alternate headline: man does job
Each week I trundle off to my favorite sports bar in Brooklyn, pumped up with expectations that far exceed what could ever possibly happen, promising myself I will behave in front of the other patrons, and that I'll remain calm when inevitably the other team scores or when Michigan goofs up.
And yet I was compelled to blurt out "Don't fumble it! Don't fumble it!" when Cam Gordon picked off Ben Chappell. The singular defensive highlight of the day and I respond as if Michigan had been the team committing a turnover on that play. I got some strange looks for sure.
That's how you know you're traumatized.
We still live under the spectre of the 2009 season and the reality that our defense is likely not going to stop any team we play.
The statistics tell me (Mathlete) that Michigan is absolutely going to win at least another couple Big10 games this year. I am resolutely impatient, however, and cannot wait until Illinois week in November to finally claim "improvement" from 2009. In fact if we lose the next three games - games we had already written off (Brian) no less - we'll be 5-3 and in crisis mode*.
A record of 7-5 was always the most likely outcome. But at 5-0, none of us could stand finishing the season 2-5, for so many reasons. So we reach a tipping point.
Win, and no one can ever claim again that this is 2009 all over again. Reclaim bowl eligibility, set the stage for a run at the Big10 title, and silence one of our most loathed rivals in one fell swoop.
Lose, and face the reality that our defense is going to limit us from getting over .500 in conference play, no matter how amazing and awesome Denard Robinson is.
*It's not really crisis mode when that's what we had as a baseline expectation, but it is the undeniable flaw of reaching 5-3 from 5-0 instead of 2-3.
But what do the numbers say?
Last week I laid out a chart of our opponents and what kind of offensive output we can expect from each.
The numbers predicted a 36.3 (15.7% under) to 32.2 (8.7% under) Michigan victory - the margin of victory (4.1) was exactly correct. I extrapolated those considering likely real football scores and came up with a 42-31 prediction.
We had a turnover neutral game and special teams played no special role, so that levelled out any scoring variance, making these prediction about as accurate as they could be. Not bad for a first time, by the numbers prediction, all things considered.
- Michigan's offense exceeded expectations, netting 80 yards over predicted.
- Michigan's turnover was crucial. It's safe to say that we will lose every game in which we lose the turnover battle.
- I predicted Indiana would kick a field goal. Bill Lynch, however, after losing by three points while kicking four field goals in 2009, decided he was never ever going to only go for three. That attitude was the difference between Indiana's 31 and actual total of 35.
- Michigan's defense lived up to its bad expectations, yielding 175% of expected yardage.
- While Michigan gave up almost double the expected yardage, it yielded precisely 100% of the expected points. This, my friends, is how you would define a bend-not-break defense.
- Prediction wise, Michigan should have had an offensive multiplier greater than 100% against a defense as bad as Indiana.
- Prediction wise, Indiana's multiplier was slightly too low at 125% (actual was 136%). Hard to determine if it was our defense or Ben Chappell that made up that difference. I will assume it was quality play by a senior QB until he proves me very wrong this week @osu.
How about the rest of our opponents?
Chart of Offensive Expectations (through 5 weeks)
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.
Michigan's N-PPG jumps into lead this week after a suspect outing by osu versus Illinois, and further expands their staggering lead in N-YPG, eclipsing 500 yards expected even after it has strength of schedule reducing it to normalized amounts, a full 100 yards more than anyone else on the schedule (120 yards more than anyone else on the Big10 slate).
- There is a full touchdown gap of production between the top two teams and the next five on the list, suggesting a competitive plateau of Iowa-Wisconsin-MSU-Indiana, all shadowed by The Denard Show.
- Indiana makes a leap with their outburst against Michigan. If they can even put up half of those numbers against osu expect their rank to continue to climb upwards as their SoS will jump way up after this week.
- Iowa made modest gains this week after a fairly conservative game against Penn State, which they were in control of the whole way.
- Wisconsin struggled big time against MSU. They are at best the 4th place team in the Big10 behind osu, Iowa and MSU.
- Illinois had as good an opportunity as they were going to get to make a run at an upset (at home, injured opposing QB), but couldn't produce.
- Penn State has been absolutely shut down now by two really good defensive teams (Iowa/Alabama).
- UConn continues to perform decently after two letdowns in their first three games.
- BGSU and UMass fall with their strength of schedule. The rest of the Big10 saw their SoS jump higher this week (duh!).
