March 27, 2012

Borton's Blog: Eye on the O

One of the most dizzying success stories regarding Michigan football over the past several years involves the dramatic change in last year's defense. It's been quantified, dissected and lauded through an upbeat offseason. But what did the Wolverines sacrifice offensively to make those sumo-sized gains on the "D?"

The answer is, not much. Without question, new offensive coordinator Al Borges and all of Michigan's players had to adjust, and there were some rough patches. There were also statistical falloffs, and one number everybody agrees needs to diminish in 2012 - Denard Robinson's 15 interceptions.

The Wolverines had to learn a new system. Borges had to learn what blend of what he wanted to do and what the Wolverines were best at doing could produce the most effective mix.

He sought out spread gurus with whom to consult. He moved Michigan closer to the pro style that it will eventually re-adopt. But he also wasn't so stubborn that he ignored winning games in the here and now for the changes to come.

He's already acknowledged Michigan will be more spread than pro style this season, because it's what Robinson does best. That doesn't mean the power attack gets ignored. It won't be. But Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison, Borges and the rest of the men flipping the switches and pushing the buttons enjoyed every one of Michigan's 11 wins last season.

They'd like that many again, or more.

Anyway, here's a refresher course on the comparisons from 2010's offensive numbers to those in Hoke's first season in the big office. Michigan went from…

• No. 13 in the nation in rushing offense (238.54) to, well, No. 13 in the nation in rushing offense in 2011 (221.85).

• No. 36 in passing offense (250.15) to No. 93 (182.85).

• No. 23 in passing efficiency (145.97) to No. 40 (139.20).

• No. 8 in total offense (488.69) to No. 42 (404.69).

• No. 25 in scoring offense (32.77) to No. 26 (33.31).

• No. 109 in turnover margin (-.77) to No. 25 (.54).

In other words, there was certainly some statistical giveback, in terms of pure numbers. At the same time, crucial elements were nearly a wash or actually improved.

Michigan became significantly better in the all-important turnover category, the combination of taking care of the ball and taking it away advancing dramatically. Another big bottom line involved averaging roughly half-a-point more per game in 2011 than 2010.

That's with a more deliberate offense, one not obsessed over scoring as quickly as possible. Some dismiss the time-of-possession statistic out of hand, but it's indisputable that when the opponent doesn't have the football, it's not scoring.

Borges & Co. not only maintained a better average possession time than the immediate predecessor (31:15 to 27:10) and held opponents to far fewer plays (803, compared to 963 in 2010), it actually averaged more points in the process.

More points, plus dramatically greater points prevention, equals 11-2.

If the turnover margin takes another jump (and No. 16 is acutely aware of the necessity in that area), who knows…

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