Michigan offensive "inconsistency"

Submitted by tf on November 2nd, 2010 at 1:10 AM

Like a lot of people in these parts, I felt a Michigan victory over Penn State was nearly a certainty prior to Saturday. And, like a lot of people, instead of enjoying the Halloween weekend comfortable with the knowledge that Michigan was at least going to a bowl game this year, I instead fretted about what exactly had gone wrong. Obviously, the defense is ridiculous, having managed to get worse despite the fact that the last two year's defenses were the worst in history and could only get better, but that's another story.

As I read through comments on the board, a common theme was that the offense is tremendous and that doing anything (like firing Rodriguez) to mess that up would be the worst decision that could be made. While I don't claim to know whether or not Rodriguez should be fired, I was having a hard time accepting the argument that the offense is fantastic. Somebody referred to the offense as #4 in FBS; I pointed out that while they are #4 in yardage, they're only #19 in scoring offense.  #19 is still good, of course, although that ranking has been dropping as they've been playing Big 10 teams that are not named Indiana.

I did some research trying to figure out why I felt compelled to argue with fellow fans who had nothing more obnoxious to say than that the Michigan offense is somewhere between really, really good and fantastic right now. I looked at the top 20 scoring offenses and tried to find something that would jump out at me as the source of my dissatisfaction. I didn't find it. The data (courtesy of ncaa.org) showed that Michigan doesn't score TDs as regularly as the heavyweights like Nevada, TCU, Boise State, and Oregon (all over 50%), but at a 42.4% TD rate, Michigan did rank 12th among the top 20. With 13% of UM drives ending in turnovers, they were pretty much middle of the pack (and ahead of Oregon -- the gold standard in my book -- at 13.3%), and having 4.3% of their drives end in failed fourth down conversions was again more or less middle of the pack.  I threw third and fourth down efficiency into the mix to see if something stuck, but it didn't. Michigan's numbers don't look drastically different than the other top scoring offenses.

  TDs FG Atts Punts Tos TO on Ds Total   TD % FG Att % Punt % TO % TO on D%   3D% 4D%
Nevada 45 7 16 13 4 85   52.9% 8.2% 18.8% 15.3% 4.7%   59.4% 75.0%
TCU 50 6 27 8 4 95   52.6% 6.3% 28.4% 8.4% 4.2%   53.9% 63.6%
Boise State 44 10 17 9 5 85   51.8% 11.8% 20.0% 10.6% 5.9%   46.8% 44.4%
Oregon 58 7 28 15 5 113   51.3% 6.2% 24.8% 13.3% 4.4%   49.1% 64.3%
Stanford 43 14 16 13 2 88   48.9% 15.9% 18.2% 14.8% 2.3%   57.7% 81.8%
Utah 48 10 25 14 2 99   48.5% 10.1% 25.3% 14.1% 2.0%   54.3% 75.0%
Houston 45 9 22 16 3 95   47.4% 9.5% 23.2% 16.8% 3.2%   56.8% 62.5%
Ohio State 48 16 30 11 1 106   45.3% 15.1% 28.3% 10.4% 0.9%   44.3% 85.7%
Wisconsin 37 12 25 6 2 82   45.1% 14.6% 30.5% 7.3% 2.4%   51.7% 66.7%
So Cal 40 9 22 14 5 90   44.4% 10.0% 24.4% 15.6% 5.6%   52.0% 66.7%
Auburn 45 19 25 12 2 103   43.7% 18.4% 24.3% 11.7% 1.9%   50.0% 60.0%
Michigan 39 9 28 12 4 92   42.4% 9.8% 30.4% 13.0% 4.3%   46.5% 69.2%
Hawaii 45 17 30 15 4 111   40.5% 15.3% 27.0% 13.5% 3.6%   37.9% 55.6%
Nebraska 39 11 33 12 2 97   40.2% 11.3% 34.0% 12.4% 2.1%   39.8% 66.7%
VA Tech 37 14 30 9 3 93   39.8% 15.1% 32.3% 9.7% 3.2%   42.1% 50.0%
OK State 45 16 35 16 5 117   38.5% 13.7% 29.9% 13.7% 4.3%   42.6% 44.4%
Oklahoma 37 8 42 8 5 100   37.0% 8.0% 42.0% 8.0% 5.0%   45.8% 58.3%
East Carolina 38 11 36 16 2 103   36.9% 10.7% 35.0% 15.5% 1.9%   44.4% 84.6%
Tulsa 37 19 34 11 2 103   35.9% 18.4% 33.0% 10.7% 1.9%   49.2% 71.4%
Arkansas 36 9 35 16 8 104   34.6% 8.7% 33.7% 15.4% 7.7%   39.2% 42.9%

I thought of Denard's interceptions in the redzone and threw redzone efficiency into the mix, but that really just makes Michigan look better. They are only 43rd nationally with an 85.3% success rate (meaning TD or FG) in the red zone, but their TD percentage of 76.5% ranks 6th, well ahead of most of the top 20 scoring offenses. (Data below with the unwashed masses removed and only the top 20 scoring offenses depicted)  

Name Gm Drives Scores Points Rush TD Pass TD FG Pct TD PCT
Wisconsin 8 41 37 242 25 8 4 90.2% 80.5%
TCU 9 46 41 265 30 6 5 89.1% 78.3%
Michigan 8 34 29 190 19 7 3 85.3% 76.5%
Southern California 8 32 28 183 10 14 4 87.5% 75.0%
Arkansas 8 27 25 154 10 10 5 92.6% 74.1%
East Carolina 8 34 32 195 11 14 7 94.1% 73.5%
Utah 8 39 35 216 19 9 7 89.7% 71.8%
Boise St. 7 39 34 215 18 10 6 87.2% 71.8%
Nevada 8 44 37 234 24 7 6 84.1% 70.5%
Oklahoma St. 8 36 35 205 14 11 10 97.2% 69.4%
Stanford 8 50 46 273 18 16 12 92.0% 68.0%
Houston 8 43 36 223 19 10 7 83.7% 67.4%
Oklahoma 8 43 35 220 15 14 6 81.4% 67.4%
Ohio St. 9 51 45 272 18 16 11 88.2% 66.7%
Oregon 8 42 37 226 21 7 9 88.1% 66.7%
Auburn 9 44 39 229 19 9 11 88.6% 63.6%
Virginia Tech 8 38 34 198 16 8 10 89.5% 63.2%
Nebraska 8 24 19 117 12 3 4 79.2% 62.5%
Tulsa 8 42 35 201 14 10 11 83.3% 57.1%
Hawaii 9 46 37 211 10 15 12 80.4% 54.3%

To cut to the chase, I wound up focusing solely on the last three games. I took ESPN's drive charts and just added the score at the time the drive started. That information is below:

OPP START QTR POSS. YARD PLAYS YARDS RESULT SCORE

MSU

14:55

1

3:23

MICH 25

9

65

Interception

0-0

MSU

7:14

1

5:49

MICH 10

13

73

Field Goal Good

0-0

MSU

14:05

2

1:52

MICH 12

3

9

Punt

3-0

MSU

11:28

2

3:21

MICH 40

9

60

Passing Touchdown

3-7

MSU

4:23

2

1:33

MICH 15

3

1

Punt

10-14

MSU

0:23

2

0:23

MICH 20

2

55

Field Goal Missed

10-17

MSU

12:32

3

2:25

MICH 34

7

58

Interception

10-24

MSU

4:55

3

1:22

MICH 36

3

3

Punt

10-31

MSU

1:28

3

1:32

MSU 42

8

41

Rushing Touchdown

10-31

MSU

13:16

4

0:53

MICH 20

3

11

Interception

17-31

MSU

7:14

4

1:33

MICH 25

3

1

Punt

17-34

Iowa

12:59

1

4:41

MICH 25

13

75

Passing Touchdown

0-0

Iowa

7:20

1

1:50

MICH 20

3

1

Punt

7-0

Iowa

1:21

1

1:42

MICH 28

5

17

Interception

7-7

Iowa

13:22

2

4:49

MICH 20

12

59

Field Goal Missed

7-14

Iowa

4:15

2

3:58

MICH 7

10

48

Punt

7-21

Iowa

14:55

3

1:45

MICH 23

3

4

Punt

7-21

Iowa

11:18

3

4:24

MICH 16

12

71

Fumble

7-21

Iowa

5:12

3

0:42

MICH 35

3

5

Interception

7-21

Iowa

1:45

3

3:40

MICH 15

12

85

Rushing Touchdown

7-28

Iowa

11:37

4

1:09

MICH 25

4

75

Passing Touchdown

14-35

Iowa

8:08

4

1:13

MICH 30

6

69

Rushing Touchdown

21-35

Iowa

2:47

4

0:59

MICH 37

3

-9

Interception

28-38

PSU

15:00

1

1:42

MICH 28

3

8

Punt

0-0

PSU

7:26

1

3:25

MICH 20

9

80

Rushing Touchdown

0-7

PSU

1:24

1

1:38

MICH 29

6

32

Punt

7-14

PSU

13:12

2

4:29

MICH 25

15

55

Field Goal Good

7-14

PSU

3:27

2

0:58

MICH 2

3

2

Punt

10-21

PSU

1:02

2

1:02

MICH 27

4

9

Turnover on Downs

10-28

PSU

9:57

3

1:59

MICH 20

5

80

Passing Touchdown

10-31

PSU

3:59

3

2:23

MICH 48

8

53

Rushing Touchdown

17-38

PSU

13:21

4

3:56

MICH 29

11

72

Rushing Touchdown

24-38

PSU

5:43

4

0:59

MICH 26

4

2

Turnover on Downs

31-41

Breaking that down by game situation (e.g., Michigan leads, game tied, Michigan down by one score, etc) yields:

