17th in S&P+'s "finishing drives" metric a year ago if you want a number—so this is just bad QB play and bad blocking, which are problems anywhere. There's no magic bullet other than getting better at footballing.

Sharks, like would-be credit card scammers at Florida, are not smooth. Florida's many suspended players might be done for if this comes to fruition:

The nine University of Florida Football players who are facing allegations of having misused school funds, could be arrested as early as the end of this week, sources have told The Read Optional.

Antonio Callaway, Jordan Smith, and one other player are likely to be arrested on charges of felony grand theft, with the possibility of further misdemeanor charges being tagged on, according to a lawyer representing one of the players. It’s anticipated that the other six players will also be arrested, but only three players have hired legal counsel thus far.

At the very least they would be suspended until those charges are resolved, a process that might last for the duration of the season. Compounding matters:

The nine University of Florida football players who have been suspended indefinitely by the school for misuse of school funds, are also under investigation for credit card fraud, by two separate police departments in the Gainesville area, relating to an additional credit card fraud allegation.

Jordan Smith, a freshman defensive end, was suspended from all team activates after a report from The Read Optional that Smith had used stolen credit card information to pay rent at an apartment complex — around $1,000 dollars. ...

The link between the misuse of funds investigation and apartment fraud investigation is now clear: Several of the players had the same stolen credit card information; the same victim.

It appears Florida's about as good at criminal offense as regular offense. McElwain's recruiting has given off a distinct whiff of desperation at times, with Florida picking up a lot of the highly-touted guys other schools back off of because of red flags. You may remember Guy Who Got Busted For Pot On An Official Visit To OSU; James Robinson signed with Florida. He was suspended against Michigan for... I mean, you can probably guess.

Pot is the most minor of all offenses, but if you're getting busted for it on a college campus while hanging out with a crew of folks who collectively can only be football players that's something else. Twice is another level of something else. I mean... Michigan's had some guys who were super into pot. But never citation-level. I imagine that among the very very bad credit card scammers are a couple guys Florida knew they probably shouldn't take but did anyway.

Florida's collected a large number of Malik McDowells because their head coach can't really recruit and felt the pressure. This bodes unwell for Michigan's strength of schedule. Also McElwain.

How much of a problem is a football coach being a dick? A serious question. The Indianapolis Star gets the story of former IU WR Coray Keel, who left Indiana after one year mostly because Kevin Wilson was a dick:

“It became kind of like a pride thing, once I started lining up, to be key players for the opposing team every week, when I would hear coaches come up to me and tell me I’m not (crap), I’m not this and that. It was Kevin Wilson and position coaches, but mostly Kevin Wilson,” Keel said. “Every day, it was a constant reminder of how much I wasn’t doing good, and how I was doing more harm as a scout-team player, not giving the team the right looks. I was the reason we were losing, the reason why we were not doing good.”

“As my time at IU extended, it got worse,” Keel said. “To the point where it made just being there uncomfortable. It made the overall experience of it, it was to the point where I didn’t want to wake up and go to practice.”

Keel says he wasn't forced out and that Wilson tried to convince him to stay when he decided to transfer. Keel transferred to a JUCO and gave up football after one more year. The Star cites several other players with similar issues.

All football coaches are dicks. At what point does it cross the line? Mark Mangino: over the line, I think everyone can agree. Mike Rosenberg thought Rich Rodriguez was over the line, partly because of Greg Frey, and now everyone's fine with Greg Frey because Harbaugh. Wilson's hiring at Ohio State was immediately after he got fired, and nobody seems to care.

Etc.: Simone Biles was at the Michigan game, in case you saw a five-foot-tall person who looked vaguely familiar. Sure, I'll link to an NFL sucks article. Baumgardner on stuff. Toys R Us goes bankrupt, although it looks like Brandon was just the fall guy, not the cause. Improvement! Holdin' the Rope. Georgetown's basketball schedule is really something. Baseball recruiting really well.

