this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Just thought I would throw this out there after Demetrius Hart's commitment. Here are the recruits in Rivals top 250 that are still listing Michigan in their top group.
- #5 De'Anthony Thomas- 5 star, 5'9", 160 lbs., Athlete/Defensive Back
- #9 Curtis Grant- 5 star, 6'3", 222 lbs, Linebacker
- #10 Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix- 5 star, 6'2", 190 lbs, Safety
- #11 Karlos Williams- 5 star, 6'2", 210 lbs, Safety
- #18 Ray Drew- 4 star, 6'5", 243 lbs, Defensive end
- #33 Kris Frost- 4 star, 6'3", 210 lbs, Wide Receiver/Linebacker
- #43 Sammy Watkins- 4 star, 6'1", 180 lbs, Wide Receiver
- #53 Timmy Jernigan- 4 star, 6'2", 275 lbs, Defensive tackle
- #65 Anthony Zettel - 4 star, 6'4", 245 lbs, Defensive End
- #87 Wayne Lyons- 4 star, 6'0", 190 lbs, Safety
- #118 Charles Jackson- 4 star, 5'11", 180 lbs, Defensive back
- #148 Deion Barnes- 4 star, 6'5", 225 lbs, Defensive end
- #157 Avery Walls - 4 star, 5'11", 184 lbs, Safety
- #185 Mickey Johnson- 4 star, 6'1", 310 lbs, Defensive tackle
- #193 Chris Bryant- 4 star, 6'5", 330 lbs, Offensive line
- #214 Austin Traylor- 4 star, 6'4", 210 lbs, Defensive end
- #216 Sheldon Royster- 4 star, 6'0", 185 lbs, Defensive back
With the commitments of Demetrius Hart (#37) and Brennen Beyer (#191) Michigan already has two prospects in the top 250. So on that list who do we have the most realistic shot at?
The prospects that Michigan has a very high chance with off that list are:
- #33 Kris Frost - listed in his top two with Auburn.
- #65 Anthony Zettel - Waiting until the end of the season to decide.
- #157 Avery Walls - Will be announcing within the month, visiting Cal this weekend.
- #193 Chris Bryant - Should be deciding relatively soon. Down to Michigan, Stanford, and Arizona.
The prospects that I think Michigan still has a good shot with are:
- #18 Ray Drew - I'm including him on this list because I think he has genuine interest in Michigan. His mom doesn't want him to leave home though so it may be tough.
- #43 Sammy Watkins - We're in great shape with his teammate Dallas Crawford. The more I hear, the more it sounds like Sammy might really be considering Michigan.
- #87 Wayne Lyons - I'll have a full update in the Weekly Update on Monday, but Michigan is back in his top list.
- #148 Deion Barnes - Penn State may lead, but he'll be visiting after his season so anything can happen.
Finally, off this list here are the prospects that we either need to wait and see with, or we may not have a great shot with:
- #5 De'Anthony Thomas - He told me he will visit if Michigan offers, but I'm not sure if there's enough to make him decommit from USC.
- #9 Curtis Grant - I think he ends up at Alabama or Florida. He insists that he will try to visit Michigan.
- #10 Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix - Recently told the Orlando Sentinel that he's 100% committed to Alabama, but they also reported that Demetrius Hart was an Alabama lean. If he takes his visit to Michigan for the Wisconsin game there's a chance.
- #11 Karlos Williams - Currently committed to Florida State told me that he will be taking an official visit after his season is over. Michigan needs to continue winning to impress him.
- #53 Timmy Jernigan - Timmy always mentions Michigan in his top group, but I just haven't seen enough to take him seriously.
- #118 Charles Jackson - I've heard that he may be favoring Nebraska right now. He told me he wants to visit Michigan. We'll have to wait to see if that actually happens.
- #185 Mickey Johnson - Mickey has a new leader every week. Michigan is listed in his top group with Tennessee, Nebraska, UCLA, and LSU. His group and list changes so much I don't know what to believe.
- #214 Austin Traylor - Told me recently that Michigan is in his top ten and that he would like to visit. Until he narrows his list down further we won't know how high his interest level actually is.
- #216 Sheldon Royster - New Jersey safety has been quiet with his recruitment, but has always had Michigan on his list. Until he visits I'm not including him on the high chance list.
