Best: Indescribable Feelings
This is the first thing I wrote 2 years ago when UM played Rutgers for the first time:
[EDIT] You know it's been a long season since this was originally titled "Maryland". Just banking these beforehand, I guess[/EDIT]
One of these days I'm going to put in less work on writing these than the coaching staff did in preparing for the game. They just keep setting the bar so low, though.
Best: Semi-competent loss
It's come to this, hasn't it. Not moral victories or BS like that, but after being destroyed by a cadre of mid-level BCS teams and Notre Dame, Michigan finally looked semi-competitive against another BCS team. And Rutgers is at least a bowl team, something Michigan sure isn't right now. I always figured Michigan would have a close loss like this during the year, but the expectation was that it would be a rare occurrence of bad luck and incompetence instead of, I guess, a sign of growth and competence in year 4.
Ugh. Moving on.
If you ever wondered what rationalization looks like on (digital) paper, it’s that paragraph. Now, the nadir of Michigan under Brady Hoke had come a week earlier against Minnesota, but I am on record as being a bit of an apologist for how Hoke handled the Morris incident, at least at the time (which doesn’t need to be re-litigated here). I thought it was reactionary that Morris was given the start because we had seen nothing to suspect he would be an upgrade over Gardner at the spot; the offense had regressed every year under Hoke, and in fact had been buoyed somewhat with Gardner in the backfield, compensating for poor blocking and a anemic rushing attack by using his legs to keep plays alive. Morris lacked that ability, and so he got pummeled even moreso than Gardner, including an uncalled targeting shot, and well, you remember the rest.
But no, the offensive coordinator who currently oversees the #73 offense in the country at Florida(!), who people clamored for after the coordinator who oversees the #75 offense in the country in the Mountain West (!!), chosen by the man who is currently the defensive coordiantor for the #100 defense at Oregon (!!!) thought a change at QB would be the cure for what ailed Michigan in 2014…. Oh gawd, there isn’t a font invented yet that conveys the unique combination of sarcasm and anger I have for those men. Just…
But anyway. We’re talking about Rutgers. That Minnesota team wasn’t half-bad; they went 5-3 in conference, nearly beat OSU, and played in the Citrus Bowl. The Rutgers team might have also gone 8-5, but they struggled in conference (3-5), got pantsed by literally every halfway-decent team they played (unless you believe 2014 UNC resembled in any way the 11-3 outfit they’d become in 2015). And against Michigan, Gary Nova threw for 400 yards.
Gary Nova, perhaps the only man in the Big 10 who could challenge Taylor Martinez for snarky Youtube videos of his collective failures at playing the QB position, threw for more yards (404) than the entire UM team collected on offense (336). Gary F’ing Nova hung a 404 Page Not Found on the University of Michigan football defense. Let that sink in for a moment. No, I mean, really breathe it in.
There aren’t a lot of players left on the roster who competed in this game (Lewis, Clark, Charlton, Gedeon, Hurst, and Glasgow show up in the box score for the defense, while Smith, Chesson, Butt, and Darboh registered offensively, and I think about half the offensive line remains the same), but I have to believe that they remember the last time they traveled to New Jersey, a state full of suburban commuters to more interesting cities, a state that will hunt down your next of kin for unpaid student loans, a state that would foster a football program to the point that GARY NOVA would throw for 404 yards against the winningest football program in college football history, and wanted to make amends.
And with a couple more native sons returning to their home state, they sure did.
78-0 was the final score, and in some ways it probably could have been worse. UM had 600 yards of total offense compared to 39 for Rutgers, and 29 of those yards came on the last 2 drives of the game for the Scarlet Knights. At halftime, UM was up 43-0 and Rutgers had –13 yards of total offense. Michigan rushed for 486 yards and 9 TDs on the ground at a robust clip 9.2 ypc, which is doubly amazing considering De’Veon Smith, the team’s leading rusher coming into the game, averaged 2.2 ypc for only 11 yards. They nearly had 4 100-yard rushers on the day, with Isaac (93) and Peppers (74) trailing both Evans (153) and Higdon (114) in that department. From that group, only Evans failed to score, while Isaac, Peppers, and Higdon all scored 2 TDs and recorded at least one run of over 30 yards.
