Unverified Voracity Minds The Gap

Submitted by Brian on November 12th, 2010 at 2:17 PM

This is real? Um, so, this is apparently what Michigan is wearing for the Big Chill:


That is hideous. It's going to be the worst thing I ever see a Michigan team wear live. That's not a Wolverine. It's a ferret or something, and the day-glo yellow is something Oregon would be comfortable with, and I can see the 1980s Vancouver Canucks think the shoulder striping is wicked.

Other people like it, I guess, but man… put me in the "no" column.

Maybe yes, maybe no. Depending on how you define luck, Michigan has either been lucky or unlucky. The lucky part: Michigan is 4-0 in close games, though I think defining the UMass game as "close" is a stretch since onside kicks are recovered about 10% of the time when the opponent knows it's coming. If the UMass game was close than Michigan's games against Penn State and Iowa were close since Michigan had ample opportunity to get a stop that would give them a chance to tie.

Anyway, so they're 3-0 in close games but they're also hammering opponents in total yards and have been undone by yet another ugly turnover margin and terrible special teams. Braves and Birds puts together a chart with various interesting numbers:

To the chart we go!

  YPP Off. YPP Def. YPP Mar. Sagarin SRS
Ohio State 6.1 4.2 +1.9 88.22 15.36
Iowa 6.2 4.9 +1.3 86.17 15.29
Mich. State 6.0 5.2 +.8 79.56 12.16
Wisconsin 5.9 5.4 +.5 79.37 11.59
Illinois 5.1 5.2 -.1 79.29 9.06
Michigan 6.9 6.3 +.6 74.48 5.21
Penn State 5.5 5.9 -.4 73.84 5.02
NW 5.4 5.8 -.4 66.94 -0.63
Indiana 4.7 7.3 -2.6 63.63 -0.08
Purdue 4.2 5.3 -1.1 59.62 -6.07
Minn. 5.0 6.4 -1.4 58.57 -9.43

(Note: the yardage numbers come only from games against BCS conference opponents. This includes games against Notre Dame.)

Michigan's yards per play margin is on par with the weaker teams challenging for the conference title and well clear of the conference rabble, even with a defense far worse than anyone save Indiana and Minnesota. Where Michigan falls apart are the places not found on the chart, in turnovers and special teams. At least this year there's a clear reason for the turnover margin: the defense. Michigan's lost 17 turnovers this year; the NCAA average is 15.75. The defense has only acquired ten. Assuming Denard can lower his interception rate like most quarterbacks do, next year Michigan can finally approach turnover parity if the defense takes the significant step forward it could.

Anyway, B&B pulled out this chart because he'd created one for the SEC as a vehicle to discuss whether Georgia had been unlucky (conclusion: yes) and tried to figure out if the same was true for Michigan. He concludes it's a mixed bag and I agree; Michigan may have been unlucky to suffer scads of turnovers against MSU and Iowa but since a lot of those TOs resulted from Denard's now-established tendency to throw behind his receiver that's more an effect of talent limitations than bloody fate.

There's significantly more wobble in the TO numbers than most anything else year to year but certain things do reliably cause turnovers: quarterback inexperience and pressure. Michigan's had a lot of inexperience, little pressure on the opponent, and little pressure on Michigan. Results are average TO numbers against and terrible for.

Arithmetic, yo. The fundamental flaw with Spread Is Dead rhetoric is a fundamental change in the nature of offense when the quarterback can both run and throw. In an article for the Wolverine, Jon Chait gets the point across:

It's worth keeping all this in mind when you hear sports commentators announce that defenses have "caught up to the spread." It's partially true, but only partially… The part they haven't caught up to is having a quarterback in the shotgun who can read an un-blocked defender and keep the ball on almost any running play. That is the real game-changer in the spread system. It alters the entire arithmetic of the game, allowing the offense to always have enough blockers to account for the defenders in the box, while also forcing defenses into stripped-down pass coverages. Defenses can't catch up to this dynamic because you can't "catch up to" arithmetic.