Comments

mGrowOld

September 19th, 2017 at 12:32 PM ^

There's a great old saying that "pressure doesnt give you character - it reveals it" and coaches are proof positve of this.   Brian Kelly was Mr Nice-nice right up to when the Domers lost and he got asked a question he didnt like.  Then Mr Happy went away and old Purple face made his trimuphant return.

Kevin Wilson as a HC didnt face the type of pressure he's going to feel as the OC at OSU.  Expectations for performance are exponentially higher in Columbus and I can assure you the rumblings heard after the Oklahoma game will turn into a full-fledged chorus if they drop another one with a poorly run offense.  It won't be pretty and my guess is he won't handle it terribly well internally or externally given his history.

Then wait and see if OSU cares.

Ziff72

September 19th, 2017 at 1:07 PM ^

Wilson may  be a dick, but this kids tale of events adds very little in terms of evidence of this.

Football is hard.   If your not successful at it it is really hard.   The bottom part of any roster is going to have it's share of malcontents and people who have gripes.

Very rare to read the article that goes like this.    "In retrospect I wasn't quite talented or dedicated enough to earn a spot on the field.   I blamed everyone but myself and wasn't a good teammate.  I wish I could do it over again, but that time has passed and it's something I have to accept so I can move forward in my life."

MEZman

September 19th, 2017 at 1:13 PM ^

Yeah, but there have been rumors that Wilson is a jerk outside of football as well. I'm moving to Bloomington next week and during our house/hunt meet and greet trip everyone I talked to about the change said that Wilson was not well liked around town (I vaguely remember reading the same on a message board at one time as well). I know this is a different context than what the article described but it's another data point.

stephenrjking

September 19th, 2017 at 1:08 PM ^

The dynamic is a little bit different between coordinators and head coaches, right? It sounds like Wilson's Indiana regime was a bunch of hardknuckles digging on kids. But if he's a coordinator, the paradigm is different.

Perhaps, for example, he follows Urban's lead in how to deal with kids. Alternatively, he continues to be hard on them, but it has a different feel because they have good-cop position coaches and a guy in Urban who can offer the encouragement that offsets the toughness from the OC. Or, perhaps, the OC simply doesn't have that much direct contact with the players. 

I don't know any of this, but it seems reasonable in theory. 

lhglrkwg

September 19th, 2017 at 12:33 PM ^

but I have to disagree with this point

 

The NFL isn’t alone in this in sports, and not even in football, either. The disease of guaranteed revenue has bitten college football, too. Texas, the most profitable athletic program in the nation, is a prime example of the strange incentives huge profits can create within a sports franchise. The more money the program makes, the less consistent or important the quality of the product has been to the priorities of those at the top running the cash machine.

One could also draw this comparison to Michigan or Notre Dame and I think it's a stretch. Texas isn't happy to suck at football. The AD probably gets thousands of calls and emails a year from agitated fans and boosters. Everyone is trying to be good. I don't know if it's because revenue takes a more obvious hit when attendance drops at college games or because the colleges actually care about being good (it helps student recruiting), but to accuse any of the richest in college football of being content to do the minimum and collect TV cash in the same way the entire NFL does is just not true

taistreetsmyhero

September 19th, 2017 at 12:38 PM ^

No NFL team would fire a guy like Mack Brown, because he was doing decent. Look at Marvin Lewis in Cincy or Jeff Fisher wherever he goes for an example of a guys in the NFL keeping jobs for consistently producing mediocre results.

CFB powerhouses don't work that way. They are trying their best to win. Texas just missed on a couple coaches and have been largely unlucky. There are also outside factors such as increased competition for recruits secondary to better play from other Texas schools like A&M and Houston.

ctallarico20

September 19th, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

The NFL teams with the expecatation to win now will certainly have just as short of a leash as the CFB powerhouses.  Look at John Fox in Denver - the leash was even shorter then a CFB team like Texas.  As mediocre as Marvin Lewis is in Cincinatti, he's pretty much they best they've ever had and the owners are satisfied - almost like a Pat Fitzgerald

stephenrjking

September 19th, 2017 at 1:22 PM ^

Yeah, this is a bad argument applied to college. Texas isn't patient with losing at all because the source of so much of that revenue can get discouraged by the play on the field and decline to buy tickets, making donations, etc. Michigan was facing a revenue cliff under Hoke and DB with plunging ticket sales and lost confidence. There was no plausible dollar amount for Harbaugh that was too high. 

