During this past weekend’s game I tweeted the following “Stop running between the tackles on 2nd and 10, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”. I stand by this statement, but felt like it needed some stats. And now I have them. These are the stats of what happens when you run the ball on 2nd and 8 or longer this season. This is what happens when you… well Larry, you should know by now.
Pretty awesome huh? If you run the ball on 2nd and 8 or longer you have an 18 percent chance of getting into manageable down and distance(3rd and 4 or less). 18 percent is pretty good right? It could be worse, it could be 15 percent.
One thing that did surprise me was the rate at which MSU extended the drive or scored(46.2 percent without taking out statistical oddities). There were a couple of drives MSU started in FG range and so would have gone three and out in a further part of the field. Or the Sadler Scurry! But it seemed unfair to not count these as successful drives because they were in fact successful, even if they weren’t optimally successful.
MSU has converted on 3rd down at 38.79 percent clip this season, so in plays where MSU didn’t score later in the drive their 3rd down percentage dropped to 14/38 or 36.84 percent. MSU basically assures below average 3rd down performance by running on 2nd and 8 or longer. And we’re not even talking about the garbage time runs against CMU in the second half which still provides a bit of bump to these numbers.
So if the plan is to get tricksy by hitting them with a 2nd and long run when they least expect it, with an 18 percent conversion rate, MSU isn’t putting Maxwell into manageable down and distance. If MSU converts the third down it’s usually in spite of their current down and distance on third down instead of because of it.
Anyway, just some numbers behind the rant.
It’s always difficult to write a blog post after such a complete shellacking as occurred at MSU on Saturday night. A loss like that rocks what confidence you have in your team. As far as heroes and goats, you watched the game. In broadest terms, the defense made about as many mistakes as the offense had positive plays. There’s some yin and yang in there. I won’t painfully rehash the game in narrative format, these are cosigned for your reading pleasure. A glimmer of hope: MSU’s defense routinely does to other teams what Notre Dame did to MSU.
So what in the good hell happened?
This might not be the best place to start. The best place to start is to talk about what the 3-4 is and why it gave our Offensive Line such horrible fits. The Ozone actually wrote a really excellent post on the 3-4 defense a few months ago.
If you want to run a 3-4 you’ll need a couple things for your shopping list (in order of importance).
Ok, quick primer of the 3-4 complete. Now, what happened?
During the game there was more rotation of the Offensive Line than usual with the injury to Right Tackle Fou Fonoti and the replacement of LG Jack Allen with Ethan Ruhland(who was later replaced by Allen anyway). Early in the game Roushar helped Skyler Burkland(Fonoti’s replacement) out with lots of Dion Sims lining up to Burkland’s right. It was a shell game Offensive Line and we’re not even talking scheme yet. FUDGE.
Scheme-wise. By replacing Fonoti with Burkland and the rotating cavalcade at Left Guard Nix was put into a very advantageous position. If Nix attacks the A-gap between Jackson and McDonald, Burkland is left in a one-on-one situation or he requires Tight End help(both of those assume no extra blitzers, which isn’t always true either). If Nix attacks the A-gap between the Center and Left Guard, the same situation applies to France at Left Tackle and as an added bonus the Left Guard position was being made weakened by the constant substitution. After that you can bring any number of linebackers on blitzes to take advantage of the weakened Offensive Line. If you only provide one tight end for help Nix just attacks the other gap. This of course makes me wonder where Andrew Gleichert was on Saturday night.
Are we going to be using the play where MSU got beat 3 on 7 in TOC’s picture pages? You bet your sweet ass we are.
Having four linebackers free to play the run or pass as needed took away a few things. Namely, passes to the RB, passes to the Tight End and short, safe slant passes to the middle of the field. Naturally, Running Backs and Tight Ends were targeted on 23 of 45 throws because that’s just the kind of night MSU was having.
Why not go deep?
After the game I wondered a-twitter why not go Max Protect and go deep. Max Protect would be two tight ends, five offensive lineman and Bell committed to blocking for Maxwell. Bell or either Tight End can release into a pass route if they’re not engaged with a blocker. With MSU’s love of the two tight end set only behind 7-0 or so, this would be a believable looking run play right up until the ball was snapped. I suspect strongly that in rewatching the game I’ll see an instance where this happened, but it didn’t work out. Either the D sniffed it out, the D-Line blew it up before it got started or Maxwell couldn’t connect. ND’s secondary was soft and could have been challenged indirectly in the first half using the illusion of the run.
What Else Could MSU Have Done?
Bubble Screens, End Arounds, Draw Plays, Bootlegs, MOAR Playaction. I honestly have no idea if it would have helped, the Devil was in the Offense on Saturday night and with the exception of the Big Ten Title Game last fall every loss since 2009 has been a pasting. It was just a bad night in which the Offensive Line kept getting killed by a very talented Defensive Line.
Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll try to dig into the film when I do Picture Pages for TOC. If you have a play you want me to look at, leave me something in the comments and I’ll do my durnedest.
