Since the 2011 game is what everyone keeps talking about, let’s not do this again – uniformz or result (AnnArbor.com)
1. Field Position
|Off Exp Pts||Def Exp Pts||Gap|
|Michigan St||29.1||23.2||+5.9 (6)|
This is the most critical factor in the game. Michigan can not afford to spot Michigan State seven points in field position. Not all turnovers are created equal and in this game the most dangerous ones will be ones that set up Michigan State in great scoring position (or are a TD on the return). Michigan State’s 6th best gap is largely driven by a nation leading five defensive touchdowns. At one point, Michigan State looked like they might be around 25% non-offensive touchdowns, the peak over the last ten seasons for any team, but based on their current trajectory that seems less likely (besides South Florida is on pace to blow away the record with 57% non-offensive TDs this season).
A neutral result on field position will be a huge win for Michigan in this game, but that could be a tough task. The Spartans have won field position in 5 of 7 FBS games this season and never given up more than a minor 2 point difference. Michigan has won field position against Minnesota, Central Michigan and Penn State and trailed in its other four games.
Best Case Scenario: Michigan wins the turnover margin and has a slight advantage in field position
Worst Case Scenario: Devin Gardner get the yips again and Michigan yields multiple Spartan short or no field drives.
2. Early Downs
|Early Conversions||Avg 3rd Down|
|Michigan Offense||48% (34)||6.9 (95)|
|MSU Defense||28% (1)||7.6 (6)|
|MSU Offense||38% (107)||5.7 (34)|
|Michigan Defense||44% (45)||7.1 (19)|
For Michigan State opponents, barely 1 in 4 first downs gets converted before facing a third down, best in the nation. When the offense does get to third down, an average of nearly 8 yards to go doesn’t make things any easier.
When Michigan State has the ball, they aren’t very good at generating early first downs but they are pretty good at staying ahead of the chains to give themselves manageable third downs.
Best Case Scenario: Michigan forgoes attempting to put together drives 3-5 yards at a time and is able to push for the chains on first and second down, putting together a few quick drives in exchange for less running into the wall on first down. The defense continues to hold out on first and second down and generates enough long third downs to consistently end MSU drives.
Worst Case Scenario: The Penn State offensive game plan but against a much better defense, Michigan routinely finds themselves in long down and distance situations without any tradeoff of attempted big plays. On defense, Michigan can’t get Michigan State behind the chains and a repeat of Minnesota happens.
3. Leverage Situations
|Adjusted 3rd Conv||Red Zone|
|Michigan Offense||-2% (72)||5.1 (54)|
|MSU Defense||+1% (64)||4.7 (35)|
|MSU Offense||-10% (121)||4.1 (111)|
|Michigan Defense||+9% (109)||4.5 (29)|
As good as the Spartans have been on standard downs they have been average on regular down and distances. If Michigan can effectively use Devin Gardner on third down, there is evidence that Michigan State’s largest vulnerability could be on key third downs and in the red zone. Not that they’re bad at either, they’re just not nearly as dominant.
Michigan State third downs should be a battle of who struggles the most. A lot will be dictated by the early downs. Michigan’s advantage is that they will likely only have to win 1 in 3 or 4 third downs to end a Spartan drive. Michigan should be prepared for all kind of trick plays in the red zone as Michigan State’s status quo once arriving has been field goals.
Best Case Scenario: Devin Gardner, high leverage play savant returns and Michigan can do enough in other situations to keep Michigan State from being in advantageous position on leverage plays.
Worst Case Scenario: Michigan State’s high leverage numbers are a small sample size issue and they pressure Michigan into disastrous third downs and red zone play. The defense does its work on early downs but cedes ground regularly on third down. Anything more than one red zone trip resulting in a touchdown for the Spartan offense would be a major disappointment.
