This weekend both BronxBlue Wife and BronxBlue Daughter had birthdays, which included a 3-year-old birthday extravaganza, two sets of grandparents, multiple trips to places like Party City and Stew Leonard’s (which is like if half a Meijer was pushed through a Cracker Barrel and named after a guy who looks like an older, less Camaro-obsessed Papa John), and a sinking realization this will be my life for the next 10-12 years as BronxBlue Son joins the fray. So that’s a long way of saying that if this diary cracks 3,000 words, it’ll be a minor miracle. Or I started rambling.
Best: The Best Cable Providers in America!
When the Big 10+2 decided it wanted to become the B1G4, fans discussed the possible new additions with a fervency usually reserved for new apparel deals. There were the usual suspects like Notre Dame, the proximal options like Pittsburgh, Missouri, and Cincinnati, the stretches of varying lengths like Oklahoma, Colorado, and Georgia Tech, and then the fun-sized options like Texas. Rutgers was never the answer unless the question was “What is closer to New York City than Syracuse or UConn?” There was no sports rationale for bringing on the Scarlet Knights in 2012 (I mean, they have a Wikipedia entry about their Quidditch team, FFS), and they’ve probably become even less palpable in the proceeding years. Plus, as a middling academic institution in the conference, it wasn’t like they raised the prestige of the conference scholastically. This was always a naked cash grab, and no more was Delany’s lust for revenue dangling limply in the breeze like it was when he announced the New York cable market would be joining as a member.
As these stories tend to go, all bad decisions must come in pairs, so the addition of Maryland was met with similar derision. Even though lots of alumni from current conference teams live in the Mid-Atlantic, adding Maryland “opened up” access to the Washington Metro area (and its cable boxes). And in return for letting the Big 10 get a tiny sliver more from a couple million cable bills, Maryland would be able to actually pay its bills and keep fielding D1 programs. Plus, the Terrapins were just embarking on the Randy Edsall Era, proving that “coach who took a team to a BCS bowl” isn’t always a positive on the resume. So the general consensus was that Maryland and Rutgers wouldn’t add any real substance to the conference beyond the bottom line, and even though that has largely borne out to be true, hasn’t helped quell the anger.
But I never thought Maryland was a bad addition. Sure they weren’t some juggernaut, but from 2000 to the present they finished the season ranked 4 times, were ranked at some point in the year 4 more times, and won 9+ games 5 times. Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, and Purdue would kill for that level of recent “success”, and it wasn’t like MSU was any great shakes before Dantonio’s last 7-8 year run of success elevated that program. Plus, they won an NCAA basketball title more recently than anyone else in the conference, and have enjoyed a bit of a resurgence on the basketball court these past couple of years.
My point isn’t to say expansion was a good idea, because it wasn’t. You already call yourself the Big 10 but have first 11 teams, then 12. The footprint of your conference spans almost 1,100 miles, and already seems to cover most of the major television markets you could ever care about (I was getting the B1G network as part of a sports package in NYC by 2010). You had already strained conference rivalries by scheduling large gaps between teams matching up, and adding even more teams to the mix would strain the organic faux elitism and tribalism that drives fan bases to show up to your noon kickoffs in late November that much more. And by the way, you’d be further proving the point that the only “amateurs” taking part in college sports are the people trying to run it, since none of these newfound riches would find their way into the hands of the players who generated it, only the pasty, outstretched hands of old men (and they’re always old men) in jackets standing on sidelines and failed pizza barons looking for ways to blow wads of cash.
But despite all that, adding Maryland was defensible. Adding Rutgers should have gotten someone fired, not (what I assume was) a nice bonus check and a nicer more corner-er office.
This game was never in doubt. While Durkin is a good, young coach and Maryland was a surprising 5-3 entering the game, the chasm between these two teams was immense. Durkin’s Testudinals picked up their 5 wins against a bunch of stiffs (Howard, FIU, Purdue, and MSU) and one semi-competent (and common) opponent in UCF, which unsurprisingly was a 6-point game that ended in double overtime. They had their pants pulled down to varying degrees by PSU and Minnesota, and their 6-point win against IU had a distinctive MSU stank to it, considering their scored the final TD as time expired. That underwhelming slate produced an unsurprising statistical profile; this is a decent offensive unit (39th in success rate, 27th in scoring points inside their opponents 40) anchored to a terrible defense (127th against the rush, 100th in getting off the field). Put another way, Michigan is #1 in S&P after this week, while Maryland is one spot below EMU.
Michigan dominated all 3 facets of the game. I know there’s some hand-wringing about missed tackles, edge containment, tunnel screens and giving up almost 400 yards of total offense, but this was still a game where UM recorded 13 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 6 pass break ups. Maryland scored 3 points on the day, and had 3 drives out of 11 go for more than 40 yards; hell, only 6 broke 30 yards. The Terrapins were limited to 2/11 on 3rd and 4th down before the 4th quarter, and even facing the backups for long stretches of that second half still struggled to get above 300 total yards of offense before their final 3 drives.
On the other side of the ball, UM averaged an even 10 yards per play on the day, spearheaded by Wilton Speight’s arm (79% passing, 362 yards, 15.1 (!) ypa, 2 TDs plus a rushing score) and a mashing by the backs (7.0 ypc, 5 TDs). For the game they finished with 660 yards of total offense, gave up only 1 sack and 3 TFLs, never punted, and scored on every drive save 1, which ended on downs deep in the Maryland redzone.
In years past, this could have been a bit of a trap game, one where UM let an inferior team hang around and make it interesting. But not this year, not this team, not under this coach. Michigan did what they’ve done basically all year, which is blow out their opponents efficiently. Whatever real or perceived missteps by the defense recently have been thoroughly covered up by an offense that has scored a touchdown on half of their drives the last 3 games (16-for-32).
Best: Great Speight Marty!
Okay, I’ll admit it: Jim Harbaugh might have made the right decision at QB this offseason. Or he’s a hell of a coach. It’s probably both. Wilton Speight has gone from a guy who nobody expected to be better than “another Al Borges recruit who never started at QB” to maybe the best QB in the Big 10. Following up a really solid outing against MSU last week, Speight didn’t miss a beat. He set a team record with 292 yards in the first half, systematically walking his team down the field for TDs on all 5 drives. He reads the field like a seasoned pro, even if he still holds onto the ball a step too much, and you can tell Harbaugh is comfortable with his command of the offense because the playbook continues to expand. Now, that 2nd-and-34 pass for 56 yards to Evans was a bit of luck, but he also fired a couple of bullets to Darboh and Butt in coverage, including on a cross-field pass from Peppers, that required a high degree of concentration and arm strength.
I know the refrain is always “Speight needs to play like X to beat OSU” this year, but I’m fairly confident that the Wilton Speight we’ve seen since the bye week shows up at a game, UM would be favored to win against anyone in the country save Alabama. And even that might be even money.
Best: Everybody Brought Their Mitts to This Game
The best offense I saw at Michigan was either 2003 or 2004, featuring either a senior Navarre or a freshman Henne, Doak Walker-winning Chris Perry or first-year phenom Mike Hart (both solid receivers as well), and guys like Braylon, Breaston, Avant, and Massaquoi reeling in balls all over the field. This was the 2-year span where even Carr’s distaste for passing was superseded by the talent on the field; Edwards caught 182 passes for almost 2,500 yards and 29 TDs over those two seasons, and both Avant and Breaston had their moments both in those seasons and beyond.
This group of receivers doesn’t have the same star power, and it’s weird to say that in 2016 they won’t have the same prolific passing numbers (Darboh leads the team with 42 receptions) as teams over a decade before, but this is probably the 2nd-best collection of receivers I’ve seen at Michigan. And it might sound cliche, but it’s definitely a group that is greater than the sum of their parts. Butt is the best receiving tight end in the country, but coming into the year I don’t think most college football fans considered Darboh or Chesson (outsized preseason draft hype aside) as top-flight receivers. And yet, Michigan has a top-5 passing offense in the country, and that’s weighed down a bit by “mediocre” performances to start the year.
Darboh has clearly taken a step forward in his play this year, showing some unexpected burst to complement his physical style, and the number of highlight reel catches is growing every game. He’s more than a possession receiver at this point, and has helped pick up the slack a bit from Chesson, who until this game was scuttling a bit. But against Maryland, Jehu had 5 catches for 112 yards and a TD, and repeatedly found himself blitheringly wide open. One hopes this is a bit like the end of last year, when Chesson took flight and brought a gamebreaker element to the offense. And has been the case for a couple of years now, Jake Butt is the best receiving TE in the country and continues to break records at the position.
And to add a little bit of fun to the blowout, the backs had some great, juggling receptions. Smith, Hill, and (in particular) Evans all showed they spent some time with the Juggs machine, particularly Evans, who bobbled a (slightly) underthrown ball before turning it into a 56-yard screen.
The scary thing is you can tell there are elements to this offense that are still works-in-progress. Peppers, for one, will probably be used even more dynamically when the opponent requires it. The running game, despite having consistently dominated teams on the ground and already surpassing 2015’s totals, still lacks that breakthrough threat that could turn the plethora of 20-yard gains UM has to 50 yarders. But these are minor complaints; this is an historically good offense for UM wed to one of the best defenses in the country.
Worst, I guess: Stop Getting Parts of my Yards
I want to get annoyed with the missed tackles. I know both Stribling and Lewis have struggled a small bit in coverage recently. Gedeon and McGray have shown some limitations in coverage (a number of those screens were fired at Gedeon) and going sideline-to-sideline; in this game, Maryland attacked the edge a lot specifically because they wanted to see if the LBs would flake. And some of these same issues showed up last week against MSU, at least in spurts, so it’s becoming more of a trend than a one-off data point created by a team that spent a non-insignificant part of their 2-7 season getting ready for a couple of drives. I want to be concerned.
And yet, I just can’t. UM held Maryland scoreless until midway through the 3rd quarter. They won the game by 56 points. They collected 2 interceptions, held the Terrapins to under 100 yards rushing, and were living in Maryland’s backfield even when they didn’t get a sack.
Durkin did what I think most smart coaches do; they figure out the side of the ball they know the best (in this case defense), focus more on that during gameday, and hire a guy to run a scheme that works with the talent available to you on the other side. Walt Bell’s Arkansas State teams ran up and down the field on almost everyone, and he was part of successful offensive staffs at UNC before that. Maryland runs a hyper aggressive, if somewhat inefficient, spread offense that can take advantage of the shifty athletes they have at RB. And he knew that throwing downfield was going to be tough sledding, but screens and little crossing routes allow his athletes to be in space and rely on the reality that college football players aren’t always going to tackle properly. It was a really good game pan, executed well in sections…that resulted in UM holding them to one of their lowest offensive outputs of the year (and their lowest when Hills is the starter).
In this game, UM was caught flat-footed a bit, especially early on, as Maryland just kept running them sideline to sideline. It was clear Maryland didn’t expect to get much push inside, and they ran away from the pressure as best they could. I’d say about half of Maryland’s came on 2-3 tunnel screens, and so you hope Brown and co. figure out how to compensate for teams going to that well. But that 56-yard catch-and-run to end the half was just a good playcall in a game UM was leading by 35 points with no time on the clock, and in most cases Maryland couldn’t really build on any chunk plays.
Maryland is going to be a pain in the ass in years to come, especially as Durkin continues to recruit well. He’ll probably never beat UM or OSU out for most recruits, but a decent collection of 4* and high 3* athletes can absolutely wreak havoc on most of the conference. Next year, I could see them exploit some of UM’s inexperience and make this a game. But I’m going to need more to get worried about this team, and saying “Indiana 2015” ignores so many injuries and context that simply doesn’t apply to this season.
Plus, UM gets to play Puntasaurus Rex next week, so I expect most complaints to be about Iowa going for it on 4th down and cracking 100 yards of total offense.
- Kenny Allen hit another decent FG in this game. Whatever was wrong a couple weeks ago seems to have been fixed. Again, none of this should matter until OSU at the earliest, but having a competent kicker certainly doesn’t hurt.
- It’s becoming blase to say, but Peppers had another great game. He was a spark plug on offense, picked up another TFL as part of a 5-tackle day, and absolutely rattled Caleb Rowe(?) on an unblocked rush in the 2nd quarter. Plus, he threw an…okay, it wasn’t that great of a pass back to Speight on that trick play, but the end result was still a big completion. It does feel like there are a bunch of plays that Harbaugh isn’t going to roll out quite yet for Peppers, and if I’m OSU I’m getting really nervous.
- Other than Kalis getting a dumb penalty (and a good berating by Harbaugh that ESPN picked up), the offensive line played really well. Speight had time to throw, the backs basically got deposited 4 yards downfield before they had much contact, and they 3 TFLs for 6 total yards is impressive regardless of the opposition. It seems like the unit has solidified after Newsome went down.
- MSU found a way to lose to Illinois and assure themselves of a losing season. Mark Dantonio has earned himself some leeway for a down year, but people can say “they could be in for a dogfight against Rutgers” with a straight face. In 2016!
- OSU beating up on Nebraska didn’t really shock me. Nebraska shot to 7-0 on the back of close wins against Indiana and Oregon, meh wins against Purdue, NW, and Illinois, and Wyoming (that game was 24-17 heading into the 4th) and a blowout of Fresno St. They are an okay team, but put them in the eastern division and they’re probably a shade better than Maryland, if that. This is still a tractable team, and if you think J.T. Barrett is suddenly “back” throwing the ball, good luck with that.
Next Week: Iowa
This looked like one of the toughest road contests even a month ago. Now, my guess is Iowa keeps it close for a quarter and then UM opens up the flood gates. I don’t see this team getting flustered on the road, and thanks to realignment UM hasn’t played at Kinnick Stadium since 2013. It was a house of horrors for UM under RR and Hoke; methinks that won’t continue with Harbaugh.
So this is what it looks like to play a team worse than us. Huh.
Game has the feel of a scrimmage.
Here's the MSU offense I know and loathe.
We are really really horrible.
The ultimate chess match between people who don't know how to play chess.
I fucking hate this o-line and their bipolar performances.
Return of the clown show
I swear, it's almost like you have to try to suck this bad.
This fucking commercial may be more entertaining.
Rutgers going to run a train on these guys. Look forward to it
This is really, really bad football. What is wrong with me that I am voluntarily watching this.
Remember when we had a smart, disciplined team. Yeah, me either.
This is a truly pathetic performance by the O line. They are getting their shit pushed in almost every play.
UM should be embarrassed by how they played against us
I'm disappointed this game is on tv and in hi def
A throw on first down! I think I just saw a pig fly.
This game is so boring that it's making me feel like a prisoner in solitary.
this trash team is unwatchable. there is no way in hell a casual football fan has watched more than 5 minutes of this garbage game.
We don't like having leads. We don't like winning.
God this is like all those games on some obscure channel that I never, ever watch and I wonder about people who do. This is rock bottom shit
This game is setting football back centuries. Awful.
FireDantonio.com is still available
This is worse than when my doctor told me I had AIDS.
This team couldn't score in a whore house
ARE THESE PLAYERS BEING DRUGGED??? ARE THEY ON DRUGS... IS SOMEBODY ON THE TRAINING STAFF GETTING PAID OFF AND SLIPPING DRUGS INTO THE SIDELINE WATER.
We should burn more red shirts on this last drive. For fun.
So who had the Rutgers game circled as a big game on their calendar at the beginning of the year?
I'm pretty sure UM's scout team O would beat our first team D.
The 49ers really destroyed CFB by harassing Harbaugh into leaving the NFL.
Pretty pathetic when you have a kickoff guy that can't even get it past the 10.
I hope he wins National Championship this year. Then he'll feel alright about giving the NFL another shot.
Harbaugh is the worst.
I'm now emotionally invested in Peppers failing as a professional
Goddamnit, ENOUGH PEPPERS!
Studio announcers didn't bother to analyze 1st half. Literally laughed at us.
What lame drivel will Kelly say today at the post game? Just horrible
From a purely fan perspective without any personal malice involved, I hate Brian Kelly and his coaching staff so much I can't believe it.
Escort him and his staff off campus immediately. Watch him pack his ****.
Out coached by Navy. Lololololololol
WHY ARE WE RUNNING THE OPTION AGAINST AN OPTION TEAM!?!?
Bring back BVG?
Looks like we didn't even practice for this ****. Yeesh
I don't know why I am so amused by this thread but I needed this after the constant fire Kelly threads of the last three months...
Where can I watch the post game excuse conference?
My favorite part of the game is when they showed every team we lost to has a losing record with the exception of a sub-par Stanford team...
You know it is a sad story when people aren't pissed losing to Navy.
The Cubs have saved me from this ND football season.
It sucks to get embarrassed on national prime time tv....again
Tim Beck got his revenge
Which played made this comment "We're going to go in there and play pissed off"?
There are absolutely no positives from this game tonight except for the nice gesture OSU had for Foltz
Ohio State had scored 75 points in their previous three games. Combined.
This is the most embarrassing husker game in my life. I would be in meltdown mode if it weren't for the cubbies
How classy of the Ohio state fans to sing us the Goodbye song...such Great Fans...
we cant even stop their backups
"It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the winds are dashing the waves about, to watch from the shores the struggles of another" -Livy
One of the great things about continuing this feature through the Harbaugh years is that it can be somewhat repurposed to indicate just how much fun we're having, and nowhere is that more evident than in games like the one we had yesterday. Three of the words that I track for positive vibes - "awesome", "great" and "nice" - made up for about 25% of all the tracked words in the open thread. Even our "fucks" were born from positive feelings about beating turtles into submission.
Here is what the totals on some of the major words look like season-to-date:
While "fuck" is still the overall go-to word for the blog, positive "fuck" accounts for about 70% of all "fucks", which is about 10% above last year and over double the context of 2014. Similar numbers for "shit" and "damn" indicate that we're simply having fun but deploying the same words with the same sort of gusto that we have in the past. A subtle but refreshing shift indeed.
On the "fuck" front, it was a really quiet game though - 73 fucks were given, the second-lowest total this year after Hawaii, where only 57 fucks were given. The 54 shits that were given are actually towards the middle of the season distribution of shits - Wisconsin, Rutgers and Illinois produced similar shit totals.
Overall, there were 415 instances across 1,076 posts - that's actually the smallest thread so far this season, but home games and comfortable victories generally depress participation and of course the resurgence of the liveblog also takes away posts as well. That works out to an overall efficiency of 2.59, which is the fourth-lowest after Hawaii, Penn State and Illinois. How efficiency looks against percentage of total instances is below:
Some of the advanced metrics bear out the ease of this game on the board as well:
FART Rate - 0.365, which is second-lowest this season so far
SHART Rate - 0.270, which is the third-lowest this season so far
SQUIRT Number - 1.352 - which is the lowest number so far in 2016
FAP Rate - 0.562, which is the lowest this season so far
All of that means the Maryland game was easy viewing, but you knew that. If you're in the rare category of Michigan fans that hasn't seen it yet...well, now you know.
The most eagerly anticipated Michigan event this week is finally here! It's time to reveal what Halloween candy the MGoBoard most enjoyed to gluttonously shove in their collective maw.
There was a total of 199 responses, down significantly from the cereal vote last year, probably because millennials have terrible voter turnout. 6 of the ballots were either unfunny or offensive joke ballots, and were thrown out. Limiting the results further, I didn't read the fine print on SurveyMonkey limiting their free version poll to 100 responses. 20 people voted before I was able to set up a second poll, and SurveyMonkey won't show me those results unless I pay them, like, $25. Those responses are unfortunately lost to the mists. If someone wants to give me $25 to reveal the lost results, I'll be happy to completely fabricate 20 ballots and use your money to buy myself something nice.
I hand counted the ballots, so there are probably some piddling errors, don't @ me.
On to the Results:
The "Best Candy" vote was by far the most lopsided result, with Reese's Cups taking nearly a 3rd of the votes. Snickers and Skittles were the only other candies to garner double-digit votes.
Another overwhelming victory in the "Worst Candy" vote. Candy Corn ran away with it after a brief back-and-forth with Tootsie Rolls. For the uninitiated, Peanut Butter Kisses are those weird Grandma candies in the orange and black wrappers.
This was a real barnburner, and I expect bitter litigation to erupt in the aftermath. Candy Corn won a plurality. On the other hand, it overwhelmingly won the worst candy vote and barely received a mention in the best candy vote, so interpret the results as you see fit.
This shows the MGoBoard's hipster roots. Everybody had their own most underrated candy that you've probably never heard of. 100 Grand and Almond Joy were the only candies able to cobble together double-digit votes, with Starburst and Twix close behind.
Sometimes the look of crushing disappointment on the faces of eager children is all that keeps you going.
Agreed, totally played out.
I don't see what the Taylor Swift/Katy Perry feud has to do with Halloween candy.
+1 vote for Assorted Narcotics
Mrs. Johnson needs to pay closer attention to her 3rd graders when they're in the computer lab.
You found the house that didn't know it was Halloween and just gave you crap out of their cupboard.
I'm aware of Amy's reputation, but no fat shaming here please.
I don't even think they make fun-size versions of these candy bars. Why spend the money on full-size candy bars and then buy the weird ones?
Is Mother Nature sure it's November?! We have an amazing football Saturday on tap. Actually - speaking of taps, you may want some cold ones with how mild it'll be. Add lots of sun to warm temps and light winds, and we just can't complain! High pressure near Indiana will keep us dry & mild with just a few clouds, and we're looking at the same story for Sunday if you're traveling for this game. You'll want the long sleeves early in the day and if you'll be out late, but it wouldn't be a surprise if you can get away with a t-shirt for a good portion of the day. Let's go blue!
A little cool to start our day with temps in the mid 40s for the morning. Remember that the sun doesn't come up until about quarter-after 8! We'll begin the day with just a few clouds but they won't last long. Winds will be light and westerly to start. By lunchtime, expect mid 50s with lots of sunshine and W winds around 10mph (just enough to blow leaves around - so you might want to put those napkins under the dip). You'll want the hat or the sunglasses into the afternoon!
Blue skies for the game is a good sign for a Wolverine win right?! Players will have some eye black today with all that sunshine! We're looking at 63 to toss that coin and get this game started. Winds will remain out of the W at 10mph.
We drop just a degree by the time we're ending the first half, so you may want to grab a cold soda with that hot dog! Winds will have lightened just a bit to 8mph (enough to rustle the leaves) staying out of the W. Plenty of sun as we head towards a win.
Falling to the mid 50s as we're walking out of the game with another win under our belt and that sun sets! This is when you'll want to bring those long sleeves back out if you haven't already, especially if you're heading to an A2 hot spot for some dinner. Winds will be out of the W at 5mph (just enough to feel it on your skin) and start to shift to come out of the WNW heading into the late-night. Not a bad night to stay out late as we'll stay dry and on the milder side for this time of year. And this is that one night when they'll flick the lights on, and turn them back off for another hour, giving you more time to celebrate over those Terrapins! Leaving the bar after the real last call, temps will be in the mid 40s with starry skies and a light NW breeze. 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!!
Week 9 Conference Wins Update
“Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy.”
- Miss Havisham (Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations)
Nine weeks into the season and Michigan has passed a major milestone. A Big Ten record of 5-0 marks the best start to a Big Ten season since the Lloyd Carr era, and provides further validation of Michigan’s deliverance from the clutches of incompetence. In so doing, the Wolverines at long last methodically exorcised another demon that had been causing a degree of agitation for some years now and had grown particularly acute over the preceding 378 days. That exorcism included a small token of atonement in the form of Jabrill Peppers’ 85+ yard defensive 2-point conversion return of a botched option pitch to close out the scoring and the game. Not quite a reciprocally calamitous outcome as last year, but it does make a nice bookend. This is not to say that anything in the fourth quarter really mattered much at all, except in the chronically delusional consciousness that is Sparty in the collective sense. Just to illustrate in the form of probabilities and fancy stats that are the basis of this diary, a couple of points are worth noting that one should consider in putting this game into some sort of perspective. They are as follows:
The lowest in-game win probability for Michigan was 88.4%, based on an initial win probability of 96%. Regardless of the starting value, however, the minimum win probability occurred with 7:46 remaining in the first quarter. This was immediately after Wilton Speight threw the long incompletion to Drake Harris on M’s first offensive play.
The game entered the fancy-stats definition of garbage time at beginning of the fourth quarter with Michigan up 17 points. Shortly thereafter Kenny Allen converted his third field goal of the game with 14:42 remaining to put M ahead by 20. All subsequent scores or yardage accumulations are inconsequential when viewed through the virtual reality goggles of fancy-stats.
- It remains that the only team that has taken Michigan to the no-garbage-time wire this season is Wisconsin. With any luck, they might be the only team.
Nonetheless, with a renewed commitment the focus for Team 137 turns now toward the work that remains to be done to achieve the lofty goals that are coming within reach, and to mitigating the few risks that threaten those objectives. The same might be said in regard to its perennial nemesis the Buckeyes, who after being taken to the wire for the third straight game by Northwestern in Columbus (with Indiana 3:51 from being a fourth), continued to exhibit weaknesses on both sides of the line, manifest in an inability to sustain drives or get its defense off the field.
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 based on expected points, which are in turn 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 is a fresh 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, Margins, Probabilities & Distributions
B1G East Schedules & Margins 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.
Michigan, by virtue of a first-half throttling of Sparty, continues as the #1 ranked team in all the land as per S&P+. U-M has expanded its lead now to five spots over of OSU. Penn State, meanwhile, moves up the S&P+ ranks another spot and now stands at #15, holding at 4th best in the B1G, and 3rd in the East.
Looking at the S&P+ probabilities, the Wolverines lead the B1GE with about 8.6 expected B1G wins, ahead of the now 2nd place Nittany Lions by 1.3 expected wins. The Buckeyes now trail the Nits by 0.3 wins. Michigan is the only team in the B1G at this point expected to exceed 8 wins; OSU and PSU the only teams expected to exceed 7 conference wins. U-M and PSU are both still favored in all of their remaining games. As such, OSU is an underdog in The Game, but even before that, the OSU matchup versus the once-beaten Huskers in Columbus on Saturday may make or break the Buckeyes’ prospects for a B1GE title.
Indiana, after dispatching Maryland, remains in the fourth spot. The Hoosiers, with nearly 4.2 expected wins and being favored in 2 of their remaining games, are on track for bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, Maryland is still on the bowl-eligibility bubble looking for its sixth win, but with slightly more than 3 expected wins and LOLRutgerz still on the schedule, the Terps have an ace in the hole.
As expected, the FPI results differ slightly. Here Michigan retains the #2 spot, while OSU slipped one spot to #5. In turn, M tops all teams in the B1GE with just over 8.3 expected wins, maintain its 1.3 win lead over OSU. As was the case last week, FPI results show U-M to be favored in all of its remaining games; the only game in which OSU is not favored is The Game. The margin, however, has narrowed to only 1.6 points. Penn State followed up its stunning upset of OSU with a demolition of Purdue, and has actually creeped ahead of OSU by 0.3 wins to claim the #2 spot in the B1GE at nearly 7.1 expected wins. PSU has now become bowl-eligible, is favored in all of its remaining games, and is on track for a 10-2 season. After beating Maryland, Indiana hold the #4 spot firmly at about 3.8 wins and remain in the edge of bowl-eligibility. Likewise, Maryland, now with only 3.2 expected wins and as a favorite in only one more game is on the bowl-eligibility bubble. MSU, meanwhile, is now favored in 2 more game this season: Illinois and LOLRutgerz in what should be a tremendous battle for The Participation Trophy.
Here’s a link to a chart showing the results from the Power Rank-ings.
B1G East Expected Conference Wins Distributions
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.
Once again Michigan stands apart from all other with the highest mode, and that mode, dear reader, is that of an undefeated 9 wins! What’s more, PSU now shows the next highest mode at 8 wins, with a skew toward 7 wins. Following the Nits are the Buckeyes with a strong and balanced mode … of ... 7 wins, which suggests that the most likely outcome is that OSU will lose one more game. The complementary nature of OSU losing one more and Michigan winning out gives statistically-minded folks a warm-fuzzy when pondering the covariance of the M and OSU distributions.