Michigan leads
Number TDs FGs Missed FGs TOs TO downs Punts 3 and out
2 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Score tied
Number TDs FGs Missed FGs TOs TO downs Punts 3 and out
5 1 1 0 2 0 1 1
Michigan trails by one score
Number TDs FGs Missed FGs TOs TO downs Punts 3 and out
7 2 1 2 0 0 2 1
Michigan trails by two scores
Number TDs FGs Missed FGs TOs TO downs Punts 3 and out
11 2 0 0 5 1 3 2
Michigan trails by more than two scores
Number TDs FGs Missed FGs TOs TO downs Punts 3 and out
8 5 0 0 0 1 2 2

Conclusions?

  • In those (rare) instances when Michigan had a lead, the ball, and a chance to potentially take charge, they failed to move the chains at all.
  • When starting drives with the score tied, Michigan has managed TDs 20% of the time and has committed turnovers as often as they've scored.
  • When down one score the TD percentage picks up a bit, and missed FGs have hurt, although neither of the misses would have tied the game or given Michigan a lead (they trailed by 7 both times).
  • When down two scores and needing to score to keep it close/get back in the game, the wheels come off, with turnovers happening much more often than scores. Witness the Iowa game: down 21-7, four consecutive Michigan drives occur with a chance to close to within 7.  The results?  Punt, punt, fumble, interception.
  • In 25 drives where the score delta was somewhere between +7 and -14, the offense scored TDs on just 20% of those drives (less than half the season average of 42.4%), tried FGs on 16% (converting only half ot those), committed turnovers on 28% of those drives, and punted on 32% (with 75% of those punts coming after 3-and-out).
  • It is only in the 8 drives that started when Michigan trailed by more than two scores that the offense really shined, managing TDs on 5 of those drives to go along with 2 punts (both after 3-and-outs, unfortunately) and one failed fourth down conversion.
  • Since Tate Forcier was the QB for 3 of our TD drives in the last three games, that means the offense as led by D Rob has only tallied 7 touchdowns.
  • Going 3-and-out on nearly 25% of our drives in the last three games *feels* excessive to me, but I haven't yet tried to determine how often that actually happens to other "elite" offenses.

In that data, I think I discovered the source of my discontent. Yes, the offense has put up pretty good numbers against MSU, Iowa, and PSU, but the fireworks didn't really start until we were desperately trying to mount a comeback. The offense has been sputtering when games have been close.

In the board topic where I first tried to present this, there were suggestions that examination of the failed drives would lead to extenuating circumstances, and given the relatively small sample sizes, that is a possibility. I've pulled the UFRs for the MSU and Iowa games but haven't yet tried to assemble them into this analysis.

I put most of this together while I was (supposed to be) working today, so I won't be surprised if there are some errors, although I'm confident the numbers are largely correct.  Like I said, I looked into this just to try to help me understand why I wasn't freeling very impressed by the offense despite the gaudy yardage statistics, threw it into a board topic to back up another poster's assessment, and moved it to a diary upon request. Also, in case it's not clear, this is not a suggestion that Rich Rodriguez should be fired, that Tate Forcier should be starting, that the spread can't work in the Big 10, etc. Rather, it's just an attempt to help those who are convinced the offense is spectacular understand why other Michigan fans (who also bleed maize and blue) are somewhat disappointed by what the offense has done in our three losses.

Comments

MGOARMY

November 2nd, 2010 at 1:26 AM ^

Nice work. I've felt that over the last three games we have only really started moving the ball once we were in comeback mode, maybe due to prevent D's. This kinda makes me feel like I was on point.

Shop Smart Sho…

November 2nd, 2010 at 2:45 AM ^

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but how does a team play a prevent defense against a running team?  I haven't really seen anyone drop into a soft zone against Michigan.  I would assume most teams with a lead against Michigan are going to keep playing the same defense all game.  It's evident that the offense can score so quickly and from so many different plays that a prevent defense would be a terrible call.

MGOARMY

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:03 AM ^

You don't play defense against a run team, but when both Iowa and Penn State got up big they seemed to back off a bit and keep things in front of them. it seemed they conceded shorter plays to try and keep us from breaking off longer quick plays. I could  be wrong on this but thats just how I remember seeing the game.

MGOARMY

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:58 AM ^

Like I said I could've been wrong I haven't had the heart to rewatch the games. I was just saying it seems like the last two games the offense, for what ever reasons, hasn't seemed to get it going in the first half minus one drive each game. My quick impresion was it may have had to do with a combination of desperation mode by us and the other team having a nice lead and trying to limit big plays. Maybe not a prevent defense, but a keep everything in front of you don't get beat on one big play type mentality. I could be way off just my two cents from watching the games live once.

