Last night's game proved to be one of those times where the MGoBlog open thread for the game became something of a repository for the swearing that occurs when you are enjoying yourself and the pain that you are causing to another team, not so much for the swearing which springs from stress or frustration. There was very little if any of that after the first couple drives.
If anything, the first half of the first page of comments were strewn with "fucks" which were a mix of the stale ESPN commentary and a little complaining about why we didn't just shell them from go.
Actually, I've never shown the blog this breakdown before, but here is the progression of fucks and shits by page. I go with 300 comments per page, so if you're wondering why so few, your settings might be different:
Of the 157 fucks given last night, a third of them basically come within the first 30 minutes of airtime, which represents the first page of comments approximately. As I said, the slow start in the first quarter may have been the only complaint there. The rest of the fucks were funny or positive.
It is important to note that "fuck" was not the most used word among the tracked words this time around - it was "Harbaugh". We were excited that Harbaugh laid a Harbaugh on a team that would dare marginalize the accomplishments of Harbaugh. Indeed, there was some talk about Chris Ash maybe even weeping a little bit at the realization that he gets to experience this Harbaugh for several years now. He may not have really, but it is fun to think of it that way.
174 mentions of Harbaugh, in fact, in 784 total tracked words, which is 23.26% of all the instances. Of course, then you have "fuck" at 157, but then "Peppers" at 112 times too, so we were definitely high on Peppers, and nowhere did anyone mistakenly say "fuck Peppers", because if you had, you wouldn't be here still, of course. Actually, the only word to score above it's average on usage amoung the "original six" of this analysis was "damn", and then only barely, and then only because....well, damn.
So, let's take a look at some overall numbers now - in 1,741 posts, there were 784 tracked instances, which makes for a 2.22 overall efficiency. That's actually the highest yet this season, but the liveblog sometimes steals users from the thread and the blowouts tend to produce smaller threads, so take that into consideration.
On the advanced metrics front, it was very quiet too - the FART rate was 0.748 against a SHART rate of only 0.238, producing a SQUIRT rate of 3.140, which given the historical data is typical of blowouts. THe FAP rate of 1.266 was actually in line with Colorado's FAP rate, but this time we were the only one playing tempo, relatively speaking, given that we ran 72 plays on offense.
There isn't too much else - expect a halfway report next weekend, where we will look at advances stats a little more in detail.
Week 5 Conference Wins Update
“Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy.”
- Miss Havisham (Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations)
Five weeks now into the season finds us comfortably in the thick of in-conference play, with (still) only one OOC game remaining to be played conference-wide. The statistical bases have grown out of the subjectiveness of preseason broad brush characterizations, and are now founded on hard, objective data. At this point and from here on out, the ratings are as meaningful as they are going to be.
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 and metrics. 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
Now that the OOC segment of the season is in the rear view, it’s time to dive into the analyses of the Big Ten Conference segment of the schedule.
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.
After resting up to weather its big tussle with Rutgers, the Buckeyes’ maintain their claim to being the only team in B1G East that is favored in all of its remaining games. OSU clings to its lead over U-M not only in the S&P+ ratings (in which U-M was #1 two weeks ago) but also in total expected wins, still 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 8 B1G wins. What had appeared to be potentially tough road games for OSU - at Wisconsin, Penn State & Michigan State - have continued to soften like so much melting slush, now ranging from a double-digit margin against Wisconsin to three-score margin versus Sparty. In light of Indiana’s defeat of MSU, the Spartans’ prospects for B1GE contention have all but disappeared, and at this point it will be a struggle for Sparty to qualify for bowl eligibility, finding itself an underdog in four of its remaining B1G games. Remaining strong in the bowl-eligibility frame are Indiana, PSU and Maryland, all of show expected winning records in the B1G. Of that group as of now, PSU is an underdog in only two more games; Indiana, three; and Maryland, five. As such, five of seven teams in the Big Ten East may well become bowl eligible.
The FPI results differ slightly, with Michigan closing to within OSU by 0.04 wins - both just shy of 8 B1G wins. As with S&P+, FPI results also show OSU to be favored in all of its remaining games; U-M is an underdog only in The Game. The second tier of bowl-contenders in the FPI rundown has three teams: PSU, Maryland and possibly Indiana. PSU is an underdog in only one more game. Maryland and MSU are each underdogs in four remaining games. That would be sufficient to send Maryland bowling, as well as keep Sparty home. Indiana is an underdog in six games, so that loss to Wake Forest could do the Hoosiers in. Their best chances are to pick off Maryland or Penn State.
