Gopher TOP dominance means little

formerlybis

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Points per possession (PPP) is a better way of measuring efficiency. Points per minute is a meaningless statistic. If you accept that most games will have roughly an equal number of possessions for both teams (one team could have one more than the other), then if your offensive PPP is greater than the opponent's PPP, you win. The number of possessions really doesn't matter (unless you are betting the over/under), you just need to be more efficient than your opponent. You can argue your margin for error is lower with fewer possessions, but if you're playing against a good offense, giving them more possessions is also a dangerous recipe.
 

btowngopher

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It doesn’t mean a ton as far as wearing down a defense I guess. But it can be effective IF you have a lead and can be pretty demoralizing for the other team psychologically both defensively and offensively.
 

Tork

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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.
Right, there is a big difference between correlated and causal. Winning TOP seems more a symptom of a successful game, and probably not much a cause for it. Saying that teams who win TOP tend to win more games doesn't mean an offense can necessarily plod along, draining the clock, and somehow improve their chances of winning. The end result of a more successful offense is that it tends to stay on the field longer, and a better-performing defense tends to more greatly limit the opponent's time on the field, resulting in the winning team also usually having more TOP.
 

Plato

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The very best way to "win" TOP and also the game is to make first downs and limit the opponents ability to make first downs.
Running the clock down on a three and out possession is harmful if your defense is not up to the task of limiting the opponents ability to make first downs.
If they get ahead you need more time to attempt to score.
This year WI has been blessed with a first rate defense and an improving offense.
In those circumstances "wasting" time before the ball is snapped may be a winning strategy.
 

Replacement Gopher

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The most meaningless stat in sports. Why not look at number of plays, yards, or first downs.

Time of possession means nothing. Who cares if the clock is running or stopped when we have the ball?

But yet this is the first thing out coach looks at.
 


Dakota2

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The most meaningless stat in sports. Why not look at number of plays, yards, or first downs.

Time of possession means nothing. Who cares if the clock is running or stopped when we have the ball?

But yet this is the first thing out coach looks at.
He focuses on it because fundamentally he wants to shorten the game. He seems to believe offensive opportunities are fraught with danger and a risk to be limited by playing a game reduced by 10-12 minutes of dead playclock.

Prevent offense is not smart. It's also unattractive to fans and, certainly, wide receiver recruits.
 

Replacement Gopher

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He focuses on it because fundamentally he wants to shorten the game. He seems to believe offensive opportunities are fraught with danger and a risk to be limited by playing a game reduced by 10-12 minutes of dead playclock.

Prevent offense is not smart. It's also unattractive to fans and, certainly, wide receiver recruits.
Correct.
It is also ridiculous to try to shorten the game if you think your team is better.

Do we wish we had a few more possessions against BG, Illinois, and Iowa?
 

MplsGopher

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Right. TOP itself doesn't do anything. It's a philosophy.

But you have to be efficient in scoring when you get your chances, as was aptly noted already.
 

Dakota2

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Right. TOP itself doesn't do anything. It's a philosophy.

But you have to be efficient in scoring when you get your chances, as was aptly noted already.
Maybe you get more efficient by actually doing it.
 



tjgopher

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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.

Fleck's formula is if a team wins the Turnover, Tackling, and Explosive Play battle, they win 78% of the time. Turnovers and explosive plays are easy to quantify. Not sure how he defines winning the tackling battle (maybe fewest missed tackles?), but that's the third component of his 78% mantra.

Time of possession is not involved in the 78%.
 


hungan1

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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 like ancient battles where elephants are used in combat.

They are only effective with the right compliment of foot soldiers using a coherent stratagem. Otherwise, archers will just mow them down.

The TOP the way the Gophers deploy it by running the clock down is giving the opposing defenses time to catch their breath, put in defensive substitutions, and regroup. TOP has become an end in itself, not winning. That may be the unintended consequence.

They have become unidimensional in that the opponents know what the Gophers are going to do and the good opposing coaches figured out how to counter.

If it is a dynamic TOP like Wisconsin’s, they will keep the pressure constant and wear down the defense.

Illinois was shooting arrows at PJ Fleck’s slow moving elephants all day long eventually killing the offense.

Focusing solely on the TOP may have possibly cost PJ Fleck and the Gophers a shot at the Big Ten West title.
 
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Gold Rush

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In theory, having a coach up in the box calling a last second adjustment is a great idea. He has watched the opponent on film, and he can easily spot the defense they are going to run. If they are cheating more defenders in the box, he can check out and throw or call the play away from an incoming blitz. You can really make someone pay for cheating players out of position.

In the NFL, the QB reads the defense and he can audible out of a bad play at the last second. If you have a newer or young QB, having the extra help in the press box is probably a good thing.

My take is if this is working - great. Stick with it and that coach effectively becomes a "12th man." But a savvy defensive coordinator will let you go through your whole progression (knowing you aren't going to snap it until 5 seconds or less are on the clock) and then come in with the REAL defense after they check into the wrong play. I guess that is what I would do, anyways.

Finally, I think a hurry up offense sets the defense on its heels and gets people out of position far greater than the check back and run the clock down to 5 seconds. The defense can rest a bit and get set. Remember, if they have time -- THEY can adapt too!!!

Again -- if this works for PJ and the Gophers - I am all for it! (I still don't really like it, though!)
 



EG#9

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I agree with a lot of the OP's points on the "fake" TOP edge the Gophers often enjoy. I think it's an entirely valid strategy when up 2 scores in a game, especially in the 2nd half to drain the clock down on every down. However even then you are missing out on opportunities to perhaps get sharper at something by limiting your own reps offensively. The tradeoff would be a risk of losing the lead and/or the risk of injury with more snaps in the game.

My biggest issue is I look at things like "what is repeatable?" and I don't think this overall style is repeatable against better opposition without much better success in certain areas.

Area 1: 3rd and 4th and short. I know I go back to Iowa as an example all the time, but that's simply who I see/hear most of and Ferentz is similarly conservative to PJ. Iowa has a QB sneak that never gets stopped...so much so that Ferentz was willing to put the game on the line from his own 34 (?) yard line on 4th and short against Minnesota despite having the lead and a great defense. They also run most of their plays under center and occasionally use a fullback. They have so many quick hitting plays available to them to pick up this down and distance and keep the change moving and the clock running. At Minnesota, Fleck/Sanford has to use all sorts of gimmicks involving a wildcat QB or an extra olineman or two or direct snaps to running backs to try to pick up these short yardage plays. As we've seen, it's been far from a sure thing and has cost Minnesota againt Bowling Green, Illinois, and Iowa. In general if you can't just blow a Bowling Green or Miami (OH) off the line all day line to the tune of 42 points, you probably don't have the type of ball control/drain the clock running game that is going to lead you to victories over the top of the B1G West.

Area 2: Special teams. To use Iowa as an example (again) a real conservative drive that ends in a 3 and out often still results in bad field position for their opponent because their punter constantly can flip the field. So if you are playing close games, which you are more frequently by draining clock and limiting possessions, those field position battles matter. To stay on special teams, Iowa has a kicker that frequently hits from 50. They can have a less successful drive and come away with 3 points. Minnesota doesn't have that. Someone in this thread mentioned being better at scoring TD's in 2019 and my theory is that year PJ knew he didn't have a kicker. We had a Freshman in Lantz that was supposed to be our kicker who didn't have much of a leg, hurt his back, and left the team after that year. We were really a revolving door at kicker and I think that actually helped our offense to be more aggressive going for TD's because PJ knew the FG was a low percentage play. You could also make a point about yardage lost on returns where Minnesota simply isn't a threat to do anything with a kick or a punt.

I guess my overall point is that the theory of draining the clock and limiting possessions only works if you are good at executing all the little "boring" potential momentum change spots in a football game which has never been the strength of PJ's teams at Minnesota.
 

Six to Eight

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This is like ancient battles where elephants are used in combat.

They are only effective with the right compliment of foot soldiers using a coherent stratagem. Otherwise, archers will just mow them down.
And then you're left with useless elephant corpses.
 

Great Plains Gopher

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TOP takes playing time away from the fans in a market chock with pro teams and many sports alternatives. Fleck is one of the nation's younger coaches and should still be in a position of flexibility, learning and adjustment, rather than that of a 60 yr old set in his ways. Morgan running around like the proverbial chicken without a head is annoying.
 

hungan1

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Against Iowa and Wisconsin, the Gophers are in the 28 % probability of losing zone.

They need(ed) to be creative to catch good defenses.

Ferentz and Chryst know how to contain the Gophers TOP by limiting first downs where it matters. They also limit explosive plays by applying just enough pressure on Tanner Morgan.

The Gophers need to be able to make adjustments early or it will be a long day.
 

FullBanana

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I don't have a problem with this style for most of the game. I wish they would work in some up tempo as a change of pace though.
 

MNVCGUY

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I don't have a problem with this style for most of the game. I wish they would work in some up tempo as a change of pace though.
Honestly felt like they did a better job managing the play clock and tempo against Indiana, especially in the first half while the game was still in doubt. Didn't feel like Morgan was running around quite as much right up to the end of the play clock. Obviously in the second half with the lead they went back to bleeding the clock which makes total sense in that situation.
 




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