Third Down...of DOOM!

Submitted by Yostal on October 27th, 2008 at 2:07 PM

(Warning, I am a historian by trade, not a statistician,
so I may have made some incorrect conclusions, which is why I included
all of the data.)

Michigan's fatal flaw Saturday, literally, was third down
defense.  While there were some positives, including two Brandon Graham
sacks, the big plays on third down were the difference in the game. 
I've made a chart, because, well, I needed a chart. Basically, I wanted to see if the stats backed up up on this, and certainly, they bore me out.  I also hope the formatting remains.  

Quarter To Go Result Pos. Yards Neg. Yards Play Notes
1st 16 Converted 23
23 yard pass
1st 5 Converted 61
61 yard pass TOUCHDOWN
1st 6 Not Converted
0 Inc. Pass
1st 9 Converted 12
12 yard pass
2nd 1 Converted 2
2 yard rush
2nd 1 Not Converted
-3 (3 yard rush)
2nd 10 Not Converted 0
Inc. Pass
2nd 8 Not Converted 0
Inc. Pass
3rd 12 Not Converted
-7 (7 yard sack)
3rd 6 Converted 50
50 yard pass
3rd 6 Not Converted
0 Inc. Pass
3rd 6 Converted 12
12 yard pass
3rd 12 Converted 44
44 yard pass
4th 19 Not Converted
-8 (8 yard sack)
4th 6 Converted 17
17 yard pass
4th 1 Not Converted
0 0 yard rush Converted on 4th
4th 7 Converted 7
7 yard pass TOUCHDOWN
4th 14 Not Converted
-2 (2 yard rush) Clock Drain

8.06
20.73 11.56

Basically, Michigan had MSU in an
average of 3rd and 8 and allowed an average of 11.56 yards on all plays,
or 20.73 yards on the positive plays.  Two of these plays were actual
touchdowns.

So, to show this was not a fluke, I went back and looked at Penn State and Illinois.  (I could have looked at Toledo, but that portended doom)

Penn State numbers, average to go 5.93, average gain on all plays 9.75, average gain on positive plays, 18.29 yards.

Quarter To Go Result Pos. Yards Neg. Yards Play Notes
1st 11 Not Converted
0 Inc. Pass
2nd 7 Not Converted
0 Inc. Pass
2nd 2 Converted 2
2 yard rush
2nd 1 Not Converted
-1 Fumble, -1 yard
2nd 7 Not Converted
6 6 yard pass
2nd 3 Converted 3
3 yard pass TOUCHDOWN
3rd 6 Converted 9
9 yard rush
3rd 10 Not Converted
0 Inc. Pass
3rd 2 Not Converted
1 1 yard rush
3rd 7 Converted 15
15 yard pass
4th 10 Converted 11
11 yard pass
4th 6 Converted 8
8 yard pass
4th 1 Not Converted
0 0 yard rush
4th 10 Converted 80
80 yard pass TOUCHDOWN

5.93
18.29  
9.57

Illinois: Average to go: 7.28.  Average yards on
all third down plays (including penalty yards): 10.94.  Average yards
gained on conversions: 20.22

Quarter To Go Result Pos. Yards Neg. Yards Play Notes
1st 10 Not Converted
0 Inc. Pass
1st 6 Not Converted
6 6 yard pass After ILL holding
2nd 2 Converted 3
3 yard rush
2nd 3 Converted 9
9 yard pass
2nd 1 Not Converted
-1 (1 yard rush)
2nd 10 Not Converted
4 4 yard rush
2nd 16 Not Converted
-6 (6 yard rush)
3rd 9 Converted 9
9 yard pass ILL Hold Accepted
3rd 10 Converted 77
77 yard pass TOUCHDOWN
3rd 8 Converted 15
15 yard penalty PI on Harrison
3rd 15 Not Converted
4 4 yard pass
3rd 12 Converted 14
14 yard pass
3rd 6 Not Converted
0 Inc. Pass
4th 5 Converted 4
4 yard penalty PI on Ezeh
4th 2 Converted 50
50 yard rush
4th 1 Converted 1
1 yard rush TOUCHDOWN
4th 8 Not Converted
3 3 yard rush
4th 7 Not Converted
5 5 yard rush

7.28
20.22 10.94

So, in my mind, the stats bear it out.  Michigan is
solid at getting teams into third down situations, only to have them
explode in their face on third down.  Six touchdowns, and five plays
over 40 yards.  I lack the historical data to know if this is an
all-time low, but it doesn't exactly look good and it certainly at least makes me feel better that I'm not just percieving things this way.

Comments

West Texas Blue

October 27th, 2008 at 2:31 PM ^

Good job on research. I called for someone to gather data on opponent 3rd down conversion rate during the liveblog on Saturday; it's worse than I thought. Oh well, hopefully team can have a good week of practice and come out prepared for Purdue.

Route66

October 27th, 2008 at 2:38 PM ^

....that this means the D is actually quite good on 1st and 2nd down and maybe it is just a playcalling or scheming issue for 3rd downs. That all can be fixed....I would hope. Maybe we should send this to Schem Hall?

Michigan Arrogance

October 27th, 2008 at 2:50 PM ^

hard to put the numbers into context (compared to other teams, good, bad, NCAA or B10 averages).... but it still looks reasonable. this is believable on 1st impression b/c the 'yards to get' metric (which is basically how the opponents did on 1st & 2nd downs, in sum) makes sense:

PSU, the better team, performed better on non-predictive downs (1st & second down) than Ill and finally MSU (only gaining 2 total yards on 1st & 2nd down).

we just busted our pass coverage, or MSU has REALLY good 3rd & long package, or both.

joeyb

October 27th, 2008 at 5:24 PM ^

There was one play in the 4th quarter, I believe, where we lined up in a 6-2 I think and we end up rushing almost all of them. I need to watch the game again for the play, but I think they did a quick pass for a big gain on that one. It was polar opposite of what we have seen on most 3rd downs and it pissed me off more than rushing 3 guys. I was glad to see 4 down linemen on most 3rd down conversions.

ColoradoBlue

October 27th, 2008 at 3:39 PM ^

I wonder what Brian's old "3rd down distance VS. Percent Conversion" chart would look like for us this year. A "normal" correlation would be that 3rd-down conversion was inversely proportional to distance (ah... with the "Alan Branch Anomaly" for very short yardage). But your info suggests that the opponent's conversion rate is proportional to distance needed. Inconceivable!

Also, if the correlation is strong enough, I think that would be a serious indictment of our scheme rather than the players (assuming players fuck up in a somewhat random fashion).

Moneyball!

AnnarRankings

October 27th, 2008 at 4:59 PM ^

2007 UofM vs MSU 3rd down stats without the pretty formatting

 

MSU was 7-19 on 3rd down against us.

 

Ave Yards to go on 3rd down: 7.68

Ave Yards gained on 3rd down: 2.89

# of 3rd down TDs: 1

# of 3rd down turnovers: 1