A few weeks ago, MSU received commitments from four players in the last week of June. This is pretty typical of Dantonio recruiting to have a slew of commits right after summer camps. With some luck, we can pass the time of watching the grass grow slowly in the heat and maybe even learn a few things about how recruiting happens at MSU. I dove into Excel headlong with some commitment dates from 2010-2013 and set to work with the charts.
1.) When does MSU land it’s prospects for the year?
For as boring as summer is in terms of football, it’s crazy busy for recruiting. If you follow MSU recruiting at all, you probably know this already. What surprised me most though is that in June, July and August MSU receives over 50 percent of it’s commits for the year. (50.8 percent to be precise).
2.) Does MSU recruit during the football season?
No, they win football games. (Season is defined as Sept – Dec.)
3.) So what’s the plan then?
Well, it might make more sense like this. The peace sign looking object above points to the following. Roughly 1/3rd of all of MSU’s commits come in the January/February push(Signing Day Push), another 1/3rd come in the June/July (Camp Season), the final third come in the other 8 months of the year. While that might make recruiting tremendously boring mid-season, typically this is offset by the winning of football games.
Anyway, not a huge post, but I wanted to highlight how important camp season is to the recruiting cycle at Michigan State and how completely pedestrian in-season recruiting seems to be. Obviously, in-person evaluation in a camp setting is hugely important to Dantonio and staff.
I’ve read Death to the BCS and odds are as a lover of College Football so have you. If you haven’t though, the thrust of the book is about how deciding a National Champion is more effective using a playoff system, would provide a better payout for the schools and minimize corruption of college athletes. So it totally would? Right you guys? College football playoff solves world hunger, yes? Well, for comparison’s sake, we should at least have a gander at the Premier College Sports Playoff solution of College Basketball, right?
So What Kind of Deal Did College Basketball Get?
Well back in April of 2010, the NCAA signed a deal with Ted Turner and CBS valued at 14 years and 11 Billion dollars. On average this works out to roughly $777 million dollars a year with two percent inflation each year. Unfortunately, the most transparent data comes with the end of the 2010 season which was the last year of a deal with CBS that paid out approximately $500 million dollars annually. In 2010 of the $500 million dollars earned approximately $180.5 million was distributed to teams who had participated in the NCAA tournament from 2005-2010. In 2010, for each game a conference appeared in during that five year span, they received $240,000 dollars. The conferences are free to distribute the money by socialism, the per game basis or Battle Royale, whatever they see fit. Some conferences take their check, split it 12 ways and mail it out. Others give huge amounts to one team to try and keep them in conference, such as Butler.
To say the money was kept by the NCAA is overly simplistic. The moneys kept by the NCAA are redistributed according to another pie chart! I like Pie!
So What Kind of Deal Did College Football Get?
According to Death to the BCS, for the 2010-2011 Bowl Season the Annual Take of the College Football Bowl System was approximately $275 Million Dollars, $95 million of which gets sucked up into exorbitant travel costs, corruption, coke and hookers, etc. This leaves a collective profit of $180 million dollars, 100 percent of which gets distributed directly back to the conferences that play in the Bowl Games. Conferences can distribute again by craps game, communism, whatever.
The interesting twist to the current bowl system is that whatever your conference makes after it’s payoff, it keeps. So, the remaining $180 Million dollars distributed after $95 Million dollar Small Print looks like this.
Well the net payout to conferences for participating in post season action is essentially the same between the two sports with football earning 180 Million after costs and basketball earning 180.5 Million after costs. Interestingly, the number of teams participating annually is nearly the same with 68 now for basketball, previously 64 and approximately 70 for football depending on which bowls fold and which new ones start annually. Since the profits are split among 11 conferences and Notre Dame(GRRR) in college football and 31 conferences in College Basketball, the per conference payout is higher in College Football.
Where basketball absolutely kicks football’s ass though is in altruism. Of the kept money by the NCAA, almost 195 million dollars goes right back into the pocket of Division I schools. This helps pay for non-revenue sports at the discretion of each individual athletic department. In football all money either gets directed to the bowl owners or the conferences. So in a way this is more efficient because it eliminates the NCAA as a passthrough. Teams in power conferences get more money and thus can decide how they want to spend it.
College Basketball’s model also has the benefit of eliminating the risk of your fanbase not showing up for games. Since a conference is paid based on a per appearance basis, whether or not a school’s fans show up has no bearing on that school’s take home pay. Also, there are rumors of an 82000 dollar travel stipend from WikiAnswers, so like, Caveat Emptor. Also, by basing payout over a five-year span College Basketball the “temperature taking” of a conference’s contribution is more accurate.
So Is The College Basketball Model Better?
Yes, it is. At the end of the day, more coin goes into your team’s pocket than it does under the NCAA football model and the risk of having crappy postseason turnout is effectively mitigated. If NCAA football was bringing in $750 Million a year instead of $295 Million then it becomes more of a philosophical debate as to whether the big swinging cheese of College Football should stay that way or if we’d want to see the parity of well-funded Mid-Majors start to creep in. I didn’t write this post as a method to say that the Bowl System works, it doesn’t, but I couldn’t find anything in the googles that effectively compared the two playoff systems.
