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Friday, October 19, 2007

Pumpkin via Amber Colvin.

The fourth down stufficus. Some protest in the comments and from The Conquering Heroes about the non-condemnation of Les Miles calling Rock x 4 against Kentucky in the third overtime. TCH:
I attempted to make the point on MGoBlog that Brian and many others would have raked Lloyd over the coals had he run on 4 straight downs and not picked up the first down.
It seems odd to defend myself from criticism for a hypothetical criticism I never actually made, but I will make an effort.

First: the effusive praise in this space was for Miles' willingness to go for it time and again against Florida, pulling out a win he may otherwise not have had. Nothing in the Kentucky game changes that. LSU found itself down in the third overtime and had to go for it.

As for rock x 4 -- we'll call it the Super Avalanche -- this is Matt Flynn's line for that game: 17 for 35 for 130 yards. Several of his completions were little swing passes that went for first downs. That's a line worth of Jimmah Clausen. The guy was awful, his receivers weren't much better, and Early Doucet was basically unavailable (he did come in to be a decoy during the Super Avalanche). Meanwhile, LSU was averaging 5.5 YPC when the first rock was called, and that gained six yards. In these circumstances, pounding ahead in an attempt to get the first down is eminently justifiable. Just last Wednesday, the Wannstache got raked over the coals for taking the ball out of Lesean McCoy's hands in overtime and throwing fades with his crappy quarterback despite all evidence indicating he should grind ahead. Given the relative vectors of LSU's ground and air games, it's hard to fault Miles with pounding the ball, even if it didn't work.

This is different from the fervent criticism of Debord leveled in this space because Debord took a look at the #114 pass defense and ran and ran and ran even when it had become clear that Justin Boren and Michigan's third string right guard were totally unable to handle John Gill. The resuls were a 16-7 halftime deficit that Michigan was fortunate wasn't 28-7 and an extremely dangerous situation. The key distinction here: Miles was doing something that made sense. I like it when coaches make goddamn sense.

TCH's post is worth going over, as it contains fourth down go-for-it and conversion numbers for a wide array of coaches. The numbers are interesting, though I don't know how well they actually reflect a coach's aggression. There's a big difference in going for it when you have to, like at the end of the UK-LSU game, and going for it when you have other options, like the Florida game. One point of contention:
Did Miles go for it on fourth more often just because he has brass balls? Not entirely:

LSU’s field goal kickers were 64.3% last year. Their primary kicker was 8 for 13 – a mere 61.5%. On the other hand, Garret Rivas was 16 for 19 -- 84% last year.

----------------------0-19 --20-29---30-39---- 40-49----50+
Garrett Rivas: 16 for 19 84.2------0/0---6/7 ---8/8----2/4 ---0/0
David Colt: 8 for 14 61.5%--------0-0---4-4----1-2----3-6---0-1
Those kicker lines don't scream "vast difference" to me even if Rivas had a much higher percentage. (Also, it's Colt David.) From 40-49 both were 50%. Inside 40 they both missed a single field goal; Rivas had many more attempts.

Also, though the "brass balls" thing has gotten a lot of play here and elsewhere, there is a key point of clarification: each decision to go was statistically and situationally valid. Miles had the balls to do the smart thing. This is different than Weis doing stuff like calling a QB draw with 12 seconds left in the half and no timeouts, which is stupid look-at-me-I'm-a-genius bravado. Mindless aggression is no better than, say, punting from inside the opponent's 40 when a moderate gain salts the game away.*

*(Uh... actually it probably is, but it's still not good.)


Michigan-ND 1994:

Michigan-Purdue 1999:

Cartoon by Joel A. Morgan.

No, not FUPA. Field Position Advantage, or FPA, is a stat being tracked by Brian Fremeau over at Football Outsiders. It's simple: your average starting yard line minus the average opponent starting yard line. Michigan is currently ninth among I-A schools at +7.8; Ohio State is second at +10.4. Not sure how useful this statistic is, since the leader is 4-3 (now 4-4) TCU and Vanderbilt, East Carolina, and Maryland appear in the top ten, but it's an interesting thing to consider. Teams that suck at FPA do tend to be awful, though.

Etc.: Beilein fluff from Rivals; Purdue managers mock Michigan, get what they deserve; OSU is a money machine; UM Tailgate interviews Tyrone Wheatley; Shooting Blue reviews the McGuffie performance from last night.