in town for free camps
Brady Hoke's self-avowed goal is to win Big Ten championships. Since we're facing the make-or-break section of Michigan's season after this bye week, it seems worth looking at what needs to happen for Michigan to win the Legends division and make it to the Big Ten championship game.
I decided to do this after reading on Football Study Hall that Michigan's chances of getting to Indianapolis by winning the division outright were 0.1% in a computer simulation. Why so low, I wondered? The author of that piece opined that
What truly surprised me is the almost zero chance that Michigan has to win the Legends Division outright. In 999 of 1000 cases model runs it needed help from someone else, or relied on tiebreakers to secure their place in the conference championship game. It looks like this is a direct result of the vagaries of their schedule...of the Legends Division contenders, they alone must face Ohio State. Also, if Michigan is to win the division outright it has to defeat both Nebraska and MSU. But in doing that it greatly aids the case of each to tie. It's a bit of a Catch-22 that Michigan finds itself in this year. Together, the odds of beating Nebraska, MSU, and Ohio State while Nebraska and MSU implode is pretty remote, hence the improbability of an outright Michigan division title.
To review, then: a team is selected to play in the Big Ten championship game by its overall conference record. Then there are a series of tiebreakers. If the records are the same, the head-to-head result is the tiebreaker. If three teams are tied for the same record, their records are compared to each other.
Scenario One: Michigan wins out
If Michigan wins out, then it ends the regular season at 11-1 overall, 7-1 in the conference. With wins over Nebraska and Michigan State, Michigan wins the tiebreakers even if Nebraska and Michigan State win the rest of their games (both Nebraska and Michigan State are undefeated in B1G play thus far).
Result: Big Ten championship game, almost certainly against Ohio State or Wisconsin.
Scenario Two: Michigan loses only one game, to a team not in the running for the Legends division
In this scenario Michigan ends the regular season at 10-2 overall, 7-2 in the conference, with wins over Nebraska and Michigan State. Michigan in this scenario drops one game against a team that is not a factor: Ohio State (not a factor because they're in the other division) or Northwestern (not a factor because they already have 3 B1G losses). We could probably put Iowa in this category: they have 2 B1G losses and are unlikely to run the table against Northwestern, Wisconsin, @Purdue and @Nebraska.
With wins over Nebraska and Michigan State, Michigan wins the tiebreakers. However, in this scenario Michigan needs Michigan State and Nebraska to lose one additional game in B1G play.
- Nebraska still has to play @ Minny, Northwestern, Michigan State, @Penn State, Iowa.
- Michigan State still has to play @Illinois, @Nebraska, @Northwestern, Minny.
So as long as Nebraska or State each lose a game, which seems very possible, then there would be three teams with two B1G losses, but Michigan would have wins against both of them, so Michigan goes to Indianapolis.
Scenario Three: Michigan loses to Michigan State or Nebraska
Note: this section has been edited thanks to a note by Key Play (see comments below).
Here is where it gets hairy. If Michigan loses to one of these teams, then it needs the following to advance to Indianapolis:
- Win the rest of its games, to end the regular season with two losses.
- The team that has defeated Michigan must lose three games in conference play (since it will have the tie-breaker over Michigan) OR it must defeat the other team and lose one other game in conference play.
- The other of the two teams, assuming that Michigan defeats it, must lose one additional game in conference play (since Michigan will have the tie-breaker).
Thus, if we lose to Michigan State and defeat Nebraska, we need Nebraska to lose one additional game (say, at Penn State) and we would need Michigan State to lose three of its four remaining games not against Michigan (say, at Illinois, at Nebraska, and at Northwestern) OR we would need Nebraska to defeat Michigan State and for Michigan State to lose one additional game. In the latter case, we would have a three-way tie, with no head-to-head tie-breaker because each of the three teams would have beaten one and lost to the other. Then the next tie-breaker is overall record, and both State and Nebraska have out-of-conference losses (to Notre Dame and UCLA respectively).
Discussion and conclusions
I won't go into further permutations, because it gets too complicated and would require running simulations, something that I'm not prepared to do at the moment. But this basic analysis points out several things:
- Michigan still has the ability to control its own destiny and win the Big Ten, by defeating every remaining team on its schedule and then winning the Big Ten Championship Game.
- BUT: The loss to Penn State is a really serious problem, because Nebraska and Michigan State have not lost yet in B1G play. That loss means that if we lose to Ohio State, beating both Nebraska and Michigan State may not be enough.
- It is more important at this point that Michigan beat Michigan State and Nebraska than it is to beat Ohio State. A loss to Ohio State means that we need Nebraska and Michigan State each to drop a game, something that is certainly possible. But a loss to Michigan State or to Nebraska is much more problematic.
- Our rooting interest is for Nebraska and Michigan State to lose games. It would be great if Wisconsin beat Iowa, just to put them out of the running.
In a past diary last week, I examined the advanced statistics published by Football Outsiders in their context within the B1G. The new statistics have been released for all games through October 19th, et voilà (click to embiggen):
Some tentative conclusions based on these statistics:
- Michigan's offense and defense are slightly better than they were last week, according to the advanced statistics. This has to do with a lot of things -- these statistics take into account strength of schedule, so things like a Notre Dame victory presumably affect how our offense and defense are judged. Presumably then, the awesomeness of Indiana's offense (best in the B1G!) doesn't adversely affect our defense despite the fact that they hung 47 on us. Likewise our record offensive performance isn't so impressive to the advanced statistics, because Indiana's defense is awful.
- Michigan and Wisconsin are the most balanced teams in the B1G, with good offenses and defenses. But there are many teams with a lot of variance between the two sides of the ball: Michigan State has a great defense and a below-average offense (duh), Indiana has a wonderful offense and a pitiful defense (duh), and Ohio State's offense is very good while its defense is barely above-average.
- Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern are all pretty mediocre according to the advanced stats. This makes me feel better about this November.
- Michigan State and Ohio State are both excellent but have weaknesses (their offense and defense, respectively). According to the advanced stats, we are moderately better overall than Michigan State and Ohio State is much better overall.
- Purdue is very, very bad.
EDIT: I've also added a chart with all the B1G teams plus M's opponents in 2013:
Last week I posted a rather critical Diary highlighting some of the mistakes of the offensive line.
It’s only fair that, this week, I show some of the things that they did right. Indiana defense caveats apply, and they need to be much more consistent, but they did showed flashes of competency that was sorely missing last week.
Play 1: First play of Michigan’s 2nd drive after going 3 and out to start.
Last week, I highlighted some issues with lineman executing combination blocks. This play features a textbook combo block by one guy and another guy reacting on the fly to something he doesn’t expect before the snap.
Pic1: Michigan lines up in shotgun with one tight end (Funchess) next to Lewan.
Pic2: On the snap, Lewan and Burzinyski double one DT and Magnuson and Glasgow double the other. Schofield handles the DE lined up over him, while Funchess goes out in a route, leaving his DE unblocked and to be optioned off.
Pic3: Glasgow executes his combo perfectly, pushing the defender directly in front of Magnuson and then going out to find the OLB. Lewan and Burzinyski’s guy is a little more trouble as he’s slanting playside. This prevents Burzinyski from getting his release, but he adjusts and tries to keep the guy from getting penetration. Gardner reads the unblocked DE containing the edge so he gives to Fitz.
Pic4: The slanting DT is starting to constrict the hole but Burzinyski (you can just see his helmet peeking out between Lewan and the DT) has fought hard to get playside and seal it. Fitz, for his part, does a nice job getting skinny and squeezing through. The MLB that Burzinyski or Lewan was supposed to pick up has scraped to fill behind the slanting DT and taken himself out of the play (this is where Indiana caveat applies, btw)..
Pic5: Glasgow has a little trouble holding his block but gets one last shove as Fitz gets through before the optioned DE can get his ankles. With nothing but green until the first down line, this goes for 9. 2nd and 1 sure is better than 2nd and 13.
Play 2: Michigan’s 3rd drive, 4th and 1 at the goal line
I also harped on individuals getting beaten 1 v 1, guys not targeting the right defender, and lead blockers not blocking second level defenders cleanly. This play is one where all of these errors were eliminated and everyone does their job, allowing the play to work (almost) just as you would draw it up.
Pic6: Michigan is in jumbo personnel with Lewan, Schofield, Bosch, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnuson, Paskorz across the line, and Butt and Houma in the backfield as lead blockers. Indiana responds with all 11 in the box in 5-4-2 (?). Manball baby.
Pic7: At the snap, a lot of things are happening simultaneously. Live, I thought the interior gets blown up, but it actually looks like pretty good blocking upon closer inspection. Glasgow (helmet peeking out behind Schofield's guy) squeezes through playside of the NT to engage a LB/safety while Kalis pancakes the NT. Magnuson cuts the other DT and impedes the DE lined up over him who Paskorz has no chance on (not sure if intentional, but it works). This forces the DE to vault over Magnuson. Meanwhile, Lewan and Schofield have sealed their guys inside and Bosch pulls to go kick out the OLB.
