Gopher TOP dominance means little

Dakota2

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In Fleck's prevent offense, time of possession is largely meaningless. A team with a balanced offense, running in rhythm, snaps the ball typically with 15 or even 20 seconds left on the play clock. Minnesota almost always runs the clock to two or one second before snapping and occasionally failing even that low threshold and taking time out or a delay penalty.

If we run 50 plays from scrimmage during a game with the play clock running, that would translate to about 750 seconds run off the clock just to waste time. That equals 12:30 of fake TOP.

If a team's TOP is actually inflated by twelve and a half minutes of dead, wasted time is that somehow an advantage? Well, our defense is off the field resting, right? True, but their defense is on the field resting. The defense gets the benefit of being able to substitute, relay defensive signals without rush, and being able to catch its breath. All in all, the advantage of this dead time seems to be with the defense.

Our offense gets to catch its breath, right? Yes, but it affords them opportunity to jump presnap. Not a good thing. And one guy is not resting. Morgan is spending that last 20 seconds jumping around behind the line like a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest. If he's not tired when the ball is snapped he is certainly frazzled and an emotional wreck.

So clearly under Fleck's prevent offense system TOP is a farce and not a meaningful statistic. The real goal of prevent offense is to shorten the game. Fleck doesn't want to play 60 minutes of football. He wants to play 50 minutes or maybe 45 minutes. Why? I have no idea. If he would petition the NCAA rules committee and request a shorter game then perhaps we would be able to read about his reasoning.

TOP is meaningful when it signifies your defense is taking the ball away from the opponent by forcing punts or turnovers. And if your offense uses a balanced attack to get successive first downs to hold the ball and inevitably score, you have true TOP dominance.

Dead time, take-the-air-out-of-the-ball, four corners keep away, and all other forms of fake ball control are phony measurements of TOP. Prevent offense covers it all.
 

Gold Rush

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Good analysis. I do not know of too many people who are in favor of this - in fact I bet most people do not like it at all. A smart defense will change their schemes while all this is going on, faking blitzes from different angles, like Illinois did with great success. I do not think anything is as frustrating as seeing Morgan running all over the place for 20 seconds, then taking a delay of game penalty or timeout because the play wasn't ready. Yes, you also risk linemen from jumping early. The worst is when you see all this when you are playing from behind and time is a factor! This is excruciating!!

Maybe a more accurate way to look at it would be the total number of offensive plays run vs. the time of possession because I agree -- this is meaningless.

It looks confused, more than anything and too many times the net result is a run up the middle for no gain and I say, "What the HELL was that all about?"

I also agree that a hurry up offense confuses the defenses much more and the defensive personnel can really get on their heels. It would be much different if the offense looked at the defense, make an adjustment and then hit a big play because someone was out of position or cheating. But I really do not see that too often - it's usually Morgan running all over the place and then going right into the teeth of the defense for little or no gain. If that's the case -- then just junk it and maybe try something else because you aren't fooling anyone!!!
 

MaxyJR1

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The TOP actually makes our defense look worse IMO.

The Morgan running around and looking to the sideline is a bit annoying. It tells me that our QB's are not being trained to read the defense. The coaches are telling him what to run.
 


spermophilus

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In Fleck's prevent offense, time of possession is largely meaningless. A team with a balanced offense, running in rhythm, snaps the ball typically with 15 or even 20 seconds left on the play clock. Minnesota almost always runs the clock to two or one second before snapping and occasionally failing even that low threshold and taking time out or a delay penalty.

If we run 50 plays from scrimmage during a game with the play clock running, that would translate to about 750 seconds run off the clock just to waste time. That equals 12:30 of fake TOP.

If a team's TOP is actually inflated by twelve and a half minutes of dead, wasted time is that somehow an advantage? Well, our defense is off the field resting, right? True, but their defense is on the field resting. The defense gets the benefit of being able to substitute, relay defensive signals without rush, and being able to catch its breath. All in all, the advantage of this dead time seems to be with the defense.

Our offense gets to catch its breath, right? Yes, but it affords them opportunity to jump presnap. Not a good thing. And one guy is not resting. Morgan is spending that last 20 seconds jumping around behind the line like a one legged man in an ass-kicking contest. If he's not tired when the ball is snapped he is certainly frazzled and an emotional wreck.

So clearly under Fleck's prevent offense system TOP is a farce and not a meaningful statistic. The real goal of prevent offense is to shorten the game. Fleck doesn't want to play 60 minutes of football. He wants to play 50 minutes or maybe 45 minutes. Why? I have no idea. If he would petition the NCAA rules committee and request a shorter game then perhaps we would be able to read about his reasoning.

TOP is meaningful when it signifies your defense is taking the ball away from the opponent by forcing punts or turnovers. And if your offense uses a balanced attack to get successive first downs to hold the ball and inevitably score, you have true TOP dominance.

