Changing our perspective on tempo and possession because of this offense

Submitted by greenphoenix on October 3rd, 2010 at 12:39 AM

I wrote this in another thread, but I wanted to put it in as an OP and let people snipe at it.

I think the rapid scoring nature of this offense makes a lot of aspects of how we think about football distorted and unhelpful, and more importantly this offense makes our defense look, in many ways, worse than it actually is. 

Here's my thinking on this:

1) In football each team gets about the same number of chances to score (give or take one posession because of time running out at the end of each half).

2) If one of the teams scores quickly, and often, the other team with a conventional defense will run up big numbers of time of possession and total yards, even if it's not reflected in the score.

3) Michigan's average scoring drive was about six plays and about two minutes long. (By the way, If there is any single statistic that you can take to the bar when you talk about this team, that is it. I have never seen anything like it.)

4) If that kind of efficiency keeps up, the defense against any competent offense (and say what you like about Indiana but their passing game today was outstanding, and their quarterback very good) will get a lot of plays and a lot of time of possession, not only because they want to keep the ball away, but because, frankly, it takes them longer overall to score.

So, the insane numbers being put up by this offense make us reconsider our traditional indicators of a team's effectiveness. Time Of Possession? Throw it out the window. It's a waste. Total plays run? Even that is a little suspect, because Michigan will score in 4-8 and their opponents will need at least a dozen, generally speaking.

The defense on a team with an offense like this like this could actually be pretty good, and still have wildly disproportionate time of possession, as well as running a lot of plays, just because the ball changes hands so many times, and because the offense scores so fast. We do have to look at average yards per play, total yards, and the final score.

I think another useful indicator would be average points scored per drive.

My point is that I thought that the defense did okay today. They shut Indiana down for most of the second half, even though Indiana went for it on fourth down four times. They were putting ridiculous pressure on a quick-release passer with a three man rush, which meant that the line is good, and more importantly, THE ZONE WAS WORKING. The linebackers didn't make we want to die (although Roh, man, that's just mean, put the dude on the line, that has to stop). The crazy assignment errors that we saw in Notre Dame didn't happen. Indiana couldn't get their running game going, and it took a lights-out performance from the best wide receiver we've played against to keep them in the game.




October 3rd, 2010 at 12:51 AM ^

When you don't have a shutdown corner and you're rushing three, you're going to get a lot of dinks and dunks. What they didn't give up was the long ball, and they held them for most of the second half. That counts as working to me.

Boy do we need a shutdown corner who can play man, that would change this whole defense overnight.


October 3rd, 2010 at 9:19 AM ^

Say what you will about Indiana, but this team played a great game at home and credit needs to be given when its due.  Chappell is also looking like a first or second round draft pick in the NFL so we won a hell of a shootout against an NFL quarterback with 3 WR that will probably also play on Sunday.  Was our defense bad, yes, but the fact that Indiana passed the ball 64 times, any defense is gonna give up some yardage/big plays so I take this all in as a win and were 5-0 going back home to face prolly one of the best MSU teams since the 1999 team with Saban at the helm and Charles Rodgers at WR.


October 3rd, 2010 at 9:51 AM ^

To add, their offense is focused around passing.  Think about how effective M was at stopping the run (2.6 yards per rush).  Indiana also had the ball for almost 42 minutes. 

People need to take a chill pill, this was a great passing offense Michigan just faced.  Shoot, at the start of the season consensus was '7-5'.  If we win 2 more games, we hit that mark.  Keep things in perspective! 


October 3rd, 2010 at 12:46 AM ^

I agree about the Defense..  I was wrenching at how bad they look, but have to look at it in perspective i guess. 

We have the youngest D no doubt in the big ten.  JT Floyd the only CB with experience and we did alright, considering we just faced probably one of the best passing QB's in the Big Ten if not the best.  Along with his Sidekick in Doss and the other WR that are all big and rarely dropped a pass.


