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Where the numbers say the Chargers might finish, an ongoing debate

The debate must go on. After I wrote an article saying the Hillsdale College football team being picked 6th in the GLIAC Preseason Coaches’ poll was to be expected and of no concern, and denouncing what I considered to be baseless rants from some Charger Crazies, blogger Andy Losik, made his case. It was based on relevant stats, it made a case for what happened on the field in 2008 and I really respected / appreciated the time he took to give his take: It went like this:

Out of this group, Hillsdale had the best total offense and the second best total defense. They were also best against the run and had the most prolific passing game. We could sit here and pick apart this chart all we want, but to me the thing that stands out is the consistency for Hillsdale. The Chargers are 1 or 2 in six of eight categories and have the best overall rank if you look at the average across all categories.

As far as I can tell, a lot of the rankings seem to stem from last year’s records. I get that. Any football fan or coach or player for that matter knows wins trump stats 7 days a week and after all, each of these teams posted better records than Hillsdale a year ago. Tech beat the Chargers by 3 and Wayne beat Hillsdale by 7 in head to head competition. Hillsdale and Saginaw didn’t play last year and won’t play this year as well. Still, this poll is supposed to predict this season’s finish. Hillsdale gets Tech and Wayne at home, a place where the Blue and White are extremely tough. After such tight finishes last year, I give the advantage to Hillsdale in both of those ballgames this season.

Another thing you have to look at, and probably worked against Hillsdale, is who each program loses. Two of the biggest names in recent Charger history are gone. Tom Korte is in Steelers camp and Aaron Waldie is headed to the CFL next season. Outside of Tech, the other clubs in this conversation also have big holes to fill. SVSU lost their leading rusher in Brandon Emeott. WSU, despite being the darlings of the league a year ago, the Warriors have to replace GLIAC defensive back of the year Dante Dunn. They also lose running back Daryl Graham whose work with Joique Bell made for a potent combo. Gone also is GLIAC Freshman of the Year quarterback Kevin Smith. He’s looking to parlay that accolade into a D1 career and has transferred to Eastern Michigan.

I could go on and on comparing every position group. We could wonder out loud why having premiere D2, not just GLIAC, guys in OT Jared Veldheer and DE Drew Berube isn’t doing more for Hillsdale’s expectations. That’s not going to change anything and in the end it really doesn’t matter

Personally I put Hillsdale in the 3 or 4 slot and right up there with Ashland. This program is top to bottom as good as anyone in the league outside of Grand Valley, and with a little luck the Chargers will make that October 10th Homecoming game one to remember. I guess this is why coaches don’t get to vote for their own teams.

When you break it all down, the bottom line is there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between any of these clubs but it still takes some convincing the other league coaches where they belong. What the Chargers have to do, and head coach Keith Otterbein has stressed this over and over, they have to win the close games and they have to do it consistently. When Hillsdale does that we will likely start to see them moving up in these ranking. The Chargers are hard at work and take the first step toward that goal on August 28th at St. Joe’s. “


Well put, now here’s my reply: Stats are great tools to use for comparison, but I personally don’t care about what any of these teams did against Tiffin last year and I certainly don’t care what Hillsdale’s game against St. Joseph’s last year says about this years team. That said, I went a step further than the previous post and compiled not only stats, but numbers that show who played the best against the best and to what extent.

These statistics come from taking the numbers from the games of only the GLIAC’s top six teams going head-to-head. I was tempted to take Grand Valley out just because they could skew the final numbers with some of the punches they threw to the GLIAC’s proverbial groin, but I figured if programs want to be the best they should be compared to them as well. Similar to Losik averaging the placement of each team in the rankings, I gave points to each spot, 6 for the top team in each category and 1 for the last-place squad. I also added turnover margin against the league’s best and 3rd down conversion rate for and against. Here’s what the calculator and box scores equated to with my formula.

