The inspiration for my wallpaper this week is a little bit out of left field. Some of you may be aware that Wisconsin once tried to steal the "Mitten State" slogan from Michigan. In the winter of 2011, a Wisconsin tourism campaign used the image of a mitten stretched in the shape of Wisconsin. Some Michiganders were outraged, but most thought it was hilarious.
This is not what a mitten looks like. The "thumb" is an incredibly generous interpretation of what the state actually looks like. I don't want to see the hand that fits in that mitten.
My takeaway from the situation was that Wisconsinites aren't very good at drawing hands. In fact, maybe people from Wisconin just aren't good at drawing in general. So what would it look like if the head coaches from Wisconsin and Michigan were asked to draw their respective mascots? See for yourself below.
Jim Harbaugh: The original rational fanatic
Jim Harbaugh appears crazy to a lot of people. He seems borderline homicidal on the sidelines after a bad call, even stripping in anger. He can look at reporters with the burning hatred of 1,000 suns after they ask (or worse, repeat) a stupid question.
But there is no denying his genius. While he is, through and through, a football fanatic, he is also a brilliant schemer, motivator, and leader.
This column probably won't be weekly, but it's an ode to Jim's brand of simplicity: quick-hitting facts rooted in more data than opinion...because I'm trying to learn to be a rational fanatic myself. This is coming from a guy who thought Brady Hoke was the next great Michigan coach.
- Actually Aggressive. If you've ever seen an introductory press conference for a Defensive Coordinator, then you have heard a man claim his defense is "aggressive." Don Brown actually means it. Through four games, Michigan has recorded 44 TFLs, 17 of which are sacks. Last year's defense recorded 88 TFLs for the season with 32 sacks. So in four games, we are already at 50% of last year's totals. We never had more than 10 TFLs in a game last year; that is the fewest we have recorded in a game this year (and that was against Hawaii!). Michigan is #1 in the country in TFLs, and #2 in TFLs/game (Miami (YTM)), and we are tied for #1 in sacks and sacks/game. Eleven teams had over 100 TFLs last year; Michigan is a pretty sure bet to join that club this season. Only 7 teams recorded 40 or more sacks, another number I expect us to attain.
- Late Bloomer. Through four games last year, Jehu Chesson had recorded seven receptions and zero TDs. Through four games this year, he's got eight catches (and no TDs). There is still time for him to find that All-American form that puncuated last season.
- The Quest for 1,000. De'Veon Smith recorded 331 rushing yards through four games last season, cresting 125 yards twice. He would only break 100 yards once more (bowl game) and totaled 753 yards for the year. This year he only has 259 yards, but he has done that on 30 fewer attempts, averaging nearly two yards more per carry. But as a team, Michigan has 110 more rushing yards than we had last season at this time, averaging over half-a-yard more per carry. While it doesn't look good to have a 1,000 yard rusher this season, expect the team's rushing attack to outpace last year's. Also, no back (other than Smith) broke 275 yards rushing last year; I expect FOUR to do it this year.
- Buckets of Good. Speaking of our rushing attack, I have been impressed with all four RBs and their progress under second-year coach and Michigan legend Ty Wheatley. While there is no superstar this season, both Higdon and Evans look like potential 1,000 yard guys in the future. And, actually, I am really high on Karan Higdon and was pleased to see him get carries early in last week's game. While Isaac is physically gifted, he seems to lack some of the instincts that make RBs great. But all four are good-to-very good, and greatness might show-up next season. My own assessment of the backs (purely as rushers) thus far ranks them like this:
- Better than Best. Last year's national leader in TFLs was Clemson's Shaq Lawson. He finished the season with 25.5, an average of 1.7/game. Jabrill Peppers has already recorded 9.5 TFLs for a 2.4/game average. And this is without recording a TFL against Penn State. FWIW, Michigan has four players in the top 100 nationally in TFLS (Gedeon, McCray, Gary). Going back to 2007 (as far as cfbstats.com goes), no player has recorded over 30 TFLs in a season, which works out to an average of 2.3/game.
- Right and Wrong. Who would have thought Wisconsin would be coming to the Big House with wins over LSU and MSU? Not me. That said, I think Vegas has this line about right: Michigan by 10 is my prediction. I was right about Hawaii, wrong about UCF (thought we'd have an easier time and a shutout there), right about Colorado (expected a tougher-than-expected game), and right about Penn State (thought we'd win easily). While Michigan State will give us a brutally tough game in E.L., I feel confident we head to Columbus undefeated and don't think Iowa will be too much of a challenge.
Recently my new BFF It's Harambe took on the thankless task of asking his fellow MgoBloggers to rank the top 25 Michigan athletes of all time. As the list was revealed it was clear to this reader that some of the most notable players who competed during the athletic stone age (pre-internet) had been forgotten about. This weekly diary will take a look at the more notable players from our past to remind everyone of what they did and why they deserve to be honored and remembered.
On the feeling after throwing a no-hitter
"I think it's more a sigh of relief to know it's over, and I did well. Actually, a lot of times I don't know it's a no-hitter when I finish, until somebody walks up to me. Even then, I was so in the zone at that time that I just wanted to keep throwing. I want keep doing it, see how long I can go before they can hit me. It's exciting, it really is."
While not as underrepresented on the list as baseball & hockey players our women athletes from the past only landed one spot on the top 25. One lady who definitely could make a strong case for inclusion was a softball star from our recent history, Jennie Ritter, who perhaps was forgotten because she was a pitcher – not a hitter – but was clearly one of the most dominant pitchers the sport has ever seen.
Ritter saw limited playing time as a freshman, only getting 7 decisions for a 5-2 record. Debuting on February 15, 2003, Ritter got a no-decision, pitching 5-innings, giving up a run and striking out 9 vs. the San Diego State Aztecs. She made her second appearance in the NCAA Regionals, shutting out Wright State for three innings to collect her last win that season.
In 2004, Ritter earned All-Big Ten honors after posting 24 wins and 269 strikeouts, of which the latter ranked second all-time for the Wolverines. Ritter fired her first career no-hitter on March 12 against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. She was a hit batter away from a perfect game.
Ritter had a golden season as a junior, earning All-Big Ten and National Fastpitch Coaches' Association First Team All-American honors. She was named conference "Pitcher" and "Female Athlete of The Year" to go along with USA Softball Player of The Year and University of Michigan's "Female Athlete of The Year." She threw three no-hitters and a perfect game on April 17, 2005 vs. the Indiana Hoosiers. She also broke and set the school records for wins and innings pitched. Her strikeouts and shutouts still rank top-5 all-time for a Wolverine season. She also won a Big Ten pitching Triple Crown for the best win, strikeout and ERA totals.
Beginning on February 12 - April 19, Ritter went on a career best 22 consecutive game win streak, eventually snapped by the Penn State Nittany Lions on April 22. On May 4, Ritter punched out 16 Western Michigan Broncos in a two-hitter for her career single game regulation best.
Ritter would lead the Wolverines to the No. 1 seed at the Women's College World Series and opened her first and only appearance with a shutout of the DePaul Blue Demons. After escaping elimination, Ritter led the way into the Championship Finals against defending champs, the UCLA Bruins. Ritter toughed out a 10-inning battle in the third game of the finale series to win the National Championship and the distinction of being the first team east of the Mississippi River to accomplish the feat. She also earned All-Tournament Team honors for her 5-1 record and 60 strikeouts in 54-innings (then a new series record).
Ritter's senior season saw her repeat all-season honors: All-Big Ten, First Team All-American and Michigan "Female Athlete of The Year." She threw a no-hitter and broke her own record for strikeouts and strikeout ratio (11.6); her shutouts were also a new record, the strikeouts totals remains tops for a single season. Ritter also posted her best ERA and WHIP to accompany a pair of top-5 records for innings and wins at Michigan, helping to earn her a second conference Triple Crown.
On April 15 in a 1-0 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes, Ritter struck out her 1,000th career batter. In a win over the Michigan State Spartans on May 6, Ritter began a career best 45.2 consecutive scoreless innings streak that was broken on May 21, when she broke the school record for single game strikeouts, whiffing a career best 19 in Regional action against the Oklahoma Sooners. During the streak, Ritter won all 8 games and struck out 76 batters, surrendering only 12 hits and 7 walks.
Ritter would graduate as the all-time Michigan Wolverines record holder in strikeouts, shutouts, WHIP, innings pitched and strikeout ratio. As well she also put up some of the best wins and ERA numbers all-time for the Wolverines. She currently still holds the records for strikeout ratio and shutouts. She is also the strikeout ratio leader for the Big Ten Conference at 10.1 and ranks top-10 in almost every other pitching category. Ritter is also a top-20 strikeout ratio pitcher all-time for a career in the NCAA Division I.
“You know what, there has been so many incredible things happen to me. The reason why it stands out isn’t that we were the No. 1 team in the country and that we won, but that was the first moment in my life where I really felt people say hard work pays off or whatever it may be, when you devote yourself to one thing, it happens. I’m not sure that anybody on that team 100 percent believed. I think we all believed it was possible, but there might have been a lot of shellshock that it actually happened. We just kind of played and we loved to play and it was almost like playing not to end the season as opposed to playing to win a national championship. At least that’s how I felt and that’s what propelled us. To me, if you talk about a defining moment or one thing I’ll always take away, it’s the camaraderie of the team. I’ve never, on USA or anywhere else, I’ve never had that type of camaraderie, that type of connection, that I had on that ’05 team. It’s hard to explain unless you were on that team but it was the pure trust and the understanding of what our goals were. We didn’t have to say it. It was just every single piece of it, every single moment. That’s what I can take away from the World Series, the ‘A-Ha’ moment where you saw how important it was to be a team and have a heart and will to do something together.”
Jeanie Ritter – a true Michigan (Wo)man!
Let's get to know our upcoming opponent the Wisconsin Badgers!
Click on the player's name to bring up their picture. HINT: Set width to 150 when posting the image
Michigan vs. Wisconsin: The History
I did this last week for Penn State and the reception was very positive, so here we are again for the Badgers! Below is a detailed description of the football series between the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin. Please feel free to share any memories of games against Wisconsin and/or your feelings about the upcoming Top Ten showdown this Saturday! Go Blue!
Overall Record: 49-14-1
Big Ten vs. The Badgers:
· Michigan holds the highest all-time winning percentage against Wisconsin at 0.773.
· Ohio State is just behind us at 0.744.
· Michigan State sits in 3rd at 0.566.
· Minnesota still clings to a 1 game edge in that rivalry with a .504 winning percentage (I’d imagine it’ll be 50-50 come November 26th in Madison).
· Wisconsin has winning records against all other Big Ten teams.
Side Note: In terms of all-time records, Wisconsin has to be the most fascinating school in the Big Ten due to how close so many of their all-time series are/how many could change hands in the near future. They are behind Minnesota by 1 game, ahead of Iowa by 1 game, ahead of Penn State by 1 game, and ahead of Illinois by 2 games. They are also only a modest 7 games behind the Spartans.
*NOTE: We have had a lot of long gaps between play with Wisconsin, so normally I’d do this by decade, but some decades will be combined.
· The earliest years (1892-1905): 7 games played, Michigan went 5-2. The two schools had a neutral site, two game series in Chicago in 1899 and 1902; we split those Windy City match ups.
· 1920s: 8 games played, Michigan went 6-1-1. The tie was in Madison in 1921 (the only tie in the entire series) and the Badgers’ one win was in Ann Arbor in 1928, the first time the Badgers ever played in Michigan Stadium. This first win in The Big House snapped an 11 game losing streak (including the tie) to Michigan.
· 1931-1950: 8 games played, Michigan went 7-1. The loss was in A2 in ‘34.
· 1951-1958: Michigan and Wisconsin did not play. So apparently this most recent gap since 2010 hasn’t even been the longest in the series!
· 1959/1960s: 8 games played, Michigan went 5-3. The Badgers’ longest winning streak in series history was three games between 1959 and 1962. The 1960 win was UW’s first win over Michigan in Madison in series history.
· 1970s: 8 games played, Michigan went 8-0. Woof.
· 1980s: 10 games played, Michigan went 9-1. (Badgers won in Madison in 1981, Bo’s only loss to them…see below for details…).
· 1990s: 6 games played, Michigan went 4-2. UW beat Gary Moeller’s Wolverines twice in a row in ’93 and ’94. The Badgers’ 1994 win in Ann Arbor was their first in The Big House in 32 years.