Synopsis: After 5 games, Michigan is currently ranked #9 in scoring offense and #73 in scoring defense. Based on these rankings, M has a 43% chance for a +5 WLM (9-4 or better) season and an 83% chance for a winning season. Offense continues to trend better each week. Defense, uh, not so much. The defense is definitely a significant concern. Only 8 teams in the last 5 years have had +5 WLM with a defense rated worse than #60. The most recent were in 2008 (Texas Tech O#13/D#74 +9 WLM, Oregon O#15/D#78 +7 WLM, Missouri O#6/D#69 +6 WLM, Nebraska O#25/D#80 +5 WLM, Oklahoma State O#17/D#76 +5 WLM). Michigan's current PPG is 25.4 so the defense must hold teams below this number to improve their performance.
I always use scoring stats because yardage stats are inherently flawed. Poor teams will give up fewer passing yards and more rushing yards because opponents will stop passing once they have a late-game lead and will run out the clock instead. For winning teams, the opposite is true. Yardage per game does not take into account the pace of the game and it is obvious M plays at a faster pace than most teams (M is ranked #82 based on yards per play). Being #73 in scoring defense is not good but Ms defense is not as bad as the #102 in total defense indicates. According to the S&P+ rankings at Football Outsiders, Michigan is ranked #62 in total defense.
Based on the FEI (Fremeau Efficiency Index), Michigan is predicted to win between 8.6 and 9.4 games (excluding bowl game but adjusted with +1 for M's one FCS opponent).
Based on the FEI, M is favored by 8 points over MSU! Using the Sagarin Predictor, M is favored by 5.6 points (Vegas Odds Opened at 5.0). This is a classic "pick-em" game with the advantage going to U/M based on home field advantage and a slightly more difficult schedule to date. Michigan needs to play well but does not need that "perfect game" to beat Sparty.
Overall this year, M is averaging 3.6 points per possession (PPP) and 49 YPP. The defense is giving up 2.1 PPP and 36 YPP. With an average of 12 possessions per game for each team, this translates into an 18 point advantage for Michigan.
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.
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 the projected numbers for MW and RMW to get the final predicted wins for M this year.
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”.
Here is the U/M vs. MSU National Statistical Rankings with the advantage for each category indicated (all categories within 10% are considered a "push").
Here are the week by week National Statistical Rankings for Michigan (cumulative thru the week indicated):
I have included the major rankings for offense and defense but scoring rankings show the best correlation to winning and losing. Scoring rankings are based on PPG. Rushing, Passing, and Total rankings are based on YPG.
Here is the basic data for Michigan (each individual week followed by totals and then average per game). I've included Total Possessions for Offense & Defense along with the calculated data per possession. Number of possessions do not include running out the clock at the half or end of game. Offense Plays and Defense Plays are better indicators than Time of Possession.
Using Scoring Offense and Scoring Defense National Rankings for the past 5 years (FBS AQ teams only), this table shows the percentage of teams that finish the season with a +WLM and a +5 WLM. For example, teams that finished in the Top 40 in both offense and defense had a 100% chance to be +WLM and an 82% chance to be +5 WLM (9-4 or better).
Each year, of the 66 FBS AQ teams, 65% (43 teams) end up with a + WLM and 36% (24 teams) end up with a +5 WLM.
Well, here we are, another State Championship weekend. This rivalry has, to put it mildly, been suboptimal for Wolverine boosters the last two years. Is this game, and season for that matter, going to be a different story? Oddsmakers hint that it might, installing the Wolverines as 4.5-point chalk, but it seems like everyone is picking Michigan State to win or at least cover that seemingly generous spot. Well, almost everybody. And, here's another brave soul. But most folks across the interwebs are picking Sparty to not only cover, but win and possibly move closer to a BCS bid.
Quick aside on the odds for the rest of the season, by the way. Remember how Michigan was a 10-point dog over the summer at Penn State, and how that line plunged to just 3-points after Week 2? Well, now your Michigan Wolverines are a pick 'em in Happy Valley in three weeks. Cheers to the smart souls who grabbed those fat ten points back in August. Most of the other lines have stayed fairly pat in recent weeks, with MIchigan -2 against both Iowa and Wisconsin. The OSU number has dipped to just +12.5, the lowest its been yet. As for Heisman odds, after a brief flirtation with Mark Ingram, the chalk is back in Denard Robinson's corner. At +150, its the smallest payout for a Robinson win at any point in this season. Ingram is +350, Pryor, the preseason favorite, +450 and Kellen Moore +800. Everybody else on the board is 12/1 or higher.
