Ed-M: Bumped due to info/graphic awesome.
Diarist Note: The Pick-4 contest is up and running at the JCB. We have an assortment of good football and soccer coverage over there to set you up for the weekend. I’ll have weekend picks up later, so you’ll know exactly which teams to fade while I try to gamble my way out last week’s slump.
In a season of transition for both programs, Penn State and Michigan meet in Happy Valley tomorrow night in what could prove to be a signature game for the winner. Neither club has any Big 10 Title aspirations, but critical bowl positioning and perhaps even the inside track to the Gator Bowl, will be on the line when the ball finally kicks off in anger in primetime.
This week’s Big 10 slate is highlighted by the showdown in Iowa City between the Hawkeyes and Spartans, but this contest has implications that loom as large, just in a different venue. What happens to the loser of this game? For Penn State, it means they probably will do no better than a 6-6 record. Or worse. Will the cries for Joe Pa’s head reach the levels of 2003 and 2004 if the Nits revert to their losing ways from the early portion of that decade?
And speaking of cries for heads, how about Rich Rodriguez. There isn't a coach in the country taking more heat for a 5-2 record than Rodriguez, the remaining residue from his 8-16 mark during his first two seasons. A third loss in a row and November might end up being more kind to turkeys than the Wolverines current head coach.
5-2 by year three is just unacceptable, dear.
Everyone here knows all those storylines, so I wont bloviate on and on there. Tomorrow night’s game should be a blast and it will help define what sort of final month either club will have. Here are some of the keys to the game, as I see it through the MGo Over/Under Board. Place your bets accordingly.
First, however, it should be noted that with the conference breaking into two divisions and Michigan and Penn State being seated on different sides, this will be the last PSU/UM in at least a couple of years. Who knows when the Maize and Blue will be back in Happy Valley, so to honor the moment let’s go back in the Way Back Machine, courtesy of Wolverine Historian, and remember the Wolverines' first-ever visit to Beaver Stadium:
Ah, memories. You shall be missed, oh second-largest.
(The picks, after the jump.)
I love MGoBlog's Picture Pages posts, but I'm so obtuse that sometimes I can't follow them in still shots or even the unadorned play video. To overcome this, I created an annotated video companion to the two latest Picture Pages. I'll probably keep doing this for the rest of the year [Ed-M: Yes, please!] as making them really helped me figure out what Brian was talking about in the original posts (included text is with his permission, BTW).
Apologies in advance to those who have already seen part of this in the Iowa UFR Errata post, but there's new stuff here too.
Losing Contain, Again Again:
The sitch: Iowa has a 3rd and 3 from Michigan's 11 yard line, late in the 3rd quarter. They come out with an unbalanced I-form which they've used to little effect during the day, Michigan answers with a 4-4 with both cornerbacks lined up over the two receivers on the weakside. M blitzes the strongside safety (Kovacs), meaning Jonas Mouton is now the outside guy. He takes the inside shoulder of Iowa's tackle, meaning there's nobody left to contain outside. Iowa scores.
(More) Freshman DB Doom:
The sitch: Iowa has a 3rd and 10 from the Michigan 14, and M rolls Cover 2. Freshman nickelback Courtney Avery turns his head around and chases the inside vertical receiver way too far, abandoning his zone and turning the underneath drag into a wide-open path to the endzone. Iowa scores.
Hopefully these will make the plays make more sense to the more video-inclined.
Abbreviated Version: As expected, after a bye week, most of the data did not change. However, the computer analysis (Fremeau and Sagarin) did have significant changes – primarily due to strength of schedule adjustments. Michigan's SoS went from #52 to #77 in the FEI and from #49 to #64 for Sagarin. At the same time, PSU beat lowly Minnesota and their SoS improved slightly from #40 to #36 for the FEI but declined from #45 to #47 for Sagarin. The SoS adjustments have more to do with how all of your opponents did that week rather than whether you win or lose. This significantly changed the rankings and game predictions (see below). Thus, my prediction that the computer analysis would not change very much after the bye week was absolutely wrong!