Most of Chappell's incompletions came when he had to throw it away.  If anyone can help me out on the number of dropped passes his WR had, it wasn't many.


It is hard for me to gauge how we will do going from here when we face a team like MSU.  I know MSU's secondary is terrible, but their Run D is average.

And after watching MSU's game today, how good is Wisconsin?  They barely beat a 2-3 ASU team at home, and were within 3 late to MSU until they converted for the TD on 4th down.  Should make for an interesting game this wk


October 3rd, 2010 at 12:48 AM ^

While I think you make some good points when looking at this, I don't think they will be quite as relevant moving forward.  Michigan scored insanely quickly against Indiana, but hadn't reallly shown that much of a penchant for doing so against the other four teams so far.  With the tougher defenses in the upcoming schedule, I don't really see the trend continuning.  That's not to say I think we'll score less, just not so quickly, keeping in mind that on most every drive we either scores very fast or we punted after only a few plays.


October 3rd, 2010 at 12:53 AM ^


Yeah, if we start to see teams where the offense takes more like eight-ten plays to score, the total scores for the day will go down, and the defense won't look so bad.

The offense really sputtered in the second half; each drive that failed seemed to be because denard missed a long ball on a wide open receiver. He regressed a little bit today in that respect, or maybe the coverage was better at the line and they were bumping the receivers. Since Indiana was sellling out on the run in the second half, they were pretty good shots, but he defiinitely showed his sophmoreitude in those moments.


October 3rd, 2010 at 12:54 AM ^

#2 is not necessarily true.  If the fast-scoring team plays good defense, we end up with a game like BGSU.  

RR is not obsessed with TOP, but he doesn't want the other team to be running far more plays than his team does.  At the postgame press conference he expressed disappointment that they had such a huge edge in total plays (98-45).

Today we allowed IU to convert 11 of 19 third downs, and twice they converted fourth downs.  So in the 19 times they faced a third down, they converted then or the next play 13 times.  They had a gaudy TOP because too often, our D failed to get off the field when it could.    


October 3rd, 2010 at 1:13 AM ^

Although the BGSU game was a total domination of a defense. What if a defense is just mediocre? In that case the fast-scoring team will still look like the defense gave up a lot of time of possession.

The third down conversions are frustrating, and a few of them came through penalties, which is really annoying. Now that Michigan seems to be doing a better job of not giving up the big plays, If there's anything about this defense that is next to get "fixed", it's lowering that third down conversion number.

The fourth and five conversion late in the game I thought was really a good example of how this defense is pretty well coached, but undermanned and low on talent. Avery is in because of the nickel package; doss sets up in the zone and gets the ball about three yards away from the first down, and in front of Avery. He just turns around and beats Avery around the corner to get the first down. Avery was in the right place, but he just wasn't fast enough or experienced enough to close on Doss when the ball was thrown, and Doss had enough room to move in. A faster and more experienced player makes that tackle before the sticks.

So, the kid was playing the system, but he didn't have the talent or experience to take it to the next level to close off the YAC.


October 3rd, 2010 at 1:11 AM ^

Agreed.  If we could simply stop them on a couple of third-and-longs, the TOP is less lopsided.  We play solid enough D to set up the third-and-long situations, but we allow them to convert them.  The good news is that even marginal improvement from the young guys will have a dramatic effect on our D.

Last year our defense allowed a ton of big plays.  This year we have cut down on the big mistakes, but still commit a lot of little ones.  Next year (or hopefully later this year) we cut down the little mistakes.  It is a game of inches, and pretty soon those 3rd-and-6 plays will result in a gain of 5 rather than 7, and our offense will get even more chances to score.


October 3rd, 2010 at 12:55 AM ^

How bout the defense getting a few 3 and outs in the first half. Game over. Add a couple more possesions early and we put up 28 or more by halftime. How bout the D helping out the offense. I'm sick of people saying the quick strike aspect hurts our D. Our D needs to get THEMSELVES off the field. I am confident that in time it will happen, maybe next year. Our defense does nothing to help the offense, or themselves. I give them credit tho for not quitting which is why we won today but man do they make it hard for this team.


