Wednesday, October 17, 2007

4th Down Coaching Comparison--What Would Kobayashi Do?

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. Personally, I didn't have a problem with the idea of running 4 times. Hell, I've long wondered why Michigan passes as often as it does in short yardage. But when one knows that you have to score the touchdown and you have the luxury of using 4 downs every series, you can afford to run the ball 4 straight downs.. You only need to pick up 2.5 yards per carry. A good running team with a strong o-line ought to be able to pick up 10 yards on 4 runs. So, no, I don't fault Miles for running the ball on 4th and 2. I question why, without his main back, he stacked up the line and ran straight at the defense, but I'm certainly going to give the staff the benefit of the doubt.

4th down stats aren't much without context. And context I lack based on tehe stats I've been able to find. So these "are what they are". How many times did a team go for it on 4th and how many times did they make it. I have tried to focus on close games, where going for it on 4th actually has a consequence. I've defined "close games" as two scores or less, generally.

There is some support for the idea that going for it 4th down is more than a mere flashing of Les Miles brass balls. According to one economist, teams should go for it more often. He concludes that, in the NFL, teams went for it on 4th down only 108 times of the 1100 times they should have. The conclusion is likely even more applicable in college, where the kickers are not as good, and there is a greater disparity among quality than the NFL.

Here is Lloyd's 4th down conversion stats in 2006: Total: 8 for 12 = 66.67%. The breakdown per game shows

Vanderbilt ----------------- W 27-7--------1 for 1
Central Mich -------------- W 41-17 -------1 for 1
Notre Dame ----------------W 47-21 ------ 0 for 0
Wisconsin ------------------W 27-13------- 0 for 1
Minnesota ----------------- W 28-14 -------1 for 1
Michigan St. ----------------W 31-13 ------0 for 1
Penn St. -------------------- W 17-10 ------0 for 0
Iowa ----------------------- W 20-6 ------ 0 for 0
Northwestern---------------W 17-3 ------- 2 for 2
Ball St. ---------------------W 34-26------- 1 for 1
Indiana---------------------W 34-3--------2 for 2
Ohio St.---------------------L 39-42-------0 for 1
Southern California---------L 18-32--------0 for 1

In games decided by two scores or less, Michigan was 4 for 7 in 4th down conversions. That includes the OSU and USC games -- in which I believe we were forced into 4th down attempts because of score and time. My recollection is that both games involved 4th downs where passes on relatively long conversion distances were necessary -- but I could be wrong. You could look at that as 4 of 5 if you were so inclined. Of course, 1 conversion was vs. Ball State, a game in which we never should have had to go for it on 4th down in the first place. In the closest games, Penn State, Ball State and OSU, Michigan was 1 for 2. Michigan's close games were not as close as LSU's, only one being decided by less than a touchdown (OSU) where Michigan was 0 for 1 on 4th down.

Miles/LSU in 2006: 13 of 17 = 76.47%. Per game breakdown:

La.-Lafayette------------W 45-3-------1 for 1
Arizona ------------------W 45-3 ------0 for 0 -
Auburn ------------------ L 3-7--------0 for 2
Tulane -------------------W 49-7-------1 for 1
Mississippi St. Grass------W 48-17------0 for 0 -
Florida--------------------L 10-23 -----1 for 1
Kentucky-----------------W 49-0 ------- for 2
Fresno St. ---------------W 38-6 -------1 1
Tennessee -------------- W 28-24 ------3 for 3
Alabama -----------------W 28-14------ 3 for 3
Mississippi----------------W 23-20------1 for 2
Arkansas------------------W 31-26------0 for 0
Notre Dame ---------------W 41-14------1 for 1

I did not see much of LSU last year, and I don't know when, where, and under what circumstances the went for it on 4th down. Applying the two score analysis above, LSU was 8 for 10. In the closest games, Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas, LSU was 4 for 6. Auburn, Mississippi, and Arkansas were all decided by less than a touchdown.

I cannot remember the specifics of when, or down and distance we went for it on fourth down last year, and havent' been able to find a location where down and distance is included, the score of the game at that point, and the time remaining and field position -- all key components to evaluate the propriety and relative risk/reward of any particular decision. That said, in general, Miles is clearly more apt to go for it on 4th down than Carr

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

Obviously LSU was unpredictable at best from beyond 30 yards (ie. the 13 yard line). (Wow, that is really bad). Michigan was a sure thing on field goals inside of the 26 yard line. It does make sense, then that Miles would and should go for it on 4th down more often with sketchy (at best) field goal kicker. On the other hand, Lloyd would likely go for it on 4th down more often if his kicker made only 50% of his field goals between the 13 and 22 yard line.

