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):
So I'm finishing up the chart for the first game of the series on Wednesday night. I had Fox Sports Detroit on before I started watching the game on my DVR, which I thought nothing of because it's pretty typical for me to have Fox Sports Detroit on. After I finish charting, however, I hit stop on the recording and the Red Wings game comes on and PRETTY MUCH BURNS MY RETINAS WHY IS THIS ICE SO BRIGHT. Hockey in high def is most definitely not what Fox Sports College Atlantic or whatever it was was broadcasting for these Michigan games. Like Brian said in his post, it was basically like watching a legal stream. That wandering anecdote was my way of saying that the Corsi charts have some values that may not be perfect. I'm not really concerned though, as there are things that I may have marked a shot that missed the net or vice versa that even each other out in the overall numbers. This is why I don't change numbers in the shots column to match the official score sheet; it should work itself out when considering all of the categories.
Friday, 10/18/13 at UNH
- Things that are good: spending time not in the penalty box. Things that are bad: spending time in the penalty box. Of UNH's 37 shots 11 came on the power play. Of their misses, 7 of 21 came on the power play. Of UNH's blocked shots, 7 of 14 came on the power play. That's 29.7% of their shots, 33.3% of their misses, and 50% of their blocks. Worried about being outshot? Try to keep five guys on the ice.
- Even though Michigan was handily defeated in terms of possession, the game was a little more open than the numbers indicate. A lot of this game was played in the neutral zone, with each team trying and failing to create an offensive zone presence. An argument could be made, however, for UNH carrying the play because whoa that third period was rough. Michigan was circling and circling and circling in the defensive zone and I had to keep pausing the recording so I could mark more stuff down for UNH.
- UNH's numbers look pretty dominant in overtime but we're looking at a five minute sample. UNH had possession but I can't remember any part of OT where I thought Michigan dodged a bullet.
Saturday, 10/19/13 at UNH
- This was a game of extended periods of back-and-forth punctuated by furious bursts of offensive zone activity. Michigan looked like they were handily outplayed in the second period (especially the second half of the second period, where they couldn't clear the puck for anything) and the numbers bear this out. At one point UNH went on a tear of four consecutive shots on goal in what had to be under a minute. It looked like the tide of the game may have been turning, but the clock mercifully ran out.
- UNH picked up where they left off and generated a number of chances early in the third period. Their offensive zone time came in smaller bursts, however, and the game transitioned back to an up-and-down affair. Michigan eventually got their own extended offensive zone time and ended up with a slight advantage overall in Corsi for the period.
- Special teams were the theme of Friday night but weren't a factor after the first two periods on Saturday. In the first period 12 of Michigan's 21 shots (57.14%) came on the power play. In the second period 10 of UNH's 25 shots (40.00%) came on the power play. After that? Not even a power play opportunity for either team.
- I like Nagelvoort and his giant leg pads. They're like belly putters in golf; comedically oversized but effective in their own right.
Brady Hoke's self-avowed goal is to win Big Ten championships. Since we're facing the make-or-break section of Michigan's season after this bye week, it seems worth looking at what needs to happen for Michigan to win the Legends division and make it to the Big Ten championship game.
I decided to do this after reading on Football Study Hall that Michigan's chances of getting to Indianapolis by winning the division outright were 0.1% in a computer simulation. Why so low, I wondered? The author of that piece opined that
What truly surprised me is the almost zero chance that Michigan has to win the Legends Division outright. In 999 of 1000 cases model runs it needed help from someone else, or relied on tiebreakers to secure their place in the conference championship game. It looks like this is a direct result of the vagaries of their schedule...of the Legends Division contenders, they alone must face Ohio State. Also, if Michigan is to win the division outright it has to defeat both Nebraska and MSU. But in doing that it greatly aids the case of each to tie. It's a bit of a Catch-22 that Michigan finds itself in this year. Together, the odds of beating Nebraska, MSU, and Ohio State while Nebraska and MSU implode is pretty remote, hence the improbability of an outright Michigan division title.
