TRICK OR TREMENDOUS
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Hey, Happy Halloween everybody!! Have fun out there, and BEAT SPARTY!!
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.
Mike Murphy, Michigan's first head coach
Got word from The Bentley Library today that they'll be offering extended hours on November 8 (Friday before the Nebraska game), staying open from 5pm to 8 pm. Greg Kinney and Brian Williams will be giving a presentation on some of Michigan's football firsts showing some of the unique photos and documents available at the Bentley.
They'll also offer extending viewing hours for the "Harmon of Michigan" exhibit and at least one showing of the 1965 TV program "One Saturday Afternoon" celebrating the 25th anniversary of Harmon's extraordinary 1940 season featuring game footage and interviews with Harmon, Crisler and Forest Evashevski. They'll also show Yost's 1st contract, the original team #1 photo and other gems to highlight some unique aspects of Michigan's football history.
Things to note:
- Since last week, Ohio State and Michigan State have improved, both on offense and on defense -- not by a lot, but there is still improvement. So too with Iowa.
- Nebraska is regressing according to the advanced stats, as are Illinois and Penn State.
As a side note, we all know that Michigan's November is tough. But did you know that the difference between Michigan's future strength of schedule and it's past strength of schedule is the 5th biggest in the FBS? This table is from Football Study Hall and is based on Brian Fremeau's FEI stats:
|Rk||Team||SOS Previous||SOS Future||Difference|
It's Novembers like these that make and break Big Ten championships.
CALL IT THERMOPYLAE, THEN.
Someone in this diary is going to get all ancient Greek savvy on me and tell me that Spartans didn't believe there was anything to look forward to in the afterlife ("300 isn't HISTORY, man!"). Or something. I don't care, okay? Good. Now that we got that out of the way, I decided upon a theme of Elysium because it does two things for me, symbolically.
One, it establishes that I respect the toughness and fight that the Spartans give in their game. While I may despise their very existence, only a blind homer (no pun intended - ANCIENT GREEK HIGH FIVE) wouldn't give them credit for being a formidable opponent as of late. To that end, should they die in battle (symbolically, of course), they would have earned an eternity in Elysium for dying in a worthy manner.
That brings me to my second thing that using this symbolism does for me. It establishes that they lose this "battle." They fight hard, but every one of the Spartans perish in my world here. We'll just call it "Thermopylae" for good measure.
Anyway, it's a pretty wallpaper that also has a bloody helmet on it with a spear marking a job well done in the battle by our Wolverines against their worthy (and eternally annoying) younger brothers. I hope you like it. If you don't, just dig up any other number of good MSU wallpapers from the past couple years and use that. Just don't look at the date...As always, constructive criticism and/or ideas for current or future wallpapers is encouraged. After all, even if we do piss off Space Coyote with our lack of playcall commentary acumen, we're all still united in our love of Michigan and our hatred of Sparty. I do this, and every wallpaper I design, for your enjoyment alone, MGoBlog.
No mobile version yet...sorry...I'll get on that ASAP.
HDR Version (with M logo in sky):
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