Communist Football

November 3rd, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

A lot of nice data here, but the fundamental problem is perspective.

If we were 8-0, I guarantee you we wouldn't be seeing any posts complaining about our offensive inconsistency. Once upon a time it was an accepted part of watching football that your team wouldn't score on every drive. Once upon a time it was considered good to outscore opponents in the second halves of games. Yes it would be great if we always outscored the other team, but that isn't entirely the responsibility of the offense.

We have scored enough points to win every game this year. We have allowed too many.

Our offense isn't perfect -- the MSU interceptions are a great example. Michael Shaw's injury has prevented us from having a running complement to Denard. Denard is a true sophomore who leaves points on the field.

But this is what makes what the offense doing even more remarkable. A true sophomore QB is setting Michigan, Big Ten, and NCAA records. He and his teammates will be even better next year, and the year after that.

I repeat what I said in the other thread -- it's sad that there are people who can't enjoy watching this offense play. I fully appreciate that losing is no fun, and our defense is no fun. But the offense is objectively awesome.

swamyblue

November 2nd, 2010 at 2:02 AM ^

Call me crazy but I don't see a problem just yet!

  • Win one more game
  • "Gain some extra practice time" == byWinningwonmoregm
  • Go Bowling
  • Bring in decent numbers and talent from the commit pool

These things are very possible and within scope!

P.S. The latest set of roster moves are a reflection of possible lineups for next year.  There's no problem!  Just the usual growing pains from the youngsters.  

BlueTimesTwo

November 2nd, 2010 at 2:36 AM ^

Offensive inconsistency with a nicked-up sophomore QB that has a full 8 starts under his belt and no healthy RBs?  How can that be?

/s

Seriously though, thanks for the numbers.  With nearly everybody returning next year (and healthy), the offense should get a lot more consistent.  Add in the possibility that the defense might occasionally get the ball back for us without forcing the offense to sit on the sidelines for extended drives, and things should get more consistent still.  Also add in the possibility that our offense may not be under the pressure of having to score on every possession, and they should play even better.

I guess what I am saying is that I am not worried about the offense - at least not for next year.

tf

November 2nd, 2010 at 1:15 PM ^

I don't disagree.  I'm not worried about the offense next year.  I believe it will be better, and like I said (or at least I hope I did), I think it's pretty good this year.  My point, really, was just that some people -- myself included -- don't think the offense right now is a juggernaut, and since the overall numbers (#4 in total yardage, #19 in points per game) do look awfully good, I was trying to explain why.  Really, nobody will be happier than me if the offense lights it up the next four weeks and proves that all the numbers I put together were just an anomaly due to small sample size.

Blue2000

November 2nd, 2010 at 4:50 AM ^

Thanks for this.  While the offense is fun and exciting to watch at times, we all need to dial  down the superlatives a bit (someone in another thread called the offense "breathtaking").  We're not Oregon, and the offense is not yet good enough to compensate for our horrific defense.  Hopefully we'll get there soon.  But it seems unlikely to happen this season.   

hgoblue

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:02 AM ^

Great info.  I think it would be cool to see time of possession for the whole game in there.  I think our D is so bad at getting stops that our offense doesn't have enough time to gain a rythm.  It would be interesting to see how many points we score compared to other top offenses in relation to how much time we have the ball.  That would be a way to at least somewhat tie our offense to our defense.  Thanks again.

Emarcy

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:09 AM ^

Perhaps part of the late scoring is due to better conditioning, allowing a strong finish against worn out defenses.  I would be interested to see similar stats for our defense to see if they play relatively better late in the game.  Small sample size, but interesting.

wolfman81

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:24 AM ^

It is evidence of opposing defenses sitting back in 2 deep zones being content to stopping the big play that can turn a game on a dime and letting the offense creep back into a game.  My memory may be lacking, but how many 40 yard + plays has Michigan had against Big 10 teams not named Indiana?

Corey

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:47 AM ^

<Insert Billy Madison quote here.  You know the one.>

Edit:  Post mostly removed due to lack of time to fully explain why the above conclusions are full of fail.  In a nutshell: sample size, cherry-picking, connection between data and conclusions, etc. etc.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:03 AM ^

He offered a well thought out, polite, and reasoned post.  It's fine to disagree with his conclusions, but your response, even after the edit, is obnoxious as hell, and contributes nothing to the discussion.

willywill9

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:35 AM ^

First, appreciate the time put into this... but as you say, the times where M had the lead are few and far between, so it's sort of unfair to say M can't move the chains when they have the lead, don't you think? For how long has Michigan been tied or in the lead in the last three games?

