Did we really show improvement on Offense?

Submitted by M-Go-Bleu on December 3rd, 2009 at 2:00 PM

In response to the question of whether we actually improved on offense or not in the B10 this year, I offer the following thoughts.

see Brian's post:

It is certainly possible to cherry pick stats to try to prove a point and I think Brians points are on the whole well balanced in the above.

However, for me at least, if I was trying to measure improvement for college football in the big10 relative to peers my hierarchy would start with Wins, then Offensive Points scored to measure the offense relative to others and Defensive points allowed to measure the D.

As for Wins, none of the other stats, no matter how hard you look at them, get you to a bowl game and that is the goal.

For offensive points scored in the Big10 and measuring the offense, we were exactly the same as last season 22.1 points per game scored in the Big10(and that includes the 14 points the defense put on the board for us). Relative to the competition we went backwards. 8th in 2008 and 9th in 2009. So others improved at scoring points but we didn't move. Sure we felt more confidence in our offense, but it didn't translate to an improvement in points scored (which is the goal of the offense).

For defensive points allowed in the Big10 and measuring the Defense, we allowed 33.5 in 2008 and 33.2 in 2009. Actually, we improved purely on the basis of points allowed from 2008. However, relative to conference we went backwards here to from 10th in 2008 to 11th in 2009.

So, strictly speaking we went backwards on offense relative to Big10 and backwards on Defense relative to Big 10 from 2008 to 2009. Since my initial point was it is all about the wins, that is consistent with the story of offense and defense, We went from 2 wins in 2008 to 1 win in 2009.

No matter how we hard we try to explain that our offense improved and our defense did not, strictly speaking the improvement in offense primarily shows up in the warm and fuzzy feelings we had from the 4-0 start. Unfortunately, relative to the competition in the Big10, we did not show improvement on either side of the ball.



Fuzzy Dunlop

December 3rd, 2009 at 3:50 PM ^

Another interesting way to view the '08 squad versus the '09 squad is head to head, which one would win.

That is interesting. In the same way that it's interesting to discuss who would win in a fight, Superman or Mighty Mouse. Because it's make believe and freaking meaningless.

Who the hell cares who would win between the '08 team and '09 team? I care how Michigan does against opponents it actually plays. If we go winless next year, should I nevertheless be pleased if I believe our secondary would have had Denard Robinson's number?

The straws that people grasp at in an effort to take something positive from this year sometimes blow my mind. On the plus side, I believe this year's team would have done very well against Rudy Ruetigger's 1975 Fighting Irish team, so that's a positive.


December 3rd, 2009 at 4:51 PM ^

your it's hard to compare the teams but we can look at the same teams they played from 2008-2009.

2008 2009
ND 35-17 L ND 38-34 W
wisc 27-25 W wisc 45-24 L
ill 45-20 L ill 38-13 L
penn 46-17 L penn 35-10 L
msu 35-21 L msu 26-20 L OT
pur 48-24 L pur 38-36 L

while the over all records are the same. i think if you look at the win over ND the closer losses to msu and pur i think you can reasonably say we improved. plus just to counter a point made previously. in 2008 against these same 6 opponents we scored 126 pts in 2009 we scored 141 pts. and maybe i am "grasping at straws" but at least i'm not wallowing in shit wondering where my team went.

Fuzzy Dunlop

December 3rd, 2009 at 5:13 PM ^

I'm going to tone down the assholish nature of some of my earlier posts. Friendly discussion is more fun than fighting on the internet.

That said, I see some major problems with your chart. Most obviously, you have the score from last year's Purdue game wrong. It was 48-42, with Purdue scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a late-game trick play. So you definitely can't call it a closer game this year (particularly since this year's game was at home).

Similarly, I don't think you can fairly say that the "closer" MSU game this year shows improvement. We actually played MSU pretty close last year, and had some killer interceptions late. This year, we were pretty much dominated the entire game, and somehow tied it up with two late touchdowns. Yes, the end result was closer, but one can fairly argue that we played a better overall game against them last year.

The biggest turnaround was against Notre Dame. But that defeat last year was pretty much an outlier, even for that terrible team. As I recall, we turned the ball over something like six times -- we actually played Notre Dame pretty well if not for those turnovers. (I know, I know . . . other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?). This year we played pretty much a perfect game, got a LOT of breaks, and barely eked out a win at home. Overall, against common opponents, we perhaps did slightly better than last year, but didn't show as much improvement as many had hoped we would.