Of the 3 fancy-stats sources analyzed here, The Power Rank favors the Buckeyes the most. It estimates better than 8.2 wins for OSU, ahead of UM by nearly 0.8 wins. The 2nd tier of bowl-eligible teams are the same for PR, with Indiana on the bubble. Meanwhile, Sparty may be in for a bit of a competition with Rutgers to see which team finishes in last place in the B1G East. As of now the two are separated by less than 0.2 expected wins at the bottom of the division.
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 flagged 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 this round of distributions shows is that Michigan and Ohio State are tied for the highest modes at 8 wins, with OSU tilting toward and undefeated 9 wins, and Michigan leaning toward 7 wins. The next highest modes are Penn State, Maryland and Indiana, all at 5 Big Ten wins, followed by MSU with 3 and Rutgers with 1-win modes. Clearly, 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 32.3% (up from the 2.0% before beating the Sooners) or about 2:1 odds, followed by Michigan with an 18.8% likelihood (9:2 odds). At this point, the overlaid S&P+ distributions show the groupings of the Big Two and the second tier of bowl-contenders. Lagging behind are Sparty and the Black Sheep... er… Knights. Rutgers is the only team at this point registering any significant likelihood of going winless in the Big Ten at 33.7%.
The FPI results have reverted back to favoring OSU to a slight extent as mentioned above, but not enough to separate modes. Both teams register a mode of 8 wins with OSU tilting slightly toward 9 wins; UM to the lower side. UM registers a 20.1% chance to win out (which is actually less than before playing Wisconsin), whereas OSU chance to go undefeated have increased to 27.6% after an already-certain win over Rutgers. From there, a clear separation of 3 wins exists to the next closest contenders, Penn State and Maryland, with modes of 5 wins, followed by Indy with a 4-win mode. MSU claims the sixth place mode of 3 wins.
The Power Rank results are a bit more disconcerting for M-fans, which show the Buckeyes standing alone atop the B1GE with a mode of an undefeated 9 wins, followed by the Wolverines at 8 wins. What’s more, the UM distribution is skewed to the lower side of 8 wins. As such, OSU has a 43.8% chance to go undefeated, while UM has a 9.5% chance. Beyond that, Maryland holds sole possession of the 3rd place mode of 5 wins, followed by PSU and Indy at 4 wins. MSU seems locked into the 3 win mode, and shows a distribution virtually indistinguishable from that of Rutgers. Woe is Sparty! What will they do when everyone else is benefitting from the extra practices for their hard-earned bowl games? It seems like it would be a good time to take up the practice of omphaloskepsis...
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 S&P+ results have the contenders in the B1GW, in order of overall expected wins, as Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Nebraska and Wisconsin have separated out from the others, and are within 0.3 wins of each other despite Wisconsin’s loss to UM. Minny and Iowa lag behind by about 1 win. No team is favored in all of its remaining games. Wisconsin is an underdog in only one remaining game, whereas Nebraska is an underdog in 2 games. Minnesota is an underdog in 3 remaining games, however, Iowa is an underdog in five, including a near toss-up with Nebraska to end the season, as well as their next matchup with Minnesota in this year’s installment of the battle for Floyd of Rosedale.
With its win over Iowa last week, Northwestern has managed to get a reprieve from resuming its long-lost role as doormat for the Big Ten. But still only favored in 2 remaining games, the Wildcats hopes of a bowl-bid remain ethereal. There’s still Illinois and Purdue, whom the Cats are favored to beat. Likewise, Illinois is favored in only 2 remaining games. Meanwhile, Purdue is favored in none of its games for the remainder of the year, its position as cellar-dweller unthreatened at this point, trailing all others by more than 2 wins.
FPI also expects only Nebraska, Wisconsin and Iowa to have winning B1G records. Nebraska is the leader per FPI, showing a nearly 0.8 win edge over The Badgers. Iowa is another 1.0 wins back. Northwestern has creeped back up ahead of the Gophers - the Cats are now 0.3 wins behind the Hawkeyes. No team is favored in all of its games. Wisconsin, however, is an underdog in the fewest remaining games: one. Nebraska is a two-game dog. Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota are all underdogs in four remaining games.
The Power Rank rundown of expected wins has Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern in order, with the Huskers and Badgers about 0.2 wins apart and ahead of the Hawkeyes and Cats by another 1.2 games. This top four is expecting winning records in the Big Ten. Similar to S&P+, Wisconsin is a one-game underdog and Nebraska, two games. However, Iowa is an underdog in only 3 games per the Power Rank, and it’s Minnesota that is the 5 game underdog.
The bottom line remains that the B1GW race will remain very competitive. The consensus at this point is that Nebraska and Wisconsin are evenly matched teams within about 0.5 games of each other, with Northwestern, Minnesota and Iowa lurking lurking another game or 1.5 back.
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 remain, both with a mode of 6 B1G wins, tilting slightly to the low side. Minnesota and Iowa follow closely behind with modes of 5 wins, and then Northwestern at 4 wins. It appears highly unlikely that any team will have an undefeated season. Nebraska has the best chance of a one-loss season at 6.6%, followed by Wisconsin at 2.8%.
The FPI results tell a similar story, but with a modest amount of separation between Nebraska and Wisconsin. Both have the same mode of 6 wins, with the Huskers distribution leaning toward 7 wins, and the Badgers leaning back toward 5. Iowa, with its loss to Northwestern, drops back to the same tier with the Cats, holding onto a mode of 5 wins leaning toward 4, with the Cats showing a mode of 4 wins leaning toward 5. Meanwhile, Minny is straddling perfectly the 3 and 4 win modes. As such, those five teams are at least hopeful bowl-game qualifiers. The other two do not have promising post-season prospects.
The Power Rank results show more clearly evident stratification in the B1GW. It’s Nebraska and Wisconsin at the top with modes of 6 wins and almost indistinguishable and perfectly balanced distributions. Similarly, Northwestern and Iowa are matched up on 5 win modes that lean toward 4 wins. Minnesota is showing a 3 win mode leaning toward 4 wins, that is on the hairy edge of bowl eligibility.
Michigan vs. Ohio State Wins Differential
The win-differential distribution simply shows the likelihood of one team (Michigan) finishing with a conference record that is some number of 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) is then pro-rated in proportion to the win probability of the head-to-head game. The same principle also applies to the probabilities of either team having a one-game lead going into the head-to-head (i.e. win differentials of +1 and -1). This is because a team trailing by one game would still clinch the tie-breaker by winning the final head-to-head game. Thus, 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 two or more games than 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.
So, beginning with the results of the S&P+ analysis, the chart below shows that the most likely outcome (41.4% 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 with a win probability of 67.2%, so it collects 27.8 points of the 41.4 points for the likelihood of winning coming in tied (and finishing ahead one game). U-M collects the remaining 13.6 points.
The second most likely scenario, with a 25.9% likelihood, is that UM comes into Columbus one game ahead of OSU. Of this, OSU collects another 17.4 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 19.4% likelihood, is that UM comes into Columbus trailing by one game. Of this, UM collects a 6.4 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. In total, OSU has a 62.6% likelihood of finishing the season ahead of UM, or about a 5:3 chance.
Continuing on, here is the same chart based on the FPI ratings following the week 5 results. This shows a somewhat 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 64.8% likelihood to win the game, and so the tie-breaker modes are apportioned accordingly. The sum it up, according to FPI, OSU has a 59% likelihood of finishing ahead of UM in the standings, or about a 3:2 chance.
The Power Rank
Last but not least is The Power Rank, which seems to be more smitten with the Buckeyes’ win over a 2-2 Oklahoma team (PR #8, AP #20) than the Wolverines’ win over a 4-1 Colorado team (PR #43, AP #21). The end result is that OSU is a heavy favorite (78.6% likelihood) to beat UM in Columbus. That’s a 12.3 point margin, folks! As such, despite the most likely outcome being that the teams are tied going into Columbus, UM doesn’t stand much of a chance says the Power Rank. In all, Ohio State has a 77.1% likelihood to finish ahead of Michigan, or about 7:2 odds.
So there you have it. The Big Ten East is as competitive as ever, and Michigan football remains poised to make a serious run at a Big Ten Championship for the first time since well, last year. With the current numbers, it seems like to proverbial puncher’s chance, which means in football parlance, if the underdog can manage to hang around into the fourth quarter, it’s anybody’s game. Until then, 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!
I tired, guys (Barron)
Ugh. Despite the score being only 4-3 (and 3-2, M for most of the game), Michigan's offense was mostly non-existent. My final CORSI count was 69-36. That's a 34% possession rate. Woof. When Michigan was actually able to get a hold of the puck, they were usually trying to fling it down the ice for a clear or attempt to use their speed to create an OMR going the other direction. Obviously, its still early in the season and they're playing with quite a few freshman forwards (5 of the 11 dressed), but its tough to see who is going to generate the offense. Will Lockwood has some potential. He had a 2v1 and eschewed the pass and picked a top corner to give M the lead early in the 2nd. After that, though...there was very little. There was a little flurry in the 2nd where M was able to get into inside the circles, but for most of the game, the few chances they did have came from the perimeter. Alex Kile has some handles and a shot but he's played the best when someone is able to get him the puck. I'm not sure who that will be, at this point. Two of M's goals came on special teams and neither looks super repeatable.