October 3rd, 2010 at 12:56 AM ^

Giving up 500 yards passing is not acceptable no matter the time of possession.

Personally, I am more concerned with our poor third down defense (and 4th down for that matter).  Just seems like at critical junctures in the game, Michigan really struggles to make stops.  Getting an opponent into 3rd and long should be positive, but this year that is more of an open invitation to spread us out.

Bottom line, lets all be happy that our offense scores at a ridiculous pace, and hope that they can keep up the persistence.  After the first 5 weeks, I have come to expect a cardiac ending each and every week.  As long as the offensive yards keep piling up, so to will the defensive as opponents try to keep up.

Marley Nowell

October 3rd, 2010 at 12:59 AM ^

The Defense stopped Indiana on about half of their drives which the best we can hope for.  Also when that WR went out their offense pretty much stalled until he came back.




October 3rd, 2010 at 10:10 AM ^

The WR was Doss/the IU offense.  He had over 221 yards receiving and he's one of the best single receivers that we're going to see this year.  I'm more concerned that we must have known that but were still unable to prevent him from getting yards even towards the end of the game.


October 3rd, 2010 at 1:03 AM ^

Offenses are going to look pretty good when they get the ball back a bunch, yardswise. 

I'd buy all this if you didn't give up a bunch of points.

You have to at least be better than today on scoring defense.  Bend-but-don't-break is all well and good, but bend-but-still-break is not very good. 

They aren't getting good field position because we aren't punting.  We have a lot of chances to make stops, the D just needs to make good plays consistently. 

If the D has the time to mature that the Offense has had under 1 system, then you will see improvement.  I think even through this season you will see improvement. 



That all being said again, I think as you will see from the UFR, Ben Chappell had an amazing game and is a very solid QB.  Great poise, pretty good accuracy, and knew what direction to lean innacuracy towards. I.E. if he was innacurate, he was innacurate towards where only his reciever could get it. 

He threw a lot of timing routes, and got a lot of plays in tight windows.  Maybe a lesser QB may have been stopped more easily.


We will see what D is like against Sparty.


October 3rd, 2010 at 1:10 AM ^

This game was weird to watch because the strengths of these teams are really strong and the weaknesses are really weak.  I mean how bizarre is it for the D to be out there for over 40 minutes and still win by 7 without any of the TD's coming from the D or special teams (since that's how you usually run up quick-strike scores)?

I think the next 2 games are going to tell us ALOT more about this Michigan team than any of the games we've played so far.

B Ready

October 3rd, 2010 at 1:31 AM ^

Hard as it may be to believe, we allowed 6.6 yards a play against Indiana last year.  This year, we allowed 5.8.  The total yardage is deceiving b/c of how many plays they ran.  Some of that was b/c they didn't do a good enough job of getting off the field.  The other part of that was that our offense didn't really have any time consuming drives.  We either scored quick, or had to punt pretty quickly.  I'd expect that Indiana probably has a better offense than they did last year and it could be argued that our defense played better against them this year than we had last year.  That is one positive, I guess.

Promote RichRod

October 3rd, 2010 at 1:55 AM ^

Indiana executed on offense today.  The bend-don't break D is predicated on the offense making mistakes.  IU's offense, simply put, did not make mistakes.  1 errant throw in the red zone and maybe 1 dropped pass.  That's it.  Diving catches made, 4th down conversions, 3rd and goals converted, no fumbles, just 3 penalties for 11 yards, etc etc.  Indiana played out of their fucking minds and we still managed to win.  Not every team we play will be able to execute (almost) flawlessly. 