Dead time, take-the-air-out-of-the-ball, four corners keep away, and all other forms of fake ball control are phony measurements of TOP. Prevent offense covers it all.
This is exactly the strategy that we need given our liability in the passing game. It has worked quite well most of the time this year. This is not a strategy when we fall behind (see BG, and Illinois), of course. Illinois, not Iowa, was the most frustrating game of the year, btw. Note that Sconnie is the same when behind. Are you suggesting, based on what you/we have seen, and our personnel, and their present level of play/confidence/etc., that we run more plays, throw more passes, have less TOP? We are what we are. The design is to not expose our weakness, and maximize our strength. As constructed, 35 to 40 minutes of TOP? Yes, please.
 


Dakota2

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It works if you have a lead, or a narrow deficit against a superior opponent. But I hate it against inferior opponents where more possessions should allow the talent gap to expose itself.
Running down the play clock does have value when you have a two score lead in the 4th quarter. For most of the game every offensive snap should be viewed as a precious opportunity.

Not entirely sure our coach has that mindset. At times it seems he sees an offensive snap as a risk, even a liability.
 

MGGopher

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Fleck often quotes the statistic that winning TOP and the turnover battle equals a win on the scoreboard something like 72% of the time. We've seen many wins with the formula during his tenure, but we've happened to see a couple of the losses. No formula for winning is perfect. Appreciate those who care enough about the program to make posts like the OP, but Fleck isn't going to completely overhaul his approach. He MIGHT (and probably should) tweak parts of it, but I can almost guarantee he'll continue always trying to bleed clock and win TOP.
 

MGGopher

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It works if you have a lead, or a narrow deficit against a superior opponent. But I hate it against inferior opponents where more possessions should allow the talent gap to expose itself.
THIS is an excellent point. Love it and agree.
 

Dakota2

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This is exactly the strategy that we need given our liability in the passing game. It has worked quite well most of the time this year. This is not a strategy when we fall behind (see BG, and Illinois), of course. Illinois, not Iowa, was the most frustrating game of the year, btw. Note that Sconnie is the same when behind. Are you suggesting, based on what you/we have seen, and our personnel, and their present level of play/confidence/etc., that we run more plays, throw more passes, have less TOP? We are what we are. The design is to not expose our weakness, and maximize our strength. As constructed, 35 to 40 minutes of TOP? Yes, please.
You say the strategy worked most of the except for BG, Illinois, and Iowa? Aren't those the three games we're all concerned about and wondering what went wrong.
 



formerlybis

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Fleck often quotes the statistic that winning TOP and the turnover battle equals a win on the scoreboard something like 72% of the time.
Pardon the geekiness here, but winning and these stats are correlated, not causal. You could combine turnovers with any number of other offensive stats (e.g. first downs or yards per play), and probably get a similar result. In other words, turnovers are a more important factor than just about anything.
 

spermophilus

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You say the strategy worked most of the except for BG, Illinois, and Iowa? Aren't those the three games we're all concerned about and wondering what went wrong.
2 actually, and of course, I’m as frustrated about our inability or willingness to adjust when needed, or early enough (Illinois). You made the original blanket post that TOP dominance means little. I do not agree. Generally, it has been to our great favor. Situationally, it has been to our disfavor or not reflective/important.
 

MplsGopher

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Pardon the geekiness here, but winning and these stats are correlated, not causal. You could combine turnovers with any number of other offensive stats (e.g. first downs or yards per play), and probably get a similar result. In other words, turnovers are a more important factor than just about anything.
Correct.

"If you win the turnover battle, and throw the ball for 40+ completions a game, you win 82% of the time".


But it didn't tell the story that Fleck wanted to tell.

Basically, he wants to win like the Patriots won last night. Same thing that Zimmer dreams about. That's the end of the day what it is.
 
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MNVCGUY

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Fleck often quotes the statistic that winning TOP and the turnover battle equals a win on the scoreboard something like 72% of the time. We've seen many wins with the formula during his tenure, but we've happened to see a couple of the losses. No formula for winning is perfect. Appreciate those who care enough about the program to make posts like the OP, but Fleck isn't going to completely overhaul his approach. He MIGHT (and probably should) tweak parts of it, but I can almost guarantee he'll continue always trying to bleed clock and win TOP.
Don't have the formula but know it has 3 parts. Turnovers and explosive plays are 2 of them, TOP might be the third. Winning all 3 puts you in a position to win most games.
 



Dakota2

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2 actually, and of course, I’m as frustrated about our inability or willingness to adjust when needed, or early enough (Illinois). You made the original blanket post that TOP dominance means little. I do not agree. Generally, it has been to our great favor. Situationally, it has been to our disfavor or not reflective/important.
You have mis-understood. I did not say TOP means little. I said fake, inflated, dead time means little. Big difference.
 