The most striking thing about the Rodriguez videos everyone pored over in the aftermath of his hire was his assumption about the number of safeties he would face: one… or zero? That's the arithmetic that sees Michigan averaging over six yards a carry along with two other true spread 'n' shreds (Oregon and Auburn) and two other teams whose quarterbacks average just under 100 yards a game (Nevada and Nebraska). At the same time Michigan averages 9.2(!) YPA, because the safety question is now one or zero instead of one or two*.

*(With some limited exceptions, like Iowa. Iowa gave up over 500 yards only to see Michigan thwart itself spectacularly; since the 28 they gave up there was only exceeded by Wisconsin—Arizona got a ton of points on ST—that's kinda sorta a reason the question about safeties has changed.)

Gapping it. Given the first two bullets this table from Doctor Saturday won't be a surprise:


The Mathete's been tracking this disparity too and by his numbers, which go back to 2002, Michigan has a bigger gap between O and D performance than anyone. In my eyes this is a reason to keep Rodriguez around since it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place than revamp the program considerably.

Ballin' out of control. If you didn't see this happen you are like me but I can appreciate it in retrospect:

Your offense has the ball on its own 12-yard line with a 30-28 lead and 3:39 to play in the fourth quarter. The defense has just used the first of three timeouts. Your quarterback, who you've already tried to bench on two separate occasions this season before injuries forced him back into the lineup, completes an eight-yard pass on 3rd-and-9. You let the clock run down to 2:50, then call your first timeout. Now facing a 4th-and-1 from your own 19-yard line with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, do you:

a) Punt and play defense;
b) Line up like you're going for it in an effort to draw the defense offsides, then use your second timeout and punt if the defense doesn't jump;
c) Seriously, anything other than a punt risks a turnover with the ball already in prime position for the game-winning field goal. Just kick it already;
d) Are we really still debating this?
e) Spit as hard as you can and actually go for it.

Randy Edsall and mansome Jordan Todman went for it, got four yards, and got to kneel out the game after another couple first downs. This is spectacular for the following reasons:

  1. Todman finished with 37 carries for 220 yards and had already established he was capable of running down Pitt's throat
  2. Tino Sunseri had completed 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and had just brought Pitt within two two minutes ago.
  3. If you don't make it you sell out to stop them from getting a first down and get the ball back with a shot at the win, but…
  4. It's fourth and one and your tailback has 200 yards. You're going to make it.

You could tell Zook wanted to go for it on several fourth and ones Michigan forced, but the closest he came to pulling the trigger was taking a delay of game on one. A tip of the cap to Edsall for overcoming his dread and getting a well-deserved win. People invariably call this "guts" or "balls" and while it is gutsy it's also the right call. God, I just thought about Lloyd Carr punting from the OSU 34 in 2005.

NEW TOPIC: no Big East team now has fewer than three losses and 8-4 looks like the best case scenario for the conference champion. Fire the Big East.

Scrub is a guy who can't get no love from me. Pro bowl cornerback supposed height chart from Touch The Banner:

Pro Bowl cornerbacks graph

Not much to tell except once you start getting shorter than 5'10" your shot at the super big time gets dim. I'd like to see an equivalent of this with All Conference teams to see what the breakdown is there. I bet it's shorter.

Four verts. Remember that second and twenty two Illinois converted easily? Yeah, that was four verticals against cover three, I think, and that didn't work so well. Here's a primer on what to do about it—mostly get those linebackers ten yards deep as soon as they read pass. In that down and distance that should have been "before the snap," but Michigan had them all tight and they didn't get sufficient distance, or a chuck, and Vinopal was way too deep, and bang.

Etc.: Soony Saad shot Michigan past MSU in the Big Ten soccer tournament yesterday despite Justin Meram getting a second yellow for celebration after he tied the game. They play Wisconsin today for a shot at the final. The bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace from last weekend. Holdin' the Rope reminisces about childhood visits to West Lafayette. An interview with Jon Falk.


Undefeated dre…

November 12th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

Are all Yards Per Play gaps created equal? Meaning, is there any difference between a 1.0 gap that's from a 5.5 YPPO and 4.5 YPPD, and a 1.0 gap that's 7.0 YPPO and 6.0 YPPD? My too-ample guyt is telling me that there is. If the goal of the offense is to score, and to score by driving and continually getting first downs, there must be some diminishing marginal returns in YPP -- moving from an average of 5.0 to 6.0 YPPO seems like it has to be more useful than going from 8.0 to 9.0 in YPPO. Same, in reverse, for defense.