· 2000s (plus 2010): 9 games played, Michigan goes 5-4 (did not play in Michigan’s 2003 and 2004 Big Ten Championship years). Although Michigan’s longest winning streak was 14 games from 1965-1980, I believe the 6 game winning streak from 1997-2002 is the most impressive in this series. The Badgers were at their peak during that time frame with by far their best coach of all time (Alvarez). After the two year hiatus in ’03 and ’04, the Badgers and Wolverines each defended their home turf for half a decade from 2005-2009: the Badgers won in Madison in the odd numbered years, the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in the even ones. Then, UW won easily in The Big House in 2010 to snap the home-field advantage streak (just their second A2 win since 1962) in what remains the most recently played game.
(Modern) Michigan Coaches vs. Wisconsin
· Bo Schembechler: 18-1
· Gary Moeller: 1-2
· Lloyd Carr: 7-2
· Rich Rodriguez: 1-2
· Brady Hoke: did not face Wisconsin
· Jim Harbaugh: TBD!
Note: Barry Alvarez, undoubtedly the most celebrated Badger coach in history, only managed a 3-7 record against the Wolverines. This was his worst record against any Big Ten school (he was 5-7-1 against the Buckeyes). His 6 game losing streak to U of M was also a worst during his time as Head Coach.
Home Field Advantage:
· The early part of the series actually saw a home field disadvantage for the Badgers. Remember, Wisconsin only has 14 total wins in this series over the course of 64 games. Half of their wins (7) came in 1962 or earlier; 6 of these 7 wins were away from home for the Badgers, including their first 5 wins over us.
· Since 1962, however, there has been home-field advantage. 5 of the Badgers’ 7 wins since then have come in the friendly confines of Camp Randall.
· Wisconsin won their most recent game in Ann Arbor (2010); however, they have lost 5 of their last 6 and 17 of their last 19 games in The Big House.
· Michigan has lost 3 in a row in Madison (2009, 2007, 2005); however, we won three in a row in Camp Randall immediately prior to that (2001, 1999, 1997).
Noteworthy Michigan Wins:
· 1998: This mid-November game in Ann Arbor was one of the earliest marquee matchups in this series. #8 Wisconsin entered The Big House undefeated at 9-0 to face #15 Michigan. U of M started its 1998 season with a hangover from the national championship; we began 0-2 after losing on the road to #22 Notre Dame and at home against #19 Syracuse. However, UM won 7 games in a row leading up to the Wisconsin game, including a 27-0 blowout of #9 Penn State the week before, so there was momentum on the side of the lower ranked team. Wisconsin took an early 7-0 lead, but then 111,000+ watched Michigan dominate their top ten opponent by the tune of 27-3 throughout the rest of the game, for a final score of 27-10. Sadly, Michigan would fall in Columbus the following week, allowing Wisconsin to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl (UM, UW and OSU shared the Big Ten title, but the latter two did not play each other that year). Michigan would go on to beat #11 Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl. Wisconsin would defeat #6 UCLA in Pasadena to finish their season 11-1, at the time their best record ever. Yet, their loss in Ann Arbor stung the Badgers as the one blemish on their otherwise perfect season. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKY9rbFfTS8
· 1999: The Big Ten season opener for both teams saw #4 Michigan come into Madison to take on #20 Wisconsin. Wisconsin started the season in the top ten, but was coming off an embarrassing non-conference loss at Cincinnati the week prior to this matchup. The Badgers wanted revenge for 1998; despite winning the Rose Bowl and posting their best record ever (11-1), a lot of Michigan fans claimed Wisconsin was very overrated and not actually good the year before (remember, we blew them out and they didn’t play Ohio State). The Badger faithful wanted to silence this talk. They would not be able to do so. Michigan got off to a fast start and a 14-0 lead. Wisconsin responded with 9 unanswered points (they missed an extra point), to go into halftime down 14-9. Most of the 3rd quarter was a defensive battle, but Tom Brady had a beautiful 27 yard TD pass on 3rd and long to give Michigan a 21-9 lead with just a minute left in the 3rd. The Badgers held UM scoreless in the 4th, but could only muster a single touchdown, not the two they needed. Michigan edged Wisconsin 21-16 to take their third victory in a row and second in a row in Madison. Wisconsin would go on to win the Big Ten outright with a 7-1 conference record and defeat #22 Stanford in the Rose Bowl. This marked the second year in a row that Wisconsin won the Rose Bowl/Big Ten, yet failed to defeat the Wolverines (Michigan finished one game back in the B1G at 6-2 with losses to MSU and Illinois). Wisconsin would finish the season ranked #4, one spot ahead of #5 Michigan after our Orange Bowl win over Alabama. This was ridiculous in the eyes of UM fans due to the fact that we defeated a top five opponent in our bowl while they beat a team that wasn’t even in the top 20. Not to mention, we beat them ourselves on their home turf. The Wolverines wouldn’t forget this slight and would win an additional three games in a row against UW from 2000-2002. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE2KjXGjXKg