Pic8: Bosch has kicked the OLB upfield and out of the play. The playside MLB is the only guy that has a shot to make the stop and shuffles down to occupy the hole, but Houma is on his way to meet him. On the backside, Butt runs around Paskorz to engage the backside safety, leaving the backside OLB unblocked because he’s too far away to matter (and he’s responsible for contain on any boot action if Gardner keeps).
Pic9: Luckily, the guy hurdling over Magnuson can’t stay on his feet, otherwise he makes a spectacular play in the backfield. You’d maybe like to see our guys in the middle stay on their feet (especially Kalis), but they do take the first level defenders out of the play and make a giant pile for the second level guys, like the backside MLB, to go around/over.
Pic10: Houma does a nice job hitting the playside MLB in the hole and adeptly pivoting his legs around to seal the MLB to the inside. Compare his positioning between this picture and the previous one. David Molk would be proud. Glasgow, and then Schofield each managed to get out and get enough of second MLB to slow him down before a pile of bodies lands on top of them, so that guy can’t get to Fitz until he’s already in the endzone. Ditto goes for Butt’s guy, who was forced to redirect around him. That’s basically everyone with even a remote chance of executing their block doing so in a hugely chaotic situation with lots of moving pieces. Indiana or not, this is encouraging.
Lastly, after the beating he took he took on the board last week, I have to highlight a couple great calls by the big man upstairs (NTBMU).
The throwback screen (almost) always works, so it’s not really surprised that it worked on a undisciplined Indiana defense. However, the timing of calling this play was a stroke of genius. On the previous play, Indiana had just flushed Gardner out of the pocket, chasing him all over the field and ultimately forcing that intentional grounding that was ruled (correctly) a sack after video review.
Pic11: Michigan is in shotgun with Butt as the H back.
Pic12: At the snap, Michigan rolls the pocket left as protection breaks down. Magnuson’s guy gets away with major illegal hands to the face FWIW, which just sells this even more. Butt gets beat by the DE, while Lewan lets his guy, #96, by untouched.
Pic13: At this point the alarm bells should be ringing in #96’s helmet, but he smells blood in the water after missing out on the sack on the previous play and he wants in on the action. He's still coming full bore as half of Michigan's OL is sneaking off behind him.
Pic14: By the time any of the Indiana guys realize what’s up, it’s too late, Devin lofts a nice touch pass over #96 and Fitz is rumbling down field with a convoy of blockers.
A bit later in the game, after Michigan’s new air raid offense has gone into full effect, Borges calls another good one. Michigan had already victimized Indiana on play action and pop passes a few times at this point. Three plays before this one, Gardner lined up in shotgun and hit Jackson after a quick fake handoff. There was another under center PA play two plays to Gallon two plays before
Pic15: This play, Michigan lines up in a similar, shotgun spread formation to the Jackson reception play.
Pic16: The LBs are justifiably hesitant at the snap after getting the ball thrown over their heads so many times already. A quick pump fake by Gardner, and they both take a step back to drop into coverage.
Pic17: As the hand off is made, you can see the guy on the “M” is in full bug out mode, while the other LB is just sitting flat footed as Reynolds is about to engage him.
Pic18: A couple seconds later, Fitz crosses the LOS with both LBs still 5 yards back and blocked. Profit. It's an easy 10 yards before a safety comes in to tackle.
That's a pretty masterful job of seeing how your performance on previous plays, good and bad, is influencing the defense and calling the right play to stay one step ahead.
MGoBlog's new preview of the basketball and hockey teams is running through the printing press right now. Our 100% indie book is the same length as the football one—128 pages—and split about 2/3rds to hoops with the back 44 pages switching to State Street. The first copies should begin arriving in about two weeks. We sprung (for like $2k) for 1st class shipping for the Kickstarter backers this time so we can track orders and get them all to you expeditiously.
About the DraftStreet Deal:
So like the football book we've made this one $15.00 (if you get it shipped that'll tack on about $5.00 more depending on where you live). However thanks to our online fantasy game partner, if you don't have a Draftstreet account yet, you can still have it for $15 straight-up AND keep your $15 as a deposit on DraftStreet AND get another $15 in your account on top of that. Take that link to get here:
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Order from the MGoStore It is $15.00. Shipping will make it about $20 depending on where you live and taxes, for example it's $21.49 to first-class it if you live in Michigan, $21.62 to send it to your cottage in Evanston, and $20.27 to have it sent to Louisiana Ice Arena in Carencro, LA, or the White House.
In Local Storentus Any Underground Printing outlet—including Moe's—in Ann Arbor will have it, and I may have some other venues in the coming weeks (if you have a store and would like to have a few copies there email me.
