Miami (NTM), UMass, FIU, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, Wake Forest, Oregon State…Michigan
What do these teams have in common?
These are the 8 teams that have averaged less than 2 yards per carry from their running backs on first down at least 2 different times this season. This is not a good list to be on. Miami (OH) has done it three times and has fired their coach. You know what is different between the fired Don Treadwell and the Michigan offense. When it wasn’t working they stopped doing it. Against Marshall, Central Michigan and Kentucky they averaged between 1 and 1.7 YPC from their running backs on first down. They gave them the ball 14 times total in those three games.
Against Michigan’s two best opponents, Notre Dame and Penn State, Michigan has averaged 1.7 yards per carry from it’s running backs on first down. Michigan has run the ball 35 times on first down. No other team has called more than 26 running back carries in games with under 2 YPA.
What is Michigan getting for their sacrifice?
Michigan is ranked 41st in bonus yards, my measure of big plays. It’s not a bad number but it doesn't indicate a massive advantage. Michigan’s average third down is 7.6 yards. They haven’t had a single game better than 7 yards to go on average for third down. 95 teams average less than 7 yards to go on third down for the season. 95 teams average third down is better than Michigan’s best game average. Michigan hasn’t even been that great at converting third downs once you account for their horrendous third down to go distance (-3%, 108th out 125).
Michigan is getting no discernable advantage from the first down runs.
This has to stop. It’s at the point of absurd. The funny thing is when I initially pulled the numbers, this was Michigan’s second best 1st down day on the ground (a measly 4 and change per attempt) on the season but that was all driven by Devin Gardner.
Obviously he can’t take every carry but the playcalling has to dramatically change. Michigan is among some of the worst overall teams in the country when their running backs run the ball on first down, they are the only teams that keeps doing it.
IF it's not clear at this point that we an offensive coaching staff trying to stuff square pegs in round holes, maybe this will help (again, mgoblog.com)
Any individual play can be blamed on a player. Any structural issue in the first couple years can be attached to the previous coach. But there's a breaking point at which it becomes clear that something is deeply wrong with the guys in charge, and this Penn State game was the offensive equivalent of watching Matt McGloin shred a clueless JT Floyd and company in 2010.
I went back into Michigan's statistics archive, which goes back to 1949, and pulled out the top 200 running back games in that database in terms of carries (the max allowed). The sample ranges from 51 to 23, and here's the bottom of it in YPC:
|Don Moorhead||25||57||2.3||0||1969||Michigan State|
|Anthony Thomas||29||60||2.1||0||8||2000||Ohio State|
|Fitzgerald Toussaint||27||27||1||0||12||2013||Penn State|
We're talking about the worst game from a tailback in the history of the program here, and nothing about it was actually Toussaint's fault. This is Greg Robinson level output. The only faith you can have in the offensive coaching is that two to four times a year they will come out with a gameplan so clueless that you spend four quarters telling yourself that you won't send that BORGERG tweet out. It's time to break the seal.
There are ways to work around the personnel limitations Michigan has, but they are not the ones Michigan wants to run. They want to be a rough and tumble Stanford offense; they spend large chunks of games with one wide receiver and three guys vaguely inclined towards blocking, and they've spent almost a month of precious practice time installing an unbalanced formation that resulted in the above table as soon as an opponent saw it on tape. This has been a miscalculation as bad as believing Russell Bellomy was ready to back up the oft-injured Denard Robinson, with results exactly like the second half of last year's Nebraska game.
This is nothing like what Rodriguez did on offense because there was no offense in which Stephen Threet, Nick Sheridan, seven scholarship OL, and a parade of freshmen at wide receiver would be effective. It is instead exactly like what he did on defense: faithlessly pretend to fit personnel to scheme early, ditch that at the first sign of trouble, shoehorn players into roles they are not fit for, make alarmingly large mid-season changes, and get the minimum possible out of available talent.
Michigan is 117th in tackles for loss allowed, giving up eight per game. No offensive line is bad enough to pave the way for 27 yards on 27 carries, because teams running for one god damn yard an attempt stop doing it.
There are problems up and down the team that I can list if you like. Devin Gardner has Miley Cyrus-level ball security. Taylor Lewan went out. Rich Rodriguez didn't recruit any offensive linemen. Brendan Gibbons should be able to make a 33-yard field goal in the dead center of the field. Yes, all of these things. Granted. At some point, though, you zoom out from the micro issues that can be explained away and you get this:
- Michigan 14, MSU 28: 250 yards of offense
- Michigan 16, Iowa 24: 323 yards of offense, 166 50 minutes into the game when M went into hurry-up shotgun throwing
- Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT): 184 yards of offense
- Michigan 6, ND 13: 299 yards of offense and 5 INTs
- Michigan 9, Nebraska 23: 188 yards of offense and 3 INTs
- Michigan 21, Ohio State 26: 279 yards of offense and 4 TOs
- Michigan 28, UConn 24: 284 yards of offense and 3 TOs
- Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4OT): 389 yards of offense in 19 opportunities, zero OT TDs, 3 TO, worst rushing performance ever by a Michigan tailback
If you are so inclined you can add games against Alabama and MSU last year plus the 2011 Notre Dame game to the pile; I certainly don't think anything about UTL was to Borges's credit.
There have been some brilliant games over the last three years, but we're one upcoming debacle away from having a third straight year in which a quarter of Michigan's games feature offensive performances that are (almost) impossible to win with. Some of those could be explained away by injury or bad luck or a flood of turnovers from the quarterback, except that the offensive coordinator is also the quarterbacks coach.
After his year three at Michigan found high expectations dashed, John Beilein overhauled his program. Now he's coming off a national title game appearance, on the verge of making Michigan into a top-ten program. Unless there's a major turnaround, Brady Hoke's going to have some hard decisions this offseason.
So while Brian goes so far as to call out the firing of Borges, I really don't think its necessary...yet. BUT IF HE CANNOT SEE that what he's doing isn't working, than by all means, someone has to lead the effort to get rid of Borges and bring someone in that understands conventional offense and what can be done with the talent you currently have.