· 2006: Like 1999, this was another victory over the Badgers in the Big Ten Season Opener that looked significantly better on our resume at the end of the season than we thought it would at the time. Michigan entered the matchup ranked #6 after slaughtering #2 Notre Dame in South Bend the week prior; the Badgers entered unranked in Bret Bielema’s first season as head coach. Wisconsin jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in Ann Arbor, but Michigan was able to tie the game by halftime. The second half saw Wolverine domination, with UM outscoring UW 17-3 to secure a comfortable 27-13 win. Once again, this would be a season where the only Wisconsin loss all year came against the Wolverines. The Badgers would finish the regular season 11-1 (they did not play Ohio State in 2006). Due to the Buckeyes’ appearance in the BCS Championship Game, Michigan got the nod over Wisconsin for the Rose Bowl given our head-to-head September victory. Wisconsin would go on to beat #12 Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl (ALL OF THE IRONY), while Michigan fell to #8 USC in Pasadena. Wisconsin would finish the season ranked #7, one spot above Michigan at #8, which surely drew some ire from Wolverine fans given our lopsided win against the Badgers themselves. This 12-1 season remains the best season, in terms of record alone, in the entire history of Wisconsin football. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ywv2Ioh2Xz8
Noteworthy Wisconsin Wins:
· 1981: Without a doubt, a top 5 win in the entire history of Badger football. Michigan finished the prior 1980 season with three straight top 20 wins over #16 Purdue, at #5 Ohio State, and over #16 Washington in the Rose Bowl by a combined margin of 58-9 (and the two games before that were 35-0 and 24-0 on-the-road shutouts over Indiana and Wisconsin, meaning Michigan had given up only 9 points in five games). Therefore, Michigan had the voters’ confidence going into 1981 and started the season ranked #1 in the United States. Their season opener was at Camp Randall in Madison. What happened next would shake college football to its core. The unranked Badgers pulled an absolute stunner of an upset in a game they never trailed in; Michigan would lose by a touchdown, 21-14. This was Bo’s first loss in a season opener and his first and only loss to the University of Wisconsin. Has to be one of the most disheartening losses of the entire Schembechler era; Wisconsin had been a Big Ten bottom dweller for years and, while they were slightly better in 1981 than usual, UW still only finished 1981 with a mediocre 7-5 record. With their huge upset, the Badgers snapped a 14 game losing streak to Michigan; it was their first win over the Wolverines in 19 years. This was also only their second victory all time against Michigan in front of their home crowd. From 1965 to 1993, the poor Badgers went 1-23 against Michigan. However, the 1 was a pretty damn big one.
· 1994: This late October matchup saw the unranked 3-3-1 Badgers come to Ann Arbor to face the #10 Wolverines (we held a 5-2 record, with a competitive loss to #3 PSU and of course the Hail Mary catastrophe against #7 Colorado; oddly enough the Badgers also lost to the Buffaloes that year, but they were blown out in Boulder 55-17). In his first appearance in The Big House, Head Coach Alvarez would see his Badgers coast to a relatively comfortable 31-19 victory in what was their first win in Ann Arbor in 32 years. It also was the first time in 34 years the Badgers beat the Wolverines in back to back years. This would be Barry Alvarez’s only win in Ann Arbor in his career (he would lose the next three times he visited). Wisconsin would finish the season 7-4-1 and unranked; Michigan finished #12 at 8-4.
· 2005: #14 Michigan came to Madison in September for its Big Ten opener against the (at the time) unranked Badgers. We would leave heartbroken, much like 1981. A very competitive game ended when the Badgers scored a touchdown on a 4 yard QB run with only 24 seconds remaining in the game to take a 23-20 final lead. This snapped Michigan’s 23 game Big Ten opener winning streak; the last time we had lost a Big Ten opener had been in 1981, also in Madison. The Badgers snapped a 6 game losing streak to Michigan with their first win in 11 years over the Wolverines. This was Lloyd Carr’s first loss to the Badgers in 7 tries; on the other side of the field, Barry Alvarez went out with a win in this series during his final season as head coach. Michigan wound up finishing the season unranked and 7-5, while the Badgers finished ranked #15 with a 10-3 record and a Citrus Bowl upset victory over #7 Auburn.