Speaking of odds, the JCB Pick-4 games are up for the week. Jump in and play.
Getting back to this game, I'm sure everyone is an eager beaver to hear what I have to say, especially after that great 4-10 a week ago at the JCB. Big 10 home teams are hot after they're 5-0 sweep a week ago. Four of those teams were underdogs, however, with three losing, but covering the number. I dont know if that really helps us handicap this game at all. I've already made some thoughts clear on this game. I tend to always take the underdog in regular season games pitting 5-0 or better teams against one another. The counter to that, however, I always want to make sure any underdog I pick has the ability to outrush their opponents. With all due respect to the Baker-Bell-Caper combination, I'm not sure that's the case with the Spartans. I annoy everybody every home game in Section 14 when I mention to folks there are no worries about Michigan as long the visiting underdog's rushing numbers are below the Wolverines. It never seems to calm anybody down, but the truth is if you're looking for a quality underdog play look for one who can outrush--not outpass--the favorite. Its why teams like Air Force and Navy make great underdog plays. Michigan's rushing attack is what is driving this line, which most of us bloggers expected to be smaller, to be more than a field goal in favor of MIchigan.
In the end, I just cant buy Michigan's defense as a unit that screams 'trust us, we'll cover as chalk.' Therefore, I am buying this bad boy up to +5 and taking Sparty. Even if I leave the stadium despondent over a loss, I will be a few bucks richer. And if Michigan covers, we'll then thats the best spent money of the day, if you ask me.
Want to argue with me? Tell me I have no soul? Go right ahead. BUT DO IT PERSON. Yes, for all the folks in Ann Arbor tomorrow, you are ALL INVITED, to our tailgate. We'll be at the Fingerlee Lumber Yard, right next to the Business School Tailgate. You cant miss us, we'll be the ones partying in front of a big dark blue RV, our official 2010 tailgate moble. We should be settled in by 10 am. The more the merrier, so stop on by. Dont feel nervous about walking up blind and asking for Jamie Mac; the folks I am with know all about my invisible friend habit.
On to the mock prop board and subtle keys to the game:
Michigan, Yards Per Rush: O/U 6.0
To me, one of the biggest matchups of the season, and, d'uh of this game, is how the Michigan offensive line attacks the MSU defensive front. I talked a little about this in my Big 10 post at the JCB earlier in the week. This has been a mismatch the last couple of seasons. In 2008, MSU was able to jump the snap over and over again and they dominated. A year ago, was every bit as bad even if the Wolverines were able to disguise their snap counts better. Michigan's right side of the line was a turnstile en route to a 28 carry, 28 yard day rushing the football. A main culprit was the 55 yards in lost rushing yards on attempts throughout the game. At first, I was going to throw up an over/under on lost rushing yards, but I changed my mind halfway through this post. That 1.0 yards per carry from a year ago against the Spartans kept bringing me back to that stat. I kept glancing back and forth between last year's box score and this year's stats for Michigan throughout putting this post together, and it just hammered home more so just how much different this year's Michigan's club is than a year ago. I'm more than eager to see how this plays out.
Michigan comes into the game with a different, more talented and athletic offensvie line that they Spartans have had to deal with in this matchup the last couple of years. Center David Molk is healthy after missing this game a year ago. Patrick Omameh and Taylor Lewan have been inserted in the starting unit since the match in East Lansing. Both are upgrades over the incumbents on the field a year ago. Lewan has been an outstanding edition since coming into the starting lineup two weeks ago. He already has become the third most productive blocker of this unit in half the field time. This entire offensive line can get second level blocks on linebackers, a skill the blocking front has lacked for several years now. As for State, its a relief that guys like Orien Wilson and Trevor Anderson are no longer Spartans. Anderson wasnt effectively blocked at any point the last two Paul Bunyan games. They're still strong up from with Jerel Worthy at tackle and the front should be bolstered with the return of Cam Neely and Kevin Pickleman (the latter had a big TFL a year ago in this game) to the lineup.
Let's be clear. A 1.0 ypc is not happening this year. Michigan probably wont hit their current season average of 7.1 ypc, but thats a lot more likely to happen that a reprise from a year ago. In fact, I think this number will be no worse than closer to 7.1 than 1.0. But that's not saying much really. If Michigan hits its season average of 4.5 from a year ago, they wont have enough to win this game, despite the much better effort at running the ball. But, if they get to 6.0, which I think is achievable, then Michigan gets the W. I have to set this number high because most Michigan fans will take the Over, but dont kid yourself. I'm trying to lure in some MSU in here. So, come on LVS, Spartan Dan, CPT Hoolie and Doctor Worm! Where you at? Place your bets. We accept change, but not bus tokens.
Jerel Worthy, Greg Jones, Johnny Adams, total combined Tackles, Sacks, TFLs, TOs and PBU: O/U 25.5 (Diarist Note: Oops Forget to put, uh, you know, a number on this one. All who took the Over on zero, your bets are invalidated, lulz)
I'm throwing this headache of a prop on the board because it gives me a chance to rap about one of my favorite topics that I pretend to be a faux expert in. Worthy, Jones and Adams are the most important players on defense tomorrow for the Spartans. They might be their three best defensive players. They certainly are their best lineman, linebacker and defensive back. Everyone is waiting to see just what happens when Greg Jones meets Denard Robinson. Jones and Adams have been impact players since Day One. Worthy redshirted but has been a starter at tackle since the dat he was eligible after that. If MSU achieves their dream of a BCS bowl that some folks are projecting, two of these guys will end up as All Big 10. Maybe even all three. And, they're all from Ohio. Ah yes, there it is. It always comes back to recruiting in the o-h-i-o for me, doesnt it? Here's the deal. I could give a sack of Alpo about this alleged recruiting battle in the state of Michigan. It does not exist. Its the true Wag The Dog comparison in this rivalry. The real worry for me are the inroads in Ohio that Dantonio (and, well the rest of the league) has made in Ohio to make themselves stronger. Watch these three stuff the defensive stat sheet and maybe even swing the game in the Spartans favor tomorrow. And remember that these kids arrived at Michigan State, as did recruits on campuses throughout the league, during the tail end of an era where Michigan was one of the worst teams in the Big 10 at recruiting, retaining and developing talent from the most rich state in the conference's footprint. There are factories all over the state that produce fantastic collegiate defensive players. Rodriguez has turned that around on a pure number basis for Michigan, even if its lacked a blue chip flair. But those classes are still babes. Positive impact on the field, at least on the defensive end, is still in the future, although true freshmen Jibreel Black, Courtney Avery and Terrance Talbot are bucking to make plays now. For now, though, most of Michigan's Big 10 brethern will have more Ohio influence on the defensive side of the ball. Throwing the Buckeyes out of the equation obviously, no team brings that influence on D more than the Spartans. And that, not their 'pipeline' at places like Renaissance, is one of the primary reasons they have elevated their program.
Total Kickoff and Punt Return Yards: Keshawn Martin -35 yards over Michigans Return Specialists
Keshean Martin's total yards was a Pick-4 contest in Week 3. He skied over the 126-yard total with a fun all-around a game against the Irish. We'll go a different direction here and just focus on the return game with MSU and UM's going head to head. Martin is probably the Big 10's best return man. And he handles both the punt and kickoff return duties. He could dominate this game like no other opposing return man to enter Michigan Stadium since......I cant say it, so I wont. Look, this will be a shootout. Michigan's defense wont have any chance to succeed with bend, but dont break if Martin is setting them up in great field position. I also cant think of too many times Michigan has won giving up a kickoff return for a TD. And dont even get me started if this guy pops off a game changing punt return like he did a week ago against the Badgers. Oh sure, that means the O might get the ball back fast, but that also means we are PUNTING!! Didnt we decide to go full steam Romer ahead? Come on Rich, we worked this out in an email exchange this week. Do it. Dont just punt to this guy; dont punt at all.
Anyway, in this corner is the assortment of talented, but struggling as of yet to produce Maize and Blue specialists. Daryl Stonum was one of the best KOR guys a year ago, breaking program records for yards. He has not had an impact this year on this part of the game. He dominated three games a year ago on this skill alone, let alone the isolated times he set Michigan up in other contests. Hard to fathom, but the Wolverines are likely mere 3-game winners in 2009 without Stonum's special teams production. Through five games this year, he's pretty much on pace for the same number of returns, but he has yet to break off a return of more than 30 yards and is pace for nearly a 300-percent drop off in yardage. Maybe the added receiving burden is wearing him out on this front. I dont know. A big part of me does not mind the tradeoff since Stonum is on pace to shatter his career cumulative stats in this one single season. However, if Michigan intends on stealing enough Big 10 games to actually play in the month of January, it's probably going to need Stonum (or really somebody else, on any of the special teams units) to make a play in this department. Michigan's wideout crew seems to be rotating big games. Maybe tomorrow is Stonum's turn and his return game is part of that equation.