MplsGopher

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Don't have the formula but know it has 3 parts. Turnovers and explosive plays are 2 of them, TOP might be the third. Winning all 3 puts you in a position to win most games.
"Winning on turnovers, explosive plays, and completing 40+ completions per game, gets you winning the game 82% of the time."

"Winning on turnovers, explosive plays, and running screens for a 10 yard average, gets you winning the game 83% of the time."

Etc.
 

spermophilus

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You have mis-understood. I did not say TOP means little. I said fake, inflated, dead time means little. Big difference.
But it’s all part of TOP. When you’re employing that strategy, why wouldn’t you snap at 1 or 2 seconds. This is not unique to the Gophers. Every team that has a big TOP number, by definition, will have “fake”, inflated, dead time, therefore.
 

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Don't have the formula but know it has 3 parts. Turnovers and explosive plays are 2 of them, TOP might be the third. Winning all 3 puts you in a position to win most games.
If true, it's not surprising that the explosive plays part of the equation was not promoted by PJ.
 

MaxyJR1

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You have mis-understood. I did not say TOP means little. I said fake, inflated, dead time means little. Big difference.
It's not fake, inflated, dead time because the other team can't score if they don't have the ball. That's why I said the stat actually makes our defense look worse against Iowa. Fleck looks at the Offense scoring 30+ points in 6 games and beating Purdue with this model as the way to do things. However the defense let them down in Iowa and tOSU by giving up too many points. Bowling Green and Illinois beat us at our own game by getting the early lead.
 

MNVCGUY

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It's not fake, inflated, dead time because the other team can't score if they don't have the ball. That's why I said the stat actually makes our defense look worse against Iowa. Fleck looks at the Offense scoring 30+ points in 6 games and beating Purdue with this model as the way to do things. However the defense let them down in Iowa and tOSU by giving up too many points. Bowling Green and Illinois beat us at our own game by getting the early lead.
Yeah, everyone is obsessed with Sanford and the offense but the defense was the bigger issue against Iowa. The D has played really well for the majority of the season and in 2 of our 4 loses the D absolutely did enough for us to win the game (BG & ILL). But against Iowa they allowed some big plays, missed some turnover chances, and failed to stop some third and long situations that all could have really helped us get the victory.
 

MGGopher

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Pardon the geekiness here, but winning and these stats are correlated, not causal. You could combine turnovers with any number of other offensive stats (e.g. first downs or yards per play), and probably get a similar result. In other words, turnovers are a more important factor than just about anything.
No need to apologize about geekiness. We can look at the p significance level of any stat you want lol! If you and Mpls wanna grab another stat with a higher correlation to winning and then start coaching football with that philosophy in mind you're free to do so. Fleck picked these and I think its' unlikely he waivers.
 

Six to Eight

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Agree with OP. Opponents can't score during the dead time, but neither can the Gophers. It's all about shortening the game, limiting scoring and seeing who can play the most disciplined football.

As a strategy, it makes sense at times when you have a strong line and running game versus a terrible passing game. But it's also made the offense more predictable and less dangerous lots of times this season. They've actually had some good drives when they've spread things out and hurried up but Fleck seems to be more about establishing/adhering his philosophy than responding to the current situation he is facing. The second half of the Miami game was a precursor of what was to come this season.
 


The prez sez

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Yeah, everyone is obsessed with Sanford and the offense but the defense was the bigger issue against Iowa. The D has played really well for the majority of the season and in 2 of our 4 loses the D absolutely did enough for us to win the game (BG & ILL). But against Iowa they allowed some big plays, missed some turnover chances, and failed to stop some third and long situations that all could have really helped us get the victory.
We never finished drives against Iowa and that pretty much was the ball game. You have to figure your defense is going to get burned by big plays and that was the other component of the loss. So I like TOP as long as we consistently finish drives.
 

Gold Rush

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Agree with OP. Opponents can't score during the dead time, but neither can the Gophers. It's all about shortening the game, limiting scoring and seeing who can play the most disciplined football.

As a strategy, it makes sense at times when you have a strong line and running game versus a terrible passing game. But it's also made the offense more predictable and less dangerous lots of times this season. They've actually had some good drives when they've spread things out and hurried up but Fleck seems to be more about establishing/adhering his philosophy than responding to the current situation he is facing. The second half of the Miami game was a precursor of what was to come this season.
The best offenses are the aggressive offenses that WANT the ball and create explosive plays. You want the most number of possessions as possible because each one is an opportunity to score. If you score a TD on 50 pct of your possessions, if you get the ball 10 times a game you can score 5 TD's. If you get the ball 6 times, you can score 3 TD's. See how this works with an aggressive offense?? Fleck's more conservative approach to offense will not yield as many points and should protect the ball and not turn it over as much, but you will be disadvantaged if you fall behind. Think -- trailing by 10 with 5 minutes left to go and the team is looking back at the sidelines for the play while the clock is winding down. That's hard to watch!