October 3rd, 2010 at 9:50 AM ^

the argument that: a) Indiana is a great offense, and b) they executed out of their minds and no one can possibly do that consistently, is that we don't really have much evidence to support those statements other than what IU has done to our defense and those of teams that, as Brian pointed out, are very very very terrible.

I want to believe your argument but I am having a hard time at the moment.  When the season plays out, I"m guessing not many people will see their stats and think of them as a great offense.  I think our D made them look better than they are and that's what scares me as we enter the meat of our schedule.


October 3rd, 2010 at 10:33 AM ^

Indiana has the offensive potential to move the ball like this against anyone. . .

providing their secondary is as bad as Michigan's.

Better teams (with corresponding better D's/secondaries) will limit this ability and expose Indiana's one dimensional offense.  Indiana CAN'T run the football very well; more complete defenses will pwn them.


October 3rd, 2010 at 12:53 PM ^

A fact for you to consider while noting the exceptional play of IU's offense - our pass defense is the worst in the nation, by nearly 10 yards per game.  

I find it hard to believe that our defense (as depleted as it may be) has less talent then every other program in the nation.  Ignoring the problem with our defense scheme isn't going to make it go away (but it will make our opponents passing attacks appear deadly).  IU is a solid passing team, but we're the worst in the nation defending that attack.


October 3rd, 2010 at 2:44 AM ^

Bend but don't break is Gerg's defensive philosophy. I have to say, I've never been that big of a fan of BBDB, but when married to our offense... I like it even less.

Our offense scores fast - not always, but many of our scoring drives consist of one big homerun shot. Today was the perfect example of what you get when our offense keeps making big plays and our Defense keeps being... well.... 3-man rush vanilla that can't get off the field because it's waiting for the opps offense to screw up worse than our inexperienced D.

RR needs a defensive coordinator that's aggressive and gambles more... Gerg's a good coach, but his scheme doesn't seem to complement our offense. If our Defense is the weak point on the team, why leave it on the field by DESIGN?

As others have pointed out... at least our guys on D are getting some good practice. Let's hope they last the season.

Promote RichRod

October 3rd, 2010 at 3:02 AM ^

GRob isn't implementing BBDB by choice, it's out of necessity.  Do you really think he got a job as UM defensive coordinator (and Texas, winning NFL SB rings, etc.) by telling RR in the interview that his philosophy is to sit back and hope the opposing team fucks up?  Aggressive D just means they score faster.  We don't have the talent and experience to run anything else.  When the talent and experience is there we won't be running BBDB.

Also, aggressive isn't automatically awesome.  Ask ND fans about their opinions of Tenuta.


October 3rd, 2010 at 6:15 AM ^

the condescending 'derp' and the moronic synopsis of how you suppose I imagine the job interview went and follow up on your points...

If you've got proof or even shreds of evidence to suggest that Grob would rather be running some other type of defense, please share.

"Aggressive D just means they score faster" as a blanket statement isn't accurate. I can just as easily say aggressive D means they stop them faster... both are often true and if both happened today, we would have run more than 44 plays and they would have run less than 98.

What is it about not having 'talent and experience to run anything else' means we have to sit back and let the least talented/experienced part of the defense run around in coverage all day while arguably the most talented/experienced part of the defense is 3 against 5?

What part of blitzing is beyond the capabilities of our talent and experience? I agree that aggressive isn't automatically awesome, but BBDB isn't automatically protecting our D... it's leaving them on the field all day to the tune of 98 plays.

I'm not saying fire GERG. I think he's a good coach. Predictable vanilla BBDB however, isn't doing us any favors so far. I'd love to see at least a little more aggression if for no other reason than our D won't be so damn predictable.


October 3rd, 2010 at 7:28 AM ^

I'll bet when we look at in in UFR they blitzed 7-9 times, and in some suprising moments. There were a lot of blitz threats then zone drops to mix them up. But really they didn't have to blitz much. Once Robinson realized he could reach the quarterback rushing three he quit doing it and just pulled eight men back so that the D line could FEAST. That's one of the reasons the defense held them for so many drives in the second half.