What can I say, I'm a pessimist 351 days of the year. I'm an incurable optimist on the 12 Saturdays that Michigan plays, convincing myself that we are going to win each and every game, until we don't. Right now I'm concerned that the defense won't improve next year, and that the offense isn't moving in the right direction nearly fast enough to make the difference. Having my concerns proven to be unfounded would be the best thing in the world.


December 3rd, 2009 at 5:52 PM ^

thanks dude! (Mrs. Lincoln bit) laughed my ass off! sorry about the dyslexia about the pur score. kinda kills the argument huh? oh well i guess i'll use as some sportscasters call the eyeball test or maybe even the beer goggles and just believe that or offense was better and will continue to get better. better by the leaps and bounds some believe? no, but better.
("can someone clean that up the second show will start soon")


December 3rd, 2009 at 2:37 PM ^

I think that this post makes some valid points - if we exclude the out of conference games, the offense was no more productive than it was last year. Yes, the produce was more pleasing to watch than Sheridan sending wobbling ducks into the dirt, but there were many times where the offense seemed incapable to score points for an entire quarter (usually the third quarter). This happened against MSU, Wisco, Indiana (yes, we won), Penn State for almost the entire game, Iowa, Illinois and Purdue. Also valid is the point that our # of B10 wins (which is what matters most) went down.

But, a few counter points:

1. How many of the points that we scored in 2008 were in garbage time when we were down by so much that teams had in their third string defense? I can recall at least a few such games. Here, most of our games remained relatively competitive until the final few minutes, so virtually all of the points came against the other teams' first string defense.

2. Our offensive turnover margain actually went up this year. I believe that someone posted the specific numbers in a comment to a post a week or so ago, but while our team turnover numbers were relatively similar between 2008 and 2009, in 2009, far more of those were committed by the offense, whereas in 2008, more were from the special teams (CATCH THE DAMN BALL!!). Yes, turnovers are part of the game and can't be discounted, but we do need to make allowances for a true freshman starting QB, a COMPLETELY RAW true freshman backup QB who was a turnover machine every time he threw, and the fact that unlike in 2008, we actually tried to throw the ball. Excluding even half of these turnovers, I would imagine that our offense would have been far more productive (and that we would have likely won Purdue, Iowa and maybe even OSU.


December 3rd, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

1. How many of the points that we scored in 2008 were in garbage time when we were down by so much that teams had in their third string defense? I can recall at least a few such games. Here, most of our games remained relatively competitive until the final few minutes, so virtually all of the points came against the other teams' first string defense.

Well, think back to 2008:

(1) Utah - 2 late TDs, against 1st string.
(2) Miami OH - nothing more than 3 points in the second half.
(3) Notre Dame - nothing in the second half.
(4) Wiscy - 27 points late against the starters.
(5) Illinois - nothing, or 7, in the second half. MAYBE 7 HERE.
(6) Toledo - 1 TD in the third Q? against first stringers.
(7) Penn State - nothing in second half.
(8) Sparty - 1 TD in second half to tie at 21.
(9) Purdue - lots of points against starters.
(10) LOLphers - 1 TD in each half, 5 FGs, against Minny's starters.
(11) NW - nothing after the punt block.
(12) Ohio State - nothing in the second half.

I see 7 irrelevant, late points on the board here in 2008, at most.


December 3rd, 2009 at 3:21 PM ^

I also believe that Brandon Minor was consistently better the second half of last season. Shaw, Smith and an injured Carlos Brown never made up for the loss of a healthy Minor and it showed in our running and pass blocking.

I had a great high from the month of September, but seven conference losses in a row? I think it is necessary to differentiate between improvement and potential, with the latter being much more in evidence this year.


December 4th, 2009 at 1:19 AM ^

This is a critically important distinction: change in performance (improvement) vs. change in potential. The change in performance year over year is obviously arguable (particularly if you want to be pessimistic) but the change in potential is not. Sadly I think last year's offense actually reached its potential and it just wasn't competitive by any stretch, even for stat nerds like me. This year's offense did not reach it's potential, yet was very competitive, even when they played poorly (MSU, Iowa, Ohio State).

This year's offense was a player away (Molk) from 1 or 2 more victories (MSU, Illinois); at least. I acknowledge that I'm speculating there and can't prove a damn thing but I really do believe that. Last year's offense was no where near being winning another game. The 2008 Wisconsin game was sheer defensive will and a Brandon Minor run. This year, every single one of our victories was offense driven.

