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Friday, January 05, 2007

Unfortunately, there was a game and, doubly unfortunate, I guess I have to say something about it. There isn't much to analyze. Michigan lost because its offensive line got its ass handed to it by USC for the second time in four years. The game was a virtual replay of the 2004 game: USC sacks, a killer fluke turnover, a defense hanging in decently well until USC finally connects on a deep ball or four, and a fourteen point final margin.

Various opinions:

Henne did about as well as he could. He has his limitations, but when given time to stand and throw he was just about perfect. This was rarely. I don't know if some of his hestiation was due to coverage or if his routes and progressions just took way too long for the amount of time he was getting, and there was the underthrown fluke interception on a screen pass, but the vast majority of any blame you want to dole out belongs to the offensive line.

We stupidly failed to adjust to the pressure. I know Michigan has experienced games where it couldn't block anyone (see every game last year) and found ways to creak down the field. Here, we were content running the same stretch play that worked only sporadically and making the same seven-step drops that were getting Henne killed by everyone. He didn't even have time to scramble out uselessly and flail. We threw two wide receiver screens, both of them from the same empty formation where we motion out a tight end. USC adjusted to the second predictable playcall. Slants? No. Little hitch things? No. It seems even Michigan's short routes are those Breaston drags that take forever to develop.

The defense did pretty well. Perhaps strange to say that, but the last touchdown was purely cosmetic (and a stupid way to put Michigan in a position to make it a game) and before that USC was given two short fields on pressure-forced turnovers. In a game where Michigan's offense exists, which prevents the short field and reduces the number of USC possessions, the Trojans likely score in the low 20s, which is fine.

Game theory dork. I strongly disagreed with Carroll's decision to go on fourth and two from around the 24 or 22 leading by 13 at the end of the third quarter. A field goal gets you a 16 point lead, a touchdown gives you a 19 or 21 point lead. Relevance:

  • Michigan does not score two touchdowns. Irrelevant, and the most likely outcome.
  • Michigan scores two touchdowns. If you had a 13 point lead, you lost. If you have a 16 point lead Michigan must follow both touchdowns with two-point conversions, then win in overtime. Approximately 45% of two-point conversions are successful; we can peg the chances of winning in OT at 50-50. .45 * .45 *. 5 = .01 = 10%. Getting a field goal turns a USC loss into 90% of a USC win in the event Michigan scores two touchdowns.
  • Michigan scores three times. Here USC loses with a field goal no matter what the Michigan score is. A touchdown makes Michigan score a (third) touchdown of its own.
If you believe that Michigan scoring three times in the fourth quarter is highly improbable, then a field goal gives you 90% of the value of a touchdown there. A decision to go on fourth and two -- no gimme -- when a conversion means you still have to go 20 yards to reap a 10% benefit is incorrect. USC converted by the nose of the ball and kicked a field goal anyway. Michigan ended up scoring two touchdowns, though the second was cosmetic.

Someone should be fired. Evidently, Brent Musberger laid into "the Michigan blogs" sometime late in the game for demanding Carr's firing. I only wish I had the presumption to criticize things I don't read for things they haven't posted. I support Carr. I received emails from Michigan fans calling me a homer after posting "Litmus Lloyd." Earlier in the year I raged against the idea that Carr was "on the hotseat," a suggestion universally put forth by know-nothing Official Journalists who just write whatever the hell they want to about the Michigan fanbase without justification, because, hey, they're Official Journalists.

I think this season-ending tailspin sucks ass and think there are certain problems with the way Carr does things that are not optimal, but you can say that for all coaches, including God amongst us Pete Carroll. (Please see above.) I don't think Carr should be fired and moreover know that the chances he is fired are zero. Zero zero zero. So why bother talking about it? "Should Lloyd Carr be fired?" is as useful a question to ask is "Should Care Bear ninjas be sent to Iraq?" The answer to both these useless questions is "no."

Here is a question of some use. Should Andy Moeller be encouraged to take a job elsewhere? I don't pretend to know a tenth of what I need to know to seriously criticize the job he does as the offensive line coach, but his main qualification for the job appears to be that he's former Michigan linebacker and the son of Bo's right hand man. His bio reveals that he was the offensive line coach at Missouri for a few years, so he's not completely devoid of experience, but he's not exactly Art Kehoe either. Michigan's OL was a revolving door a year ago and in two separate Rose Bowls his lines have been overrun by Trojans.

The answer here is probably "no," too, but Michigan's coming up craps with its offensive line recruits frequently these days. Most years feature at least one "oh God, that guy's starting?" Most disturbing was Matt Lentz's performance as a senior. He regressed, the first time that's happened to a Michigan lineman in a long time.