To see what's inside and who helped put it there, hit the jump.
Saved By The DBs: All this year Michigan has been plagued by giveaways (6 fumbles and 11 interceptions) and the defense has only 4 fumble recoveries. But, the defense has saved the day with 11 interception takeaways. Michigan has 1.6 interception takeaways per game this year as compared to just 0.5 per game in 2012, and 0.7 in 2011.
Keep Throwing The Damn Ball!: Knowing they would need to score points to beat Indiana, M opened up the offense with a record setting day passing the ball. But, with Indiana ranked #98 in defense rushing yards per attempt coming into the game, it was no surprise that Manball continued with a 63.5% run play percentage for the game and 61.28% for the year (ranked #17). Yards per rush for M is ranked #64. Michigan did open up on first down by passing the ball 36% of the time as opposed to passing just 22% on first downs previously.
MSU is ranked #1 in opponent rushing yards per attempt, #3 in opponent rushing play percentage (41.5%), and #1 in opponent rushing yards per game (at 59.8 YPG with the #2 team – Louisville – allowing 40% more YPG at 83.7). If Michigan is able to run the ball against MSU, I will be shocked!
With 63 points, Michigan improved to #8 in scoring offense but with 47 points allowed plummeted to #57 in scoring defense.
Synopsis: Thanks to the 2 fourth quarter interceptions by Gordon, Michigan's TOM for the game was 0.0 and for the year remains at – 2 (– 0.29 per game) which improved slightly to #81. Turnovers were not a primary factor in determining which team won the game. Prior to the two interceptions, Michigan had a disadvantage of 10.13 expected points and the score was just 49-47. The TOs had obviously kept Indiana in the game and they definitely had a chance to win. With those last two interceptions, M ended the game with a disadvantage of just 1.95 EP.
Gardner did not throw an interception but did fumble the snap from center on 2 yard line. Toussaint fumbled the pitch for his first lost fumble. Player Details: Here is the overall summary for all games by player (data in yellow was affected by this week's game).
National Rankings: All rankings include games between two FBS teams ONLY and are from TeamRankings except for forced fumbles which is from CFBStats. The four columns with *** show the best correlation to offense and defense (per Advanced NFL stats).
This chart shows Expected Points for various yard lines.
This chart shows the basis of EP calculations for each turnover.
THE BIG TEN OVER THE HUMP
Everyone has at least six games in at this point in the conference, so effectively, we’re over the hump for the regular season already. I believe it might be safe to say that, at this point, there are at least a couple teams whose general trajectory could be at least estimated, one of them being Purdue. For Michigan specifically, we’re looking pretty competitive among our conference compatriots for the most part, so we do have that going.
SCORING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
Thanks in part to Saturday, Michigan is right up there in terms of scoring offense at an average of 42 points per game on the season, good for a solid fourth in the conference. Indeed, eight teams are averaging 30 points or more. Further, and again thanks in part to Saturday, Michigan is now eighth in the conference in scoring defense, but on the bright side, we did an Indiana team that is now precariously close to giving up 40 points per game on average.
TOTAL OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
There was some buzz on my Twitter feed over the weekend about Nebraska’s defense being the worst, and this is not true at all. From a total yards allowed standpoint, it is fourth-worst in the conference, but again, everyone can pile on Indiana in this respect. Offense is not a huge problem for most teams in the Big Ten with nine teams getting 400 yards or more on average per game. That’s pretty good really. In the tempo-free world, the worst performers are Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue.
RUSHING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
So, for another week, there is not a whole lot of shock when you look at the best overall performances in the rushing game for the Big Ten, and as for Michigan, we did get a boost thanks to nearly 300 yards of rushing against Indiana. Even better, despite the Indiana game’s Tecmo numbers, we’re still saddled with the fourth-best rushing defense in the conference, and one of the best in the nation overall.
PASSING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE:
We played the team with the best passing offense. We experienced the best passing offense in the conference and won. We do have that to our credit. Michigan is in the top four here as well, so despite concerns, it is becoming a very productive aspect of the game. When it comes to defending the pass, much of the conference sits in a fairly narrow band of averages with some good performances on top, which is interesting really.
Interestingly, there is not much movement here from the previous week. The top performances sit clustered around 50% and then you have Penn State and Purdue, both of which struggle mightily to sustain drives. The defensive side of this seems to be a story of good to meh and then Indiana and Purdue.
I think it is fair to say that if you’re giving up more of these than you’re getting, then as is the case with third downs, you definitely have problems. You can see who has some issues definitely in this chart anyway.
SPECIAL TEAMS STUFF: