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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

MSU FOOTBALL FRONT-BURNER: Turning the Page or Turning the Corner?

Welcome to another addition of FRONT-BURNER

Twitter Bonus:


    1. The median drive length conceded by the MSU defense through 5 games is 7 yards.
    2. This is fake. Like... this isn't a real number, right?

1. What do you see as the key on-field developments from the Iowa game?

SpartanMan82 (See all of his posts here)
Definitely the debut of Delton Williams as a true-freshman true-tailback. Wondering why the long wait, but great to see him in the mix. Good move to switch Bullough to fullback. Both innovations (or revisions) should continue to help the rest of the season.

MSUSpartan76 (Follow him on M-Live)
There were a lot of pluses seen in the Iowa game. Most of them were coming and it was only a matter of time (and patience).
The dropped passes are still there, just not as many.
Cook seemed to have adjusted the scope on his rifle and was hitting the targets better.
The playbook has changed. It is no longer plain vanilla and that was very pleasing to see.
Sadler demonstrated the toughness of the team. He lowered his shoulder and took the hit rather than just step out of bounds.\
Coach Dantonio burned a redshirt and played Delton Williams who was fun to watch.
The designed read options did not work. That does not say they will never work, just that the execution was not there (or the Iowa defense saw something that clued them in).
Bottom line is that the last 3 games, yes including ND, showed the Spartan offense is improving. I believe we are not done seeing better things over the next several games. They have not hit their ceiling.

ATownAndDown (Follow him on M-Live)
The offense coming together has to be the biggest on field development. Iowa came ready for bear against the run and we actually were able to make them pay for that with the passing game. Cook looked more settled. I would still like to see some more with his feet but then again he was throwing the ball well enough that there was no need to create a lot. I thought when they had him role out the Hawkeyes looked a little panicked so I would have liked a bit more of that action. The OLine gave Cook loads of time and the pick up of the blitz on the Kings TD was top notch. And heck the WR's made plays. From Lippett going over top of the defender to Sims getting forgotten about to Kings and Fowler's TD's. Across the board its was good to see.

Going forward I think teams are going to still test to see if we can move the ball through the air but if we play our game then we should be able to get them off balance. Still have some detail things to work out with getting TD's instead of FG's. Also I would still like to see getting away from the cute stuff like the wild cat reverse pass. Finally, I would like to see Shelton more in the offense. That guy has speed to burn and I would like to see what he can do if given the opportunity. He might not be a rout runner yet but I see some playmaker in him.

2. What do you see as the key off-field developments from the Iowa game?

SpartanMan82 (See all of his posts here)
Maybe the debut of Williams. He came to MSU with Damion Terry, and Terry was quoted as being very enthusiastic of Williams getting a chance to play. One of the reasons some gave for playing Terry this year was to keep him here in case he got ants in his pants. With his buddy getting some reps, he may be more invested if was wavering to any degree.

MSUSpartan76 (Follow him on M-Live)
Everyone, coaches and players, showed their maturity in stepping forward from the ND game. There does not appear to be any blame game going on and the team's cohesiveness seems to have improved. Going forward, I expect to see even more innovation in the game play/play calling. This does not mean trick plays in the general sense, but rather well designed plays that include deception and misdirection along with planned sequences that allow one play to set up another.

ATownAndDown (Follow him on M-Live)
Play calling has to get better. Plain a simple. We know that Bollman is the guy who is supposed to put the strategy together and Warner is the guy in game pulling the strings. I think that the the offense came in to both the ND and the Iowa game prepared and had a solid strategy to move the ball. But there were times I was left scratching my head with play calls. Not just the trick plays but with getting away from things that were working or not building off of things that were working.

I remember watching an NFL game once with Brian Billick doing the broadcast for two offensive minded coaches. It was early in the game and he pointed out you could tell that these coaches were running scripted plays because they wanted to see what would work, how the other team played them, who had a mismatch, etc. It was the feedback from those first plays that would dictate how these offenses would call the rest of the game. I don't expect to see Warner anywhere near that level but it would be nice to know that what he is doing early in the game will pay off down the road in someway.

And its not all bad. Against Iowa we ran what appeared to be an speed option play. At the time I just about screamed out loud because it was a horrible play call. Cook is not that mobile, the WR's don't block that well and we don't have a blocking scheme that allows for our linemen to get that far out that fast to block either. But later on in the game, Cook faked the same play only to pull up and throw the ball over top to Fowler for the TD. Clearly someone saw something and put it in their pocket for that play.

The other thing we have seen against both ND and Iowa, the offense has come out of halftime and been able to get things rolling. That tells me that Warner is able to make the necessary adjustments when he has some time to look over a bit of the data. I would like to see that upshift early and on the fly. Whether that means Bollman needs to be be tracking and feeding Warner real time data better or whatever, we need to see some more points earlier. And lets see some redzone strategy so we come away with TD's (I like the potential of that Williams and Bullough backfield down close).

3. Can MSU's defense keep the Indiana offense in check enough to allow the Spartans offense to outscore the Hoosiers?

SpartanMan82 (See all of his posts here)
Most certainly. Any team that throws the ball enough will get some plays, but our defense will eventually get their own as well. The Hoosiers have had their fun, now they can get ready for basketball season.