Still, a bit of a pile-up remains at the 8-win mode. A quick computation shows that the much ballyhooed three-way tie among Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State now has a probability of about 11%, largely because as the overlay shows, it’s almost 5 times as likely that OSU or PSU at least more game. Nonetheless, it’s worth repeating that in the new B1G tie-breaker rules, overall winning percentage eliminates PSU first from the three-way tie since they lost an OOC game to Pitt. OSU can only advance by winning out, including The Game. PSU could only advance if M drops two more games than PSU from here on out. Clearly, with the Buckeyes’ backs to the wall, the B1GE divisional championship at this point is Michigan’s to lose. The likelihood of UM having an undefeated season at stands at 64.1% (up from the 18.8% before obliterating Rutgers) or nearly 2:1 odds in favor.
Indiana still sits at 4 wins, but now leaning toward 5 wins, whereas Maryland is balanced 3 wins. MSU has improved to a mode of 2-wins, but with a strong lean toward a single win, while Rutgers is still looking to go winless in the B1G.
What’s remarkable about these FPI results are the nearly indistinguishable distributions of OSU and PSU. Both show the same 7-win mode leaning slightly toward 8 wins. Michigan leads the division and the conference with its 8-win mode, leaning strongly toward an undefeated 9 wins. Also, UM registers a 43.7% chance to win out. Once again, a bit of a logjam appears at the 8-win mode. FPI works out to a similar likelihood of the three-way tie as S&P+: 10%, largely because as the overlay suggests, it’s almost 5 times as likely that PSU and OSU lose at least one more game.
From the 3 contenders at the high end, a 3 win gap separates the remaining teams in the B1GE. In order, they are Indiana, Maryland, MSU and LOLRutgerz at 4, 3, 2, 0.5, respectively. at the 4-win mode. Maryland and Indiana, with modes of 4 wins and 3 wins, respectively. LOLRutgerz at MSU - the Slobber-Knocker of Self-Loathing - is shaping up to be an instant BTN Classic.
Here’s a link to a chart showing the results from the Power Rank-ings.
B1G West Schedules & Margins 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 B1GW S&P+ results have the principal contenders, Wisconsin and Nebraska, at 6.6 and 6.2 expected wins, an almost exact reversal from last week. For Wisconsin, the defeat of Nebraska has put them in control of their destiny. Having traversed most of the gauntlet that was their early season schedule and being favored in all their remaining games, the Badgers are on the inside track to the B1GCG. Unless the Huskers can knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus on Saturday, they will at best finish in a tie with the Badgers, but will of course lose the tie-breaker.
Northwestern, Minnesota and Iowa remain congealed in the second tier of likely bowl-eligibles. Northwestern, now expecting nearly 5.3 B1G wins, has an edge of about 0.2 wins over Minnesota. From there, Iowa lags another 0.6 wins. The resurgent Wildcats, after a gritty loss to the Buckeyes in Columbus, now face the Badgers. Still, the Cats are favored in 2 of their remaining games. Iowa still appears to have reached its high-water mark, being a favorite in only 1 of its 4 remaining games (at Illinois). That one win however, may suffice to make the Hawkeyes bowl-eligible. Alas, Illinois is no longer favored in any of its remaining games, as is the case for Purdue as well.
FPI results now have Wisconsin leading the B1GW with nearly 6.3 expected wins, with Nebraska trailing close behind at just under 6.2 wins. Like S&P+, FPI has the Badgers favored in all its remaining games, with the Huskers underdogs in only its next game against OSU. Northwestern follows at just under 5.5 wins (up from 5.3 last week despite losing to OSU), with Minnesota in the 4-spot another 0.6 wins back. Wrapping up the likely bowl invitees is Iowa at about 4.7 expected wins. Northwestern and Minnesota are both favored in 2 of their remaining games, but Iowa is favored in only one of its four remaining.
Here’s a link to a chart showing the results from the Power Rank-ings.
B1G West Expected Conference Wins Distributions
The bar plots below show the expected overall win distributions for the B1G West teams, in alphabetical order.
The story in the B1GW continues to be how close the race to Indy remains, although with only 4 games left the opportunities to move ahead are fading. Five teams still have modes in the 4 to 7 win range. Wisconsin is currently the only team with a mode of 7 wins, and it’s a very strong mode indeed. Nebraska now sits at the 6 win mode, leaning toward 7 wins, but would need the Badgers to lose again to advance. Northwestern and Minnesota are balanced and nearly indistinguishable at the 5 win mode. Iowa remains at the 4 win mode, skewed toward 5 wins.
The FPI results tell a slightly different story. The race here is even tighter than the one predicted by S&P+, showing 5 teams in either the 5 or 6 win modes. Both Wisconsin and Nebraska register 6 win modes; both Iowa and Minnesota register with 5 win modes; and Northwestern is evenly balanced between the 5 and 6 win modes. Wisconsin has a stronger lean toward the 7 win mode and also has the advantage of having beaten Nebraska and Iowa already, but has yet to face Northwestern or Minnesota. Altogether, those five teams should attain bowl-eligibility (Northwestern and Iowa have yet to clinch it). Meanwhile Purdue and Illinois both look a game better than LOLRutgerz and Sparty at this point.
Here’s a link to a chart showing the results from the Power Rank-ings.
Michigan vs. Ohio State Big Ten Wins Differential
The win-differential distribution simply shows the likelihood of one team (say, Michigan) finishing with a conference record that is some number of games better or worse than another team (say, 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 the teams having identical conference records (i.e. a win differential of zero) heading into the final head-to-head meeting 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 (our outside of) 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 7-2, which means that UM and OSU would be losing 2 games each, at that point another team (Penn State) may have the lead.
Beginning as usual with the results of the S&P+ analysis, this week’s chart still shows that the most likely outcome (70.9% likelihood) is that U-M is one game up heading into Columbus. So, it stand that The Game will likely decide who will play for the B1G Championship. What’s more, looking at the head-to-head matchup, the win probability for Michigan has expanded again to 69.0% (that’s a cool 7.7 point margin!), so UM collects a 48.9 point share of the 70.9 points for the likelihood of winning when coming in up one (and finishing ahead two games). OSU collects the remaining 22.0 points.
The second most likely scenario, now with a 21.8% likelihood, is that UM comes into Columbus two games ahead of OSU. Of this possible outcome, UM collects the entire 21.8 points, of course, because UM would still be assured of finishing one game ahead of OSU regardless of the outcome.
The third most likely scenarios that UM comes with the same record as OSU. This scenario has a 5.2% likelihood, of which UM collects a 3.6 point share for its likelihood of winning and finishing in one game ahead. OSU collects the remaining 1.6 points.
The fourth most likely scenario, with a likelihood of 2.0%, is that UM comes into Columbus three games ahead of OSU. All 2.0 points for UM in this case.
One other vanishingly small scenario registers on the chart. Noodling through it is left as an exercise for the reader.
In total according to the S&P+ ratings, Michigan now has a 76.4% likelihood (down slightly from 76.8%) of finishing the season ahead of OSU - better than 3:1 in favor!
Painting a slightly less rosy picture, here is the same chart based on the FPI ratings following the week 9 results. This shows a slightly narrower margin for UM in the race against OSU to the B1GCG. However, as with S&P+, the most likely outcome is that UM heads into Columbus up one game on the Buckeyes. In the head-to-head matchup, UM is rated high enough to overcome OSU’s home-field advantage, giving Michigan a 54.1% likelihood (a 1.6 point margin) to win the game. To sum it all up, UM has a 67.6% likelihood of beating out OSU at season’s end, or a shade better than 2:1 chance.
Here’s a link to the chart showing the results from the Power Rank-ings.
Bonus Section: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin Big Ten Wins Differential
It seems like a good time to take a closer look at the primary contenders in the B1GW since they just met on the field this past weekend, those contenders being Wisconsin and Nebraska.
So here are the S&P+ results after running the differential analysis rubbing the Nebraska distribution against Wisconsin. The results are different from the UM-OSU rub. In this case, the most likely outcome (with a 36.0% likelihood) is that Nebraska is ahead of Wisconsin for all games outside their head-to-head matchup. However, since Wisconsin already won the head-to-head game, it’s Wisconsin that collects the entire 36.0 point share of that outcome. In all, Wisconsin now has a 79.3% likelihood of finishing ahead of Nebraska at the end of the regular season.
And here are the FPI results for the Nebraska-Wisconsin differential distribution. Same story as with the S&P+ results, just not so significantly in Wisconsin’s favor.
Here’s a link to the chart showing the results from the Power Rank-ings.
So there you have it. Evidence continues to mount that Michigan will actually be in a favorable position rolling into Columbus the last Saturday of the month. In the meantime, Michigan will need to remain focused on the intervening games, the first of which is against the Terps. Beyond that, the night game at Kinnick Stadium looms large as the most significant risk between now and Columbus. Kinnick will be an inhospitably dark, cold and hostile environment that promises to be a more challenging test than what the Wolverines encountered this past weekend in East Lansing.
The prospects for Michigan football to play in the Big Ten Championship Game may have reached a plateau this week. Nonetheless, a very competitive game awaits OSU (vs Nebraska) that will be a barometer by which to gauge the true threat posed by the Buckeyes. In all, it bodes well for Team 137 as it continues to work toward its goals to compete for the Big Ten Championship, and beyond.
Yours in football, and Go Blue!