Let's not kid ourselves, there's a lot of pressure in the NFL too, but franchises feel it differently, since the majority of the revenue is evenly distributed. The owner of the Lions doesn't have to depend upon the fan enthusiasm of the Lions to continue making money, because he's getting revenue from the fan enthusiasm of people in Denver and Dallas and New England.

Mr Miggle

September 20th, 2017 at 8:15 AM ^

if they talked about schools near the bottom of power 5 conferences. They collect the same shared TV revenue and might be relatively content with that. Of course they still fire their losing coaches every few years. That's more the NFL model of guaranteed profits.

CFB powerhouses get the same guaranteed TV revenue, but it means proportionally a lot less. The other revenue they generate is very important to them, especially donations. That money doesn't only flow to their athletic departments. Most of those revenue sources have a strong correlation to success on the field, although donor money to replace an unpopular coach will never be in short supply.

 

taistreetsmyhero

September 19th, 2017 at 12:38 PM ^

to chalk up the redzone struggles to coincidence, considering Michigan moved the ball down the field with ease on a consistent basis, and then abruptly fell apart when it got into the redzone, again, on a consistent basis.

now, granted, the issue may just be a strange coincidence of concentrated mental errors or lack of confidence or something similar that doesn't really merit much analytical discussion.

but I struggle to believe that Michigan doesn't have a specific issue with redzone efficiency. I also think the discrepancy in performance so far from this year compared to last year is evidence that this is a specific issue this year.

taistreetsmyhero

September 19th, 2017 at 1:17 PM ^

 

for things to look for based on the UFR to see if redzone inefficiency is a real thing:

- % of RPS + vs. - in the redzone compared to outside. This may be a good sign of whether or not playcalling is getting outdone by the defenses.

- OL UFR scores in redzone compared to outside. Or comparison of % of good pass pro plays in redzone compared to outside

- Defensive blitz % in redzone compared to outside.

- % of run plays into a loaded box in redzone compared to outside. (Granted, there were only like 3 or 4 run plays in the redzone against Air Force, so miniscule sample size. But still)

ChiBlueBoy

September 19th, 2017 at 2:07 PM ^

I'm missing how Brian's analysis addresses two, related factors: playcalling and the lack of space. It can become more difficult/impossible to move the ball in certain ways, e.g., because you can't send the WRs 30 yards downfield to clear out a zone.

Also, if it's the same, why do we have so many recruiting profiles that discuss various 6'4"+ players as "redzone threats"? 

I'm no expert or coach, but it seems like we might want to throw the ball to one of those aforementioned redzone threats in the middle of the field. We know that Speight has no issues throwing the ball high.

A2toGVSU

September 19th, 2017 at 1:29 PM ^

I would have gone with the glass ketchup bottle analogy, though.

The goal is to get delicious ketchup (talented players) onto the plate (into the end zone) next to the tall pile of fries (goalposts!).

The coaches did not forget how to draw up effective schemes this offseason. They know how to open the ketchup bottle and flip it upside down. They know its a full bottle of ketchup since there are plenty of talented players on the offense. They are just still shaking the bottle trying to get that first bit of ketchup onto the plate. Eventually it will all spill out onto the plate and everyone can eat.

Yes, I thought way too much about this analogy.

A2toGVSU

September 19th, 2017 at 1:52 PM ^

More like the last TD Florida scored on a Michigan defense. The ol' handoff-reverse-pitch-to-a-receiver-who-rolls-out-and-tosses-to-the-wide-open-qb-in-the-end-zone.