It’s probably not surprising, then, the LSU did not attempt many field goals in its close games. Against Auburn LSU lost 7 -3. They tried one field goal between the 13 and 22 yard line, which they made. LSU lost to Florida 23 -10, and tried 2 field goals between the 23 and 32 yard line of which they made one. LSU beat Tennessee 28-24. They made one between the 23 and 32 yard lines and missed one from beyond the 33 yard line. LSU was 3 for 3 on 4th down. LSU beat Alabama 28 -14 and did not try a field goal. The beat Mississippi 23-20 in overtime and made one field goal between the 13 and 22 yard line, and missed one between the 23 and 32 yard line. They were 3 for 3 on 4th down. LSU beat Arkansas 31-26 and tried only one field goal, which it made between the13 and 22 yard lines.

There is an obvious dearth of attempts in close games from the 13 to the 22 yard lines. Perhaps Miles didn’t trust his kicker enough when LSU got that close to kick it? If so, then why kick 6 times beyond the 23 yard line? Without seeing when, where and what the score was, it’s impossible to say why there is such a lack of field goals for LSU between the 13 and 22 yard lines in 2006. Maybe that is just Miles “Go-Zone”??

For comparison sake here are some other coaches of interest: Tedford 2006: 8 of 13 for 61.54% In close games, Cal was 0 for 1:

Cal 18 Tennessee 35-----------1 attempt-------0 conversions
Cal 42 Minnesota 17-----------2 attempt-------2 conversions
Cal 42 Portland St 16----------1 attempt-------0 conversions
Cal 48 Arizona St. 21 ---------1 attempt--------0 conversions
Cal 41 Oregon St 13 ---------- 1 attempt--------1 conversion
Cal 45 Oregon 45-24----------3 attempts-------3 conversions
Cal 21 Wash St 3--------------1 attempt--------1 conversion
Cal 31 Washington 24---------1 attempt-------- 0 conversion
Cal 38 UCLA------------------0 attempt--------0 conversion
Cal 20 Arizona 24-------------0 attempt--------0 conversions
Cal 9 USC 23------------------1 attempt--------0 conversion
Cal 26 Stanford 17-------------0 attempt--------0 conversion
Cal 45 Texas A&M 10----------1 attempt--------1 conversion

Cincinnati with D’antonio: 13 for 6 = 46.15%. In close games, 3 for 7.

Cincinnati in 07 with Kelly through 7 games: Totals 8 for 13 through 7 games: 61.54. In close games:

Cinci 28 Rutgers 23----3 attempts--- 2 conversions
Cinci 24 Louisville 28--1 attempt-----0 conversion

Wow, that a lot of 4th down attempts at this point of the season. I have no idea under what circumstances these were. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Central with Kelly in 2006: Totals 17 attempts 8 conversions 47.06. In close games:

Central 24 Boston College 31--3 attempts----2 conversions
Central 24 Akron 21----------1 attempt-----0 conversions
Central 24 Eastern 17--------1 attempt----=-0 conversions
Central 18 Ball St. 7 ----------2 attempts----1 conv.

Pete Carroll 2006: Totals 28 attempts 20 conversions 71.43

USC 50 Arkansas 14 -------------2 att----------1 conv.
USC 28 Nebraska 10 -------------2 att----------1 conv.
USC 20 Arizona 3-----------------1 att----------0 conv
USC 28 Washington 22 ------------2 att---------2 conv.
USC 26 Washington 20 ----------- 3 att---------3 conv
USC 28 Arizona St. 21 -------------2 att---------2 conv
USC 31 Oregon St 33 --------------2 att---------1 conv
USC 42 Stanford 0 ----------------4 att---------3 conv
USC 35 Oregon 10 -----------------3 att--------2 conv
USC 23 California 9-----------------1 att--------1 conv
USC 44 Notre Dame 24-------------2 att--------2 conv
USC 13 UCLA 13--------------------3 att-------1 conv
USC 32 Michigan 18-----------------1 att--------1 conv

Tressel 2006: Totals 11 attempts 7 conversionsTressel went for it once on 4th down in close games. Tofu beat Illinois 17 -10, and converted 1 of 1 on 4th downs. The only other close game for Tofu was Michigan 42 -39, but no 4th down attempts.

Creyer 2006: 4th down totals: 18 attempts 9 conversions. In close games,

Florida 21 Tennesse 20--------1 att----------1 conv.
Florida 28 Alabama 13---------no attempts
Florida 23 LSU 10-------------3 att----------1 conv.
Florida 17 Auburn 27----------1 att----------0 conv.
Florida 21 Georgia 14----------1 att----------0 conv.
Florida 25 Vanderbilt 19-------0 att
Florida 17 South Carolina 16----2 att----------2 conv
Florida 21 Florida St. 14-------0 att
Florida 38 Arkansas 28---------2 att----------1 conv
Florida 41 Ohio St 14------------3 att----------2 conv

Most of these stats are from A very cool site. Check it out sometime.

While Lloyd could be more aggressive on 4th down he seems to be right in the middle (at least of this small sampling). Carroll and Miles are aggressive. Kelly appears to be aggressive, although it's too early to tell given the short history at Cinci. Tressel is not. I like Kelly's aggressiveness.

So would Ricky Bobby: