Football outsiders (the same site that produces FEI and S&P ranks) has OL stats up for the season (through last week/ Maryland game). Here is where Michigan ranks:
- Standard down sack rate: 105th out of 128 (7%)
- Passing down sack rate: 45th out of 128 (6%)
Quite a split. You have to wonder how much of the relative 'success' on passing downs can be attributed to Nussmeir's conservative play calling on 3rd and long (i.e., draws and screens). Having a lower sack percentage on passing downs might also result from Gardner being more apt to scramble.
- "Stuff" rate: 69th out of 128 (20% of RB carries stopped at or before line of scrimmage)
- Success rate: 56th out of 128 (40% of carries got 5 yards or more)
- Power (Short yardage) success rate: 63rd out of 128 (67% successful on 3rd/4th down with 2 yards or less to go)
- Standard down line yards: 93rd out of 128 (2.7 ypc)
- Passing down line yards: 43rd out of 128 (3.6 ypc)
Big split in the line yards by situation, as we saw with sacks. Is it really true that the Michigan OL struggled to run on standard downs and short yardage, but did well on passing downs? Is that also the result of more run calls on 3rd and very long?
Adjusting for Opponents
- Adjusted line yards: 54 out of 128
- Adjusted sack rate: 58 out of 128
Not that awful?
As a sanity check on these numbers, OSU ranked 3rd in line yards and 91st in sack rate. (Makes sense given their offensive system and relative inexperience). Penn State ranked 119th and 109th. It could be worse! We're generally ranked in the same neighborhood as Maryland-Rutgers-Northwestern.
Unfortunately, there is no data for 2013 available on the site, so we can't compare to last year. This is interesting data in isolation, but there are too many variables with playcalling, running back ability, health, passing game threat, and schedule difficulty to say if the OL got better or not.
My opinion is that the pass blocking regressed
significantly. Cole and Braden looked lost far too frequently. Nussmeir knew it and had to resort to conservative play-calling in passing situations to avoid a pile of sacks and far nastier looking statistics. That inflated the run stats a bit, but the run game still seemed to get better thanks to a consistent identity (playcalling) as well as improved health and experience along the interior of the OL. Those standard down running numbers still look awful, but some blame falls on the RB too. The short yardage number is far from great, but not nearly as embarrasing as last year's felt.
One thing we can say pretty definitively is that the OL was bad. Their highest rank in ANY category was in the 40s and that was with the help of some conservative play-calling. The low yardage on standard downs and poor showing in short yardage are pretty damning even for the supposed strength of this line (run-blocking). The sack numbers are embarrasing, even before the OSU game.
For those hoping to build the 2015 offense around a good solid veteran OL; even with everyone back, there is still a long way to go.
Tracked down last years stats.
Michigan got better in every single OL stat except for a small increase in sack rate on standard downs. All the run game stats are better. The "stuff rate" stat went from near 30% to 20%. Short yardage success leaped from 52% to 67%. Standard down line yards went from 2.2 to 2.7. So your "eyes" weren't lying to you -- The OL was better, especially the run game.
I will stick with my argument that these stats are a little inflated by Nussmeir's play-calling adjustments, but the OL clearly did better overall. Count me as surprised.