Conclusions Based on Almost Enough Data
Until given reason to expect otherwise, I am giving our opponents 125% of their N-PPG and 150% of their N-YPG for predictions vs Michigan.
However!!! The elephant in the room is not Michigan's defense. Our defense remains a constant, an ugly constant. The biggest factor remaining is whether or not Michigan can sustain it's offensive play into the Big10 schedule.
Last year, this is where Michigan's offense fell off a cliff. The last seven Big10 games they averaged 20.1 PPG. They did not outgain any of their opponents and they lost the turnover battle nearly every time. Michigan's 2010 unit, however, is light years ahead of where they were last year and, more importantly, healthy (knock on wood).
A week ago had a Big10 best case scenario of 6-2. That remains the outlook this week except instead of our second loss coming from Wisconsin it comes from Iowa (We will beat Wisconsin 37.1 to 37.0!).
In a worst case scenario, wherein our offense drops off to 75-80% of current production and we still yield 125% to our opponents, Michigan will go 3-4 the rest of the way with wins over Purdue, Penn St, and Illinois. This is the same from last week (3-5) except we scratch off Indiana from the possible loss column.
Our new outlook ranges between 8-4 and 10-2!
Bottom line: our record improves with a sustainable, explosive offense. Even with a loss saturday, if our offense still shows up to expectation, we have much to be happy about. If our offense takes a dive, however, run for the hills.
Prediction for Michigan State:
Michigan lost a close game at East Lansing due to primarily yakety sax, snapping issues, and botched fake punts. This year sets up much more favorably for Michigan despite having serious defensive issues.
Here are a couple of statistics that might give us hope:
|Rank||Team||Sacks Allowed||Sack Yards|
|Rank||Team||Third Down||Conversion %|
MSU is 10th in the Big10 in sacks allowed, turnovers coughed up and last in the Big10 in 3rd Down conversions, all of which will play a part in getting our defense off the field. Sparty is also the most penalized team in the Big10 (41 penalties for 362 yards).
In addition MSU, unlike Indiana, will kick field goals - they are 7 for 7 on the year.
NSFMF! MSU has a more experienced QB and a better rushing game than last year. What would you call a Chappellbomb that happens mostly on the ground? A Bakerrush? A Bellringing? A Capernickledandy? Whatever it's called, that's the likeliest of outcomes.
But based strictly on the numbers:
|Team||PPG vs Mich||YPG vs Mich|
It's sobering to see 35 points and 500+ yards as an expected value. Yet there is reasonable hope we will maintain yardage parity with such ridiculous numbers.
I sincerely doubt MSU will hold Michigan to their defense's season average of 101 yards rushing. If they do, it will be a blow-out for Sparty. Last year Michigan gained 28 rushing yards on 28 rushing attempts. You can bet the house that won't happen again.
Even if you believe the assertion that "Michigan hasn't played any real defense yet", you can't argue with the fact that all five opposing defenses have yielded their largest yardage totals on the season (tpilews).
The numbers say 37.1 - 35.1 in favor of Michigan but I can't help but feeling this is a game where special teams is finally going to cost us. Yet after all of this analysis, everything is evenly divided, so I'm not going to pick against Dilithium at home.
Michigan State 38
/By Saturday at 3:30 I will have convinced myself Michigan is going to win 49-14.
[Ed: bump for wow.]
There have been numerous threads on MGoBoard about Denard's assault on the record books. In order to minimize the obligatory complaining about multiple threads, I thought I would consolidate all of the requisite information in this diary. I will update it after every game. If you have found an interesting statistic or record that you think I should add to this list, please put it in the comments section and I'll add it to the original post (and give you credit).
Denard is rightly focused on winning, and not on his stats. But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't enjoy his remarkable statistical achievements, while also rooting for the team to win. We haven't had a player who could challenge for NCAA offensive records at Michigan in a long, long time.
Let me note that all the records here are for Division I-A (FBS). I don't really care about who did what in the other divisions, given the inferior level of competition. Something to keep in mind is that the record books don't seem to go back before World War II; it's not clear how rigorously school, conference, and NCAA records were kept before then. One has to assume that Fielding Yost's point-a-minute teams would have harbored some record-producing players (though the game was quite different then; the forward pass was only formally legalized in 1906). So, to be as precise as possible, we should describe all of these records as modern-era records.
So, here goes:
Record of the Week
Here's an interesting one: if Denard rushes for 100 yards against Sparty, he will be the first quarterback in NCAA FBS history to rush for at least 100 yards in 6 consecutive games. Five quarterbacks, including Denard, have run for at least 100 yards in 5 consecutive games, but no one has done it in 6:
- Beau Morgan, Air Force, 1995
- Brian Madden, Navy, 1999
- Joe Webb, UAB, 2009
- Ricky Dobbs, Navy, 2009
- Denard Robinson, MICH, 2010
Rushing Yards by a QB, Single-Game
Denard currently holds the Michigan and Big Ten records for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game: 258 vs. Notre Dame. The NCAA FBS record is 308, on 22 attempts, by Stacey Robinson of Northern Illinois, against Fresno State, on Oct. 6, 1990.
Rushing Yards by a QB, Single-Season
Denard currently has 905 rushing yards in 5 games. This projects to 2,172 over a 12-game schedule (yes, I am aware that stiffer competition is ahead). He has already destroyed the previous Michigan record for QB rushing yards in a season: 674 by Steve Smith in 1981.
Before you get too overwhelmed by all the numbers in this diary, just stop and think about that for a minute. Denard Robinson, your starting Michigan quarterback, playing before your very eyes, is on pace to more than triple a Michigan football record. And not just any record, but one that has stood for three decades. Even if you account for the fact that we're playing a very different style of football now—it's just incredible.
And if you think Smith's 674 yards are shabby, at 56.2 yards per game—back in the days before Communist Football—keep in mind that Comrade Pryor, the second-most-heralded dual-threat QB in the country today, has rushed for 373 yards, or 74.6 yards per game. Denard is at 181.0 yards per game.
The Big Ten record is 1,270 by Antwaan Randle El of Indiana in 2000; the NCAA FBS record is 1,494 by Beau Morgan of Air Force in 1996. Both of these records are easily within reach. Denard only has to average 84.2 rushing yards a game over the rest of the regular season to break the NCAA FBS record.
Rushing Yards by a QB, Career
There's no point in projecting Denard's career rushing totals, since we don't even know how he'll do this year (or if his knee will hold up), nor if he will stay for his senior season. But here are the records:
Michigan's record is held by Rick Leach (1975-1978) at 2,176 yards. (Guys like Leach and Steve Smith must salivate at what they could have done in the offense of Comrade Rodriguez.) The Big Ten record is Antwaan Randel El's (1998-2001) at 3,895 yards. The NCAA FBS record is held by Pat White (2005-2008) at 4,480 yards.
The NCAA FBS per-game career record is 109.1 yards by Stacey Robinson of Northern Illinois, achieved from 1988-1990 over 25 games.
Rushing Records (At Any Position)
For a single game, the Michigan record is 347 by Ron Johnson in 1968 against Wisconsin; the Big Ten record is 377 by Anthony Thompson of Indiana in 1989 against Wisconsin; the NCAA FBS record is 406 by LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU in 1999 against UTEP.
For a single season, the Michigan record is 1,818 yards (Tshimanga Biakabutuka, 1995); the Big Ten record is 2,109 yards (Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1996); the NCAA FBS record is 2,628 yards (Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State, 1988).
That Barry Sanders record will be around for a while, but remember that Denard is on pace for 2,172; if he is somehow able to maintain his current pace, he would get past Ron Dayne and into first place all-time in the Big Ten at any position.
For a career, the Michigan record is held by Mike Hart (5,040 yards, 2004-2007); the Big Ten record is held by Ron Dayne (7,125 yards, 1996-1999); the NCAA FBS record is also held by Ron Dayne, but they list it as 6,397 yards. (Herschel Walker of Georgia holds the record for a 3-year career at 5,259 yards, set from 1980-1982.)
The 200/200 Club
Much has been made of the fact that Denard is the only player in FBS history to gain 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing twice in regular-season games. To me this is a silly distinction—who cares if it was done in the regular season or a bowl game? If anything, Vince Young's performance in the 2005 Rose Bowl against USC is even more remarkable, given that that USC team is considered one of the most dominant teams of the modern era. Wake me up when Denard gets his third 200/200 game.
Anyway, here are the 200/200 games listed in the NCAA record book, sorted by total offense. You'll note that Denard is the only member of the 240/240 club, and Marques Tuiasosopo is the only member of the 200/300 club.
|Player||Team (Opponent)||Year||Rushing||Passing||Total Off.|
|Marques Tuiasosopo||Washington (Stanford)||1999||207||302||509|
|Vince Young||Texas (Oklahoma St.)||2005||267||239||506|
|Denard Robinson||MICH (Notre Dame)||2010||258||244||502|
|Denard Robinson||MICH (Indiana)||2010||217||277||494|
|Reds Bagnell||Penn (Dartmouth)||1950||214||276||490|
|Brad Smith||Missouri (Nebraska)||2005||246||234||480|
|Brian Mitchell||La.-Lafayette (Colo. St.)||1987||271||205||476|
|Antwaan Randle-El||Indiana (Minnesota)||2000||210||263||473|
|Vince Young||Texas (USC Rose Bowl)||2005||200||267||467|
|Patrick White||W. Va. (Pittsburgh)||2006||220||204||424|
|Steve Gage||Tulsa (New Mexico)||1986||212||209||421|
The 1000/1000 Club
There are 36 quarterbacks (and one halfback, Johnny Bright of Drake) in FBS who have run and thrown for 1000 yards in the same season. Of these, none have both run and passed for 1500 yards (the rushing record for QBs is 1,494). Notably, only two people have joined the 1000/1000 club as freshmen: Brad Smith of Missouri, and Joshua Cribbs of Kent State. Air Force leads the list with five different QBs, in six different seasons, in the 1000/1000 club. (It is interesting that an instrument of American capitalist imperialism, the U.S. Air Force Academy, is the premier exponent of Communist Football.)
Denard can join the 1000/1000 club—halfway through the season—by rushing for 95 yards against MSU (he has already thrown for 1,008). If he stays healthy, he should easily become the first member of the 1500/1500 club. I've sorted this list by rushing yards.
|Beau Morgan||Air Force||1996||1,494||1,210||2,704|
|Patrick White||W. Virginia||2007||1,335||1,724||3,059|
|Dee Dowis||Air Force||1989||1,286||1,285||2,571|
|Beau Morgan||Air Force||1995||1,285||1,165||2,450|
|Antwaan Randle El||Indiana||2000||1,270||1,783||3,053|
|Johnny Bright (HB)||Drake||1950||1,232||1,168||2,400|
|Chance Herridge||Air Force||2002||1,229||1,062||2,291|
|Patrick White||W. Virginia||2006||1,219||1,655||2,874|
|Keith Boyea||Air Force||2001||1,216||1,253||2,469|
|Dwight Dasher||Middle Tenn.||2009||1,154||2,789||3,943|
|Dan LeFevour||Central Mich.||2007||1,122||3,652||4,774|
|Joshua Cribbs||Kent State||2002||1,057||1,014||2,071|
|Josh Nesbitt||Ga. Tech||2009||1,037||1,701||2,738|
|Bart Weiss||Air Force||1985||1,032||1,449||2,481|
|Ell Roberson||Kansas St.||2002||1,032||1,580||2,612|
|Brad Smith (Fr.)||Missouri||2002||1,029||2,333||3,362|
|Joshua Cribbs (Fr.)||Kent State||2001||1,019||1,516||2,535|
|Reggie Collier||So. Miss.||1981||1,005||1,004||2,009|
Denard already owns the Michigan single-game total offense record (502 yards against Notre Dame), and is on pace to annihilate John Navarre's single-season total offense record of 3,240 in 2003 (Denard projects to an astounding 4,591 yards after 5 games).
The Big Ten single-game total offense record is 585 yards by Dave Wilson of Illinois, vs. Ohio State in 1980. The Big Ten single-season total offense record is 4,189 yards by Drew Brees of Purdue in 2000: also within Denard's reach.
The NCAA total offense records are dominated by prolific passers. Those records appear to be unattainable by Denard: 732 yards for a single game (David Klingler, Houston vs. Arizona State, 1990); 5,976 for a season (B.J. Symons, Texas Tech, 2003); 16,910 for a career (Timmy Chang, Hawaii, 2000-2004).
Total Offense Per Play
As with total offense records, these will be tough for Denard to keep pace with, but he is right up there at the moment. Through the Indiana game, Denard has 1,913 yards of total offense in 194 plays, for an average of 9.9.
Here are the NCAA FBS records for a single game: 14.3 by Jason Martin (La. Tech vs. Toledo, 1996) in 37 plays and 9.9 by David Klingler (Houston vs. TCU, 1990) in 63 plays. Denard came pretty close to Martin in the Indiana game, where in 35 plays he averaged 14.1 yards per play (which is almost certainly a Michigan and quite likely a Big Ten record):
|Game||Attempts + Carries||Total Offense||Yards per Play|
|Jason Martin (La. Tech vs. Toledo, 1996)||37||529||14.30|
|David Klingler (Houston vs. TCU, 1990)||63||625||9.92|
|Colt Brennan (Hawaii, 2006 season)||645||5,915||9.17|
|Sam Bradford (Oklahoma, 2007-09 career)||970||8,439||8.70|
As you can see in the table, for a single season (minimum 3,000 yards), the record is: 9.2 by Colt Brennan (Hawaii, 2006). For a career (minimum 7,500 yards): 8.7 by Sam Bradford (Oklahoma, 2007-2009).
Other Michigan Passing Records
At the end of 2009, here were some of the other Michigan passing records. Denard could break some of the completion percentage and pass efficiency records (Tate broke one as well):
- Highest completion percentage, game (min. 10 attempts): 92.3% (Jim Harbaugh, vs. Purdue, 1985, 13 attempts) (Broken by Tate Forcier, 100% in 12 attempts, vs. Bowling Green)
- Highest completion percentage, game (min. 20 attempts): 90.9% (Elvis Grbac, vs. Notre Dame, 1991, 22 attempts) (Denard is 2nd with 86.3% on 22 attempts vs. Connecticut)
- HIghest completion percentage, season (min. 100 attempts): 65.3% (Todd Collins, 1992) (Denard is at 69.8% with 96 attempts)
- Highest completion percentage, career (min. 200 attempts): 64.3% (Todd Collins, 1991-1994) (Denard is at 63.8% with 127 attempts, good for 2nd all-time)
- Highest efficiency rating, season (min. 100 attempts): 173.3 (Bob Chappuis, 1947) (Denard is at 180.0 after 5 games)
- Highest efficiency rating, career (min. 200 attempts): 148.1 (Elvis Grbac, 1989-1992)
- Yards per completion, game (min. 5 completions): Rick Leach, 36.3 vs. Purdue, 1975 (Denard's best is 27.7 with 10 attempts vs. Indiana, good for 4th all-time)
- Yards per completion, game (min. 10 completions): Jim Harbaugh, 30.0 vs. Indiana, 1986 (Denard's 27.7 Indiana performance good for 2nd all-time)
- Yards per completion, season (min. 60 completions): Bob Chappuis, 18.8, 1947 (Denard is at 15.0 with 67 completions, good for 7th all-time)
- Yards per completion, career (min. 120 completions): Rick Leach, 17.1, 1975-1978 (Denard is at 14.8 with 81 completions, good for 8th all-time)
Other Michigan Rushing Records
At the end of 2009, here were the other relevant Michigan rushing records. On average yards per carry, he owns one of the single-game records Michigan tracks, but is surprisingly far from the other ones (not that that couldn't change in a hurry). The single-season and career records are within reach:
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 5 carries): 25.80, Denard Robinson vs. Bowling Green (previous record was Leroy Hoard, 18.28 ypc vs. Indiana, 1988)
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 10 carries): 18.00, Rob Lytle vs. MSU, 1976 (Denard: 11.42 vs. Indiana on 19 carries)
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 15 carries): 15.70, Tyrone Wheatley vs. Washington, 1993 Rose Bowl (Denard: 11.42 vs. Indiana on 19 carries)
- Average gain per rush, single-game (min. 20 carries): 11.19, Ron Johnson vs. Wisconsin, 1968 (Denard: 9.21 vs. Notre Dame on 28 carries)
- Average gain per rush, single-season (min. 75 carries): 7.34, Tyrone Wheatley, 1992 (Denard 2010: 9.23)
- Average gain per rush, career (min. 200 carries): 6.29, Jon Vaughn, 1989-1990 (Denard: 7.52 on 167 carries)
- 100-yard rushing games, season: 10, Jamie Morris, 1987 (Denard has 5)
- 150-yard rushing games, season: 6, Anthony Thomas, 2000 (Denard has 3)
- 200-yard rushing games, season: 3, Mike Hart, 2004 (Denard has 2)
Thanks to tf (Michigan rushing single-game record) and danieljpaul (Denard's season totals) for corrections. H/T to tubauberalles and enlightenedbum for tracking down the FBS single-game QB rushing record. Raoul and UM in VA persuaded me to post the total offense numbers, and pointed out Denard's ridiculous per-play stats, which I also added to the diary.
I feel like there hasn’t been enough analysis leading into the Michigan/Michigan State game this weekend, so I have really wanted to contribute. It occurred to me that we have a metric that has not been tapped yet (to my knowledge): mgoblog’s Fear/Paranoia and Desperate need to win levels. These numbers, part of every game preview, offer a window into the psyche of a man who spends his week living and breathing Michigan football. Certainly something must be gained from this data.
