Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Sep 2010

Never Punt With Denard Robinson

The "Mathlete" at the popular Michigan Wolverines fan site MGoBlog has crunched the numbers and produced a handy guide for Rich Rodriguez' go-for-it decisions for the rest of the season. As long as Denard Robinson is running the show and Michigan's field goal kicking remains suspect, Rodriguez should consider half the field to be four-down territory.

Also of interest is The Mathlete's hypothesis that the strength of a team's defense is irrelevant to its go-for-it decisions:

"Great defenses obviously give up fewer points than bad defenses but the key point is that the difference between a great defense and a bad defense is consistent up and down the field. Giving the opponent a first down at midfield isn’t a guarantee of a touchdown even with a bad defense and isn’t a guarantee that pinning an opponent deep against a great defense will keep the other team off the board. In fact, the gap between the two is about .25 points per first and 10 all the way from the 1 to the 90."

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 21 Sep 2010

4 comments, Last at 27 Sep 2010, 1:34pm by Dean


by bcube1789 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/21/2010 - 1:10pm

It should be "never try a field goal with Denard Robinson and Michigan's horrible kicking game."

If I were Rich Rod, I would go for it from almost any distance between the 35 and the 10. Extra points are ok, but they can't hit a field goal to save their lives.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 09/21/2010 - 6:09pm

no no, it's what Brian put. It's not just field goals: the punting game has been weak, and of course if you watch college football at all you know about the offense.

The idea is similar to what we've seen here before with respect to NFL decision-making: if you have an above-average offense, why do you concede possession so readily? (Mathlete's article is specific to top offenses.) If you have an above-average offense and woeful special teams, why do you concede possession at all?

He does show some situations where it might be better to punt or kick a FG, but honestly, if you've seen Michigan at all this year, it'd be hard to identify many of those situations.

Will RR do it? He talks about going for it more often, and certainly Bowling Green and Indiana might do well to prepare for that, but I don't know that he'll change that much. It's too bad ... the way Robinson is running right now, this might be the best time to try it.

by Willsy :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 9:23am

Good analysis but it has forgotten Robo-Punter and what he could achieve.

Robo-Punter might even be able to turn Notre Dame around.


by Dean :: Mon, 09/27/2010 - 1:34pm

Robo-Punter would have the wisdom and good judgement to never play for Notre Dame.