To the eye test, I honestly didn't think the defense was too terrible. There did not seem to be a lot of huge gaffes or awful DZTOs (there might have been a couple). Looking at the shot charts, though...numbers tell a different story. Union was able to get inside the circles and into the slot with relative ease. By my count 45 of their 69 attempts came from inside of the circles/slot. That's...a lot. Michigan did have a number of blocks, but...still. Union also did not return a lot of scoring from last season. We'll see how Union looks in the future, but allowing that many chances from that close is not the start Michigan was looking for to begin their season.
Special teams don't factor into the advanced stats that we're trying to focus on, but Michigan still took eight penalties....including four (five, but one was matching) in the opening period. And they all came in rapid succession. Union was able to scratch a goal back after falling behind 2-0. They also tallied late in the 3rd to tie that game, going 2 for 6, overall. If the Wolverines can't stay out of the box...this will get rough.
On the positive side (there is one?), Michigan managed to score twice on special teams. The first came on a loose puck off of the faceoff that Piazza sniped home from the high slot. The second was Max Shuart chipping a puck clear on a Union 2 man advantage to a streaking Tony Calderone who scored on a the PK as he broke free after exiting the box. Neither of those goals were the result of great puck movement, but more capitalizing on friendly bounces, unfortunately. When they did get the PP set up, they started in the 1-3-1, but never got it fully buzzing the way we were so used to it going last season. In their last two PPs, they generated a couple chances, but nothing too golden.
This might have been the brightest spot for Michigan...and it looks as if they might need it. I thought Nagelvoort played really, really well. There was absolutely nothing he could have done on either of the first two goals or the fourth. The third he may wish to have back, but it would not be filed as 'awful.' Regardless, he made 36 saved and faced many, many attempts from close range. He looked strong around the net, and I thought he controlled his rebounds rather well. His movement in the crease and puck tracking both looked very solid. There really is not a lot more he could have done tonight. When you face that many chances, pucks will go in at some point.
ODD MAN RUSHES
This is something Adam and I started tracking last season when our hottaeks told us that Michigan gave up way too many goals from getting caught out of their defensive zone. Tonight, I only tracked three OMRs. Only one was dangerous -as it came on a M PP. Piazza was back in a 2v1 and somehow got beat by the puck carrier but no goal resulted. Other than that, the other two (a 3v2 and a 2v1) were mitigated by nice defensive work. It seemed these were a huge bugaboo for M last season and resulted in free goals for opponents. Tonight, the goals were more of a result of not being able to clear the zone, tired legs from chasing all night, and the inability to stay out of the box.
FINAL CORSI SCORE
Union 69, Michigan 36
If you're traveling to Piscataway...
If you see sun to start the day, clouds will fill in quickly. Rain showers were already on the western side of PA Friday evening, and so it's not out of the question for them to make it to town by Saturday. It's one of those tailgates where you'll want a tent - and possibly the sweatshirt! Temps to start the day will be in the mid 50s, warming to the low 60s by mid-morning. Winds will be out of the NE around 10mph before they'll start to shift a bit for lunchtime. For midday, we'll have warmed to the upper 60s with an ESE wind at 8mph (just enough for leaves to keep blowing about), and the chance of rain goes up a bit. We keep temps near 70 for the afternoon with cloudy skies and passing showers.
65 degrees to start this late game! Hopefully you grabbed the extra layer leaving the tailgate - and the rain gear. There's a decent chance for rain to start this game, and even if rain has stopped it'll still be cloudy. Winds will be light, if anything out of the east - just enough to feel it on your skin.
Just a couple of degrees cooler by the time we're half finished with the game! Still looking at mainly cloudy conditions, but the rain chance will go down the further we go into those last quarters. Our wind remains light and out of the ENE by now.
Still going to carry that slight chance for a shower into the after-game hours. We'll have mostly cloudy skies and ENE winds still remaining light, but if you'll be out late you'll notice them pick up a bit. If you're planning on celebrating until the lights come on, expect mid 50s, lots of clouds, and the chance for rain as you head home. Winds will also be shifting by then to come straight out of the north around 10mph. Headed home Sunday? You'll see mid 50s in the morning with a breezy N wind at 15mph (small branches will move), and then see more and more sunshine.
If you're staying home... A beautiful fall day in the mitten! We'll begin the day chilly - clouds cleared out overnight, letting temps drop. We start the day in the mid 40s, warming to the mid 50s by lunchtime with beautiful sun. It'll be a little breezy with NW winds around 15mph. Winds stay up most of the day, lightening in the evening. Highs will be around 60, with the temp falling to the low 50s if you're going out to watch the game. With clear skies, temps will fall to the mid 40s by the time you're leaving the watching party. Let's Go Blue!