I started by averaging each level based on whether Michigan won or lost the game. I used every game Brian has predicted since the beginning of the 2006 season. The averages are as follows:
F/P: Fear/Paranoia level
D: Desperate need to win level
So this makes sense. When Michigan is rolling, Brian tends to be less afraid, and more desperate to keep the trend going. When Michigan is not doing so well, opposing teams tend to freak him out more, and the F/P level goes up. At the same time, Henri the Otter of Ennui starts making appearances, and Brian becomes less enthusiastic about Michigan’s chances of doing anything right ever; the D level goes down.
This is interesting, but we also have another variable in each game’s preview: Brian’s prediction. What happens when we combine these levels with Brian’s prediction for the outcome of the game? We get the following:
Bad Upset = Win predicted, but Michigan loses
Predicted Loss = Loss predicted, Michigan loses
Predicted Win = Win predicted, Michigan wins
Good Upset = Loss predicted, but Michigan wins
When the prediction matches the outcome, these numbers line up pretty well with the Win/Lose averages up above. But it’s interesting to see what happens when the prediction is incorrect. When Brian’s F/P starts to creep up over the 'Win' average, and the D level starts dropping, watch out for the upset against Michigan. Also, look at the ‘Good Upset’ numbers … granted, the data set is small because rarely does Brian predict a loss and get it wrong, however this is somewhat amusing. When the opposition looks frighteningly good (or Michigan just looks terrible), and Brian loses all hope and turns up the Morrissey, look for the Michigan win. The key is the D level has to drop; if both F/P and D both go up, it will likely be a loss.
In conclusion, the Fear/Paranoia and Desperate need to win levels are a force to be reckoned with. This is not a semi-humorous tally of + and - at the end of each preview, these are actually a reliable indicator as to the result of the game. These should be carefully reviewed this Friday to get an idea of what Michigan has in store for Michigan State. Actually, in all seriousness, I was surprised to see these numbers made any sense at all when totaled like this!
Alright, so 1) I'm no Mathlete and 2) This may mean squat come Saturday, but here goes...
We've all been preached to about how our mighty Dilithium powered offense hasn't faced any REAL tests yet, with the inference that MSU will somehow be our first real litmus test. In particular, our first challenging RUN defense faced.
I've also read a few casual at best mentions, acknowledging that our past opponents defensive rankings may be slightly inflated for having played against said dilithium power. Nowhere though, have I seen anything that quantifies this effect, hence my attempt.
Looking at Notre Dame and UConn (chosen because they've played the toughest schedules of our ooponents to date), I factored out the numbers that UM hung on them, both in terms of total defensive yardage allowed, and rushing yardage allowed:
Notre Dame moves from per game avgs of 401 total yards, 153 rush yards down to 368 total, 119 rush.
UConn moves from per game avgs of 338 total yards, 162 rush yards down to 304 total, 130 rush.
For comparisons sake, MSU is currently at per game defensive avgs of 328 total yards, 101 rush yards. While it would appear that MSU does indeed have a better "D" (and specifically, RUN D) than we've seen thus far, I'd argue that their own numbers have been skewed.
Two of their opponents rely heavily on the passing game: Florida Atlantic's offensive total yards to date have been 922 pass yds to 291 rush yrds (45 yds vs MSU). Western Michigan's offensive totals to date have been 1100 pass yds to 307 rush yds (85 yds vs MSU).
In my opinion, we're going to run all over Sparty, Greg Jones or not. MSU will get their points, but I I'm not worried at all about us, I think they're a pretender.
It is a statement perpetuated on many outside of Wolverine-fandom in response to the 2010 start, and the deep dark fear inside the hearts of many Michigan fans: This year isn’t going to end up like last year, is it?
The argument for "Yes" usually boils down to the only teams Michigan has beat this year are the same ones they did last year (more or less) before the fallout, oh and because after five games we had a hyped young quarterback last year as well. The response from Michigan fans is subsequently, "Yeah, but Denard!!!"
Until we play a few more games and win one that we didn’t last year, we’re stuck answering the question in purely philosophical form. And who is better at throwing some numbers out there and seeing what sticks than The Mathlete?
Here is the normal disclaimer/overview of what I do for the uninformed:
All numbers included in this article 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 Illinois 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 drives.
For this particular exercise I will look at this year’s performance-to-date through two different lenses: 1) raw performance with no adjustment for opponent and 2) an opponent-adjusted view using how that opponent has performed this year to date. Normally I would forgo the unadjusted view to do a comparison but it is still early enough in the season that both views can provide perspective.
The Matchup: Offense
Let me just kill the suspense right now: this offense is better than last year’s. Shocking, I know. Through four FBS games this year, Michigan is averaging an unadjusted +23 PAN per game, +13 rushing and +10 passing. In the four FBS games Michigan won last year, Michigan was +12 overall, +8 rushing and +4 passing, and it’s pretty safe to say that UConn is a solid step up from Western Michigan and BG is probably a slight step up from Eastern.
To put more focus on the magnitude of this season's success, look at last week against Indiana, where the Michigan offense posted a +33 on only 44 plays. The 0.75 points per play is higher (by 10%!) than any other performance in my database, which stretches back to 2003. In fact, Indiana, Bowling Green and UConn are the three highest-rated offensive performances from Michigan I have on record. Western and Eastern Michigan were the only games last year that ranked higher than any game this year (Notre Dame is behind them).
Although impressive under any circumstances, those numbers were all without adjustment for the respective strengths of opponents' defenses. When you look at how Michigan’s performance compares with other offenses that ND, BG, Indiana and Uconn have faced this year, Michigan still comes out pretty well. All four games are at least +6 PAN and the average is +15, with +8 coming on the ground and +7 coming through the air. Last year in the comparable games, Michigan was +8 with +3 coming on the ground and +5 through the air.
Based on the sets of numbers, Michigan initially has been 7 to 11 points-per-game better than year’s offensive unit. This represents a very high level of play.
The Matchup: Defense
Unadjusted, Michigan has allowed +9 PAN per game this season. Almost all the damage has come through the air, and almost all of that was against Indiana. Excluding the Indiana game, the number was +6, with the damage split almost evenly between rush and pass defense. The Hoosiers' performance was +17 PAN with –5 on the ground and +22 through the air. This pushes the overall numbers to +9 with +8 coming through the air.
In the same games last year, Michigan’s defense was much more effective. Through four games, the defense held opponents to –7 PAN and was –6 against the pass. The defense moved to the middle through the rest of the season, finishing –2 PAN on the year, with –1 apiece coming on the ground and in the air.
How you evaluate this year really depends on good you think Indiana’s offense is going to be. If they continue to have success in Big 10 play, Michigan’s defensive prospects could be trending to on-par or slightly better than last year. If you think the Chappellbomb will be a dud against the rest of the Big 10, then last year’s performance is probably a best-case scenario.
One thing to consider about this defense is that its traditional stats are going to look bad no matter what. Based on the pace and success on the offensive side of the ball, Michigan is going to face more aggressive versions of their opponents, and they are going to face them on more drives, especially if the offense keeps scoring within the first minute of touching the ball. Everything you see from me will be adjusted to account for the pace. Remember: just because we gave up a ton of yards, it doesn’t mean that we had a bad day.
I am giving the defense an incomplete so far. Until we see how we fare against MSU and how Indiana does against Ohio State, the verdict is still out. If the defense can hold serve occasionally against Sparty, and Indiana can find some success against the Buckeyes, then the defense should at least be good enough to let us stretch a lead in a few games. If MSU torches us and Ohio St shuts down Chappell and Doss, we could be in for a full season of excruciatingly exciting games.
Our health, especially at key offensive positions, remains good.
The offense remains highly potent against the top tier Big 10 defenses.
The Indiana game was more of a reflection on Indiana’s great passing attack, and not our poor pass defense.
Although it doesn’t look like the defense has progressed like we had hoped (or maybe at all), the dilithium-powered offensive quantum leap has moved this team well beyond last year’s. There are still plenty of question marks out there, but it looks like until we face Ohio State’s defense to end the regular season, a Denard-led offense should be the best unit on the field. That fact alone should make a 2009 like swoon all but impossible. How much better is a question of defensive progress and Denard’s ability to shine as the defenses get better.
It's a big week for Michigan. We've got the msu game Saturday and that means another episode of Other People's Pressers, this time featuring Mark Dantonio. Given the relatively short presser he gave, we have BONUS player presser coverage! Included are some kid named Greg Jones (does a decent impression of that foosball player, Bobby Boucher) and Kirk Cousins (a kid who is said to be able to throw the foosball pretty good here and there)
On with Dantonio...