Let’s get our 50th win over those Badgers this weekend!
GO BLUE, BEAT WISCONSIN!
Note: the methodology for determining the total wins differential distribution has been updated below, after some further discussion with J. that can be found in the comments section. Have a look!
Week 4 Total Wins Update
“Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy.”
- Miss Havisham, from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations
Four weeks now into the season finds us ostensibly at the conclusion of non-conference play, with only one OOC game remaining to be played conference-wide. The statistical sample size has grown 100% since the last diary, and the quality of competition has arguably improved as well, which also spurs the accumulation of more statistics since fewer games are lapsing into garbage time midway through the second quarter. To that extent, the influx of fresh, objective statistics diminishes the influence of the more subjective preseason ratings. Suffice it to say, the ratings at this point are more meaningful than not...
The impetus of this diary is the desire to characterize the competitive landscape of the Big Ten Conference through the synthesis of total win probability distributions for each of the teams. The distributions are derived from the relative expected points ratings from Bill Connelly (S&P+), ESPN (FPI), and occasionally Ed Feng (The Power Rank). The key is that the ratings are mapped into expected points, which can be further translated into win probabilities. Each of these three ratings are generated from their respective advanced statistical analyses, metrics and secret sauces. In doing so, they achieve varied results ... some more pleasing than others depending on your point-of-view.
Anyway, here you will find further ruminations on said statistics into still more statistics as a means for enabling further discussion, jumping to conclusions, flying off of the handle or goading your rival. Also included in this round is another look at the all-important head-to-head win-differential probability distribution for the matchup between a select pair of contenders in the B1G East.
Schedules, Spreads & Win Probabilities
Having reached the conclusion of the non-conference segment of the season, it seems reasonable to make one last pass over the analyses of the overall schedules and sum things up before diving into the conference segment, more of which will be known next week after all teams have played at least one conference game.
B1G East Schedule Rundown
The table of schedules below shows the overall schedules for all seven teams in the B1G East based on the Bill Connelly’s S&P+ weekly ratings. The last table simply shows a rank-ordering of the B1GE teams based on their expected in-conference win totals, it’s not a projection of divisional standings based on projected wins, losses, and tie-breakers.
Still on the heels of its demolition of Boomer Sooner, the Buckeye's can now lay claim to being the only team in B1G East that is favored in all of its remaining games. Without playing a game this past week, OSU has overtaken U-M not only in the S&P+ ratings (in which U-M was #1 last week) but also in total expected wins, edging the Wolverines by less than 0.2 wins. The only game U-M is not a favorite in is in Columbus at the end of November. Both U-M and OSU expect to have nearly 11 wins. What had appeared to be potentially tough road games for OSU - at Wisconsin, Penn State & Michigan State - have now softened considerably into the double-digit/two-score margin realm. In light of Wisconsin’s demolition of MSU, the Spartans’ prospects for B1GE contention have dropped as precipitously as those of the Nittany Lions’. Together PSU & MSU can now be lumped with Indiana and Maryland into a second tier of teams vying for bowl-eligibility with expected totals between 6.2 and 6.7 wins. Of that group, as of now, PSU is an underdog in only two more games; Indiana, three; Michigan State, five; and Maryland, seven. Through the wonder of statistics however, Maryland is at the top of the tier in terms of expected wins, and conversely Penn State is at the bottom. Regardless, six of seven teams in the Big Ten East may well become bowl eligible. This would be something quite significant toward laying claim to the title of most powerful division in all the land.
Here is a link to a similar table of schedule win probabilities based on FPI Ratings.
The FPI results differ to some extent, most notably in that Michigan actually registers the highest expect win total of just under 10.8 wins, edging OSU by 0.2 wins. FPI results show both U-M and OSU with greater than 10 expected wins. As with S&P+, FPI results also show OSU to be favored in all of its remaining games; U-M is an underdog in the one game. The second tier of bowl-contenders in the FPI rundown has three teams: PSU, MSU and Maryland. PSU is an underdog in only two more games; MSU, three; and Maryland, six. Maryland however, leads in expected total with just under 6.6 wins, with PSU and MSU trailing within 0.3 wins of Maryland. Indiana drops off another 1.3 wins and not likely to have a winning season per FPI.