I don't think it matters enough to substantially change the analysis, but someone smarter may be inspired...

might and main

November 12th, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

Now i can't believe I'm saying this, because I'm pretty much a traditionalist on these things, but other than the silly looking otter on the chest, I actually kind of like the damn thing.  The maize (?) shade is OK w/me.  The shoulder stripes, holy Toledo, but strangely OK.  Not a fan of the font for "Michigan" but its not awful.  Just get rid of the damn otter before they get printed.  The only time we should show images of the Wolverine is either that cool old school version wearing a hat, or it should look fearsome.  That otter is just bad bad bad.


November 12th, 2010 at 3:10 PM ^

It's a throwback jersey!  I don't get why people don't get this.  For a school that is so high on tradition, you'd think we'd all be good with this.  It was worn in the late '40s.  See the MGoBoard post on the jersey.  I personally like it; it harkens back to a way different time, and it's not like it's going to be our permanent jersey.


November 12th, 2010 at 3:01 PM ^

who is ready to hear massive amounts of train whistles?!??!?!?!

people who are really "boilered up", that's who!!!!

train whistles are necessary when your games start at 11am local time.


November 12th, 2010 at 3:12 PM ^

Tippecanoe County is on Eastern time now; ever since the wonderful state legislature decided that it was acceptable to tell time like the rest of the country did (well, almost all of it), they've been on the same time as Ann Arbor. (The counties that chose Central are the ones that were observing it anyway: in the northwest corner, near Chicago, and the southwest corner, the area including Evansville.)

So while it's true that in my day, an early kickoff in November meant stumbling out of breakfast club to a half-empty stadium for an 11:00 kickoff to see a bad football team look bad, nowadays these young whippersnappers get an extra hour of sleep. or drinking. (Given the way the season has unfolded for Purdue, I would recommend the latter.)

Feat of Clay

November 12th, 2010 at 3:03 PM ^

I could live with the other aspects of that jersey (although they don't thrill me) but the wolverine is wrong. 

It looks like an unholy cross between a possum, housecat, and beaver.  What's up with the weirdly pink mouth, too? 

But what bothers me the most is that it smacks of  "mascot."  We do not generally fetishize the Wolverine in our swag or gear and I am proud of it.  This awkward critter plastered on the front of the jersey violates that, IMO.


November 12th, 2010 at 3:08 PM ^

Sure is ugly.  but not as ugly as the mascot Dave Brandon is considering.  Rumor has it that following the MSU game and DB seeing a number of Michigan fans taking pictures with Sparty, DB wants to experiment with a mascot.  

If the mascot is a disaster, it will be labelled as something the students did on their own, so as to deflect blame away from the AD.

After seeing the flatulent mongoose on the Big Chill sweater, I getting the sinking feeling that DB has a bit of Tom Goss in him.  And to anyone who doesn't remember Goss, he was the AD that hung the Halo on the Stadium and had the MTV Jock Jams style paint job on the floor in Crisler. 

Webber's Pimp

November 12th, 2010 at 3:09 PM ^

That has to be one of if not the ugliest UM jersey / shirt I've ever seen. Seriously. Somebody in the Athletics Department has to take control of these mechandising / licensing issues. We've got the finest colors in all of the NCAA. We should have design team to pre-approve any apparel that promotes the University of Michigan. At this rate they'll ruin the good Michigan name...


November 12th, 2010 at 3:15 PM ^

given a) their execrable taste in jersey design and b) their complete inability to consider the overwhelmingly negative feedback those jerseys create.

Below the shoulders, it's not awful, I guess, just weird. I get the idea behind taking an old-school jersey and modifying it, but sometimes it's okay to come up with a semi-throwback look that isn't actually based on a former jersey.

I'd rather see an all-yellow jersey with blue numbers.


November 12th, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

"it should be easier to find an average defense with an established elite offensive mind in place rather than revamp the program considerably"

This has been my argument for keeping a 6-6 (or even 5-7) Rodriguez, just said more concisely.