Although maybe thats more like "there isnt any ketchup left in this bottle, let me scrape the sides for several minutes and annoy those seated around me with the noise."

UMForLife

September 19th, 2017 at 1:48 PM ^

There is a shortness of field at the red zone which allows safeties to engage better. We are also talking about a small sample in a game at the RZ than the number of snaps that happens prior to reaching the RZ. So, Brian might be making a case that the issues are happening outside the RZ also but masked by the volume of play that happens prior to RZ. Just a thought...

DualThreat

September 19th, 2017 at 12:40 PM ^

Core layer = Happy!  We are 3-0! 

1st layer up = But we have offensive issues.  I sad, because this season probably won't be as good as last season.

2nd layer up = But these are young players.  Yeah, this season may have a few more losses, but next year... ho boy!

3rd layer up = Harbaugh is recruiting top notch.  Let's wait until his recruits are upperclassman and starting.  Heck, even the most important position on the field is not yet a seasoned Harbaugh recruit.  We are back to being Michigan (record wise over the past couple years) and the championships will be coming.

4th layer up = But I'm a little concerned how rapidly Ohio State is closing the gap with us in the head to head record.  They also seem to be consistently recruiting just a little bit better than us.  Shit, are they going to eventually overtake us in the next couple decades?

Top layer = But the nature of college football is such that even the most highly rated teams can suddenly become inept (see OSU vs. Oklahoma).  Harbaugh has us where we need to be to compete with the big boys, and that's the best one could ever hope for.  The future of Michigan footbal is bright.  Overall, in the big picture, we are good again.  Enjoy it.

theytookourjobs

September 19th, 2017 at 12:43 PM ^

I've never understood the mentality that you have to treat another person like dirt in an attempt to motivate them.  I don't think I'll ever understand that logic.  Especially to do that to 18 year old kids when you're in a position of authority.  Seems like a sickness to me.

mgoblue0970

September 19th, 2017 at 2:20 PM ^

This.

As a vet, sure boot camp breaks people down, but the main motivation isn't to treat you like dirt as previously mentioned.

Some of it is having, some of it is being treated like dirt, etc.  But it's not the entire time.  If the DIs/TIs/whatever they are calling themselves these days did that, even they would loose their audience.

yossarians tree

September 19th, 2017 at 2:31 PM ^

No, he's right. The Marines assume you are a pile of shit, then they find out that you are and tell you, and then you start to believe them and find yourself in the fetal position hoping your Mom will come and take you home. Then they say "Hey, don't feel so bad, there is another way. The Marine way. Let us show you how." Then they build you all back up in their image, until finally, upon graduation, they actually salute you as one of their own. Pretty fundamental psychology, but very powerful and proven over a long period of time. In fact read some Joseph Campbell and you'll find this is how societies have turned boys into men going back to the most primitive societies all over the planet and at the same time.

Carpetbagger

September 19th, 2017 at 2:35 PM ^

It is amazing what people can do when pushed. The purpose of military training, and sport training is to keep pushing the boundaries of what a person can do, well past where they would push themselves.

Being a dick is the easiest and more certain method to push a person past where he thinks he can be pushed. Some trainers have the gift, and don't need to be all that, but those guys are rare.

Rabbit21

September 20th, 2017 at 10:17 AM ^

Following orders unquestionably is absolutely not the point, there is plenty of guidance about what consitutes an illegal order and that a responsible member of the military has an obligation to refuse those orders.  

It's more about pushing people as hard as they can be pushed and then showing them that they have more in the tank than they realized.  In order to do that you can't just be nice all of the time, there has to be a stick to go with the carrot.  

stephenrjking

September 19th, 2017 at 1:02 PM ^

Dave Brandon may not be at fault for the long-running trends of retail that have engulfed Toys R Us, but in hiring Brandon they found a man incapable of introducing any kind of renovation that could actually save the company. DB is an Automated Business Cliche Generator, not a leader.