Christina Burkhart is the morning meteorologist for ABC in Flint, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
here it is!
probably be a little less frequent as the season goes - see you for MSU!
(Guess what? I published a book this offseason. It’s about baseball. The Cubs. The White Sox. And that one time they played each other in the World Series. Check it out. It’s only available via Amazon Kindle right now, but a paperback, print on demand option is in the works)
Week Six has arrived. We’re creeping towards the midpoint of the college football regular season.*Sheds small tear* It’s already been crazy, like all the seasons before it. Louisville, Washington, Houston, and Texas A/M are in the playoff hunt. Oregon, Michigan State, Florida State, and Oklahoma are not. Michigan is back. So is Tennessee, Miami, and Colorado. As for Alabama and Ohio State, well, they are still Alabama and Ohio State. And still the betting favorites to win all the marbles. The Tide and Buckeyes all but sit as betting co-favorites with +300 and +325 odds to win it all. Clemson, last year’s national runner-up, is next in line at +500. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In the B1G, all signs point to an Ohio State-Michigan game for the ages, but there are still seven Saturdays of football to play between now and then. One thing college football has taught us is, if you give it enough time, it will rain plenty of chaos. Where and when is anybody’s guess. So don’t break out those countdown clocks just yet. Well, except for the #RevengeOfHarbaugh one that now reads 22 Days.
But the pecking order is clear. At the top, it’s Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. At the bottom, it’s Illinois, Purdue, and Rutgers. As for 5-12, does anybody know? With the resurgences at Indiana and Maryland and the ongoing soap operas at Michigan St, Penn St, and Iowa, I’m interested in seeing how it shapes up and if any of them can get going in a strong enough direction to threaten the current contenders.
Onto our picks for the B1G and national games of the week.
(Season Record: 13-14-1. Big 10 Games: 6-4-1. The difference between a winning and losing record is a goal line stand by Cal--of all teams--against Utah a week ago. We had the Utes.)
Indiana +30 over Ohio State: Indiana's Defense is good......
Wait. No lightning, fire, or brimstone coming from above? Let me check my feet? Nope. Not frozen. Let's try that again.
Indiana's Defense is good.....
Maybe good is still a streeeeeetttttttch, despite the lack of earth imploding reaction. Let's go with 'excitedly improved' and move on. I have always said the Hoosiers don't need to be good on defense. With their offense and Team Chaos identity, they just need a decent defense, instead of one that's always one of the worst in the country, to develop into a consistent winning, bowl program. So far, so good in that department in 2016. It's just four games in, but some of the statistical improvements need to be shared. That's why we have charts. (Refer to this for success rate explanations.)
|Rush Success Rate||33.3%/17th||44.4%/86th|
|Pass Success Rate||35.5%/28th||42.7%/87th|
|Yards Per Play||5.13/37th||6.38/112th|
|Yards Per Rush||3.72/43rd||5.22/113rd|
|Yards Per Pass||6.6/40th||7.4/81st|
How good are those numbers for Indiana? So good that Kevin Wilson is now coaching like his defense can win games, an unheard of philosophy at Indiana. Urban Meyer says the Hoosiers are the best defense they will have faced so far this year. They’re in the top third nationally in all those categories, a year after being in the bottom third, in some cases the depths of that bottom third, in all of them. What's at play with the better play so far? Here's four quick reasons.
1.) First year defensive coordinator Tom Allen is proving to be one of the more underrated hires of the offseason. His previous experience included three years as linebackers coach at Ole Miss during a time when the Rebels' defense improved and last year as the defensive coordinator at USF, where he had the Bulls in the top third in several AAC defensive categories. His hiring was significant because Indiana usually ends up hiring whatever poor soul--usually somebody whose just been fired from a job--they can convince to run the Hoosier D. Not this go around. They hired one of the game's young, up-and-coming names. The pursuit of Allen was so important that Wilson cashed in an important recruiting day to go to Tampa to woo Allen to IU. As for now, Indiana's defensive unit is playing with a level of confidence that we've haven't seen much of in Bloomington. That's a reflection of their coach.
2.) It's also reflection of their experience. Indiana threw a bunch of freshmen and first year starters to the wolves in 2014. They did the same a year ago. The result in 2016 is a an experienced defense with players who have turned into decent college defenders as their upperclassmen years arrive. Tegray Scales and Marcus Oliver (who were great against MSU) are solid B1G linebackers. Jonathan Crawford and Tony Fields are a solid B1G safety duo. Rashard Fant is a solid B1G cornerback. All five of those players have played since Day 1 of their eligibility.
