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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

SMQB has previewed Michigan. Run, don't walk. His numbers-based defense of Henne...

Michigan fans know now what Henne can do (throw hard) and what he can't (run; throw accurately short-to-medium balls with a high rate of predictability), and if he's not Matt Leinart, or even Brady Quinn, he is at least slightly ahead of John Navarre's pace - 5,800 yards and 48 touchdowns in two years, with a 59 percent completion rate and an improving TD-INT ratio (23-8 in '05, compared to 25-12 as a freshman), should invalidate, or quiet, much of his "Hennebriated" reputation. Though it probably won't.
...doesn't take Michigan's WR screen bonanza into account, but that's nitpicking. SMQB does highlight a particular deficiency of last year's Michigan offense -- long passing -- that is emblematic of the offense's struggles, encompassing the turnstile offensive line, erratic quarterback, and limited WR corps in one ugly number. Which is 15.

IBFC has crunched the 4th quarter numbers and his findings are as terrifying as you might expect:
Up less than ten
1995-1999: 13-1 (93%)
2000-2005: 8-10 (44%)
That's right ... in the last 6 years, we are more likely to lose a game than to win it if we go into the 4th quarter with a small lead.
Why? Vijay says it's the turnovers, stupid:
We have won the turnover battle in the 4th quarter only 3 times. We have lost the turnover battle 10 times.
We have caused 10 turnovers and committed 20 in the 4th quarters of such games.
We have committed at least one 4th quarter turnover in 14 of the 18 games and forced turnovers in 8 of the 18.

Not surprisingly, when we win the turnover battle we are 3-0 and when we lose it we are 3-7.
Michigan, a conservative team that is +32 over the past eight years -- the second-best number in the Big Ten -- somehow turns into Michigan State with a late lead despite getting even more conservative. At least a small part of that is Michigan running bad; in poker parlance they've had a lot of games lately in which they've been sucked out upon. Another part of it is the scaredy-cat zone Michigan usually runs late in games which is not conducive to forcing turnovers or anything except extra points. Bleah. English will make it all better?

(Vijay has also posted the Woodson interception.)

One of the obscurer pleasures of previewing teams like Illinois is chuckling at the wide-eyed optimism of party-organ websites. Sure, sure, Illinois is on the way up. Orange is feared by all far and wide. I would like to tell you about the rabbits. Already mentioned in the preview were the babies, but did you know that Zook and the Illini taped encouraging Christmas messages for US military personnel stationed abroad? The mind boggles. What could Ron Zook and his 2-9 Illini have to say to some guy in Afghanistan? Some theories:
  • "You'll overrun the enemy like six-year olds against our defense."
  • "Remember: failure is an option."
  • "If at first you don't succeed, try a bubble screen."
  • "I just want you to remember what you're fighting for: Illinois football."
  • "Anyone 5'6" or taller is hereby offered a scholarship."
Also, the existence of this cock-rockin' video reaffirms my faith in humanity. Featuring jump-cuts between Illinois highlights -- hey, we got past the line of scrimmage! slap that in the video! -- interspersed with shots of Zook looking fierce like Siberian bear, it's the perfect gift for anyone looking to give Orson Swindle a seizure.

Etc.: Smart Football has followed up the game-theory post with a couple additional ones. I noticed some scoffing at the notion of Texas Tech being "balanced" according to this metric on EDSBS, so I'd like to clarify my position: the balance we're talking about is a proper distribution of run and pass plays to maximize yardage. Given that your team has a particular offense and a particular set of personnel, there's an optimum run-pass ratio that keeps defenses guessing and takes advantage of what you're good at. Tech's doing this.

At Slate, Robert Weintraub defends Dave O'Brien... but does not defend Marcelo Balboa.