Wilton Speight played only that half, threw a total of 13 passes, completed 6 for 1 TD, and yet the offense looked downright unstoppable. Part of his early struggles were due to the weather; it wasn’t quite Notre Dame vs. NC State, but at least at kickoff it was raining quite hard and the air was swirling. A couple balls sailed on him and there were at least 2 drops that probably would have been hauled in (one each to Darboh and Chesson) on a drier day, and it was apparently bad enough out there that the team switched gloves a couple of series into the game because the logo ones were making it harder to grip the ball. And when JBB went down 2 plays into the game, you saw even more shuffling on the front line. Unsurprising, Rutgers tried to take advantage by blitzing. Now, none of this should be construed as saying Speight had a good day, as that UCF version of him is getting ever farther in the rearview mirror. But as the worst of the weather lifted and his protection improved, he threw a couple of really good balls, including the TD to Chesson.
As for the defense, there isn’t much to say, as I am out of superlatives. You know how OSU got a bunch of praise for holding Rutgers to 116 total yards of offense, including 3 completions for 33 yards? Well, Laviano and Allen combined for 2 completions (in 18 pass attempts) for 5 yards. In fact, Zach Allen’s one completion was for a loss of a yard, so even half their completed passes pushed them backwards. The only time Rutgers even sniffed the UM endzone was on pick-six that was rather obviously an incomplete pass by Shane Morris.
In total, Rutgers ran 54 plays for 39 yards. That is a third as many yards as they picked up last week, and brings up the question of whether Rutgers would have recorded more yards simply falling forward every play. Honestly, depending on the spots they got, it’s quite possible that would have been a more successful offensive gameplan than what they employed.
The Michigan team that staggered into Triple Bundle (But You Don’t Want The Phone But It’s Part Of The Package) Stadium two years ago was disorganized, disinterested, and dysfunctional. But with the arrival of Harbaugh, UM now looks and plays the part of a professional organization with bigger goals in mind than revenge.
Best: No Mercy
I know I just listed a bunch of stats about the dominance on both sides of the ball by Michigan, but this probably takes the cake: Rutgers punted for 609 yards on 16 punts. That’s longer than the height of the Sears Tower, the Empire State Building, and the Eiffel Tower. It’s 6 football fields worth of surrender.
Michigan had 13 TFLs, including 4 sacks, on only 54 plays by Rutgers, meaning they lost yards a good quarter of the time they ran a play. Remember 2013 against MSU when the Wolverines rushed for –48 yards and everyone felt terrible about themselves? MSU recorded 11 TFLs on 59 plays by UM in that game. This was a terrifying display by a defensive unit that chewed up other decent offenses in Colorado and Penn State, and one that will probably replicate similar performances against the mediocre offenses that are coming up on the schedule.
Against teams like PSU and Wisconsin, the defensive performance was some shade of ass kicking, a known quantity of dominance that you as the viewer can contemplate and commoditize in your head. For me, the most ass-kicking performance by a Michigan defense was UM’s obliteration of undefeated PSU in 1997. Penn St. probably wasn’t the #2/3 team in the country (they had a number of uninspiring wins up to that point), but they were still one of the better offenses in the country. And UM absolutely shut that team down on the road, and that was the moment I realized that 1997 could be a special year.
Now, this Rutgers team isn’t anywhere close to those Nittany Lions teams, I get that. But UM held Rutgers to 0 first downs for 3.5 quarters of a football game and, had they not “slacked” and let Rutgers get a couple of first downs on the ground, might have kept the total yardage in the single digits. This is the same Rutgers team (sans Janarion Grant, admittedly), that netted 304 yards, 21 first downs, and 13 points against Washington to open the season and 383 and another 21 first downs against Iowa. The closest Rutgers got to a first down in that first half was a scamper by Allen that cleared the first down marker but was immediately nullified by a fumble and recovery by Michigan. That was it. Nobody was open downfield, nobody could run inside or outside the tackles, nothing. Chris Laviano started the game, was chased around for a couple of series, and was replaced by Zach Allen, who didn’t do any better. Taco Charlton had 2 sacks on the day and repeatedly crushed whoever was put in his path, while guys like Glasgow and Hurst just ran through would-be blockers to consume ball carriers before they even made a step forward. 28 players recorded at least 1 tackle in this game, and sure, kickoffs count for some of it, but that’s an insane stat. That’s 2.5 full defensive units of tacklers out there, and that doesn’t even include Bryan Mone recovering Allen’s fumble.
It got to the point that I was bored watching the defense out there, and I instinctively clicked on my remote to see about fast-forwarding to the offense. It’s not it wasn’t interesting in an intellectual context; this is an elite defense just destroying another team’s will to live. But I also don’t like watching a snuff film for 60 minutes, and after about 5 minutes of this game it was pretty clear Rutgers wasn’t going to be putting up much of a fight.