This was an amazing performance by the front three.


October 3rd, 2010 at 9:51 AM ^

Once Robinson figured out he could get to the QB with only a three man rush he stopped blitzing, so I think all the blitzes happened in the first half.

It doesn't take away from your point, though. This defense has to be very careful about blitzing, lots of ways that can go BADLY


October 3rd, 2010 at 4:53 AM ^

Time of posession is the most bullshit stat. Evidence: 1-3 Minnesota was leading the nation in time of posession going into week 5 only to out posess Northwestern into another loss. Points win games. Forcing punts and turnovers helps you get more points.   


October 3rd, 2010 at 9:57 AM ^

I agree.  I think it is only a valid indicator of how teams play one style of football.  For the most part, that style of football is pretty much a artifact in the current era.  In games like yesterday's, I think TOP is almost a negative stat.  It has to be demoralizing to work your ass off on an eight-minute drive, only to see the opponents get it all back in a few plays, especially if it involves a play of over fifty yards.

Because of the conservative style at Michigan for the Bo-Mo-Lloyd era, there were usually only one or two big plays a game with both teams combined.  Now, with the spread option, we are seeing a big play for Michigan on almost every drive.  Remembering how much it used to suck to watch other teams beat Michigan with big plays, I can't think that players, coaches, or fans of other teams are the least bit consoled by "winning" TOP while watching another team run the ball up and down the field like they were running against a scout team of fourth-stringers and walk-ons.


October 3rd, 2010 at 8:38 AM ^

     There will come a game (or two or three) when we won't be scoring so quickly or so frequently. In that case, the TOP will be equally lopsided and we won't come out ahead.  The fact remains that giving up a high percentage of third and fourth down conversions is a formula for losing and I fear this will play out in the upcoming weeks.


    We trailed only once yesterday and for an incredibly brief period of time.  I would hate to put the offense in a position where they had to score quickly against a quality defense just to even the score.  Please don't cite ND-their defense is mediocre.

Michigan Arrogance

October 3rd, 2010 at 9:38 AM ^

there are 2 problems with this defense, so it's not really scheme related.


1) 3rd down efficiency: 11/17 is not good. maybe we need to blitz a bit more, IDK, more man coverage or zone drops? we did OK on 1st down, so it's not like they has 3rd & short all that often. they put Roh in coverage a lot more this game i think... i'm not a fan of that.

2) creating TOs. IU had 98 (!) plays and 1 TO, IIRC. over 98 plays, an average offense will turn the ball over like 2-3 times, i'd guess... which means they probably won't have 98 plays in a game.


the IU offense executed very well and played mistake free most of the game. very similar to UMASS.


October 3rd, 2010 at 9:53 AM ^

All that talk abou them being "a very good team" didn't seem like just coach speak. He was clearly impressed with them.

IU might be the sleeper team in the Big Ten this year. They brought it yesterday.


October 3rd, 2010 at 10:18 AM ^

I don't think that you're going to see IU close to the top of the B10 this year, but RichRod certainly knew that they had a fifth year senior QB throwing to a great WR in an offensive system that allows them to throw the ball as much as Mike Leach.  Since our secondary seems... young... and... less than great, that seems like a deadly combination.  I think IU will finish higher than normal, they should be above Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois but I'm less sure that they can beat Northwestern and MSU to get into the middle of the B10.


October 3rd, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

They were 4-8 last year, but lost close games to Michigan (36-33), Northwestern (29-28) and Wisconsin (31-28). They also scared Iowa before losing 42-28 in a weird, weird game where Iowa benefited from at least one game-changing, freakishly lucky play.

So no, Indiana was not good last year, but they showed some signs of improvement. With their soft non-conference schedule, I wouldn't be that surprised to see them play their way into a bottom-tier bowl. We'll see, though.