November 12th, 2010 at 3:36 PM ^

Those offense/defense comparisons are really interesting.  Our potent offensive firepower and complete absence of defense really has been giving me concern that we're becoming the Big Ten version of Houston.  Then...this chart...confirming that we may indeed be the Big Ten version of Houston.  


November 12th, 2010 at 3:47 PM ^

The day-glo yellow could be useful.  I'm predicting overcast skies with a chance of precip.  Everything else is hideous; the stripes haven't gotten their just due on the board, in my opinion. 


November 12th, 2010 at 4:06 PM ^

Mind you, I love Michigan's current home white jersey, the Berenson era with the arched letter and the numbers in the front.  I love the maize Morrison jerseys from the 1996/98 title era.  But these are fun in part because they are ridiculous.  The absurdity of playing hockey in front of 110,000 people match with a jersey that has a 1948 drawing of a Wolverine on it makes me smile.  By the time we hit the GLI, we'll be back to the Block M's, Script maize Michigan's and retro whites.


November 12th, 2010 at 4:21 PM ^

The throwback jersey would be better if the color was also a throwback to that era.   The day glo yellow is plain frightening. 

Along the same lines of sticking with tradition and old geezerdom (hey you kids, get off my lawn!!) :  would be deeply disappointed if Michigan debuts a Wolverine Mascot.  I've never seen one that didn't look cartoonish. 


November 12th, 2010 at 4:29 PM ^

1). I suspect the maize is for visibility, a white jersey would likely blend, especially if there are ice temperature issues.

2). From the Bentley, a picture of the 1948 national champions after winning the first NCAA title in Colorado Springs.  A maize version of these would have been pretty OK too, with navy shoulders, but that isn't the direction that they went in.

3). At the Cold War, Sparty wore their home whites while we wore our navys.  A retro callback to those would have been fine as well.


November 12th, 2010 at 6:30 PM ^

***Update with full numbers from 2004-2009 (6 seasons)



Ok, so in regards to the CB height chart.  Someone else basically mentioned the same thing as Brian, ie. that the All Conference breakdowns would likely be shorter.  So I figured I'd go ahead and check it out. 

Basically, while the difference isn't as pronounced as it is for pro bowl selections, it's still a pretty wide gap.  I'd also point out that no CB 5'9" or shorter has made multiple All Conference teams, while 9 CB's 5'10" or taller have.  Also, I've really only been able to find good lists from 2004 on, so over a six year span.  I realize that isn't much, but it gives a decent sample size.  This also includes both first and second teams.


Total CB's: 34

CB's 5'10" or over: 29 (85.3%)

CB's 5'9" or under: 5 (14.7%)

6'1"- 4 (11.76%)

6'0"- 6 (17.65%)

5'11"- 15 (44.12%)

5'10"- 4 (11.76%)

5'9"- 5 (14.71%)


Per year list:

2004-Marlin Jackson (6'0"), Kelvin Hayden (6'0"), Ukee Dozier (6'1"), Alan Zemaitis (6'1"), Scott Starks (5'9")

2005-Leon Hall (5'11"), Alan Zemaitis (6'1"), Jovon Johnson (5'9"), Ashton Youboty (5'11"), Marquice Cole (5'10")

2006-Leon Hall (5'11"), Malcolm Jenkins (6'0"), Justin King (5'11"), Tracy Porter (5'11"), Jack Ikegwuonu (5'10"), Antonio Smith (5'9")

2007-Vontae Davis (5'11"), Tracy Porter (5'11"), Malcolm Jenkins (6'0"), Charles Godfrey (5'11"), Justin King (5'11"), Jack Ikegwuonu (5'10"), Terrell Vinson (5'9")

2008-Vontae Davis (5'11"), Amari Spievey (5'11"), Malcolm Jenkins (6'0"), Allen Langford (5'11"), Lydell Sargeant (6'1"), Traye Simmons (5'9")

2009-Amari Spievey (5'11"), Donovan Warren (5'11"), Sherrick McManis (5'11"), Brandon King (5'10"), David Pender (6'0")