Points for

  1. Grand Valley 40.2 (6); 2. Ashland 37.2 (5); 3. Michigan Tech 27.25 (4); 4. Saginaw Valley 22.75 (3); 5. Hillsdale 17.5 (2); 6. Wayne State 13.75 (1)

Points against

  1. Grand Valley 13.6 (6); 2. Saginaw Valley 26.75 (5); 3. Hillsdale 29.5 (4); 4. Ashland 29.6 (3); 5. Wayne State 31.0 (2); 6. Michigan Tech 44.0 (1)

Yards for

  1. Ashland 478.8 (6); 2. Grand Valley 462.2 (5); 3. Michigan Tech 371.25 (4); 4. Saginaw Valley 358.25 (3); 5. Hillsdale 357.5 (2); 6. Wayne State 313.25 (1)

Yards against

  1. Grand Valley 269.8 (6); 2. Saginaw Valley 362.0 (5); 3. Hillsdale 417.25 (4); 4. Ashland 433.5 (3); 5. Wayne State 439 (2); 6. Michigan Tech 479.5 (1)

Turnover Margin

  1. Saginaw Valley +4 (6); 2. Ashland +3 (5) ; 3. Wayne State +2 (4); 4. Grand Valley +1 (3); 5. Hillsdale -2 (2); 6. Michigan Tech -8 (1)

3rd Down Conversion %

  1. Grand Valley 52.7 (6); 2. Ashland 50.7 (5); 3. Saginaw Valley 43.9 (4); 4. Hillsdale 37.0 (3); 5. Wayne State 33.9 (2); 6. Michigan Tech 30.6 (1)

3rd Down Conversion % Against

  1. Grand Valley 29.4 (1); 2. Michigan Tech 41.5 (2); 3. Saginaw Valley 43.4 (3); 4. Wayne State 46.3 (3); 5. Ashland 47.7 (2); 6. Hillsdale 48.0 (1)


  1. Grand Valley 38
  2. Ashland 29
  3. Saginaw Valley 28
  4. Hillsdale 18
  5. Wayne State 17
  6. Michigan Tech 17

Several observations: After more research and sifting through these numbers as well I agree with Losik on Wayne State. Joique Bell will be one of the most targeted players in the league with his buddy Graham gone and with Smith and Dunn gone there are too many major voids to fill. They might have the guys to do it, but I know the Chargers have enough talent in their returning depth to beat a team that struggled too move the ball sometimes and was susceptible to big plays from opposing team’s running games.

I realize the Chargers come in 4th, not 6th, with my statistical ranking system, but I never said that they were for certain NOT a 6th place team, I just said I thought it was a fair ranking and the coaches shouldn’t be chastised or ripped on. To play devil’s advocate, the scoreboard above would read T-4. Hillsdale, Wayne State, Michigan Tech if Ashland had given up one less field goal against the league’s best teams (check the points against rundown). I realize games are won and lost by inches sometimes and numerical battles follow suit, but if you see them all tied it gives a better visual to the true dogfight that is going on in this league.

I would personally bank on Michigan Tech QB Steve Short having one helluva a senior year because all of his key blockers are back and he had a letdown in 2008, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. During his sophomore season he looked like a Top 3 QB in the league because of his poise and confidence in the pocket, but last year he was coming off a preseason injury and his decision making seemed a little questionable once some of his mobility was removed. I would put money down that says he doesn’t finish his Husky career with a repeat of ’08. It also concerns me that Hillsdale gave up more sacks than any of these top-tier teams, something Tech has no such recent history of struggling with. I cannot wait to see MTU come visit “Muddy” Waters Stadium, because there was real agony in the Dale after the Huskies stole a game that Chargers worked so hard to fight back in. If a few plays or whistle blows went differently the Chargers ride home from Houghton happy mean. This game will determine whether or not the coaches were right in my opinion.

Finally, Saginaw Valley is not who Losik’s numbers say they are. They are a rising team in all of D-II football and they consistently rank right up there with Ashland when it comes to how they performed in the big game. They return a whole bus load of key players and the fact they seemingly got better every week the last half of 2008 should put some fear into the opposition.

Final point: Wins are wins, Tech and Wayne State beat Hillsdale last year and coaches don’t pore over stats whenever they can just call on their memory banks and final results. I still want to see Hillsdale make those key 3rd down conversions in the heat of the battle and I want to see starting QB Troy Weatherhead look like he did at the Spring Game, utilizing weapons all over the place.

I can admit compromise here, with a football purist who loves the game as much as I do, and has the advantage of being an actual GLIAC alum. Although I’ll challenge him to a game of Madden or NCAA any day. The Chargers are not a DEFINITIVE SIXTH, instead they are in a mad scramble to try and prove they are in the conference’s top third. Saginaw Valley is better than we might know and Wayne State fans might need to consult Northern Michigan grads, such as myself, to find coping mechanisms for high hopes that turn into ugly final records.

Meeting adjourned.


About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.


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