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Monday, August 1, 2011

"You Looked Fantastic For Five Games Against Nobody"

Part III

Well, this is the final piece of my epic (or just extremely long) analysis of Denard Robinson and his quarterback play. Part I focused on his throwing ability, Part II focused on his ability to score in the red zone, and Part III is an analysis of Denard's success against "good" teams.

Before I get into my analysis of Denard against "good" teams, I'd like to briefly address why I've went into such depth about one player . Though his popularity with the fan base may seem to validate the length of my post, I chose to analyze Denard's performance in such length because he is perhaps the most important player on the current roster. Not only because of his talents and success last season, but because of the key role he plays in the transition from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke.

As we all know, Rodriguez ran a unique spread-based offense while Brady Hoke and Al Borges operate primarily out of west coast schemes (for those of you not familiar with football schemes, imagine going from the English to the Metric system). This means the offense will be going through some big changes before next season and that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Denard Robinson to perform well because of his large role on the team (led the team in yards last season).

So now that there is at least a little understanding of my analysis, let's go right into Part III; Denard's performance against "good" teams. If any of you have been following the off season football news, or lack thereof, you likely noticed a quote from Desmond Howard speaking about Denard's performance and relevance to Michigan's football program. Though his statement was not meant to tear down Denard, but to address issues in the NCAA, I felt that his quote was an accurate representation of much of the public sentiment about Denard's alleged failure against "good" teams.

In order to address these allegations, one first has to determine the content of the allegations. So, who are the "good" teams? As the quotation marks signal, this is always debateable. Technically, you could consider almost any team to be "good" in some aspect, but this is hardly the approach I'd like to use for my analysis. Instead, I'm using a statistic developed that attempts to avoid simple win - loss records or raw yardage stats. Football Outsiders using a stat called FEI, which takes many things into account such as schedule difficulty, field position, special teams play, and other game factors that win - loss records and raw yardage stats don't include. I went through their ranking list of the 2010 season in hopes to determine who were the "good" teams.

I decided that I would call any teams ranked higher than Michigan to be considered "good" under my criteria. Though some may not call Michigan a "good" team last season, they were at least average, so any team above them has to be at least average or above-average. The rankings listed eight teams on Michigan's 2010 schedule that were above Michigan.

2010 Teams Ranked Above Michigan by Football Outsiders:

Ohio State #8
Wisconsin #12
Iowa #21
Notre Dame #23
Mississippi State #27
Illinois #35
Michigan State #39
Connecticut #49

Though these rankings may seem odd since Michigan actually beat three teams above them in the rankings, it is a guideline for how the teams performed over the entire season taking circumstances into account, not on one specific Saturday. For instance, Michigan State was ranked below several teams it defeated on the 2010 schedule as well, but this is because they relied upon a more forgiving schedule, close games, and trick plays to have success in 2010, which takes away from their ranking because their performance was not as convincing.

So now that we have a rough analysis of the "good" teams Michigan faced in 2010, let's look at how Denard fared against these teams. Though Denard had his "ups and downs" against these teams, if you take a full analysis of all eight games, Denard was actually a pretty competent quarterback. Here are the stats:

Denard Robinson Through Eight Games Against "Good" Teams:

62.9% completition percentage
203.25 passing yards per game
1.38 passing touchdowns per game
1 interception per game
124.13 rushing yards per game
.88 rushing touchdowns per game

The first interesting thing is his production as a passer. Though many question his passing abilities, Denard was actually a pretty competent passer (See Part I for a more in-depth analysis of Denard's passing). He is far from perfect, but when you have a positive turnover ratio, make over 60% of your passes and also add significantly as a runner, it seems to be a stretch to claim Denard can do nothing against quality competition.

In fact, if we adjusted these stats using MGoBlog's analysis system (discussed in Part I ; judge passes based on quality, not on completion) Denard may actually have better numbers! For instance, Denard had a 64% completion percentage against Wisconsin, but if one usedMGoBlog's rating system, Denard actually improves to a 71% completion rate, which is a great passing day. Though these stats do nothing to improve Michigan's record, but they should be taken into account if people are wrongly criticizing a player.

So, in conclusion, I've had a great time writing these three posts and I've hoped you all enjoyed them. I think after reading them, most of the mindless rambling about Denard's inability to throw, operate in the red zone, and compete against quality competition can be thrown out the window. Sure, he is a far from perfect player, but there's no use mindlessly driving a very nice guy into the ground because he made some mistakes in a football game. The guy is a class act. I mean, imagine replacing him with a player like Terrell Pryor. I think we got very lucky to have a great guy like Denard.

I can't wait for Denard's next epic season and guess what?

I'll have my shoes untied the entire time,