[Marc Lebryk/USA Sports]
3.) The emergence of Marcelino Ball. Allen plays a 4-2-5 defensive system with that fifth DB playing a more hybrid DB/LB role. A lot of teams do this and, in Indiana's case, they have dubbed the position 'Husky.' The Hoosiers may have discovered a star at Husky in Marcelino Ball, a true freshmen from Georgia. Hyped as a game changer for the defense when the season began, he’s lived up to that billing in the first four games. He's third in the team in tackles, athletic in pass coverage, and, from an eye test standpoint, already looks like a good defensive piece for IU. His defensive stats aren't otherwise gaudy, but he sure seems to be involved in a lot of plays. They've also added another freshman defensive back into the mix in A'Shon Riggins, who broke up a pair of passes against MSU. Those two players added to Crawford, Fields, Fant, and Chase Dutra and all of a sudden the Indiana Hoosiers have a secondary (Back 7, really) that could crack the top-half of the B1G. We've come a long way since the 2013 Michigan-Indiana, Jeremy Gallon Game.
4.) More players from football states. Speaking of that game, here is the breakdown of IU's top-20 defenders that day and season and where they played their high school ball: Indiana, 6; Ohio, 5; Florida, 3; Georgia, 2, Texas, 1; Wisconsin, 1, Illinois, 1; Kentucky, 1. Here's a similar breakdown for the current top-20 defenders on the team: Ohio, 9; Florida, 5, Georgia, 2, Illinois, 2, Indiana, 2, South Carolina, 1; Texas, 1. Which one would you take?
The improved numbers will be put to a serious test this week at Ohio State and next week against Nebraska. They will have more than their hands full just knocking Curtis Samuel off his historic pace. If the numbers above stay in the top half of the national rankings after playing all the weapons the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers have, then the defensive improvements will have a louder ring of authenticity to it, even if the Hoosiers lose both those contests.
The spread in this game is huge. In each of the last two years, the Hoosiers gave the Buckeyes all they can handle, losing by 14 and 7 in games that weren't decided until the fourth quarter. But in both of those games, IU had to rely a lot on Zander Diamont at QB. With Richard Lagow running the show instead, the Hoosiers ought to be able to keep this game also somewhat interesting and cover the spread.
Michigan -28 over Rutgers: This line is about two touchdowns too low. This will be a controlled scrimmage for the Wolverines. The last time we saw Coach Harbaugh tinkering with his controlled scrimmage machine, he had it set at 49-10 with special focus on breaking the quarterback. This week, Dad has it locked into a 40-0 score, mostly so Michigan can work on field goal kicking. Last week, I joked the real bet would be the combined total margin of defeat Rutgers would face against OSU and UM in consecutive weeks. I said it would go over 90. After OSU's 58-0 win a week ago, we're well on our way here. We need some more creative props to make this game interesting:
Rutgers Total Incomplete Passes –3.5 vs. Michigan Total Complete Passes
Rutgers Total Gained Yards Rushing –14.5 vs. Rutgers Total Lost Yards Rushing
Rutgers Total Points –6.5 vs. Michigan’s Sacks
Total Michigan Players Scoring TDs, Over/Under 4.5
Wilton Speight Yards Per Pass –3 vs. Chris Laviano Yards Per Pass
BYU +6 over Michigan State: BYU's season so far: Win over Arizona by 2, Loss to Utah by 1, Loss to UCLA by 3, Loss to West Virginia by 3, Win over Toledo by 2. News Flash: BYU plays a lot of close games. In fact, 18 of their last 31 games have been decided by a touchdown or less. I'll ride that against a reeling MSU team looking less and less Dantonio Vintage each week. They’re calling player only meetings. They can't keep any linebackers healthy. They're allowing 9 yards per pass attempt against FBS teams. The offense is broken. They converted just 8 of 28 third down attempts in their 0-2 B1G start.They've been constantly tinkering with their offensive line. And then there is a QB situation. Tyler O'Connor's honeymoon is over, at least judging by the fanbase's temperament. He has not been good when they've needed him the last two weeks. State's Passing Down Success Rate has tumbled from a year ago. O'Connor hit a bomb to RJ Shelton on State's second drive against the Hoosiers. However, toss that play out and MSU has gained just 130 yards in the air on 30 O'Connor drop backs in passing down situations the last two weeks. Faced with a pair of such downs in overtime against the Hoosiers, they allowed back to back sacks. A year ago, getting the Spartans in a passing situation meant dealing with Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge, an elite collegiate QB-WR battery. This year, so far, where are the threats? In its first four games, BYU held their opponents to below their current season average for total yards. Then Toledo blew up on them last week. But the Rockets offense is excellent and probably better than Michigan State's and most of the B1G. State is not doomed. Never count Dantonio out. But it's looking more like a transition season than a championship one in East Lansing. I expect the Cougars to hit an MSU team that's still licking its wounds with some early points. Maybe the early punch might wakes MSU, but it will be enough at least to keep the Cougs in the game until the very end.