Also, you hint that our offense is coming back to reality since we've been playing "real" big 10 defense... but how can you do so, and then refer to schools like Nevada and TCU as among the "heavy weights"?

tf

November 2nd, 2010 at 1:21 PM ^

Your point about Nevada and TCU is eminently reasonable, and really, I was just trying to quickly respond to points people have made on the board without proper reference.  Somebody pointed out in some thread that the offense can't score every time they have the ball and wondered how often they can reasonably be expected to score.  I was responding to that when I noted that the most efficient offenses score TDs just over 50% of the time, and certainly, most efficient in that context doesn't necessarily correlate with best.

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 9:38 AM ^

I wont argue that the O needs to be less inconsistent, but I do have a problem here as you seem to be going out of your way to prove the offense isnt any good. I've heard plenty of posters ride the 'game was not in contention' meme, which is ridiculous because this "inconsistent offense" sure did find a way to legtiamtely get back into the the last 2 ball games, while really just running some base stuff. You seem to be doing the research for that crowd.

The offense is stll averaging 125 yards more and 12 points more per Big 10 game than a year ago. That's progress I will take any day. And I dont feel its anywhere close to hitting its ceiling. That's exciting.

Our offense is fine. And, its one of the better ones out there. But we need it to be perfect, lest the defense put us in a hole. I think all of us have a tendency to judge it with that in mind and are wondering why we cant just go point for point in the early going. Most of that reason rests with the fact that there is a good defense on the other side of the ball that knows how to make plays.

That said, the next step for this offense is simple maturation/seasoning, get a healthy stable of and more production from the tailbacks and the elimination of all third and shorts in the I. That's the road to offensive consistency, but this season, on offense at least, has been what a lot of expected out of this offense. And, its about time.

Frankly, we've seen some of the maturation this past game. They were more solid in the red zone than the previous weeks. Certainly showed no panic in being down and had the look like they expected to score every time they had it. But, they need to work on their penalties and starting faster, although with that latter complaint, what if they had just run Denard out of their regular formation on that early 3rd and 1. Maybe we get a faster start?

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:17 AM ^

I do have a problem here as you seem to be going out of your way to prove the offense isnt any good.

But he's not doing that at all.  He acknowledges the offense is good, but said that (like many of us), he's had a nagging sense of inconsistency watching the games, and wanted to see if the numbers supported his gut feelings.  Not sure why he deserves to have his motives impugned.  Is it off-limits to say less than glowing things about the offense? 

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:27 AM ^

If you're going to write, then you have to expect some critiques.

I certainly wasnt unreasonable in my response, but he sure does seem to be going out of his way to prove the offense is only good when the game isnt in contention. For example, the critique that some of TDs were led by Tate. That's a critique? I find it kinda cool that our backup can come in and light it up, not to mention a sign of progress. But he has it as a bullet point, presented in a 'hold your horses' style.

I said the same thing in this diary thread as I said in the thread last night where he first present a lot of these facts. And, that thread indeed did devolve a bit into the O is only good when the game is over. It wasnt coming from him, but some of the responses to him were; thus the doing their research quip.

Aparently, though, we cant critique anybody's work around here either.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:26 AM ^

Critiques are fine.  It seemed to be that you were crossing from critiquing his work to impugning his motives, which was my only objection.

I do think that the "Tate" issue is a legitimate point.  Iowa was not prepared for Tate, and it showed.  It is great that our back-up and light up a top defense, no doubt, but the fact is that, absent an injury, he's not going to be on the field.  So it's legitimate to focus on the performance of the offense when led by the starting QB.  Isn't it?

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:38 AM ^

Tate is probably an underutilized weapon for sure. The way its worded, though, in the OP makes it sound like it should not count because of who the QB is. To the contrary, it counts and makes us more dangerous.

The Hawks have had plenty of experience with Tate. I really dont think it was an issue of them not prepping for Tate. They are smart at Iowa. They have a scouting card on the guy and played him before. Tate can play and he showed how.

We have 2 QBs we can win with and I'm fine and confident both can win us games on offense.

It's fascinating that both QBs led near comebacks. If given a chance, I feel both could have tied up those games.

tf

November 2nd, 2010 at 1:35 PM ^

Jamiemac, I've enjoyed reading your posts and diaries since I can remember seeing them, and I don't object to your critique.

I think it's fair to say I was trying to demonstrate the offense has only been good in the last three games when we were way behind -- in fact, I think that's exactly what I was trying to say.  I hope it's an anomaly, but either way, it was offered as an explanation for why some of us want to disagree when others say the offense is amazing.  I believe that if Rodriguez keeps his job and we don't suffer attrition through injuries this offense may become spectacular in a year or two, but my honest opinion is that it isn't there right now.

As for people who might want to extend the argument beyond that, I guess my take is that if the best they can do is offer the misrepresentation of the "research" of an unknown MGoBlogger who can count on his fingers and toes how many times he's posted in the 4(?) years he's read MGoBlog (most of that without even bothering to create an account), they should be pretty easy to refute.

Finally, WRT to your comment about Tate, I guess I'd respond in two ways:

  • I *do* like that we can bring in our back-up QB and put points on the board.  And, frankly, I was ecstatic for Tate when it happened.  I can't imagine how hard it must be for him to be the Forcier -- inarguably a great QB family -- who finally achieves great success (and at the University that family loves) only to wind up being second-string the very next year with faint hope of ever reclaiming the starting job.
  • The reason I made that point was because I think (and maybe I'm wrong) when most people claim this offense is spectacular they're referring to the Robinson led offense, as the most notable difference between this year and last is that we've switched first-year starter QBs.  I was simply pointing out that of the 10 TDs we've scored in the last three games, only seven of them came when Denard was taking the snap.  That's seven TDs in about 2.5 games, and the offensive efficiency has actually been worse with Robinson in.  I'll point out again that I'm as excited about two more years of Denard as anyone, but as of this moment, I'm disappointed with the execution (specifically, the ability to put the ball in the end zone) of the offense against Big Ten opponents not from Bloomington.

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 2:53 PM ^

I really hope this is not the last Diary we see from you here

Overall, I liked the breakdown you did, and i just dont want folks to think this proves this offense doesnt/cant work in the Big 10.

Tate is part of this offense. When I say superlative things about our offense, I include him in the mix. When I say we have the best QB sitution in league, I'm including him. I still dont think we've heard the last from him this year.

The fact this team can get production from 2 QBs is a sign of progress and not a 'yeah, but' type of disclaimer.

Space Coyote

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:27 AM ^

I think what he's attempting to say is: 1) The offense needs to be more consistent when the game is closer; 2) The offense isn't as outstanding as many of us were hoping against Big Ten teams.

I don't think he's trying to say that the offense can't score and put up points, and I think we all agree that if the defense got the ball back more to the offense - without giving up touchdowns - that these numbers would probably be better.  

Even with an admittedly small sample size (when in the lead), the overall conclusion appears to have accuracy, that when the game is in hand the offense, for whatever reason (stress, pressing, etc) hasn't been as consistent as needed.  I think that is essentially what is trying to be said here and he has numbers to back up is data.  Obviously, with more data, a trend can be realistically determined, but I don't think that means that he should have waited until then to see what's happening.  I think this can easily lead to further insight later and at least introduces a possible fault with the offense, that can potentially be fixed with the arrival of a defense, different play calling, less pressure, etc.

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:41 AM ^

I said its what he seems to be doing.

Searching for proof the offense isnt any good

And thereby, disqualifying anything the offense does basically in second halves of games

Its a really good offense. With a high ceiling remaining. Most teams can overcome an offense that has an early three and out. Ours cant. But, not because the offense is sputtering heap. I think its a credit that the offense can come back, but a lot of folks on the forum seem to want to discount that.

Space Coyote

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:54 AM ^

I think the fact that the offense can get back in the game is a credit to their resilience, and I think the fact the defense can't stop people puts a lot of pressure on them.  I've also noted that I think game to game that this offense is one of the most consistent.  However, in game, they seem to go through a lot of peaks and valleys.  I think when you look at 3 and outs and stuff, regardless of field position and how the defense is doing, your looking at inconsistencies that need to be addressed.

We disagree on what we think it seems he's doing, I think he's trying to show that in game, the offense hasn't been consistent.  I don't think that he draws conclusions that the offense isn't good, or that the reason for Michigan's losses in the last three games are on the offense.  I think what this points to is areas for improvement.  The fact that Michigan can't afford to have three and outs because of the defense emphasizes the inconsistency more, but what it doesn't do is allow us to claim that it can't be chalked up to inconsistency because the defense is poor.

An aside: I'm in no way trying to insinuate that you can't critique the OP or me.  I think critiques are fine, even when I disagree with them.  So please don't take offense to me critiquing your critique.  

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:59 AM ^

No worries, larsonlo.

But, some folks will draw those conclusions though and that's why I am particpating in the thread. I took the weekend off of Mgo, and in coming back yesterday, I found a lot of folks who dont believe we're making progress on the offense, I am here to say otherwise, in case those folks seize on this info as their proof.

We saw the red zone issues and penalties first hand in the last two home games. Its pretty obvious that's the issue. I dont think it matters what the score is during the games, but some folks throughout the board are convinced otherwise. Like I quipped, he seems to be doing their research for them, lol.