4. The Key Factors
|Bonus Yards||Total Conversion Rate|
|Michigan Offense||188 (13)||75% (38)|
|MSU Defense||79 (4)||57% (1)|
|MSU Offense||97 (114)||71% (69)|
|Michigan Defense||122 (35)||67% (30)|
Total Conversion Rate = First downs achieved/First downs initiated
Besides turnovers/field position, if I had to pick one measure for which the Michigan offense had to have a positive day on, it would be Bonus Yards. If Michigan can get Gallon and Funchess loose in the Spartan secondary or if Devin Gardner can break out some long runs I really like their chances. At a 57% conversion rate allowed the odds of putting five first downs together in a row is about 1 in 16. If Michigan’s game plan is to plod down the field then its only hope is to win another 12-10 slugfest. If Michigan can put together even 150 yards beyond the line of scrimmage their odds go up dramatically.
Michigan State is moving close to the middle of the pack in terms of conversion rate as the season has progressed. At this point they are an average team at moving the chains, but they are really bad at generating big plays, with less than 100 yards per game beyond the first down mark. Michigan’s defense and Michigan State offense are really following the same path, minimize mistakes and drive the field. Michigan is planning that even at 70% chance of converting a first down that 30% is going to happen before your drive is done. Michigan State is hoping it has enough short fields that it only needs 3 first downs to get a score.
Best Case Scenario: Michigan’s playmakers are able to generate yards in chunks and the defense sees a lot of mild bending and minimal breaking.
Worst Case Scenario: Michigan attempts to drive the field a couple yards at a time and isn’t able to look down field until its too late, the defense faces a lot of short fields and Michigan State’s able to string together enough offense to put it away.
5. Special Teams
|Kicking||Punting||Punt Ret||Kickoff||Kick Ret||Total|
|Michigan||-5 (102)||-6 (97)||-5 (105)||-1 (75)||-1 (63)||-17 (112)|
|MSU||+0 (60)||+22 (1)||-4 (104)||+4 (16)||+4 (23)||+26 (7)|
All numbers are total points vs. average over the whole season to date
Nick Baumgardner pointed out on Saturday that Michigan State might be a 3 loss team with an average punter. It’s impossible to go back and assess that question, but Sadler has been worth an NCAA best 22 points on the season (that includes punts and returns/touchbacks). Even beyond the punting brilliance, Michigan State has a clear special teams advantage over Michigan. For the year, swapping the two units would be worth 43 points in either direction. Michigan has been 17 points below average, with subpar showing in all categories while Michigan State has been strong in all categories but place kicking and punt returns.
The one thing I’ll be looking for on Saturday, does Al Borges put the game in Devin Gardner’s hands and does Gardner look comfortable with it. I like Michigan’s chances if that happens. I feel relatively certain that Michigan’s defense will hold Michigan State’s offense to about a touchdown less than their field position would expect. What Michigan does on offense is anybody’s guess. I think as ugly as it looked at the time, Notre Dame’s game plan against Michigan State is the one to replicate. There are a couple teams out there who could put together multiple sustained drives on Michigan State, Michigan isn’t one of them and probably won’t be one for another two years. Three big downfield plays that turn into touchdowns should be enough for Michigan to win as long as they don’t consistently set up Michigan State in short fields.
Michigan 24 Michigan St 16
Now that I'm back in the states and am able to attend the games, I've seen some pretty disturbing things; the "you suck" chant (Just chant the damn Down Number, if we stuff them on 3rd down, chant "4TH DOWN!", if we stuff them on 4th down, chant "1ST DOWN!"), nearly losing to Akron, nearly losing to Uconn, actually losing to Penn St. But I do love football, so I'll try to get tickets to saturday's game in E. Lansing. I must be a glutton for punishment.
What that means is I won't be able to get on here and bitch about the game until several hours after it ends. So this diary is to get all my bitching out of the way beforehand. I'm not a psychic and all predictions are guaranteed to be incorrect. So if I betray any pessimism, consider it a chance for the team to prove me wrong.
Things that will probably happen before the game:
1. I will have to ask about 20 people before I can get a good price on a ticket.
2. Someone will bring up Dickhead Gholston. Which doesn't matter much since he's long gone.
3. Someone will bring up Dickhead Narduzzi's quote about "60 Minutes of unnecessary roughness". Which does matter because that's how his defense plays.
4. MSU's Band will bring out their fake wolverine mascot.
5. MSU fans will be annoying. Conveniently forgetting anything that happened earlier than 5 years ago.
6. I might refer to the Sparty mascot being gay, not that there's anything wrong with that, and how if he wants to marry Brutus, they could elope during the Rutgers game.
Things that will probably happen during the game:
1. We will not be able to run conventionally. Period. Unfortunately, Max Bullough seems to be the real deal. Remember 27 yards on 27 attempts? This game could be that bad, at least on a yards-per-carry basis. Hopefully we won't have as many attempts. I'd be ecstatic if we threw the ball 60 times and rushed 15. That ain't gonna happen.
Denard Devin will be good for at least 3 turnovers, probably two picks and one fumble. And he'll have two or three sacks, at least one of which is caused by his reverse spin and loses 15+ yards.
3. Funchess will make an amazing play, and then we'll be frustrated the rest of the game as he mysteriously disappears.
4. The Sparty defense will be jumping our snap count and we'll take major tackles for loss because of it.
5. Devin will rush for at least 80 yards and two TD's.
6. Gallon will get 100 yards receiving.
7. Spartan players will take cheap shots that aren't flagged.
8. One of our offensive linemen will get injured.
9. MSU will put together annoyingly long drives because we won't be able to stall their running game on 3rd down.
10. MSU fans will be annoying. Some fat idiot will yell "CHEATERS" whenever a flag is thrown. A brazenly foulmouthed pre-teen will get dangerously close to being slapped by me. That's just how they raise their kids.
11. Jake Ryan will save the day.
Things that will probably happen after the game:
1. Bipolar coordinator love will swing to the defensive side, Mattison will again be a genius and Borges will be on the hot seat. This will of course have everything to do with playing MSU instead of Indiana and not actual merit. (But yes, if we can UPGRADE Borges after the season, we should.)
2. Both fan bases will be upset with the referees. MSU will have about 4 pass interference penalties called against them, 3 of which spartans will think are ridiculous. Meanwhile I'll be able to freeze-frame 8 other instances that should have been called P.I. or defensive holding but weren't.
3. MSU fans will argue that any personal fouls called on them or other dirty plays that weren't flagged were somehow justified. Insert your own non-sequitur here. I'm partial to the idea that you should always beat up frat boys while wearing ski masks, because you know, "they had it coming".
4. If MSU wins, they'll probably win the division. If we win, I'll complain about how the division title is determined by conference record instead of division record since we'll probably lose to Ohio and have our only two losses being to the other division.
5. Win or Lose, something will be set on fire in E. Lansing.
6. MSU fans will be annoying.
Points of Quantum Uncertainty:
(aka, things that will swing the game)
1. Weather. The forecast calls for 40% chance of rain. With our dependence on the passing game and pass blocking, I'm guessing the more moisture, the worse for us.
2. Connor Cook's passing. Somewhere between 3.5 yards per attempt and whatever the hell that was last week will probably determine the game.
3. Al Borges the mad magician vs. Al Borges the stubborn coach looking for a new job. Self explanatory. (If you see Fitz catching wide open swings and screens, it could be a good day.)
4. The refs. THROW THE DAMN FLAG.
5. MSU Defensive scoring. We'll probably turn the ball over a few times. But will those be turned directly into TD's or will Mattison get a chance to make Connor Cook look like Andrew Maxwell?
1. Our basketball team looks good.
2. I hate cold weather.
3. I hope they didn't screw up Ender's Game.
4. I'm gonna do a Native American dance for sunshine and clear skies on Saturday. So like, an 'anti-rain-rain dance'.
THE BIG TEN BEGINS TO SORT ITSELF OUT: YOUR WEEKLY SUMMARY
NOTE: Normally, this would have gone up yesterday, but as I was at an offsite and only intermittently available to do, well, anything for most of the day, I had to put this off until this morning. If you were looking for it, that’s what happened and I apologize for the delay.
We’re getting to a point now where some teams have now played a full two-thirds of their schedule, so the conference looks as if it is beginning to sort itself out on paper.
SCORING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
When it comes to average points scored, we have an interesting separation now. There are basically five teams that are averaging 40 points or more per game (39.9, 40….close enough), and then production drops quite a bit. After Nebraska and Wisconsin, the next nearest team to the top is Illinois at 30.7 points and they are the top of a wide tier of teams in the 30-27 range. Then, of course, there is Purdue.
The progression on defense, on the other hand, is fairly steady from the stingiest to the most generous, and aren’t we lucky that we get to play the stingiest team in a few short days? The point differential graph basically is the result of Ohio State’s drubbing of Penn State this past Saturday.
TOTAL OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
There is a fair amount of stability here at this point – Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana and Nebraska tend to be the top four most weeks at this point. Michigan, buoyed somewhat by a prolific performance against Indiana, comes next after those teams. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State is firmly asserting itself as the most difficult team to get yards against, and it might even be the case that their average would be sub-200 if not for, well, their experience against Indiana.
RUSHING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
We are still one of the toughest teams to run against, so we’ve definitely go that going for us, and we sit near the mean for rushing offense, which I suppose I will take given the noted woes in this aspect of offense. The top teams in rushing offense again should not shock anyone, although Minnesota is quietly climbing that chart. If you want to be able to run the ball all day, Illinois and Indiana are the teams for you.
PASSING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
This aspect of the game, at least when it comes to offense, is getting to be “Indiana” and “Others” at this point, but Michigan is third here, sandwiched between Penn State and Nathan Scheelhaase’s resume of wasted performances. At the far end, you see Minnesota putting out passing numbers usually reserved for triple-option teams. If you’re just looking for Michigan’s stats by now, the passing defense numbers are, thanks to Indiana and one or two other games, not the best.
THIRD AND FIRST DOWNS:
As we know, not winning this battle makes it difficult to win the game typically. In other words, the tempo-free chart is starting to align with the story of the Big Ten this season when it comes to relative success or lack thereof. The first down differential is telling you a similar story, I believe.
SPECIAL TEAMS DATA:
Turnover Comparison: MSU is just not turning the ball over this year. With 1.1 giveaways per game, they are ranked #16 in the nation. That would be a lot better if MSU did not have an almost unbelievably poor 17% recovery rate (ranked #121) on their own fumbles. Sparty is not doing as good on takeaways with 1.9 takeaways per game – ranked #43. Overall, their turnover margin of +0.7 is excellent and ranked #18. At home, MSU is +1.0 in TOM and away they are +0.3
On paper, Michigan's giveaways are 2.43 per game and ranked #103. However, M dug itself into a huge hole with 12 giveaways in the first 4 games (an average of 3.0 per game). Over the last 3 games, Michigan has 5 giveaways (an average of 1.67 per game which would be ranked #58 ). Michigan is doing very good in takeaways with 2.14 per game and is ranked #28. At home, M is 0.0 for TOM and away we are –1.0.
Gardner threw 8 interceptions in the first 4 games (an average of 2.0 per game) but has thrown just 2 in the last 3 games (0.67 per game which would be ranked #22). Since it will be very difficult for Michigan to run the ball against MSU, Gardner will be tossing the ball around a lot.
Obviously, going into the game, MSU has the statistical advantage for turnovers. However, TOs are highly variable from game to game and are not very predictable. Almost all teams that end the year with very good TOMs have one or more games with negative TOMs during the year.
Keep your fingers crossed.
National Rankings: The chart shows Michigan's detailed turnover numbers (top 3 rows) compared to MSU's. All rankings include games between two FBS teams ONLY and are from TeamRankings except for forced fumbles which is from CFBStats. The four columns with *** show the best correlation to offense and defense (per Advanced NFL stats).
(and what to be prepared for when you succeed)
Co-authored by K.O.K.Law's oldest daughter
First and foremost, if you are the one who HAS to go to every home game, clear that with your partner. Having a spouse willing to forego going to a game(s) to take a child(ren) to other activities when conflicts arise is essential.
Take them early (age) and often:
Be Prepared: If your 3-year-old wants a better view of the band for the halftime show, be prepared to carry her down and back up to your seats in row 87.
Pro Tip: Keep them comfortable, and they will learn to stay to the end of the every game. And will even make you do so when you think Washington has the game won.
Buy them the right game clothes:
As their passion grows so will their need for accessories (socks, shoes, pompoms, facepaint).
Be Prepared: Their favorites will be YOUR old t-shirts and sweatshirts, be ready to hand them down. If you set the standard of buying them a bowl game shirt for Christmas each year, expect to get yelled at by your 21 and 25 year-old daughters the year you forget (or as you say “Oh, I didn’t think you’d still want one”).
Take them to all the sports! Baseball, basketball, hockey, and other games, whenever you can:
- College hockey at the Joe was close for us.
Be Prepared: This is where superstitions start getting serious, they will add to the clothing items they’ve acquired to create lucky outfits - for each sport.
Get a good parking spot:
Be Prepared: You need to park close, as you might have to get the rugrats back right after the game, for their sport or other school or friend function, and/or leave immediately from a morning event to make the kickoff.
Pro Tip: Get your father-in-law’s parking sticker so you can get in and out really fast.
Second Pro Tip: And, if you are lucky enough that your offspring attend U of M, make parking at their ideally located house a condition of you paying their rent.
Buy them all the treats they want at the games. Remember, it was your idea to take them:
Be Prepared: This will turn into “lucky” Lemon Chills & ice cream cones, that they will insist you pay for into their 20s (and beyond).
You might have to give up tailgating (until they’re in college), so they can do things Saturday mornings and evenings. Don’t make the choice between their stuff and U of M football, make the football fit into their lives.
Be Prepared: They may have to change into their homecoming dress (and do their hair and makeup) in the back of the mini-van after a game. You might have to make an emergency make up purchase when your daughter freaks out over forgetting sunblock and now has a big white block M on her cheek from where the facepaint was.
Share and teach the history, tradition, passion, etc:
Play your Ufer CDs and when you do the play by play along with the CD, it will amaze them. Daughter #2 turned to look at me and said, in an even keeled voice, “That’s not normal.” Tell stories about how their grandfather and Canham were buddies, how a U of M AD employee used to reserve a parking spot for Grandpa’s Bud van. Have them read Bacon’s books (and Brandy’s and Angelique’s and all of them).
Be Prepared: They will ask you questions you don’t have the answer to, especially after they read the books, so be ready to learn even more about Michigan.
Pro Tip: They will take YOUR CDs and books off to college with them, so buy them their own copies.
Take them to Columbus for a U of M v. Ohio. If nothing else, this will cause them to lose all interest in matriculating there:
There is no turnoff quite like live Buckeye behavior.
Be Prepared: You will have trouble convincing one daughter to ever go back, because U of M lost and she’s unlucky (J went over a decade before setting foot in Columbus again & still hasn’t been back for a football game), while explaining to the other daughter that “No, we can’t go to Columbus every other year for the game” and then inevitably giving in and taking her.
Pro Tip: Go on the alumni association bus trip. They have the parking spot, you can walk in and out of the Snakepit with a group of non-barbarians. Even then, one of the barbarians may try to pick a fight with your daughter.
Once the oldest is hooked, the younger siblings are sure to follow:
Be Prepared: Of course, the younger will require her own lucky outfits and Ufer CDs and books.
Pro Tip: Don’t tell them they are following the example of the older sibling! The younger won’t admit how much they look up to the older and the older will at some point get annoyed by the copy catting of the younger.
Take them to the football bust, so they can see players up close and personal:
Be Prepared: You’ll be expected to get them good seats and all the good autographs.
If you make a trip to the Rose Bowl, spend the night before the parade on Colorado Boulevard:
Camping out guarantees front row seats for the parade!
Be Prepared: If you do this once, you’ll have to do it every time. Oh and the drunk 20-somethings next to you will spill mustard all over your sleeping bags. So take the grungy ones.
Pro Tip: Bring silly string! In addition to sleeping bags, snacks, water, and cards & games, though the crowd provides ample entertainment.
Side Effects of Success
When you teach your 6-year-old to say Tshimanga Biakabutuka, you will both think it is the greatest trick ever and will insist upon demonstrating for everyone.
When Mom insists that your daughter visit Michigan State, she will wear her “Bow Down Little Brother” shirt the entire time.
They will not hide their true colors from teachers, aunts, uncles, parents of their friends, or your friends who may be MSU grads.
There will be endless superstitions: hooking pinky fingers on the inside hands for defense, outside for offense, switching seats, switching hats. Your 26-year-old daughter will no longer cut her hair during football season after making that mistake two days before the 2006 Michigan-Ohio game.
They might be the only person in their U of M friend group freshmen year who knows why we announce the Slippery Rock score at every game.
You’ll become more worried about their cardiac health on football Saturdays than your own.
For the parent:
A shared tradition of team values and integrity, good role models, teaching some of the ups and downs of life, which is sometimes unfair, people get injured, lifetime dreams die on a single play, you cannot win them all, cliches, yes, but with value to be passed on. Real people, they can see, and talk to on occasion, not just stories in books. Hopefully, you will raise someone to take you to the games in your dotage.
For the child:
The reward has been lessons in being part of something bigger than yourself and how you represent that, in loyalty, in passion, in the ups and downs of life, in making sacrifices, in bringing people together.
The reward has been the memories, the times spent with my dad related to Michigan are some of my favorites. I remember rushing from my tennis match to the Big House and from the Big House to the homecoming dance. I remember three hour road trips to South Bend, in which he sang college fight songs the entire drive and I couldn’t believe I was related to him. I remember exuberant celebrations together after a victory. I remember him setting aside his own feelings to comfort me after a particularly dreadful loss. I remember phone calls in college after games to talk about the highs & lows, to make sure I was still alive, to make plans for the next game, the next road trip.
The reward is being a (three time) Michigan alumna. Walking onto campus as a freshman, my love of Michigan became my own in a way it hadn’t been before. I learned, embraced, and loved what Michigan was beyond the Big House and Yost. That love is something I share with thousands of alumni, family members, college friends, but most of all my daddy. I know that wherever life takes us, we’ll always share our love of Michigan.
CIRCLING BACK: UPDATE ON AP POLL BEHAVIOR
Those of you that look at the polls as they are released each Sunday know that Michigan did in fact fall out of the Top 25 in the AP poll after the Penn State game. I thought, however, that this might be a good time to circle back and look at the overall picture now that we have lived through another full month of the season.
The summary data is below:
AVERAGE RANK (ALL VOTES)
The average position of Michigan’s AP vote has fallen from 14.597 to 16.836 in the last month, so basically two full points, which is considerable. The median ranking is 17thand for the time being, the mode is still 16thin the poll. The variance in the votes has increased significantly as well, from about 10 positions to nearly 15 positions now. Part of that is more votes, part of it is performance.
Below is the change in average position each week. I should state at this point that one thing I have done here is count the votes which put us in the range of the Top 25 for purposes of calculating these averages since there were still reasonably significant portions of the voters which did rank us. Still, the last two weeks are likely better stated as approximations.
Since the preseason poll, we have had quite the ride, as you can see.
Here is the tracking of the average ranking versus actual ranking and their differential. Again, the same note here – the last two weeks are approximate because of the number of “unranked” votes. I am still not sure exactly where I want to go with that differential, which I had start calling “The Hater Index”, but if it is showing anything here, it is showing that the voters are somehow kinder than the actual formula for calculating rank perhaps.
Here are the weekly distributions. These do show the number of occurrences of “unranked”, and indeed, you can see that a couple weeks ago, I started putting the actual counts on the graph. I have a separate table which contains the entire distribution, so if you are interested in precise figures, I can make them available and the next poll check will include numbers on all weekly distributions.
Here is the cumulative distribution of all votes (apologies in advance for the sizing - I can provide the direct link if anyone wants it):