Minnesota +2 over Iowa: In less than one month, Iowa has gone from playoff contender to a team projected to only beat Purdue and Illinois the rest of the way. Ouch. The funny thing is they are still 3-2. You'd think sinking to where only the Boilers and Illini are your projected wins would have a disastrous 1-4-type start anchored to it. What you don't know is most computers have a 'you were outplayed by Rutgers' override that plunges your numbers a few more degrees.
So does having an offense that can’t walk across the street. Over the last three games, Iowa has averaged just 21.8 yards per drive. That covers 35 total drives, 14 of which lasted three plays or less before a punt or a turnover and another six that couldn't exceed five plays before a similar fate. Punting is not winning for Iowa. It's a given. They punted on four of their final five possessions in the North Dakota State loss. They began the Rutgers game with punts on their first three possessions. They had a streak later in that game during the second half of four possessions in a row with punts. Against Northwestern, the Hawks punted on consecutive possessions three different times. They cant protect the passer. Five of their 14 drives against Northwestern ended with a thud on a third down sack, with a sixth ending on an interception forced by a pressure, and seventh ending on a hopeless incompletion with Northwestern's Anthony Walker burying Iowa QB CJ Beathard as he threw it. If not for Desmond King and Riley McCarron's kick returns and a critical Northwestern turnover, Iowa losses to the Wildcats decisively.
Iowa looks like a listless, low energy football team right now. It's always dangerous to make those judgments while watching games on TV, but it looks like they've been sleeping walking since the game against The Bison. I worry about them in a heated rivalry game at a hostile road environment. Remember, they lost 55-7 on this field in 2014. In their two losses, they haven’t been able to run the football, gaining just 2.98 per carry. They're vulnerable against the run, ranking 87th and 66th in yards per game and carry respectively. They're in the bottom third of the conference in those marks. Now they’re on the road against a team that is pretty good at running and stopping the run. Minnesota let one get away a week ago at Penn State, mostly due to a back breaking red zone pick in the fourth quarter and a late scramble by PSU QB Trace McSorley. Back home, they wont let Iowa off the mat.
Maryland -1 over Penn State: These clubs have played a pair of tight, exciting games since the Terps joined the league with Maryland winning 20-19 in 2014 and Penn State returning the favor in a 31-30 game last year. Look for more of the same in a game ripe with local implications. In the end, I like the Terps and their 11th ranked pass defense in yards per attempt to contain the big pass plays of Trace McSorley. And until the Nits show they can stop the run, I will pick against them facing a good running team. The Terps are second in the conference so far in rushing yards per game, yards per carry, and rushing scores. Penn State's defense ranks 103rd in yards per carry against. Each of Maryland's top four rushers averages at least 6.5 yards per pop.
Illinois -10.5 over Purdue.....The loser of this game should have to play Rutgers the afternoon of the B1G Championship Game with relegation to the AAC or MAC on the line. The Boilers actually covered the spread as underdogs in all four of the B1G home games a year ago. Color me not convinced. Illinois hung around with UNC and Nebraska, two good offenses, before both games got out of hand late. That's enough to get them the check here.
Cincinnati -3 over UConn: Remember in 2010 when UConn somehow streaked to the Orange Bowl? Ever since, the Huskies have been one of the worst investments in sports, let alone college football. They're just 20-43-3 ATS since that season. Cincinnati does not scream reliability either, but they've been 13-9 ATS as road chalk the last four years, including 7-2 when laying only single digits. Earlier in the year, they won at Purdue 38-20 as 3-point favorites. Today's bar is not harder. Expect a similar score.
Colorado +5 over USC: We're all on the Colorado Bandwagon already. They’ve been taking care of business. This week, we're finally investing in it. I know, it's probably a sure fire way to careen this thing off the tracks. However, we have USC in a situation that's traditionally been a good spot to bet against them. USC rolled Arizona State a week ago. But ever since the Pete Carroll Dynasty began to wane, the Trojans have trouble handling success. They are only 8-25 ATS the week after a win. How about another 'cant handle success' stat: Since the beginning of the 2008 season, they're just 13-23 ATS the week after covering as a favorite, including a mere 4-15 ATS if they're conference chalk in the week after game. I like Colorado’s big play ability against a Trojan team that’s been vulnerable to that so far this year. The Buffs have been fast starters this year. They get off to another one, allowing them at least cover this number in the end.