MSUSpartan76 (Follow him on M-Live)
Can versus will. We can anticipate a lot more rushing versus the Hoosiers, if the media reports are correct. If this happens and the drives are sustained, then the Hoosier offense will spend a great deal of time on the sidelines while Langford and Williams and Hill and Bullough pound the rock and burn the clock. Given the IU propensity for electrifying aerial attacks, allowing Duzzi'sDawgs to catch their breaths will keep Indian in check, at least enough to leave with the win.

The "no fly zone" seems to be more talk than walk so far. Expect IU to throw the ball and make some plays. Hopefully the defensive front wall will get in and cause enough trouble for Sudfeld to neutralize Latimer.

ATownAndDown (Follow him on M-Live)
Indiana's fatal flaw is there offense. Statistically it seems like a strength but I don't see how they can consistently win in the B1G with this style. Indiana is last in the B1G in time of possession and its actually worse this year than it was the two previous years under Wilson. This high tempo offense, while it statistically looks great for the offense, is killing their defense who hasn't been that bad this year but you wouldn't know it (their defense is ranked 7th in the conference in yards per play but dead last in yards per game because of the time they are on the field). The biggest problem for Indiana's offense is going to be not being on the field. MSU is 4th in the nation in time of possession. Indiana's last 3 drives of last year's game took up less than 3 minutes. MSU runs a system that eats up time and is physical. Indiana doesn't have the depth or the horses to keep up. That is less possessions for their offense, more time to lose any rhythm, and a fresher Spartan D they are facing late in the game.

Also, Indiana awoke a sleeping giant in Pat Narduzzi with the first half they had against us last year. Coach Narduzzi already has made the comment this week that, that was not a half of football that you forget about. There is plenty to motivate the boys this week between the nice win last weekend, homecoming festivities, and the 500th game for Spartan Stadium but it seems like Coach Narduzzi is out for blood and wants to prove something because of last year. And I would not be shocked to see the defense take it serious given that most played in that game and with giving up 14 in the first half to Iowa. Narduzzi is already motivated enough but you give him something to give him a little push and a little ammo to use on the guys, it might be a rough Saturday for the Hoosiers. They are going to have to earn every inch.

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  1. Great work contributors! I really like the layered approach - how each of your replies builds on the other even though you don't see each other's replies to the questions.

  2. To answer the Tweeter's question, MSU is ranked No. 1 in total defense with a per play average of 3.28 yards. So a MEDIAN drive length of 7 yards is not unrealistic.

    I went through the play-by-play. MSU defended 72 opponent possessions allowing 1019 yards, 203.8 yd/gm, 3.28 yd/play, with and AVERAGE of 14.15 yards/drive. The difference between MEDIAN and AVERAGE is this. Average is just the yards divided by the number of drives or plays or whatever. Median is the number where half are larger and half are smaller.

    That said, I am not going to go through the play-by-play and list the drive lengths to see if 7 is correct. Given MSU has allowed 61 first downs in 72 drives, it is possible, perhaps likely, that 7 is not correct.

    On an aside, MSU has a 3rd down defense of 17 in 77 (0.221) and a 4th down conversion rate of 2 in 5 (0.400).

  3. The MSU Defense 3rd Down conversion rate is currently ranked #1 in the nation.

  4. I like it and I believe the defense is really good, however Saragin at USA Today rates MSU's strength of schedule at 106 (chUMps at 122). - Still need to reach 8-1 before "the goal" starts coming into focus.

  5. I have collected the drive data and YES, the median opponent drive is 7 yards.


    The median MSU offensive drive is 18 yards.

    MSU defense held opponents to 0 or negative yards 18 times (24.6% of all drives).
    MSU defense held opponents to 1-9 yards 26 times (35.6$ of all drives).
    A correction in my previous post (date transcription error):
    MSU defense held opponets to an AVERAGE of 15.1 yards per drive.

    MSU offense had 30 drives of 9 yards or fewer (41.1% of all drives).
    MSU offensive averaged 24.2 yards per drive.

    1. If one counts the end of half/game kneel downs, the median is 6 yards.

  6. The game data are insufficient for a true statistical analysis and what is available does not fit a normal distribution. Therefore such things as mean, variance, and standard deviation do not apply.

    However, there are a couple of juicy tidbits that can be eked out of the data.

    The median number of plays per drive for opponents is 3. For the MSU offense it is 4.

    The number of "long" drives allowed by the MSU defense (4 plays or more) is 32 and the number of "busts" (3 plays or fewer) is 41 (56.2%)
    The number of "long" drives by the MSU offense is 48 and the number of "busts" is 25 (34.2%).

    The number of "sustained" drives allowed by the MSU defense (10 plays or more) is 3 (4.1%). The number of MSU "sustained" offensive drives is 8 (11%).

    The number of stopped drives by the MSU defense (9 yards or shorter) is 44 (60.3%). The number of MSU stopped offensive drives is 30 (41.1%).

  7. Great data and/or stats from MSU76!! May I suggest that since he has done all of the preliminary work on this statistical dimension, perhaps after the next game, he could create a post (not a comment on a thread) that summarizes these findings in bullet-point format.

    This is real good information, and it may be easier for people to see and distribute as a full post. Either way, great job!


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