You’ll notice that whenever a prospect commits to MSU, I always note two things. One, where the prospect has competing offers and two, what their ranking is according to Rivals, Scout and 247. There’s usually also a bit WOOOO!! involved. I tend to shy away from star ranking as an evaluation tool for how GOOD a prospect is and more often will rely on offer sheet and available YouTube film. Why? Well, because the star system is flawed. Not just in the way that Le’Veon Bell and Jeremy Gainer were misranked as two and four star prospects respectively. Most importantly in that the “quality” of the average B1G prospect has increased by between nine and thirty percent from 2002-2012.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the Rivals rating system and I’m going to examine Big Ten players. I give them my moneys, they give me the datas, it’s cool like that. In the Rivals ranking system, a prospect receives two rankings. The first is a star ranking, the prospect can receive anywhere between zero and five stars. This is the traditional ranking that some idiot armchair fan from every school cites in the following beer-inspired sentence after a loss “Well, we have a five-star quarterback coming in next year.” Rivals prospects do not get one star ratings, not even the bad ones from Texas, the Lone Star State.
The second rating system is unique to Rivals. Explanation:
The ranking system ranks prospects on a numerical scale from 6.1-4.9.
6.1 Franchise Player; considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation's top 25 players overall; deemed to have excellent pro potential; high-major prospect
6.0-5.8 All-American Candidate; high-major prospect; considered one of the nation's top 300 prospects; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
5.7-5.5 All-Region Selection; considered among the region's top prospects and among the top 750 or so prospects in the country; high-to-mid-major prospect; deemed to have pro potential and ability to make an impact on college team
5.4-5.0 Division I prospect; considered a mid-major prospect; deemed to have limited pro potential but definite Division I prospect; may be more of a role player
4.9 Sleeper; no Rivals.com expert knew much, if anything, about this player; a prospect that only a college coach really knew about
The ranking system ranks prospects on a numerical scale from 6.1-4.9.
Getting the data for this one is really going to be a pain in the toucas, so unless someone really wants a follow-up post, I’m not going to dig into that.
The quality of the “average” Big Ten prospect increased from an average of 2.80 in 2002 to 3.04 in 2012. Since NO ONE who gets a scholarship offer and gets signed before the rankings are done gets a zero star ranking, I derived the 30 percent number above as (1.04-.8). Even without that, the increase from 2.8 to 3.04 is still a nine percent increase. Meaning on average according to the star rankings, the average Big Ten player is 9 to 30 percent better than they were in 2002.
Are kids really even nine percent better than they were in 2002?
In 2004, Rivals reported that there were 3375 recruits between two and five stars. In 2012, that number jumped to 3469 which is a 2.7 percent increase over 2004. So presuming the power conferences like the Big Ten snatched up the higher quality kids that still doesn’t explain a 9 percent increase. As for the stratification of the “quality class”, in 2004 there were 2437 two-star prospects which comprised 72.2 percent of the class size. In 2012, the 1603 comprised a meager 47.5 percent of the total class. No question about it, the two-star Rivals prospect is a dying breed.
So where did they all go?
In 2004, there were 660 3-Star recruits(19.6% of total) and 244 4-Star Recruits(7.2% of total) and 34 5-Star recruits(1% of total). In 2012 there were 1513 3-Star Recruits(43.6% of total) and 320 4-Star Recruits(9.2% of total) and 33 5-Star Recruits(.95% of total). So as you can see the number of three-star prospects enjoyed a 122 percent increase from 2004-2012. The number of four and five-star recruits enjoyed a 24 percent increase over the same period which would seem ridiculous if it weren’t put up next to the three-star numbers. Really all of that increase comes from the four-star prospects, five stars have been holding steady at around 1 percent through the years.
So when should I crow about a kid’s recruiting ranking?
From a human decency standpoint, never. Until they’re on the field and out producing their predecessors, they’re not anymore valuable than any other recruit. However, if you must, do not crow about a two-star kid, they should have been a three. Don’t crow about a three-star kid, they’re the new two stars. Four-star prospects are growing at a semi-manageable rate of 27.8 percent from 2004-2012, (that’s like the rate of inflation right?), but even a 27.8 percent increase over a period of time that only saw a 2.7 percent increase in the number of prospects evaluated is still pacing on an untenable track.
If you get a five-star prospect, crow. That’s cool, rare and the likelihood of them being good is high.
So why Offer Sheets?
Prospects pick up the bulk of their offers in the Summer Camp season which is in June and July. So if you receive a commitment during a prospect's junior year the Offer Sheet as a tool doesn't have much merit yet. If the commitment comes after camp season, typically the offer sheet is a better gauge of quality. Also to be considered is what scheme the competing offers come from, if a four-star LB has offers from Indiana and the MAC I'm less excited about that prospect than say a three-star LB prospect with offers from Iowa and Wisconsin.