B1G East Expected Overall Wins
The bar plots below show the expected total overall wins distributions for teams in the B1G East, in alphabetical order. Noted above each bar is the probability for that number of wins (you may need to click & embiggen to read it). The bar with the highest value is the most likely outcome (the mode). Also marked on each plot is the expected overall win total (the mean). The last line plot is just an overlay of the same data from the other seven bar plots.
What these new distributions show is that Michigan and Ohio State are tied for the highest modes with 11 wins, with OSU tilting slightly to 12 wins, and Michigan toward 10 wins. The next highest modes are Indiana and Maryland’s 7 wins, followed by PSU and MSU with 6 win modes. Thus far, U-M and OSU are the most significant contenders to win the division by a wide margin. OSU now has the edge for the best chance of having an undefeated season at 27.0% (up from the 2.0% before beating the Sooners) or about 3:1 odds, followed by Michigan with an 18.3% likelihood (9:2 odds). At this point, the overlaid S&P+ distributions have clearly coalesced into the Big Two, the Middle Four, and the Black Sheep... er… Knights.
Here is a link to a similar plot of conference win distributions based on FPI ratings.
The FPI results, contrary to past tendencies, now favor Michigan to slight extent as mentioned above, but not enough to separate modes. Both teams register a mode of 11 wins with both teams tilting to the lower side, with 20.6% chance to win out for Michigan, and 18.3% for Ohio State. From there, a clear separation of 4 wins exists to the next closest contenders, Penn State and Maryland, with modes of 7 wins. MSU claims the fourth place mode of 6 wins.
B1G West Schedule Rundown
The next table of schedules shows the overall schedules for the B1G West based on the Bill Connelly’s S&P+ weekly ratings. Again, the last table simply shows a rank-ordering of the B1GW teams based on their expected win totals - it’s not a projection of divisional conference standings per se.
The results of the S&P+ analyses has the contenders in the B1GW, in order of overall expected wins, being Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. Notwithstanding Iowa’s OOC loss, all four are tightly grouped, within 0.5 wins of each other with less that 0.1 wins separating Wisconsin from Nebraska. No team is favored in all of its remaining games, nor is any team is expected to have a double-digit win total. Nebraska and Wisconsin are underdogs in 2 games apiece, whereas Minnesota and Iowa are underdogs in 3 games, with Nebraska and Iowa a 50/50 pick’em matchup. Iowa is also a 50/50 matchup with Penn State.
Northwestern thus far has managed to re-establish itself as a doormat for the B1GW. Now favored in only 2 remaining games, the Wildcats hopes of a bowl-bid have evaporated, its prospects having dropped to levels not seen since the early 80’s. OK, maybe it’s not that bad - there’s still Illinois and Purdue, whom the Cats are favored to beat. At this point though, Illinois is expected to win more games than Northwestern, but is also favored in only two. Meanwhile, Purdue is favored in none of its games for the remainder of the year, yet through the wonder of statistics is expected to win more games than either Northwestern or Illinois.
Here is a link to a similar table of schedule win probabilities based on FPI ratings.
FPI also expects the same four teams to have winning records. In order of expected wins, they are now Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. Nebraska is the leader per FPI, showing a nearly 0.6 win edge over The Badgers. Iowa is another 1.0 wins back. The Gophers are another 0.8 wins behind the Hawkeyes. No team is favored in all of its games or even expected to have a double-digit win total. Iowa, however, is an underdog in the fewest remaining games: one. Nebraska and Wisconsin are both three-game dogs; and Minnesota, a five-game dog.
The bottom line remains that the B1GW race will be very competitive. The consensus at this point is that Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin are all evenly matched teams within about 0.3 games of each other, with Minnesota lurking in its Gopher hole poised to trip up anyone looking past them.
B1G West Expected Overall Wins
The bar plots below show the expected overall win distributions for the B1G West teams, in alphabetical order.
The story here is how virtually indistinguishable the distributions of Nebraska and Wisconsin are, both with a mode of 9 wins. Minnesota follows closely behind with a mode of 8 wins, and Iowa with a 7 win mode. It appears highly unlikely that any team will have an undefeated season. Wisconsin has the best chance of a one-loss season at 6.4%, followed by Nebraska at 6.1% and Minnesota at 4.8%.