To review, then: a team is selected to play in the Big Ten championship game by its overall conference record. Then there are a series of tiebreakers. If the records are the same, the head-to-head result is the tiebreaker. If three teams are tied for the same record, their records are compared to each other.
Scenario One: Michigan wins out
If Michigan wins out, then it ends the regular season at 11-1 overall, 7-1 in the conference. With wins over Nebraska and Michigan State, Michigan wins the tiebreakers even if Nebraska and Michigan State win the rest of their games (both Nebraska and Michigan State are undefeated in B1G play thus far).
Result: Big Ten championship game, almost certainly against Ohio State or Wisconsin.
Scenario Two: Michigan loses only one game, to a team not in the running for the Legends division
In this scenario Michigan ends the regular season at 10-2 overall, 7-2 in the conference, with wins over Nebraska and Michigan State. Michigan in this scenario drops one game against a team that is not a factor: Ohio State (not a factor because they're in the other division) or Northwestern (not a factor because they already have 3 B1G losses). We could probably put Iowa in this category: they have 2 B1G losses and are unlikely to run the table against Northwestern, Wisconsin, @Purdue and @Nebraska.
With wins over Nebraska and Michigan State, Michigan wins the tiebreakers. However, in this scenario Michigan needs Michigan State and Nebraska to lose one additional game in B1G play.
- Nebraska still has to play @ Minny, Northwestern, Michigan State, @Penn State, Iowa.
- Michigan State still has to play @Illinois, @Nebraska, @Northwestern, Minny.
So as long as Nebraska or State each lose a game, which seems very possible, then there would be three teams with two B1G losses, but Michigan would have wins against both of them, so Michigan goes to Indianapolis.
Scenario Three: Michigan loses to Michigan State or Nebraska
Note: this section has been edited thanks to a note by Key Play (see comments below).
Here is where it gets hairy. If Michigan loses to one of these teams, then it needs the following to advance to Indianapolis:
- Win the rest of its games, to end the regular season with two losses.
- The team that has defeated Michigan must lose three games in conference play (since it will have the tie-breaker over Michigan) OR it must defeat the other team and lose one other game in conference play.
- The other of the two teams, assuming that Michigan defeats it, must lose one additional game in conference play (since Michigan will have the tie-breaker).
Thus, if we lose to Michigan State and defeat Nebraska, we need Nebraska to lose one additional game (say, at Penn State) and we would need Michigan State to lose three of its four remaining games not against Michigan (say, at Illinois, at Nebraska, and at Northwestern) OR we would need Nebraska to defeat Michigan State and for Michigan State to lose one additional game. In the latter case, we would have a three-way tie, with no head-to-head tie-breaker because each of the three teams would have beaten one and lost to the other. Then the next tie-breaker is overall record, and both State and Nebraska have out-of-conference losses (to Notre Dame and UCLA respectively).
Discussion and conclusions
I won't go into further permutations, because it gets too complicated and would require running simulations, something that I'm not prepared to do at the moment. But this basic analysis points out several things:
- Michigan still has the ability to control its own destiny and win the Big Ten, by defeating every remaining team on its schedule and then winning the Big Ten Championship Game.
- BUT: The loss to Penn State is a really serious problem, because Nebraska and Michigan State have not lost yet in B1G play. That loss means that if we lose to Ohio State, beating both Nebraska and Michigan State may not be enough.
- It is more important at this point that Michigan beat Michigan State and Nebraska than it is to beat Ohio State. A loss to Ohio State means that we need Nebraska and Michigan State each to drop a game, something that is certainly possible. But a loss to Michigan State or to Nebraska is much more problematic.
- Our rooting interest is for Nebraska and Michigan State to lose games. It would be great if Wisconsin beat Iowa, just to put them out of the running.