On the rivalry, the game, and his health:
- He's not missing it. It's too big, too special of a rivalry. Excited that both are 5-0.
- Expects it to be a close game ("throw out the records") and hard-fought.
- Expects to be in the press box for the game.
- Hasn't done much beyond watching film. Doesn't want to rush back and consequently sacrifice his long-term health. (good call, coach)
- This is a big series for him since he's been a part of it since 1995, when he was hired onto Saban's staff at MSU. Played Michigan every year since then (at MSU and OSU) except for 3 years when he was at Cincy.
- Mentions that this game is important for recruiting the in-state younger guys (9th, 10th graders) by getting them excited about the winning team, in addition to having overall season success.
- Avoided a trap question from one reporter about how "the momentum in this rivalry has shifted toward Michigan State's side." Just responds that "you're only as good as your last game." No "little brother" type comments this time.
On the gameplan:
- Tony Lippett (WR, Fr), who apparently also played QB in HS. Very quick, good burst.
- Says the have to swarm the D to the point of attack, get guys to the ball.
- Need to tackle well, because Denard makes people miss and "can go the distance" if they do. Can also pass well and get you there, so big challenge.
- Trusts coordinators Treadwell and Narduzzi implicitly to prepare and lead the team.
Now to Greg Jones...
On defending Michigan:
- As for Denard, says that "the best thing you can do is try to corner him, try to give him a tight space to run with and contain him, go after it when he tries to throw the ball."
- Asked if they're expecting to spy him with one or more guys, says that they'll try a few different looks, but that they "haven't put in a game plan or anything yet at all."
- Must be very disciplined with him. Otherwise - "Guys get tired of chasing. He just busts one out. Stride for stride, he's very, very fast, extremely fast."
- Says it's risky for a QB to basically act like a RB, e.g. heading to the sideline and cutting back in, rather than acting like a QB and just stepping out or sliding. Says Denard is "tough" and "brave."
- Have to be more disciplined and "more smarter" in pursuit.
On the rivalry:
- Not really a hate thing, but more of a strong desire to win.
- Mentioned that the "bow down" thing was big for the team. Gave them a lot of confidence and said that Dantonio was the kind of guy they wanted to play for.
Punter Aaron Bates is up next. Really not much to say, other than that he mentions that Keyshawn Martin is a dangerous return man, that the best strategy is to hang it up high and kick to the sideline.
Next we have LB Eric Gordon...
- Beat ND 3 times, want to do it to Michigan, too. Want to win it for Dantonio.
- It will be a hostile environment, with most of the 110k+ against MSU. Need to prepare the freshman for that.
- Mentions that Denard is a unique player, but they need to stick to their game, which is "getting downhill" and not getting "back on [their] heels"
- Need to fill gaps in the middle and expect the safeties/corners to support on the outside in order to contain Denard. Excited to be the first to slow him down.
- Always will be some trash-talking, but Dantonio teaches them to avoid that stuff, to talk with their pads.
Kirk Cousins is our penultimate player...
- Doesn't care that it's been 43 years since MSU beat UM 3 times in a row, or about trying to outshine Denard. Just wants to win this game.
- Moved to Holland, MI in 7th grade and learned about the rivalry. First exposure was Smoker/Duckett beating UM (blech). Wants kids to talk about MSU Monday morning at school.
- Doesn't fall for the "Michigan's weak defense" question. Talks up UM's talent, LBs 8 (Mouton) and 45 (Ezeh), and the nose tackle (Martin).
- Confident coming off the Wisconsin game, especially because of the way their D stopped Wisconsin's OL and running game.
- The rivalry is big. Mentioned that even night janitors are talking it up to him and hoping for a win.
- Against a guy like Denard, need to control the clock (TOP), run the ball, keep the ball out of their hands. Stick to our gameplan, strengths (same ol' same ol', basically).
Senior CB Chris L. Rucker is the last guy. They actually made it a point to include his middle initial - L, if you were wondering (Ed: They have a junior CB named Chris D. Rucker - no relation).
- Denard is fast, good arm, makes it a challenge (starting to get repetitive, folks).
- Nobody really compares to him as far as opponents he's faced (ok, that's a little different, i guess).
- The WRs are a good group, so it'll be a challenge for the MSU secondary. The UM WRs "can make big plays, make plays in space, make big catches."
And that's all, folks. It got a little repetitive with the same Q's and A's about the rivalry and Denard, frankly, so I got a little lazy with the last few. Also, it's late and I should get to sleep. GO BLUE!