I almost had to make the Spartan Keshawn Martin a heavy favorite in this one. His production, like silence, speaks volumes. Stonum will have the chances to make a play and keep up. But, the Michigan punt return team probably doesnt, that is even if they make it on the field. Other than a Drew Dileo quick grab as the up man and ensuing scoot for 15 yards, nothing has been happening here. Michigan fans are still in 'please football vahalla, dont make us fumble' every time the punt is in the air to really worry too much here. There is so much win in the other's team punt right now, that I'm high fiving everyone in Section 14 after every secured fair catch. Hemingway actually had nice numbers in the chances he had a year ago, now that's he's healthy I wonder if the coaches would put him back out there if some of the quirky fielding issues and decisions continue out of Gallon?
Taylor Lewan, total penalty yards: O/U 12.5
I am just going to let this one sit out there and not comment too much. But you cant help but wonder if the refs are going to be vigilant and judge this kid extra harsh after the closing sequences the week before. And I'm not refering primarily to what happened in the end zone. It's more about what looked like an obvious hold at the start of that game winning drive that went uncalled. One week's fortune and refs' blind eye could be the next week's unfair ticky-tack foul victim. I think its a lead pipe lock that Lewan will get a holding call in this one. So, basically this number comes down to whether or not you'll think he'll be a multiple
Will the cute Sparty girl who sat next to us at the 2008 game that I bought a hot chocolate for return and pay me back in kind? Yes/No
A deal is a deal, girl. You were cold, for some reason were sitting by yourself because you could not get a ticket near your friends and I bought you a hot chocolate during a third quarter television timeout because you were shivering. You were a good sport all day, even telling our whole section 'that's why we are Sparty' as Brett Swenson started shanking field goals like it was his job. Dont blow the memory by not coming through on the promise to buy me a hot chocolate at the next game in Ann Arbor. You know where the seats are. You're probably done with college by this point, so if your shift at the Vu finishes in time and you can make the game, stop on over. Its supposed to be pretty warm, and the concessions might not even have cocoa, so just bring us some pops. Dont worrying about paying for the souvenir cups. No need to waste all your tip money
ESPN provided some decent background information to allow me to analyze data on penalties in the Michigan-Michigan State game dating back to 2003. The results are very interesting, in my opinion, and also very telling about the differences in discipline and importance that is placed on this rivalry by the respective teams. See the below and draw your own conclusions:
(The "Against" row lists penalties called against Michigan and the total yardage lost and the "For" row lists penalties called against Michigan State and the total yardage gained due to these penalties.)
Based on the data, Michigan has averaged 4.14 penalties per game as compared to Michigan State's average of 8.71 penalties per game. That is a pretty large disparity and could have an impact on the game. Most glaringly, notice 2004 and 2006 data! Also, MSU appears to commit more penalties in Ann Arbor than playing at home in Spartan Stadium. This makes sense but its still an interesting tidbit nonetheless.
Another interesting discovery is that this game used to be played much later in the season than the past two years. I personally think its better played earlier in the Big Ten season like this year than later as it was in 2003.
Footnote: Does the disparity in penalties per game provide fuel for the fire that Desmond was purposely tripped in the end zone? (I'm still bitter about that one!)
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 is approximately equal to Illinois or a top team from the MAC.
All games against FCS teams are excluded for all teams, 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.
At this point adjustments for strength of opponent are directional but still highly uncertain. They will be now be used in all situations except otherwise noted.
Rush Offense vs Michigan St
Michigan Off: +8 PAN, 2nd nationally, 1st Big Ten
Michigan St Def: -0 PAN allowed, 54th, 6th
[Chart note: positive numbers mean good performances for both offense and defense.]
Despite Michigan St holding Wisconsin to 24 points last week, they fared worse against Wisconsin’s running game than the average team has in 2010.
Michigan has been between good and ridiculous in every game this year. Michigan St’s rush defense is definitely an upgrade over the Hoosiers from last week, but it’s more of an “allow touchdowns in reasonably length drives” as opposed to a “regularly keep us out of the end zone” type matchup.