Here is a link to a similar plot of conference win distributions based on FPI ratings.
The FPI results tell a similar story, but with a modest amount of separation between Nebraska, Wisconsin. Both have the same mode of 9 wins, with the Huskers distribution leaning toward 10 wins, and the Badgers leaning toward 8. Iowa - with its OOC loss - is discounted 1 win, but in terms of the B1GW race the Hawkeyes are right there with Wisconsin. Minnesota lags the other three with a mode of 7 wins. The other three do not have promising post-season prospects. With modes ranging from 3 to 5 wins for the group, it’s Purdue that has the best chance of a post-season bid (20%).
Total Wins Differential
It goes without saying that when it comes to Michigan vs. Ohio State, every cotton-pickin’ percentage point counts in the hearts and minds of the MGoBlogosphere. So this next bit of analysis delves further into the statistics by calculating a win-differential distribution from the distributions of both teams. As a quick primer without getting into any equations: when considering the difference between two independent random distributions (meaning the distribution of all games that are not head-to-head), the variance of the difference is simply the sum of the two individual variances (squares of the standard deviations). In a similar sense, the mean of the wins-differential is simply the difference between the expected wins of the two teams. From there, the devil is in the details of apportionment of the resulting distribution according to the probabilities of the head-to-head matchup.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
The win-differential distribution simply shows the likelihood of a team (Michigan) finishing with a conference record that is however many games better or worse than another team (Ohio State). Keeping in mind that in the event of a tie, the winner of the head-to-head match up determines the tiebreaker, the probability of a tie in conference records (i.e. a win differential of zero), as well as the the probabilities of either team having a one-game lead going into the head-to-head (i.e. win differentials of +1 and -1), are then pro-rated in proportion to the win probability of the head-to-head game. So then the total likelihood of Michigan finishing ahead of Ohio State is the sum of all the maize-and-blue shaded bars (i.e. U-M wins however many more games that OSU), plus a proportional split of the -1, 0 and +1-differential bars. It’s worth noting that this total likelihood does not indicate the likelihood of making it to the B1G Championship, as it says nothing about how other teams in the B1G East do, or even how Michigan or Ohio State do in the absolute sense. For example, if both teams were to finish tied in the B1G at 6-3, which means that UM and OSU would be losing 3 games each, other teams are clearly winning those games - and so another team may well be the B1GE representative in Indy. Sort of common sense, but yea.
So, beginning with the results of the S&P+ analysis, the chart below shows that the most likely outcome (37.7% likelihood) is that U-M will finish in a tie with OSU heading into Columbus. Thus, as in days of yore, The Game would decide who plays for the B1G Championship. Looking at the tie-breaker scenario, OSU is favored (mostly due to home-field advantage) with a win probability of 62.2%, so it collects 23.4 points of the 37.7 points for the likelihood of winning coming in tied (finishing ahead one game). U-M collects the remaining 14.3 points.
The second most likely scenario, with a 24.8% likelihood, is that UM comes into Columbus one game ahead of OSU. Of this, OSU collects another 15.4 point share for the likelihood of winning coming in behind by one game (thus finishing in a tie, but OSU winning the tie-breaker).
The next most likely scenario, with a 21.4% likelihood, is that UM comes into Columbus trailing by one game. Of this, UM collects an 8.1 point share for its likelihood of winning (thus finishing in a tie, but UM winning the tie-breaker).
The other outcomes are relatively straightforward in that either team would have already clinched finishing the season ahead of the other team.
Continuing on, here is the same chart based on the FPI ratings following the week 4 results. These results show a much tighter race to the B1GCG between U-M and OSU, with the most likely outcome also being that the teams head into Columbus with the same record. In the head-to-head matchup, OSU’s home field advantage gives them a 56.2% likelihood to win the game. However, the distribution of potential outcomes shows that the race is a statistical dead heat despite the head-to-head advantage for the Buckeyes.
So there you have it. The Big Ten East is as competitive as ever, and Michigan football is poised once again to make a serious run at a Big Ten Championship for the first time since well, last year. The difference of course, is that in comparing last season to the current one, these numbers were not nearly so promising, as many were skeptical of Michigan achieving even 8 wins. Now it's the competition that will be looking to elevate its game to meet Michigan's, and in that way, things are right in world.
Yours in football, and Go Blue!