Synopsis: After 7 games and a bye week, Michigan is currently ranked #17 in scoring offense and #80 in scoring defense (wooo hooo, the defense improved by not playing). According to the FEI rankings at Football Outsiders, Michigan is ranked #93 in total defense (a significant drop from #83 prior to the bye week).
Due to the large swing in computer rankings during the bye week, FEI has Michigan favored by 7 points over Penn State (an initial rough estimate showed M favored by 16 prior to the bye week). Using the Sagarin Predictor, PSU is now favored by 1.5 points (before the bye week M was favored by 2.8 points). Sagarin Elo-Chess has M favored by 3.1 and the Sagarin Overall ranking has M by 0.7 points. (Vegas Odds now have M favored by 3).
I am confused this week why Sagarin has PSU favored and FEI as the game relatively close. Unless M implodes with TOs, IMO this should be a big win.
DETAILS: Here are the FEI numbers ( FEI Forecasts and Football Outsiders FEI ). FEI is a weighted and opponent adjusted season efficiency and is expressed as a percentage as compared with an average FBS team. The average team will have an index of approximately 0.00. Teams below average have negative index values.
Note that FEI completely excludes all non-FBS data (the W-L record is only for FBS games, etc.). Therefore, you need to add 1 to FBS-MW to get the final predicted wins for M this year. Or, if you use FBS-RMW, you need to add 1 to the current W-L record to get the final predicted wins for M this year. BTW, the difference between FBS-MW and FBS-RMW is the number of FBS games each team would have been expected to win to date.
The FEI is a drive based analysis considering each of the nearly 20,000 drives each year in college football. The data is filtered to eliminate garbage time (at the half or end of game) and is adjusted for opponent. A team is rewarded for playing well against good teams (win or lose) and is punished more severely for playing poorly against bad teams than it is rewarded for playing well against bad teams. I've included the GE basic data so you can see the impact of adjusting for opponent. (See: Football Outsiders Our Basic College Stats )
Here are the Sagarin Ratings.
Sagarin uses two basic ratings: PREDICTOR (in which the score MARGIN is the only thing that matters) and ELO-CHESS (in which winning and losing only matters, the score margin is of no consequence). The overall rating is a synthesis of the two diametrical opposites, ELO-CHESS and PREDICTOR.
Per Sagarin: ELO-CHESS is “very politically correct. However, it is less accurate in its predictions for upcoming games than is PREDICTOR”.
Three weeks ago we predicted the MSU yardage exactly and modeled the score very closely for what would have been in a turnover neutral game. Two weeks ago vs Iowa we had this:
Dear god, help us.
It's about time for our defense to turn in a performance that exceeds expectations, and when these are your expectations one can only pray that they are exceeded.
If they are, Michigan might have a shot in this game - but only if our offense actually puts together a real game when it counts in the Big Ten.
Iowa did gain fewer yards than predicted, thank god. I feel like this was mostly due to conservative play-calling on Iowa's part. It was clear that when they desired greatly to move the ball, they were able to pull out the stops and march down with little resistance. But their coaches saw a path to victory that involved simply out-executing and took it.
- Turnovers killed.
- If turnovers didn't kill, special teams and penalties killed.
- The defense held Iowa to less yardage than expected but that could possibly be due to Iowa's average field position (40 yard line anyone?), our turnovers, and conservative play-calling from Iowa once they had a huge lead.
Enough emotional prognosticating, here be the numbers:
Chart of Expectations (through 7 games)
N-PPG or Normalized Points-per-game is taken from the teams average PPG with a SoS multiplier factored in to deflate numbers from playing bad competition and inflate numbers based on playing good competition.
N-YPG or Normalized Yards-per-game is calculated using the same SoS multiplier as N-PPG but using this metric will help us determine a less variant guess as to how offenses will perform (PPG is subject to wild variance based on turnovers and special teams).
Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings.
Usage: The chart doesn't predict that #3 would beat #5. Instead it tries to predict with the most accuracy how many points/yards on average each of these teams would score against a common opponent.
Surprisingly boring results after a bye week.
- We have yet to play the best two N-PPG offenses we will face this year.
- Our other three games are against three of the bottom half, including arguably the two worst.
- I really hope that at some point we start converting the yardage gained disparity into the points column.
- But it could mean that we just have awful special teams and killer mistakes that make us have to move the ball a lot farther for every point we get.
- But at least we're moving the ball!
- All of our wins are looking cheaper by the week:
- Indiana is tied for last in the Big Ten.
- BGSU is last place in the MAC.
- UConn is last place in the Big East.
- UMass got rolled twice by some terrible Colonial teams.
- Notre Dame got blown out by Navy.
Conclusions Based on Saddening Data
What a big, big opportunity for the Maize and Blue this weekend. Penn State took a gracious Minnesota team to bring up it's averages (Minnesota fwiw would be a 22.1 NPPG team and 351 NYPG on the chart - better than BGSU, worse than UConn).
The yardage doesn't lie, Michigan has a potent - albeit highly volatile - offense. And the fact that the team has an great opportunity to improve from last years mark with a defense that's the worst we've ever seen is very encouraging if you believe that defense will eventually get better.
Michigan's new best-case scenario (Michigan offense operates at or near 100% N-PPG and opponents score 125%) in the Big Ten is 4-4. That means the next three games are must win to stay at .500 in Big Ten Play.
In a worst-case scenario our only remaining win is Purdue.
Our new outlook ranges between 6-6 and 8-4!
Prediction for Penn St:
Based strictly on the numbers:
|Team||PPG vs Mich||YPG vs Mich|
Penn State 24
I wanted to design a special edition Halloween wallpaper and we're playing Penn State this week, so a JoePa Halloween costume was the natural choice. All I had to do was add a plastic nose and some bushy eyebrows to the slightly more respectful 2010 Penn State game wallpaper that I released on Monday. In my first version of this wallpaper I completely replaced the real frames with a pair of joke glasses, but thought it was actually funnier to attach the gag accessories to the real frames.
The image below is a preview only. You can get this week's widescreen, 4:3, iPad and mobile wallpapers at The Art. The Art. The Art!.
All of the 2010 Schedule Wallpapers
All numbers included in this preview are using my PAN metric, Points Above Normal. PAN is essentially how many points above an average FBS team was a team/unit/player worth. For reference, an average FBS team is approximately equal to Northwestern or a top team from the MAC.
All games against FCS teams are excluded, as well as any plays in the second half where one team leads by more than 2 touchdowns or any end of half run-out-the-clock situations.
Unless otherwise noted, numbers include adjustment for opponent, which are starting to be more accurate as most teams have played at least half their schedule vs in-conference or quality non-conference opponents.
Rush Offense vs Penn St
Michigan Off +7 PAN, 2nd nationally, 1st Big Ten
PSU Def +1 , 53rd, 6th
Michigan has been well above average in every game this year and four of the six outings have been very positive. Alabama’s unit has been largely average. It had three decent performances and two below average games.
With Denard missing significant time against Iowa, the Cam Newton express has pushed Auburn into the #1 rushing spot nationally but Michigan is still a strong second. Cam also pushed Denard out of the top spot in the overall QB ratings but like the team rushing, Denard is still holding strong at #2, with all of Michigan’s +7 coming from him.
Hopkins has been the most efficiently productive back, averaging +1 in the games he has gotten carries, while Vincent Smith as netted out to +0 and Shaw is at –1.
With all of the injuries, Penn St may be able to slow the Michigan ground game but it should still be a big advantage for Michigan.
Pass Offense vs Penn St
Michigan Off +5, 16th, 2nd
PSU Def +2, 37th, 4th
Although the value and ranks are higher for the Penn St defense you’ll notice the large negative performance posted by the Nittany Lions when they faced their only other mobile QB against Illinois. Illinois had by far its best passing day of the season, leaving Penn St with an ugly –10 for the day.
Denard currently ranks 7th among Big Ten QBs in passing value but the team rating is much higher on the fact that Michigan is currently #2 nationally, having only allowed about 1.5 points lost due to sacks for the full season.
Hemingway, Roundtree and Stonum are presently ranked 10, 14, and 19 respectively among Big Ten receivers. Indiana is currently the only other team to have three receivers ranked in the top 20 in the Big Ten.
Even without an Illinois-level meltdown for the Nittany Lion pass defense, Michigan should still expect to come out ahead in the matchup through the air.
Rush Defense vs Penn St
Michigan Def –2, 93rd, 9th
Penn St Off –2, 96th, 9th
Two groups don’t get as evenly matched as the Penn St ground game and the Michigan rush defense. Both have the same value, nearly identical national ranks and both are #9 in the Big Ten. They both even have one terrible game (Iowa for PSU and MSU for Michigan) to go with a couple decent showings and a bunch of below average games.
When Royster has gotten carries he has been successful, ranking second individually among Big Ten running backs. Penn St just hasn’t been able to get him consistent carries and there hasn’t been any support behind him.
This shouldn’t be a matchup that is capable of killing the struggling Michigan defense. As long as Michigan can keep them from getting Royster a ton of carries a draw would be a likely outcome and a welcome showing.
Pass Defense vs Penn St
Michigan Def –3, 99th, 9th
PSU Off –3, 90th, 10th
Weakness on weakness. Just like the rush defense, the pass defense is in a pretty equal matchup. That is assuming that Penn St can match the production of their concussed true freshman quarterback with an upperclassman walk-on.
Michigan is hitting the critical portion of their schedule where they need to pick up some wins against the Big Ten’s three lowest rated quarterbacks. Robert Bolden is likely out on Saturday but he was already ranked dead last in the Big Ten quarterbacks with –3 per game.
Penn St has only produced one above average passing game of the season and that was against Kent St in Week 3. In about a half’s worth of time last weekend against lowly Minnesota, presumed Michigan starter Matt McGloin was –2.5 (unadjusted) despite throwing a pair of touchdown passes. In mop-up duty throughout the season, Kevin Newsome was –1 (unadjusted) in total for both rushes and passes.
No matter who the quarterback ends up being, these are the matchups over the next three Saturdays that Michigan’s pass defense has to make headway on to finish the season out strong.
Special Teams vs Penn St
Michigan –1.5, 108th, 11th
PSU +3.8, 14th, 1st
After four nice looking matchups, we get to the ugly one. Penn St has been very solid on special teams this season. The big score against Illinois is from two fumbled Illini punt returns. The Nittany Lions aren’t much of a threat to break a long return, but their punt and kickoff units, along with their kicker, have been among the best in the nation this season.
Penn St has the number one ranked KO cover unit with only one return past the 26 allowed on the season, and even that only went to the 35. Michigan’s strong offensive advantage should help neutralize any field position gains from Penn St’s good kicking units.
Prediction Almost Certain to Cost You Money if Taken Seriously
Michigan 35 Penn St 24
My model is calling for something closer than this but of the four major units, there is one great (Michigan Offense), one average (Penn St Defense) and two bad (Michigan Defense and Penn St Offense). Also part of the closer score is the big special teams disparity. I don’t think that will come to fruition because Penn St’s strength has come in the form of defensive field position but Michigan has proven this year that field position is largely irrelevant for their high-powered offense.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten
Iowa 28 Michigan St 26 – Sparty’s dream season could certainly clear it’s last major hurdle but I do think this is where it ends.
Northwestern 35 Indiana 31 – Should be a fun one to watch even if there isn’t much on the line.
Ohio St 42 Minnesota 17 – Another easy one for the Buckeyes
Illinois 27 Purdue 13 – The [NAME REDACTED] redemption tour continues
Utah 35 Air Force 31
Georgia 31 Florida 28
Upset Special: USC 35 Oregon 34 – Despite the gaudy numbers, my database is still not sold on the Ducks due to their relatively weak schedule.