Robinson will obviously be the catalyst for Michigan. His rushing PAN is +9, over 3.5 points better than anyone else in the nation. Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw have both hovered right around zero, with Smith grading out higher due to a combination of the long run against Indiana and Shaw’s best performance coming against an FCS opponent.
Michigan will face a better rush defense than they have seen in the last month or so but Michigan St hasn’t shown anything yet to indicate they are good enough to slow Michigan’s run game down more than anyone else has. Look for at least a full touchdown worth of advantage from the Michigan rushing attack.
Pass Offense vs Michigan St
Michigan Off: +7, 4th, 2nd
Michigan St Def: –1 allowed, 46th, 4th
After struggling for the first month of the season, Michigan St’s pass defense was the difference in shutting down Wisconsin last week. Michigan’s pass game has continued to be very potent and last week at Indiana was the best game yet. Because Michigan’s passing success is built so much off the success of the running game, it’s not as clear as to how a good pass defense will be able to defend the Wolverine passing game.
Robinson has been +6 PAN on the season and is the 20th ranked passer in my ratings, which can reward for volume, which Michigan has very little of in the passing game. Robinson will be aided by a group of receivers who have been much more productive than last year. Hemingway and Roundtree are both averaging a solid +6 PAN per game and Odoms is at +3. Stonum is potentially a threat but has only been worth +2 against FBS competition.
Michigan St stepped up last week and did a great job limiting Wisconsin through the air. Although both Michigan and Wisconsin’s passing games are set up by strong ground games, the spread and shred is very different from old school Big Ten rushing. If Michigan St can replicate last week’s success this matchup could be a draw instead of the +6 for Michigan the numbers indicate.
Rush Defense vs Michigan St
Michigan Def: +1 allowed, 72nd, 7th
Michigan St Off: +3, 28th, 5th
This chart, with the exception the MSU-WMU game is a chart of averageness. Michigan hasn’t been gouged in the running game but they haven’t been closing the door on anyone either. Michigan St’s two-headed running attack came out big in Week 1 but has been relatively quiet since.
Michigan St’s +3 PAN is essentially split between Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker with both players contributing equally to the success. Bell had the big day against Western with a +7 showing but was shut down against Wisconsin by going –4 on the day. Baker has been much more consistent with all four games going between +1 and +3.
If you take out the beatdown Michigan St’s backs administered in Week 1, the Spartan ground game looks much more tameable. Michigan can not sleep on this matchup but is in better shape than I thought. Michigan should have a chance to reasonably contain the Spartan backs, shifting the challenge to the…
Pass Defense vs Michigan St
Michigan Def: –1 allowed, 42nd, 3rd
Michigan St Off: +2 allowed, 32nd, 6th
As I have stated previously, the high rating for Michigan’s pass defense against Indiana will not hold. I do agree with Brian that Indiana will probably still have the best pass offense in the Big Ten this year, but when you are compared to Akron and Western Kentucky in your performance, you should always come up looking good, even if you allow nearly 500 yards through the air.
Michigan’s pass defense is very difficult to assess right now. Indiana doesn’t have good comps to measure against. The BG performance mostly looks bad because of one fluke play where BG got away with a massive hold. ND and UConn both look like respectable performances in comparison with how other teams have defended them.
Michigan St has really stepped up their passing game in the last two FBS games, with a pair of +7’s against legitimate opponents. After two sub-zero PANs for Kirk Cousins to start the season, he has been +11 and +12 in his last two games (the difference between the team and his score is that sacks count against the team but not the player).
The receiving has been pretty balanced with three Spartans checking in at +4 on the season. BJ Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Mark Dell have carried most of the load this year. All three have a game-rated +9 or higher on the season.
If Kirk Cousins can keep up his recent success this where it starts to get scary for Michigan. The Spartan passing attack will not be as good we saw last week in Indiana but if Michigan does improve in the secondary, the results could be nearly as bad, especially if Michigan St can keep Michigan looking in the backfield on play action.
Special Teams vs Michigan St
Keshawn Martin. That’s the two big green bars on the graph. He has three big returns on the year, one going the distance against Wisconsin last week. Let’s not kick to him, although he has lost a fumble on a return this season. Michigan’s blue bars have gotten closer to zero, mostly because we have chosen to forgo special teams altogether. The Spartan kicking situation is a polar opposite to Michigan. Michigan’s kickers have cost the team 5 points vs an average kicker while Michigan St’s kicker has been 5 points better than the average kicker. If this game is decided by special teams it is very unlikely to be a Wolverine win.