I certainly didnt say anything mean to the OP or discouraged him at all. The fact that I'm even in this thread proves there is valid stuff to talk about--not to be a thread snob, but let's face it, about 95 percent of the threads since Sunday arent worth any of our time.

teldar

November 2nd, 2010 at 8:14 PM ^

that this offense is god-awful inconsistent. I didn't review many stats (any) to reach this conclusion. Some plays, the players are executing, throws are on target, and we gain yards and score, many other drives our O is completely smothered. Frequently passes are just off (sometimes terribly) and blocking disappears. I'm sure sometimes there are bad reads, sometimes I think Denard just tosses the ball out there when its not really a good idea.
I think a large party of this inconsistency is d/t a first year starting qb and our top 3? Rb being injured (running small-not-as-fast-d/t-acl-injury rb up the middle on 3 and short is just apparently stupid) certainly isn't helping.

So. Inconsistent? Absolutely.
Will this improve with a little experience? Find me someone who says qb's don't get better after their first year starting.

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:22 AM ^

Of the two comebacks though, one was by Tate, whom Iowa wasn't really prepared for.  Denard has struggled putting up points against (non-Indiana) Big 10 competition in all but the second half against PSU.

Before anyone says "small sample size!", I will acknowledge that THIS IS A SMALL SAMPLE SIZE AND STATISTICALLY INSIGNIFICANT.  My point isn't that the offense is bad, incapable of doing well against the Big 10, that Denard sucks, or anything ridiculous like that.  I'm just explaining the reasons for my, and the OP's, concern about the offense.  Hopefully it will alleviate that concern with a great performance against Illinois. 

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:53 AM ^

We have had red zone issues in those games. One of the silver linings Saturday was 3/3 in the red zone......although with our defense, the only perfect 3/3 involves TDs on each, one was  FG on Saturday night.

Iowa has seen Tate before. It's not like he was a total unknown to an iowa team that battered the crap out of him a year ago.

This season, this discussion is different without those red zone issues, but a first year starting QB is destined to have those issues. Tate struggled a year ago. I said it after the MSU game and it still stands, this is price you pay for going with another first time starter.

I count 4 empty red zone trips in the MSU and Iowa games. 5 if you add in the fumble in the IU game. Those all needed to be scores with this defense. The encouraging thing about PSU and going forward is the bye week seemed to pave the way for a better red zone production. If that maintains, I think we'll maybe win a couple down the stretch.

STL Wolverine

November 2nd, 2010 at 9:48 AM ^

It seems to me that our offense is more successful when running at a very fast tempo. This was the case in early games and when down by multiples in the second half. I have felt the offense is a little slow on the first couple possessions. I think if this offense scores early to start it can hurt the morale of opposing defenses, whereas a three and out to start strengthens their morale.

ish

November 2nd, 2010 at 9:59 AM ^

i think the sample size is too small to draw the conclusions you have.  but i'd be happy to be corrected by the more mathematically inclined.

wolfman81

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:19 AM ^

Sample sizes are often small when dealing with this sort of data.  People have drawn far more conclusions based on even less data.  Now the reliability of those conclusions can change for a number of reasons...

And let's remember this...If we manage to beat Illinois...BIG.  We forget about all of this.  The offense will be "fixed" and the defense will be "progressing adequately" and we can go back to being happy again, making our bowl game plans, and plotting the destruction of Purdue.

TripleLindy

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:38 AM ^

One thing I would like to see is the average starting field position, Michigan never works with a short field and that could impact the TD conversion %.   The M drives charted above all start on our side of the field and usually inside the 30. 

ramverine79

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:15 AM ^

Though the small sample size caveats apply, still interesting. I definitely feel the offense is not quite as good as the numbers indicate. You could have also used data from the second half of the IU game where we had numerous chances to go up 2 scores but kept going 3 and out instead.

I think some of that is certainly attributed to D-Rob's health. From my view, his shoulder must be causing some issues because he is just missing way too many easy throws right now that he was making with ease earlier in the year. It's really unfortunate that we have to keep running him 25+ times a game, making it very difficult for the shoulder to heal. And from what I heard RR say in a pre-game bit before PSU, it sounds like they've had to curtail his throwing in practice too.

It would be so nice if we could get more production out of the RB position. DR's overuse in the run game is now having an adverse effect in the pass game. Hopefully, that sharpness with return yet this year but I'm not sure it possibly can given then number of hits his shoulder takes.

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:17 AM ^

Another thing worth tossing into the discussion vis a vis the consistency/slow start/must get TDs early to avoid the D putting it into a hole.......what do you guys make of the concept the Rodriguez and Magee call plays early in the game, just to get a feel for how the D will respond?

Generally speaking, I think its a great strategy. But, I wonder if its not counter productive when your D acts like a sieve and puts you in a hole early. Like, we're all wondering about the 3rd and 1's out of the I. Are they running those to see the response? Broader than that, maybe that's why it takes our O some time to really gell? We're calling exploratory plays, rahter than our best ones?

I dont know, but I wonder if the offensive coaches just need to start the games more aggressively, given that any sputterings and pointless possessions early in the game usually will mean no better than a TD deficit right quick. Just a quick game management thought

Space Coyote

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:44 AM ^

I still think that the "exploratory" are necessary.  For one, it is highly unlikely that any of these teams have faced an offense like Michigan this year.  No one else in the Big Ten runs the same type of spread Michigan does, no one has as true of an athlete as Denard, and many of the out of conference games were probably either not against teams that run Michigan's style of spread or that have quality talent.  With that in mind, Michigan's offense is something unique, so as much film the coaches have seen on what the other teams weaknesses are, they have no real inclination on how the other team is going to approach covering up their weaknesses and attack this offense (outside of the obvious).

This offense is highly predicated on getting into the right play to exploit how a defense is set up.  This means, to a great extent, it depends on exploiting over emphasis that the defense puts into stopping particular plays.  Defenses line up with different tweaks nearly every week against Michigan, and it's very difficult to know how the opponent will utilize their talent on defense this year to stop them.  So these "exploratory" plays are necessary to determine what works best and how to expose the offense.  This offense isn't as simple as the Bo and Woody days when they basically said "screw it, we're going to do what we do and run it down your damn throat!"  This offense is more evolved and depends more on offensive mismatches and exploiting defensive weaknesses, so it is necessary to find those in order to succeed.

Also, don't get it wrong, the plays that Michigan is running as "exploratory" plays are also plays that they think will succeed enough to generate first downs and continue drives.  They aren't going out there thinking "let's run our worst play because it will show us something."  They are trying to hit two birds with one stone.  As we saw on the first drive against Iowa, the I-form can be successful (to add to the Smith meme, I don't really understand running directly behind Omameh, who isn't nearly as strong at the point of attack as Schilling at this point in their careers).

jamiemac

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:52 AM ^

I think its a great strategy, for sure, we basically got a TD vs the Irish because of something they picked up in their exploratory phase. Just wondering, though, if maybe its causing the early sputtering to a certain extent and given the unique situation we're in with D if maybe losing that strategy a little in favor of something more aggressive would work better right now. It's just that the D is so bad, its hard to manage the game on offense in the usual manner.

Or, I am scrambling to figure out why they keep calling certain plays early in a game that havent worked all year. Maybe its that. Probably all that, lol. I am a sucker and felt we gave away that first drive with another poor third down play call. I feel the game goes so differently there, so I'm wondering if we really need to know how the PSU D will respond that play?

In the end, these failed early drives come down to TOs in the red zone and penalties. The red zone issue looked a lot better on Saturday night. The penalty ones, not so much. It seems the culprits there have a half a season or less in starting experience. Gotta hope that just better with more seasoning.

bronxblue

November 2nd, 2010 at 10:24 AM ^

I thank you for the breakdown, and I agree that the offense has been somewhat inconsistent.  At the same time, your sample size is quite small (3 games), against two pretty good defenses that still didn't do that much to slow the offense down.  Most of the top offenses in the country have one of two things going for them (a) they play against crappy opponents most of the time (looking at you, TCU, Boise, Houston) or have good defenses that give them great field position and/or create turnovers (again, TCU and Boise, plus Oregon and Stanford).  Even the best offenses in the country score about 50% of the time, and that number drops off against better defenses.  The problem UM has is that when they don't score, the defense seemingly always fails to give the ball back without giving up some points.  That is hard on any offense, especially one still helmed by a first-year QB and with numerous injuries at RB.  Not making excuses, but on a macro or micro level, this offense is doing fine.  Give them even a top-50 defense, and this team is probably 8-0 or 7-1.

Ziff72

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:01 AM ^

Many of you that are down on the offense, I submit this for your pleasure. This is just not starters but the entire depth chart

QB's graduating this year-0

RB's graduating this year-0

WR's graduating this year-0

Ol's graduating this year-2

This team is a top 20ish offense no matter how you slice it.  Now be honest with me and imagine denard with a full offseason of experience under his belt as the unquestioned leader of the offense with guys like Lewan and Omameh still learning anchored next to a guy like Molk.   You really think this offense is going to not improve next year?   Currently we have 1 healthy rb in true frosh Hopkins.   Denard will be much better at reading defenses the OL should continue forward and you have a mess of talent playing Lord of the Flies trying to get touches.   We are about to become 2010 Oregon, but the fans just want to focus on the negative. 

 It's impossible to be rational and  look at our offense next year and not think it will be better than it already is. 

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 2nd, 2010 at 11:18 AM ^

I don't think any of us are down on the offense going forward, or doubt that it will be even better in coming years.  Our concern is whether it's good enough to overcome our defense and get any more wins in Big 10 play this year.

I think everyone has acknowledged that, if it wasn't for the defense being so terrible, no one would be raising the far more minor concerns with the offense.