But -- with all that said, Fleck is the coach and he needs to go with his game planning and if it works I am all for it!! If it doesn't work though he should always be open to a change if needed. Sticking to something that DOESN'T work is just foolish and will lead to a lot of criticism -- and losses.
 

Boomtime

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TOP might be a factor in a September game when it's 90 degrees on the turf. Not so much in November.

At the end of the season, the only thing that counts in W/L.

But for those that still want to argue the talent comparison...
 

MNVCGUY

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We never finished drives against Iowa and that pretty much was the ball game. You have to figure your defense is going to get burned by big plays and that was the other component of the loss. So I like TOP as long as we consistently finish drives.
Agree that you need to finish drives with TD's, especially against good teams. Some credit has to go to Iowa for their redzone defense as well in all that.

I disagree that you have to figure your defense is going to get burned, especially against an Iowa offense that has not been good this year. Purdue and Wisconsin both held them to 7 points.

Plenty of blame to go around when you come up short in a close game. But of the two units, at least against Iowa, the defense was more disappointing. Against BG and Illinois it was the offense by a mile.
 

MNVCGUY

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The best offenses are the aggressive offenses that WANT the ball and create explosive plays. You want the most number of possessions as possible because each one is an opportunity to score. If you score a TD on 50 pct of your possessions, if you get the ball 10 times a game you can score 5 TD's. If you get the ball 6 times, you can score 3 TD's. See how this works with an aggressive offense?? Fleck's more conservative approach to offense will not yield as many points and should protect the ball and not turn it over as much, but you will be disadvantaged if you fall behind. Think -- trailing by 10 with 5 minutes left to go and the team is looking back at the sidelines for the play while the clock is winding down. That's hard to watch!

But -- with all that said, Fleck is the coach and he needs to go with his game planning and if it works I am all for it!! If it doesn't work though he should always be open to a change if needed. Sticking to something that DOESN'T work is just foolish and will lead to a lot of criticism -- and losses.
To your first point, it is less about the number of possessions and more about efficiency. When you lessen the number of opportunities you are going to get it puts a premium on not coming up empty. One thing we were really good at in 2019 was finishing drives. I don't feel like we have been nearly as good at that in 2021 but don't have numbers to back any of that up....just a gut feeling.

One area where the team really has struggled is playing more up tempo when behind. Really feels like this obsessive check with me system has slowed the offense down to a crawl and I don't think that is all Fleck's desire to control TOP. In watching plays from 2019, we were snapping it with quite a bit more time on the play clock. This year it feels like nearly every single offensive snap happens with less than 5 seconds on the play clock. But again, that is all just a feeling from watching the games without anything concrete to back it up.

hint hint....someone go find out the average time left on the play clock at the snap in 2019 vs. 2021.... :)
 

MplsGopher

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To your first point, it is less about the number of possessions and more about efficiency. When you lessen the number of opportunities you are going to get it puts a premium on not coming up empty. One thing we were really good at in 2019 was finishing drives. I don't feel like we have been nearly as good at that in 2021 but don't have numbers to back any of that up....just a gut feeling.
Seems right, and is a very important point.
 

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It's not fake, inflated, dead time because the other team can't score if they don't have the ball. That's why I said the stat actually makes our defense look worse against Iowa. Fleck looks at the Offense scoring 30+ points in 6 games and beating Purdue with this model as the way to do things. However the defense let them down in Iowa and tOSU by giving up too many points. Bowling Green and Illinois beat us at our own game by getting the early lead.
It also makes the offense look worse if you look at points scored as a function of TOP. For example the Gophers scores 0.55 pts/min of TOP while Iowa scored 1.35 pts/min. I agree with the OP on this who laid it out very well. I think the defense can counteract this technique too because they can “test” the offense by lining up a certain way, seeing how that makes the offense adjust, etc.
 

Dakota2

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It also makes the offense look worse if you look at points scored as a function of TOP. For example the Gophers scores 0.55 pts/min of TOP while Iowa scored 1.35 pts/min. I agree with the OP on this who laid it out very well. I think the defense can counteract this technique too because they can “test” the offense by lining up a certain way, seeing how that makes the offense adjust, etc.
Agree. And just don't buy argument that fake, inflated TOP is good because other team's offense can't score when it makes our offense look disorganized and the QB in a state of panic.

A good offense will look at TOP after the game with casual interest. Tressel liked it because it confirmed he was moving the chains and his defense was keeping other offense off the field. He didn't try to manufacture it as an end onto itself.
 




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