I dunno, people can believe whatever they'd like to believe. I know what I believe.

Fuzzy Dunlop

December 3rd, 2009 at 3:54 PM ^

but we do need to make allowances for a true freshman starting QB, a COMPLETELY RAW true freshman backup QB who was a turnover machine every time he threw, and the fact that unlike in 2008, we actually tried to throw the ball.

Last year, DEATH started eight games (and a red-shirt freshman not suited for the system started the remaining four). When comparing this year's offense to last year's, you can't pin any complaints on the QB.


December 3rd, 2009 at 2:37 PM ^

Also choosing a sample (Big Ten season) that excludes the best offensive lineman (Molk) while also excluding the worst portion of last years season (the non-conference debacles)is really cherry picking.

Figures never lie, but liars figure is appropriate in this context.


December 3rd, 2009 at 2:53 PM ^

The things you say are true but they aren't the truth. A young tree does not have to bear fruit to show growth. You're saying, "I'm effing starving! I want and apple and until I get one, nothing's any different." They didn't get the job done. When an offense is 2008 Michigan bad, looking for points and wins can and probably will mask improvement. In this case, those two stats in isolation mask the improvement and you have to look deeper to see it.

Ignoring things such as field position, turnovers, and injuries is a simple minded way of evaluating things. That's well within a person's prerogative if that's what they choose. Do what ever makes you happy.


December 3rd, 2009 at 5:16 PM ^

WTF does Charlie Weis's job status have to do with this conversation?

Do you really think an offense that scores a given number of points with an average starting field position from their own 20 is as good as an offense that score the same number of points with an average starting field position from their opponents 20? The point was, field position matters and if you don't account for it, your conclusions are skewed.

Don't you think the fact that Michigan had 3 turnovers in scoring position (field goal or better) against Ohio Stat had anything to do with how many points they scored in that game?

Is it irrelevant to consider that the 2005 team did not have Jake Long available to it before judging that offense?

Starting field position, turnovers, and injuries matter when evaluating the performance of a unit of a football team. If you want to ignore them. OK.


December 3rd, 2009 at 2:56 PM ^

I find myself skimming over all these posts about whether the offense did or didn't improve.

Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are freshmen. Until Rodriguez gets an upperclassman quarterback, I refuse to believe that he's had a fair shot to implement his offense. If he's playing freshman quarterbacks from now until 2030, I would still argue that he needs more time (okay, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point).


December 3rd, 2009 at 3:17 PM ^

I like the stats you pointed out, but I also think that sometimes people read too much into raw numbers. Context exists, and failing to take that into consideration leads to people believing that Karl Malone is a top-10 player in NBA history, or that Tim Tebow is one of the greatest college football players of all time (which is more debatable than what CBS would have you believe). The offense looked far more competent this year, and showed some growth both in the running and passing games as the year progressed. I also noticed that the scoring margin (points for/points allowed) was actually better this year than last - given it was 2 points, but still a slight improvement.

And to a greater point, the team just looked for competent this year as compared to last. Last year, it was a team with little direction and key positions in constant flux - like RB and QB. This year, the RB situation remained in flux, but the QB position was solidified by Tate and DR, and you know that this year's struggles will only lead to more maturation next year.

Fuzzy Dunlop

December 3rd, 2009 at 3:40 PM ^

The offense looked far more competent this year, and showed some growth both in the running and passing games as the year progressed.

I'm sorry, but the second part of that sentence simply is not true. The offense exploded out of the gate, and put up fewer and fewer points (and yards) as the year went on.


December 3rd, 2009 at 4:11 PM ^

I agree in part with less points, but that was at least part due to playing some really good defenses toward the end of the year (Wiscy and OSU). I did an analysis of the offense a few weeks back, and found that the yardage was pretty consistent if you factor out Baby Seal U and the Fighting Johnny Sears-es (i.e. EMU).


The passing attack looked far more competent this year than last year, even factoring in the number of INTs and the brain farts of the freshmen QBs. The run offense actually looked decent considering they were playing their first-year, 3rd-string RB for the last few games. 2008's offense came together a bit toward the end and made the numbers look nicer than they were for the whole season. The offense this year had Baby Seal U, but was also pretty consistent against a variety of teams. I'm not saying this team will put up WVU-in-2006 numbers next year, but it will be better and was an improvement over what was fielded in 2008.