I want keep my excitement down, to put some perspective forward for viewing this defense in an historical light. In my lifetime, it feels like it’s better than 2006, and given how dynamic offenses are now I’d say it’s probably better than 1997 in terms of adaptability. It’s pretty clear that this season is going to be decided by the Game, and I think the final referendum on 2016’s place in the defense Pantheon will rest on that performance as well as the game against IU; hold two dangerous offenses (mostly) in check, and this is probably the best unit in modern UM history.
And yet, even that praise almost feels a bit faint. After a couple of growing pains against UCF and Colorado (mind you, games that UM won by a collective score of 96-42), Don Brown’s defense looks locked in, and even OSU looks tractable when you consider just how little the past couple of teams have been able to move the ball.
Best: Don’t Hurt ‘Em
This punt return didn’t count because apparently we can’t have nice things.
So another day, another amazing performance by Jabrill Peppers. Peppers was finally able to pull the ball when the Rutgers defensive end foolishly bore down on the option, allowing Peppers to scamper 63 yards to set up UM’s first score. He later scored on another play where he feinted toward the line, ran out to the flat, faked throwing the ball, then just ran into the endzone largely untouched. He added another goal line TD, and with that scored 2 TDs on 3 carries for 74 yards. He also added 2 tackles, including half a TFL (Rutgers attributed the other half to Grant Perry, which seems…wrong…but I couldn’t confirm), and a QB hurry. Harbaugh keeps talking about him as a transcendent player, and every weekend Peppers seems to prove him right.
Now, I will say that the Heisman talk probably won’t be realistic unless guys like Watson, Jackson, and Barrett struggle. Woodson only became a viable candidate after Manning struggled (again) against Florida, and that was a weird year wherein the next couple of viable candidates played for unknown programs in Ryan Leaf and Randy Moss. By comparison, all of the major candidates now play for prominent programs and/or have great statistical marks, and Peppers will never be used on the offense enough to rack up truly eye-popping numbers. Heck, a performance like in this game is probably the ceiling for him simply because there’s no reason to expose him to abuse on offense in any game coming up until OSU, and maybe not even then. Plus, I’m not sure college football is quite ready for the only two defensive Heisman winners to come from one school, even if Peppers is unquestionably one of the top 2-3 players in the country right now. He changes the game with his mere presence on the field, and I hope every fan watching is enjoying his performance every week. Very soon UM fans will be referring to every recruit as the “next Peppers”, just as they used to unrealistically call players the “next Woodson”.
Meh: A Confusing Speight To Behold
I don’t know if there’s much to take away from this game for Speight. He played about a half of football, threw a couple of okay balls, struggled with his accuracy early on in the rain, and generally looked serviceable. He did look more comfortable as the game progressed, but he also had some issues throwing the ball downfield. His toss to Chesson was fantastic, but he also left a deep ball to Darboh hang up a bit such that he had to readjust and fight off a DB for the catch. He faced a decent amount of pressure early on and that led to some scrambling and mixed results throwing, but pretty early on it was clear this team could just run over Rutgers basically at will and that became the focus of the offense. O’Korn and Morris also got snaps but only three 3 times the rest of the day (O’Korn did throw a TD on a nice ball to Hill. Morris’s one pass was initially thought to have been a pick-six by the referees, and if it had stood I assumed Shane would have been told to walk home for breaking the shutout.
But otherwise, I’m not sure what you can take from this game in terms of passing. The receivers let a couple of catchable balls gets away from them, but they were rarely called upon and it still looks like they might be working out some kinks with Speight. I sort of wonder if the offense is expanding the playbook a bit and that might be contributing to some of the issues, but who knows. It is still a passing offense that doesn’t try to over-exert itself too much but can deliver downfield when called upon. I doubt we’ll see much against Illinois, but if you see Speight putting it on the face of MSU’s corners for 4 quarters, I wouldn’t be surprised.
These are all of UM’s runs in the 2nd half of this game:
3, 5, 5, 3, 3, 57, 15 (TD), 2, 4, 0, 15, 3, 5, 6, 11, 1, 10, 13 (TD), 5, 2, 44 (TD), 7, 9, 6, 3, 4, 0, 34 (TD).
That’s 275 yards, no negative plays, and absolutely 0 regard for human life. Rutgers knew UM was going to run them over in that second half and really had no defense.
Basically everyone but Smith had great days running the ball, though I thought Higdon really stood out with how aggressively he hit holes. He’s not the biggest or fastest guy on the roster, but he follows his blocks pretty well and runs decisively, and oftentimes that’s all you need to be successful in a Harbaugh offense. Evans was fantastic in space, and was dined a couple of scores by mere yards. Isaac just looks like a different player compared to last year, running with an authority that hasn’t always been present for a guy so talented. I’m still a bit surprised he hasn’t been integrated more into the passing game, but I assume those packages are there and UM hasn’t really felt the need to utilize them. As for Smith, he fumbled during the rainiest part of the game but also wasn’t needed much once the game got out of hand; I assume he sat mostly for the same reason Speight did. He still seems to be the feature back, though, especially when passing.
But yeah, 486 yards, a school-recrd 9 TDs, and around 9 ypc are video game numbers, and yet I wouldn’t be surprised if they did something similar to Illinois, at least in terms of the overall domination. It isn’t quite a peak Harbaugh offense, but the past couple of weeks have unearthed a rushing attack that is increasingly opponent-agnostic. UM averaged around 4.5 ypc against one of the best defenses in Wisconsin, then squashed Rutgers for nearly double that. If the offensive line can stay healthy and increase their comfort with the rush, UM should be able to mash a whole lot of teams coming up on the schedule.
Worst: The Morality Surrounding All the Scoring
You know it wouldn’t be a blowout without a couple of people complaining about Harbaugh (a) going for 2 up 27, (b) going for it on 4th down on the ensuing possession to push the score to 36-0, and (c) dropping 78 on a team in general. I’ve never had a problem with coaches calling their offense in the regular course of the game. The 2-point conversion seemed a little weird mostly because it didn’t seem necessary, but in the press conference after the game it sounded like that play was always available and the special teams could run it if given the right formation. And let’s be honest; there are few situations where a team can practice a conversion in a live game; the fact UM put this on tape really shouldn’t be a concern, as most teams should already be prepared for the “run into the massive hole” playcall.
As for the rest of the scoring, going up 36-0 late in the 2nd quarter was the only option Harbaugh really had. He could have kicked a FG, but 4-and-goal from the 1 is a weird place to do so, and in fact it at least gives the defense a chance to keep a team off the board completely. If it had been the 4th quarter and UM could have just taken a knee to run out the clock, then sure, but there was still a half+ of football to play, and to paraphrase Herm Edwards, you play to win the game with half a game to go, regardless of the score.
As for the final score, I’m not sure what else could have been done. During Higdon’s final run, you almost saw him slow up at the goalline a bit, but if the defense is going to give up huge runs there’s not much you can do. UM was playing incredibly vanilla offensively and defensively in that 2nd half; this wasn’t UM sending the house on blitzes or breaking out a flea flicker up 40. This was just…a beating. Harbaugh had some nice words for Ash and his team after the game, and I’m sure at some point Rutgers will be better and use this game for motivation. But losing 136-0 over 2 weeks probably takes the starch out of anyone’s motivation.
Around the League
I caught a couple of other games along the way yesterday, so here are a couple of quick takes.
- Saquon Barkley is really good (over 200 yards rushing), and Maryland probably isn’t as good as their record dictates. That said, both PSU and Maryland looked competent yesterday, which is sort of amazing given how bad they’ve looked recently.
- Iowa is bad and has lost whatever magic they had from 2015. Why the state of Iowa continues to worry about someone else wanting to poach their 61-year-old coach who has won 10+ games exactly twice in the past 11 seasons has always astounded me, but the man beat Minnesota 14-7 so pay him his money.
- OSU may have beaten Indiana by 21 in the end, but this was a game well into the 4th quarter. If IU had been able to score deep in OSU territory after picking off Barrett down 17-31, it could have been an interesting finish. For the game, Barrett followed up a string of strong passing performances to go 9/21 for 93 yards, and even that was goosed by a 37-yard TD throw for OSU’s final score. This remains the Achilles heel for this team, and if OSU struggles to throw the ball against IU’s secondary I’m not liking their chances against UM in that department. We’ll know a lot more next week against Wisconsin; my sense is this level of mediocrity is a blip, but it’s still a team that relies so heavily on Barrett to keep the chains moving that I could see them being stymied by a defense that can force him to throw into small windows.
- Finally, MSU lost to BYU 31-14, their third loss in a row. MSU made a switch Damion Terry in the 4th quarter and while that did lead to a score, it also led to a pick and creeping realization in most MSU fans that this year is going to be one of near-constant pain, even in wins. It was a pretty ugly game all around, but BYU averaged 5.3 yards a run compared to 2.7 for MSU, and BYU just dominated time of possession (34:34 to 25:26) and number of plays (around 100 for BYU compared to around 60 for MSU). I know people keep saying that MSU will play differently against UM, and maybe passion and hatred will fuel them for a half, but this is a Sparty team without much talent/production in the defensive backfield, under center, or along the offensive line. They have vanishingly few playmakers, and guys like LJ Scott and RJ Shelton haven’t come close to their preseason hype. But again, not disrespect.
Next Week: Bye!
I need a break, and I assume the team does as well. After Illinois, UM finishes against a pretty decent slate (@MSU, Maryland, @Iowa, IU, @OSU) that will define their season. That last game could well be for a CoFoPo playoff spot, and maybe even the loser could get a bid if a couple of other teams stumble. But right now, UM is one of the best teams in the country and are only getting better.
Ideally we'll win all of our games and this post will prove irrelevant. But it's worth a look at our probability and path to getting into the playoff with one loss.
I'm going to make an assumption that could prove wrong. Let's say that only two types of teams could get into the playoff ahead of a one-loss Michigan team*:
- Undefeated or one-loss teams from power conferences
- Undefeated teams from non-power conferences
I'll assume that everyone else is out. I don't think that's a guarantee, since a two-loss conference champion could sneak ahead of us if we lose to OSU and miss the BTCG. But in general that's probably pretty reasonable.
This leaves 21 teams as of today. Some of them (like WMU) wouldn't beat us out no matter what. Others are here because of soft schedules but should disappear soon, which is clear when you look at their remaining schedules (on the right). Games between the teams on this list appear in bold. Conference championship games exist but aren't represented.
*Worth noting that all losses aren't created equal. We'd be in much better shape with a loss and then a Big Ten title than a 40-point loss to OSU that ends our season.
|6-0 Clemson||ACC (Atlantic)||NCST, @FSU, SYR, PITT, WAKE, SC|
|4-1 NC State||ACC (Atlantic)||@CLEM, @LOU, BC, FSU, @SYR, MIAMI, UNC|
|5-1 Wake Forest||ACC (Atlantic)||@FSU, ARMY, UVA, @LOU, CLEM, BC|
|4-1 Louisville||ACC (Atlantic)||DUKE, NCST, @UVA, @BC, WAKE, @HOU, UK|
|4-1 Virginia Tech||ACC (Coastal)||@SYR, MIAMI, @PITT, @DUKE, GT, @ND, UVA|
|4-1 Miami||ACC (Coastal)||UNC, @VT, @ND, PITT, @UVA, @NCST, DUKE|
|5-0 Baylor||Big 12||KU, @TEX, TCU, @OKLA, KSU, TTU, @WVU|
|4-0 West Virginia||Big 12||@TTU, TCU, @OKST, KU, @TEX, OKLA, @ISU, BAY|
|5-0 Ohio State||Big Ten (East)||@WIS, @PSU, NW, NEB, @MD, @MSU, MICH|
|4-1 Maryland||Big Ten (East)||MINN, MSU, @IND, @MICH, OSU, @NEB, RUTG|
|5-0 Nebraska||Big Ten (West)||@IND, PUR, @WIS, @OSU, MINN, MD, @IOWA|
|4-1 Wisconsin||Big Ten (West)||OSU, @IOWA, NEB, @NW, ILL, @PUR, MINN|
|6-0 Western Michigan||MAC (West)||@AKR, EMU, @BALL, @KENT, BUFF, TOL|
|5-0 Boise State||Mountain West (West)||CSU, BYU, @WYO, SJSU, @HAW, UNLV, @AFA|
|6-0 Washington||Pac-12 (North)||[bye] ORST, @UTAH, @CAL, USC, ASU, @WSU|
|5-1 Arizona State||Pac-12 (South)||@COLO, WSU, @ORE, UTAH, @WASH, @ARIZ|
|5-1 Utah||Pac-12 (South)||@ORST, @UCLA, WASH, @ASU, ORE, @COLO|
|5-1 Tennessee||SEC (East)||ALA, @SC, TNTC, UK, MIZ, @VAN|
|4-1 Florida||SEC (East)||MIZ, UGA, @ARK, SC, PRE, @FSU, LSU(?)|
|6-0 Texas A&M||SEC (West)||[bye] @ALA, NMSU, @MSST, MISS, UTSA, LSU|
|6-0 Alabama||SEC (West)||@TENN, TA&M, @LSU, MSST, CHAT, AUB|
If you're looking for a list of teams to root against, this might be a good place to start.
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