Texas +11 over Oklahoma: It's Red River Shootout Weekend. And Texas showed up in the same outfit again. For the fourth year in a row, the Horns come into the game led by a beleaguered coach as double digit underdogs to their biggest rival. But the Horns circled the wagons to win two of those three games and cover the spread in all of them. The Texas defensive issues are real. But the Sooners are not great shakes on defense either. They have allowed 33, 45, and 46 points to the three Power-5 teams it's played, allowing over 6.0 yards per play to each. Texas is averaging 6.6 yards per play against Power-5 teams this year. Offensively, the Horns are 19th in overall success rate, 7th in standard down success rate, and are one the fastest starting teams in the nation. They've averaged almost 25 points per half this year. Oklahoma allowed 26.3 first half points to Houston, Ohio State, and TCU. Obviously, I could come up with a string a numbers showing how good Oklahoma's offense will be in this matchup. I am not ignoring those. However, I am always a sucker for big underdogs who I think can score all day on the team whose favored. And that's what we have here. Besides, Oklahoma is just 6-8 ATS as double digit chalk, but four of those covers came at the expense of lowly Kansas and Iowa State. Do those event count? Both teams land in the 30s in an exciting one possession game.
Tennessee +7 over Texas A/M: Don’t we all just feel more comfortable with the Vols when they’re an underdog? I know I do. They’ve covered five of their last six games when catching points during this Butch Kelly Renaissance. They’ve also covered six of their last eight SEC games overall. Speaking of comfort levels, we feel the same way when we see the Aggies laying chalk. Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies are just 4-10-1 when laying points in SEC play and are just 8-18 ATS overall in conference games. There’s an element of Rich Rod’s Michigan floating around the A/M program too. This is the third year in a row they’ve started the year off 5-0. But they followed those starts up the last two seasons with a combined 6-10 SU, 3-13 ATS record, including 1-6 ATS as a favorite.
North Carolina -2.5 over Virginia Tech: It's North Carolina and their 7th best offensive success rate against Virginia Tech and their 4th best defensive success rate in a key ACC Coastal Division swing game. Per PFF, it's a match between their 2nd best pass offense and 2nd best pass defense. I am siding with the offense in this game. I can't shake Virginia Tech's one game this year against a decent team, a 45-28 loss to Tennessee. The Vols' offense controlled long stretches of the game with a 51% success rate on standard downs and gaining 5.18 yards per play, a full yard more than Tech's current season average on defense. The Hokies hung around because of their dominance on passing downs. That will not happen here. UNC QB Mitch Trubisky and his deep, talented band of targets will be too much. North Carolina has been the play in ACC play for awhile now. They're 14-3 SU, 11-6 ATS in conference games, including wins in seven of their eight home games in that run. I'll back them as small chalk.
Washington -2/Stanford E (Teaser. Here's what a teaser isj): Is Oregon's dynasty over? They're on a 3-game losing streak and headed towards their worst season in years. Let's check in on Brady Hoke's defense, shall we? The Ducks are 118th in defensive success rate, 109th in points per game, and 125th in plays or 10 or more yards allowed. In their 0-2 start to Pac-12 play, they allowed 6.87 and 7.16 yards per play to Colorado and Washington State and allowed a better than 50% offensive success rate in seven of eight quarters. They've allowed scores on 15 of their last 23 drives, including 12 touchdowns. I am so disappointed there is not an Arizona-Oregon on the schedule this year. Thanks for nothing, Pac-12. The Ducks might still be ranked 23rd in the S&P, but they've playing one of the most balanced teams in the country this week. And their defense can't stop anybody. Washington has a lot of demons to exercise in this series, but they did not look like a team worried about historic bugaboos a week ago in their dismantling of Stanford last week. As for the second game, the Cougars are hot. Since the disastrous 3-9 SU, 4-8 ATS 2014 season in the third year of Mike Leach's tenure, Washington State is 11-6 SU, 13-4 ATS. And two of those losses have been defeats to FCS teams. Under Leach, the Cougars are 18-12 ATS as an underdog in league play. That said, I like Stanford's 9-1 SU, 8-2 ATS mark after a loss more. At least enough to put them in this teaser. We won a teaser in last week's column. We're obviously teaser experts.
That’s all I have. For any predictions, insights, and entertainment the rest of the weekend, check out the JCB Twitter Feed.
As always, good luck out there. Be careful if you’re anywhere near the hurricane. And in light of that, it’s probably a good weekend to help out a neighbor whether you’re near the hurricane area or not.