Predictions Almost Certain to Cost You Money if Taken Seriously
At a neutral site, this matchup is pretty much a tossup. Luckily its in Ann Arbor. If Michigan can keep Keshawn Martin from breaking a long return and is at least even in turnovers I would feel really good about the chances.
Michigan 35 Michigan St 32
Elsewhere in the Big Ten:
Northwestern 27 Purdue 20 – Northwestern continues to be college football’s worst undefeated team
Ohio St 40 Indiana 21 – Chappell has a bunch of yards but also throws a couple picks while Ohio St runs all over Indiana
Penn St 13 Illinois 10 – Basically a repeat of every game Penn St has played this year
Wisconsin 31 Minnesota 24 – Going with my numbers. I think they are underrating Wisconsin but I still think they are overrated overall.
I guess I’ll pick the Bama game again since Game Day dissed Ann Arbor for them this week.
Alabama 24 South Carolina 20 – A virtual mirror of the Alabama/Arkansas game.
The upcoming Michigan - Michigan State game has a certain life all its own inside my brain right now. There are weird images (a feral MSU linebacker with no facial features except glowing eyes gnawing on Denard's bad knee after a tackle)...
...uninformed thoughts (why doesn’t GERG use press coverage when blitzing?), stark colors (radiant maize, cerebral blue, chyme green and an ink cloud of black despair waiting to descend, hovering just out of view), graphic sounds (Fight Club quality bone crunching, the Victors after the winning touchdown, a cartoon whoosh whoosh whoosh sound in my mind that accompanies every Denard breakaway), numbers (200/200, 120, 0.73663, 480, 9-3, 877, 16, 4) and a whole lot of emotions; quite honestly, more bad ones than good ones. All this wraps up into an ill-defined knot inside me as I both anticipate and dread the opening kickoff.
It occurred to me that 25 years ago my impressions of Saturday's contest would be so different as to be unrecognizable. I was just as big a fan back then. Yet, today, my love of Michigan football has so many more data points as to render my 1980s fandom a primitive, low-tech thing resembling Ken Mattingly in Apollo 13 sweating inside a simulator with a flashlight between his teeth trying to figure out how to splash down a spaceship on 20 amps of power.
All this data has, I think, distorted our view of the game. We have analyzed our way into believing that Michigan State is an emerging power that inevitably must eviscerate a statistically helpless Michigan defense.
I say hogwash.
Two decades ago, I would be moving about my week calmly expecting a Michigan victory, because two decades ago it would be the résumé that mattered, not hyper-analysis of data that promotes fear and generates such concepts as RPS-3, Chappellbombing and PAN. My understanding of the team would be that we have a great offense with a great quarterback and a schizophrenic defense, but that we were still winning. I would never have tried (and failed) to figure out a Cover-2 zone or known our national pass defense ranking or even known where Greg Robinson had coached before.
But I would know the résumés, and based upon the résumés, I would have concluded that an oddly unbalanced, uncharacteristic Michigan team nonetheless possessed the strongest résumé of any team in the Big 10.
Say what?! Prove it.
No numbers; we are in a variable-free zone and channeling both 1985 and common sense at the same time.
Michigan Wolverines Résumé
Michigan has beaten two major teams back to back, the second one on the road. The first was a beatdown of a bowl winning team from the year before with almost everyone back. The second was an always talented and very emotional Notre Dame team at home with an unexpected bonus: a competent coach. Michigan won its first Big 10 game, an away game against a serious offense. A shaky squeaker against a good FCS team mars the résumé.
- Ohio State? Four home games with a solid win against a charitable Miami team, three cupcakes, and a lackluster win over a bad Illinois team. Fail.
- Iowa? Not bad, but they lost to Arizona. Fail.
- Wisconsin? Three cupcakes, a squeaker and a beatdown. Fail.
- Northwestern? Five cupcakes with extra icing, cherries, sprinkles and a cream filling. Fail.
- And Michigan State? Five home games, three cupcakes, a less impressive win against a common opponent at home, and a solid win against an overrated Big 10 “power.” Fail.
If preseason polls were outlawed and this year’s Big 10 teams, like 11 sprinters in the blocks, were off at the sound of the gun, Michigan would be in the lead. That’s what I would have known.
I am going to finish my week calmly expecting a Michigan victory.