well that's just, like, your opinion, man
BIG TEN SCORECARD AT THE HALFWAY POINT
Now that nearly everyone has half of their schedule behind them, this is a good time to go back and take a look at the updated scorecards for some summary statistics in our beloved conference.
Like last time, our first one will have passing, rushing and scoring offense and defense. After six games, here is how the conference shakes out:
The one thing I know most of you will zoom towards immediately are Michigan’s defensive numbers, all of which are firmly in the “green” and in each case, the best average in that category in the conference.
Looking at Michigan State, as it is that week, you can see that things aren’t what they used to be on defense in East Lansing. To see them giving up more than 100 yards on the ground on average per game is something I don’t think we’ve seen in a while. Indeed, that rushing defense is about in the middle of the conference, but then again, it isn’t Purdue or Maryland in that regard.
On offense, Michigan is what you might think right now – a bit below average in passing offense, a bit above the bar on rushing offense, and not at all surprisingly, about in the middle for scoring offense. Of course, the need to score a ton of points may not be urgent when you’re shutting down offenses, but scoring a goodly number of them is preferred all the same. Football can be funny that way.
Here are the current averages for kickoff and punt returns and coverage (again, you’re basically looking at average net here, so touchbacks do affect some of the numbers):
There is rather a lot of compression here, so it stands that, like the last time we saw these cards, this is a good punting conference. As for punt returns, the lesson is immediately apparent – DO NOT punt to Will Likely. On kickoff coverage, you can also see plenty of teams doing rather well on special teams, and then of course Michigan on kick returns, primarily thanks to one kick return in particular, is way ahead of everyone else at the moment.
Here are first and third down differentials:
Once again, aren’t you thankful that you are not Purdue or Maryland? Interestingly, they are the only teams where both differentials are in negative territory. Penn State breaks even on first downs and is slightly negative on their third down conversion differential. By contrast, there is of course Michigan, which is second in first down differential and first in third down conversion differential. When you’re forcing three and outs and controlling the ball for what seems like hours on end, it’s fairly easy to do that, I would think. Michigan State’s numbers in this respect are a bit un-MSU-like as well, so we’ll see if that holds on Saturday too.
With our recent success, there has been a lot of skepticism from opposing fan bases about how good our team actually is. While they admit we have been impressive, they say that we haven't played any good teams yet and cite our opponent's offensive and defensive stats as proof. I wanted to look into this further, so that's what this diary is.
To start, I wanted to put together a table showing the national ranks of the opponents we've played in some key overall stats.
The total defense/offense stats are in YPG and the scoring stats are in PPG
|Team||Total Defense||National Rank||Scoring Defense||National Rank||Total Offense||National Rank||Scoring Offense||National Rank|
This next table shows these same stats for our opponents with the totals from each team's Michigan game removed.
|Team||Total Defense||National Rank||Scoring Defense||National Rank||Total Offense||National Rank||Scoring Offense||National Rank|
Read this table as follows: If the national rank of a team decreased with Michigan's game removed, than Michigan underperformed against this team in that stat. The opposite goes for a national rank increasing.
For example: Utah's Total Defense rank fell from 66 to 77 without the Michigan game stats in there. This means that Michigan's offense had less than 392 yards of offense against Utah. The same logic follows for all stats.
The third and final table shows the differences between Michigan's totals against these teams and their averages with the Michigan game removed.
|Team||Total Defense||Scoring Defense||Total Offense||Scoring Offense|
Read this table as follows: If there's a negative sign in front of the number, it means Michigan performed that much below average against a team in that categorie. The same logic follows for the positive numbers.
For example: In the Utah game, Michigan has a -44.4 for total defense. That means Michigan gained 44.4 yards less than Utah's defense gives up a game on average.
The average total shows how much Michigan out performs or under performs in a categorie each game. So according to this table, Michigan will gain 1.78 yards more a game than the opposing defense normally gives up. So if a team normally gives up 300 yards a game, you can expect Michigan to gain 301.78 yards.
Similarly, Michigan will score 5.36 more points a game than the opposing defense allows, allow 224 yards less than what the opposing team normally gains, and allow 24.1 points less than what the opposing team normally scores.
If I had more time/motivation, I could put more time into the analysis of these stats. Instead of doing a raw average total in the last table, I would much rather see the percent difference between Michigan yards gained and average yards allowed by a team, etc. So there is some more analysis that can be done and some stuff that's left to be desired, but it does paint the general picture pretty well.
The reason I did this is because I think this paints a better picture of how good a team is. If a team averages 500 YPG that looks great in terms of stats, but to me a team that averages 400 YPG while playing defenses that allow 300 YPG is a better offense than one that averages 500 YPG while playing teams that allow 475 YPG. An average offense isn't one that is ranked 65/130 in YPG, but one that gains as many yards against a team as that team normally lets up.
So that being said, the results in the third table above show pretty much what we expected. Michigan has an average to slightly above average offense. Michigan will gain as many yards as their opponent normally allows. The scoring stats are higher than you might expect as we score almost 5.5 more points a game than our opponents allow, but some of that comes from our non offensive scores against NW. Similarly, because of our great special teams and defense we generally have good field position, increasing our point output while decreasing our yard output.
Defensively however, we are great. Teams gain 224 less yards agains us than they normally average, and 24.1 points less per a game. That's incredible. This is a great defense, arguably the best in the country, and the stats back it up in any scenario.
I went back to the clip I used as part of the utterly one-sided parkinggod highlight reel. Chesson catches the ball and starts moving forward at 0:01.15 (my clip is at 30fps, so that's the one-and-a-half second mark). He crosses the goal line at 0:14.00 (this is probably not how video editing professionals indicate time, but I only learned enough video editing to mix utterly one-sided highlight reels. But I digress), so his total time is 12 seconds and 15 frames, or 12 1/2 seconds.
Obviously, to determine how fast he is, we need to know how far he went. Fortunately, we can make a pretty good approximation by assuming that he ran a straight line from where he caught the ball at the 4 to where he turned the corner at the 35 (he didn't, really; he moved more forward at first to set up his blocks), then a straight line from there to the goal line.
The numbers are two yards tall, and the top of the number is three yards in from the sideline (according to http://www.trumarkathletics.com/football-field-layout-dimensions.aspx). Chesson caught the ball almost exactly in the middle of the number, so he's 8 yards in from the sideline. When he turns the corner at the 35, he is also around the middle of the number, so he's 8 yards in from the sideline there as well. The field is 53 1/3 yards wide, so his lateral distance travelled is (53 1/3 - 8 - 8) 37 1/3 yards. His downfield distance travelled is (35 - 4) 31 yards, so we can solve for the distance he ran, which is just the hypotenuse of that right triangle: sqrt((31 * 31) + (37 1/3 * 37 1/3)) ~= 48.5yd.
Add the 65 yards from there to the goal line (he drifts another couple of yards towards the sideline as he went, but that's probably lost in the noise of all the other assumptions I made) and his total distance is 113.5 yards in 12.5 seconds, or an 'equivalent' 100m time of 12.05 seconds. Caveats about wearing pads/helmet/cleats and carrying a football all apply.
I'm back with a post-ANNIHILATION edition of these here power rankings. Those of you who like it when your fandom is validated by systems with numbers will undoubtedly enjoy this edition more than the last two, as I did. But more on that later...
First, a note on methodology. I won't rehash how this system works, but rather refer you to the explanation given last week. One note: I decided to implement the +/-0.5 weight for conference games. These are Big 10 power rankings, after all, so it didn't make sense to count Stanford and Michigan as equals in Northwestern's score. Here's how adding that bonus affected last week's standings:
- Northwestern: 6.0
- Iowa: 5.0
- Ohio State 3.0
- Michigan: 2.5
- Michigan State: 1.5
- Illinois: 1.0
- Minnesota: 0.5
- (tie) Wisconsin: -2.0
- (tie) Penn State: -2.0
- Indiana: -2.5
- Maryland: -3.0
- Nebraska: -4.5
- (tie) Purdue: -5.0
- (tie) Rutgers: -5.0
(So that MSU/Minnesota tie that made everyone feel icky? Not an issue anymore.)
Also note: in the interests of consistency, this will be the last methodological change implemented this season. Further suggestions will be considered in the offseason.
Post-Week 6 Rankings
1. Michigan (5-1 (2-0), AP #11): 6.5
(+ 3) As in most other systems that deliberately ignore preseason assumptions, this one now recognizes Michigan as the most accomplished Big 10 team. The Wolverines neither benefit from nor are penalized by any rescoring this week, outside the 0.5 conference win bonus now awarded for beating Maryland. But that win over Northwestern, which was ranked #17 in F+, is the single most valuable win by any Big 10 team so far this season (3.5). And what a win it was! Let's bask in its glory for a moment, and eagerly await Saturday's opportunity to add another.
2. Northwestern (5-1 (1-1), AP #20): 5.5
(-1) The good news for the Wildcats is that the 38-0 loss to Michigan doesn’t count against them (due to Michigan being classified as "good"), and thanks to previous, highly-scored victories over Stanford and Duke, they remain in second place. Besides, Northwestern isn’t out of the race for the Big 10 West, though—far from it. Though Iowa has the easier path, the ‘Cats have a chance to stake their claim when the two go head-to-head in Evanston next week. Lose, though, and it will be hard for Northwestern to recover.
3. Iowa (6-0/2-0, AP #17): 5.0
(-1) Iowa has impressed so far—with 4/6 of its wins scoring positively (and only the win over Illinois State producing a penalty). This might even be Kirk Ferentz’s best team since 2009, when they finished 11-2, won the Orange Bowl and ended the season ranked #7. But Iowa also has been gifted with an incredibly easy conference schedule. That won’t do many favors in these here power rankings, but after playing Northwestern next week, which looks like a tossup game right now, there aren't many bumps left in the road. A win on Saturday and it should be smooth sailing to the Big 10 title game.
4. Ohio State (6-0 (2-0), AP #1): 4.5
(-1) Last week's win against Maryland was at least less unimpressive, right? Right. But something's still wrong with the Buckeyes, and no one's quite sure what that is. an Interestingly, most observers see the previous week's close win over Indiana as indicative of Ohio State’s perplexing, yet lingering malaise. I tend to agree, but it actually helps the Buckeyes according to the rules of this system, as gave Indiana a boost in F+ (and thus leads to their reclassification as “solid,” which 1.0 points to the baseline and eliminates a 0.5 MoV penalty. Still, they'll need a quality win to boost their position here, and the weak schedule doesn't really offer that opportunity until the last two weeks (when they play MSU and Michigan back-to-back).
5. Michigan State (6-0 (2-0), AP #7): 3.5
(=) Another week, another near-loss against an inferior opponent—this time 31-24 over lowly Rutgers. I know there have been a lot of injuries, especially on the OL, but really it’s the defense that looks out of whack. And given how well Pitt has been playing, this *might* imply that Narduzzi was Fukunaga to Dantonio’s Pizzolato (albeit with a better working relationship). Take the former out of the equation, and you’re left with the True Detective: Season Two of Big 10 defenses. (For those paying close attention to the scores: this week the Spartans benefit from Central Michigan moving up from “not good” to “solid” last week. That adds 1.0 points to the baseline score and eliminates a -0.5 MoV penalty for a total swing of 1.5, which is a lot at this early stage.)
6. Wisconsin (4-2 (1-1), NR): 1.0
(+2) The Badgers scored 0.0 from their non-conference schedule, which was three cupcakes plus Alabama. Then the home loss against Iowa deducts a point, while the win at Nebraska (which F+ had at #34, if you can believe that) adds two. Still very much in the hunt for the West, though at this point I’d be surprised if they actually pull it off.
7. Minnesota (4-2 (1-1), NR): 0.5
(=) Minnesota beat up a bad Purdue team. That’s good? But Colorado State has been downgraded from “solid” to “not good” (which means the small MoV negates the road win bonus). That’s bad. Still, at least Ohio is “solid.” That’s good! The frogurt is also cursed….that’s bad.
7. Illinois (4-2 (1-1), NR): 0.5
Huh…turns out Middle Tenessee is “solid” this week, so that’s something positive.
9. Penn State (5-1 (2-0), NR): 0.0
(=) The Nittany Lions are our perfectly average team of the week, at 0.0 (having played two conference doormats negates a -1.0 MoV penalty for unconvincing wins over “not good” opponents). So I guess that’s progress for a team that looked like it might be one of the doormats itself just a couple weeks ago. The problem for PSU is that there aren’t a lot of likely wins left on the schedule—away at Maryland and home versus Illinois probably, but the rest (OSU, Northwestern, Michigan and MSU) are all playing above PSU’s pay grade right now. A 6 or 7 win season seems likely, even with 5 already in the bag. If that happens, then 2016 is a do-or-die season for James Franklin.
10. Maryland (2-4 (0-2), NR): -2.5
(+1) Despite a 2-4 (0-2) record, a 3-game losing streak and the coach getting fired, Maryland’s score is surprisingly not awful--and even helped them move up one spot. Why? Because 3/4 losses came to “good” teams (WVU, Michigan, OSU), and this system does not penalize for blowout losses to “good” teams.
11. Indiana (4-2 (0-2), NR): -3.5
(-1) Indiana demonstrates why the transitive property has limited application to college football: one week after almost upsetting AP #1 Ohio State, the Hoosiers get shellacked by Penn State. That’s like almost beating a Porsche 918 in a drag race, and then getting smoked by a Toyota Corolla.
12. Nebraska (2-4 (0-2), NR): -6.5
(=) Death by a thousand cuts.
12. Rutgers (2-3 (0-2), NR): -6.5
(+1) Getting Carroo back certainly helps, to the degree that a very fast kid with a bucket and access to a garden hose can help fight a raging warehouse fire. Also, Rutgers should get a boost next week: since opponent strength is based on last week’s F+ ranking, Washington State is still classified as “not good” (#94). That might change after WSU beat Oregon (i.e. MSU's "quality OOC win"). Look out, Nebraska!
14. Purdue (1-5 (0-2), NR): -7.5
(-1) Like Indiana, the Boilermakers took their best shot at one of the conference’s wobbly fat cats (MSU in this case)—only to get destroyed the following week by the congressman from average (losing 41-13 to Minnesota). This team is bad.
- Mean: 0.0 (woohoo!)
- Median: 0.5
- Range: 14 (-7.5 to 6.5)
This week's changes were more incremental than last time. Michigan vaulted into the top spot, Wisconsin clawed its way back into positive territory and Indiana took a dive, but otherwise things look more or less the same.
Of the games being played this Saturday, none are likely to really shake things up. Michigan or Michigan State will benefit greatly from a win, but the loser won't give up too much ground (seeing as how both are in the top 25 of F+). A PSU upset of OSU would be something, but does anyone see that happening, even considering OSU's malaise? I don't.
As far as our game goes, well, I'm fairly confident we're going to win. I know, I know--they've had our number for years. But our defense is better than their offense, and our offensive staff should be able to figure out their declining defense. But I wouldn't be shocked if we lost either--they were highly rated preseason for a reason, after all, and Dantonio is a very capable and motivated coach. Still, I'm thinking 27-17 to the good guys, or something like that. Maybe not even that close.
One final note: I'm going out of town this weekend, so I'm unlikely to do one of these next week. Might still happen, but in all likelihood I'll wait for the bye week. GO BLUE!
I posted a shorter version of this on the main board last night but with the volume of new subjects this week it will be knocked off page 1 by noon today. I also will include a "vs UM" measure in the diary which will compare a Sparty weakness or strength vs the appropriate counter measure from UM.
At bottom I will do a summary of places there is a major discrepency of strength i.e. 1 team is great at something vs the other team bad at it, along with strength on strength summary,
First the charts
|3rd down conversion %||8||50%||3rd down conv % D||1||18.8%|
|Passes Had Intercepted||10||2||Passes intercepted||27||7|
|Passing yds per comp||28||13.7|
|Fumbles lost||2||1||Fumbles recovered||117||1|
|Sacks allowed / game||8||0.67||Sacks / game||38||2.5|
|TFL allowed / game||20||4.5||TFL / game||15||8.0|
|Fumbles recovered||23||5||Fumbles lost||40||3|
|Passes Intercepted||36||6||Passes had intercepted||80||6|
|Red zone defense||29||76.5%||Red zone offense||12||95%|
|Rushing defense||34||130.2||Rushing offense||33||201.3|
|Sacks / game||7||3.5||Sacks allowed / game||36||1.3|
|Tackles for loss / game||23||7.5||TFL allowed / game||26||4.7|
|Misc / Special Teams||Misc / Special Teams|
|Blocked kicks||5||2||Blocked kicked allowed||T1||0|
|Fewest Penalty Yds/Game||6||35.3||Penalty Yds/Game||49||51.7|
|Turnover Margin / game||8||1.33||Turnover Margin / game||77||-0.2|
|Turnovers lost||4||3||Turnovers gained||68||8|
|Natl rank||Value||UM rank||Value|
|Passing Offense||76||222.3||Passing defense||2||115.5|
|Red zone offense||89||80%||Red zone defense||67||83%|
|Total offense||72||397.3||Total defense||2||181.3|
|Passing yds Allowed||88||242||Passing yds||97||189.2|
|Misc / Special Teams||Misc / Special Teams|
|Blocked kicks Allowed||120||3||Blocked kicks||0|
|Kickoff return defense||71||21.5||Kickoffs returns||1||39|
|Kickoffs returns||86||20||Kickoff return defense||24||18.1|
|Punt return defense||119||16.1||Punt returns||60||8.7|
|Punt returns||124||1||Punt return defense||58||7.5|
Battle royale section - strength on strength
MSU offense v UM defense
- MSU 3rd down conversion v UM 3rd down conversion D
- MSU passes intercepted v UM defensive interceptions
- MSU sacks allowed per game v UM sacks
- MSU TFL allowed per game v UM TFLs
MSU defense v UM offense
- MSU red zone defense vs v UM red zone offense
- MSU rushing defense v UM rushing offense
- MSU sacks v UM sacks allowed per game
- MSU TFLs v UM TFL allowed per game
Special teams / Misc
Areas to exploit section - weakness vs strength
- Fumbles lost v Fumbles recovered
- Passes intercepted vs Interceptions thrown
- Turnover margin / game
- Passing defense v MSU passing offense
- Total defense v MSU total offense
- Kickoff returns v MSU kickoff return defense
- Kickoff return defense v MSU kickoff returns
- UM punt returns and punt return defense is quite average but MSU's is bottom FBS so not a strength on weakness but a middle of pack on weakness battle
Weakness on weakness
- MSU red zone offense v UM red zone defense
- MSU passing yards allowed v UM passing yards
It is interesting that while we all fear the potential of Cook and the passing game, MSU's passing stats have been quite pedestrian this year. Most of the Sparties say this is due to conservatism of their OC and when push came to shove i.e. vs rutgers you saw the potential of Cook. Can't disagree too much with that thesis. Also the OL challenges of late probably push them to protect Cook from getting needlessly hit.
Cook often throws for 300+ yds in MSUs big games when opposing defenses stymie their run to a degree and/or MSU needs to come back from a deficit. (Stanford, OSU 2013/2014, Oregon 2014/2015, Baylor) Which has been a rare thing the past 2.5 yrs. Last Saturday was the first extended defict they had thru 6 games So I'd expect a ton of passing (35ish attempts?) in this game despite the data above. Dude has a NFL arm and seems to be quite clutch in that he seems to play best on 3rd down. Also he has no memory from play to play which is a good quality to have as a QB. He is never going to be a high completion % guy but he throws well in the intermediate to long range and takes risks. An INT or two would be fantastic but considering he has only 2 all year, we'll be content with 1.
Frankly vs most Big 10 offenses the past few years MSU only needed to play Tressel ball - let defense dominate, don't take risks, don't turn the ball over, run it, punt well to win field position battle, and then let Cook throw it 20-25x a game. Honestly that is basically what Jim Harbaugh is doing at UM as well this year. Isaac has 2 of UM's few turnovers and has been essentially banished to Bolivia. Dantonio likewise sits any running back who fumbles - regardless of their actual running ability. They are among national leaders in turnover margin this year again, whic is a carbon copy of prior years. So long story short, MSU will be taking more risks in this game because they are forced to. And if UM can create turnovers off those risks it would be a positive - it seems those will need to come thru the air as UM's one main weakness on defense is causing fumbles.
Another epic battle will be MSU's great 3rd down conversion rate vs UM's great 3rd down conversion defense. Due to some lag in their offense in most games MSU has had quite a few 3rd and medium/long vs prior yrs when Langford would routinely get them to 2nd and 5 and 3rd and 2. What's been impressive is Cook's ability to find medium to long completions on 3rd down - the rutgers game was especially great as they went 11 for 17 on 3rd down and these were often 5+ yd conversions. Those are back breaking to a defense in terms of emotion. Ask Lions fans.
Despite the OL situation at MSU they have done an excellent job in pass protect and keeping negative yardage plays at a minimum. Meanwhile UM's DL has been great at creating TFL while the sack rate is above average if not great. I would certainly love to see Connor Cook on his ass often this game and even if not sacked (he is a big boy that is hard to get a clean hit on) I'd like to see him hear footsteps even on plays we don't get to him. And when we blitz we need to get there or Cook can open you up downfield.
MSU's defense is not of recent vintage in the pass D. Their 2013 defense was outstanding with 2 lockdown corners - a rarity in CFB. Their 2014 defense was still elite vs poor to average teams which was 80% of their schedule. They faltered vs the 3 elite passing teams they faced but that probably would go for nearly every team in CFB. This year the back 4 is full of follies, esp now that rj williamson is out at S. Carroo was open at will last game. Unfort this is UM's weak spot so it's a "weakness on weakness" battle. I do expect a ton of TE passes and you hope Jake can find 6-8 passes to Darboh and Chesson that can exploit this weakness.
MSU's run defense is still good - the Air Force game (51 runs v 9 passes) skewed their #s. They have given up a few big plays (1 huge one vs rutgers and purdue), and some vs air force but still are stout as hell. The only conventional offense with consistent ability to run was Purdue of all people (who also was able to do it vs them in 2014). But that was the game Williamson went out mid game and MSU had to adjust their safeties on the fly. (Cox moved over from corner to safety mid game) I do expect UM to get some yards because unless we are behind by 10+ we'll be running 40x this game. But a 3.8 ave per run vs a 3.1 ave for example would go a long way to success.
MSUs front 7 is still damn good, esp the front 4. They are still a havoc defense great at creating turnovers both on the ground and thru the air. They get to the QB. The OL for UM has to have its best game.
MSU is little penalized and like UM is a TOP team.
The biggest weakness for MSU outside of passing defense is special teams in almost every facet outside of blocking kicks. They've allowed 3 blocked kicks and their FG kicker is a basket case right now; a 35 yard FG is an adventure at this point. Our kickoff average return jumped to #1 this week thanks to Chesson but the sample size is small since we give up so few scores - think about it, we've only had 1 kickoff return in each of the past 3 games!!! So that's a bit misleading BUT MSU stinks at both kickoff and punt return coverage. Peppers should have an opportunity somewhere in this game but most important dont turn the ball over - he saves a lot of hidden yards with his crazy running fair catches but they make your heart stop and he is playing with fire. Despite a punter with a huge leg who routinely kicks it 50 yds the net kick for MSU is 35 - showing how bad their coverage is. The hire of Texas A&M fired DC as LB/ST coach this offseason was a great move!
The opening kickoff return has a pretty interesting structure. By the alignment, you can see that Michigan is very slightly shifted to the right, maybe anticipating this play.
Side note - lots of starters out there on special teams, Is playing your starting left tackle on kickoffs a common thing? Also, I think that's Wormley out there, but I'm not 100% sure.
1) As soon as Chesson secures the kick, Butt starts running across the field, towards the M sideline, giving up about 10 yards as he does so (Dark blue circle is his starting spot, blue dashed lines are the path he's taken thus far, and big maize arrows are where players are heading).
This shot gives us a good view of the play design. Five players (Wilson, Kinnel, Gedeon, Houma and Wormley) are forming a wall, while three lead blockers (Peppers, Butt and M. Cole) pull around to the right. Meanwhile, Bolden and Poggi double-team Northwestern's Terrance Brown (circled at bottom of image). Two Northwestern players are left completely unblocked on the left (circled at top of image). Chesson runs his first 10 yards straight upfield, which helps to pull the Northwestern coverage to his side.
2) Moments later, Chesson has just started his cut behind the wall and away from the unblocked guys in front of him. Butt (circled) is about to hit the unblocked guy in front of him. The fact that he came all of the way across the field to block this guy in particular indicates that this is by design. Peppers and Cole pull through to get the next blocks.
3) Cole latches on and Peppers is getting ready to hit Northwestern's safety who escaped the double (circled). Chesson arcs away from one unblocked player who picked his way across the field behind the wall...
4) ... and leaves him on the ground.