Mike Lantry, 1972
Prediction for ohio: The FEI Forecast for this Saturday is ohio 31 – Michigan 20 with a 77% Probable Win Expectation for that team down south. Michigan's offense continues to be excellent (3.92 PPPo) against poor teams (AFA, UMass, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa) but has struggled (0.91 PPPo) against every good team (Alabama, ND, MSU, Nebraska). That team down south is ranked #23 in DFEI. Based on yardage, ohio is ranked #17 in rushing defense but is #77 in passing defense. M is ranked #47 in rushing defense and #1 in passing defense. This game will require the two-headed monster to be in full on beast mode and the TOM to be +2 or better.
Strength of Schedule: Michigan's SoS for Out of Conference games is much harder than the B1G games. This is quite unusual and because of the OOC Strength of Schedule, M is actually doing better in B1G games versus OOC for both offense (3.0 vs. 2.5 PPPo) and defense (1.4 vs. 2.0 PPPo).
Fremeau Efficiency Index: Michigan improved slightly in overall FEI, improved significantly in offense FEI, and declined slightly in defense FEI. In the detailed chart below, GE represents the raw data for FEI before adjustments for opponents.
The S&P Ratings (Also from Football Outsiders) is a play based analysis (rather than possession based) and M is ranked #15 overall, #9 in offense, and #30 in defense. The S&P ratings DO include games against non-FBS opponents (go figure).
The FEI is a drive based analysis considering each of the nearly 20,000 drives each year in FBS vs. FBS 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.
National Rankings: The rankings for offense and defense are based on scoring (yardage statistics are inherently flawed). These are simply raw numbers without any adjustments for opponent, garbage time, or anything else. The data is from TeamRankings and includes only games between two FBS teams.
FEI Details: Here are the FEI numbers for Michigan and their opponent ( Football Outsiders FEI ).
Points Per Possession: Cumulative PPPo is 2.8 for the offense and 1.6 for the defense. M finished 2011 outscoring opponents by almost a 2:1 margin with PPPo for offense of 2.8 and defense of 1.4. The 2 charts show the raw data for offense and defense with the number of possessions adjusted for "kneel downs" at the half or end-of-game (maximum deduction = 2).
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).
With many threads in the past month devoted to the quarterback situation for the Wolverines, I thought it might be interesting to take a holistic view of Michigan quarterbacking going back to a decade or so and compare the performance of our personnel to the average in the conference.
One thing that I found illuminating right away is that only in the last three seasons have we remained consistent above the conference average composite rating, if you will. Further, it was also interesting to see one particularly violent fluctuation in the numbers whereas the conference average remained more or less stable.
The graph for completion percentage shows that Michigan, for the most part, has stayed within earshot of the conference average in this statistic, typically a few percentage points in either direction, so we essentially trend with the conference. Interceptions, as I am sure some will note, are definitely trending in a direction other than what we might like, but as has been said repeatedly on this board, there is one game this year which is a total aberration. Remove it, and the story is very different.
When it comes to yards per attempt, this is another area in which we’ve been more or less near the conference mean, and actually, in the last couple years, we have slowly improved whereas the rest of the conference has taken a small slide. We have been historically more productive in the area of passing TDs as well, with the only below average years in the studied span being 2008 and 2009.
Anyway, below are some thumbnail links to the graphed data.
Michigan QBs – Overall Rating – 2001-2012 (to date):
Michigan QBs – Total Interceptions – 2001-2012 (to date):
Michigan QBs – Yards Per Attempt – 2001-2012 (to date):
Michigan QBs – Passing TDs – 2001-2012 (to date):
Michigan QBs – Passing Yards – 2001-2012 (to date):
Now that the Big Ten is in full meltdown expansion mode, a lot of people are asking about The Game and its impact on the Big Ten championship game, now and in the future. How often both teams appear, how The Game affects the division champions for better and for worse, and everything affliated with it.
The biggest complaint has been a schedule that has Michigan and Ohio State playing each other every year, with weaker teams having guaranteed rivalries against each other. As it turns out, due to regularly dominant teams...Michigan and Ohio State typically come out on top anyway.
I looked at the Big Ten standings and results from 1969-2011. 1969 is the arrival of Bo Schembechler, the start of the modern M/O rivalry. And in 2012, Ohio State is ineligible to win the division, the first time that's happened as the game was being played.
The standings are from the regular Big Ten schedule, without it being weighted for divisional matchups. Division winners were the two teams that finished highest in the Big Ten standings, as divided up by the current divisions. (If a 4th place team was the highest of a current division's teams, they were the appointed division champions.) Ties were broken with head-to-head matchups, and if the teams did not play each other, I split the division title.
First off, here's how the Big Ten championship games would have looked like, under the current divisions.
With that in mind, let's first look at the potential for rematches.
Going by the eventual matchups, 20 seasons would have featured Michigan/Ohio State rematches for the Big Ten title, or about 47% of the time. 16 of those, or 38% of the time, were outright victories with no tiebreakers.
Those seasons are as follows: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007
Michigan would have won the Legends division title in 28 seasons, with 27 of those outright. Michigan won more division titles than any other team, pulling ahead of Ohio State for two reasons. The first is that Nebraska, a division rival, does not factor into these seasons at all, winning zero titles in their one eligible year. The second is that Minnesota, a longtime doormat, also won zero division titles over 43 seasons. In comparison, every team in the Leaders division won a division title, with five of the six (all but Indiana) winning at least three titles.
Michigan's division titles are as follows: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Ohio State won a division title in 26 seasons, with 23 of those outright. The Buckeyes had a much stronger division to contend with, but much of their faults were somewhat of their own doing, from timely losses over the years.
Ohio State's division titles are as follows: 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009
In only 9 seasons, the Big Ten championship game would not feature either Michigan or Ohio State, with 8 of those without any tiebreakers. In only 19% of the time, a Big Ten championship game did not feature either Michigan or Ohio State. Those seasons, with a matchup, are below.
This is such a great senior class. They've gone through many of the same trials as the previous senior class, but also had another successful (thus far) year on which to hang their hats. Because of the respect I have for these guys, I put together a wallpaper to honor them. They say defense wins championships, so they get to go first. Enjoy!
as mentioned during the Farewell post, THE KNOWLEDGE is back
to discuss the big game next week
because basketball season is here
Current #4 Michigan will take on current #16 NCSU at Crisler in a much hyped matchup a week from today
many is the number of people who think this will be a great opportunity for Michigan to measure itself against one of the better teams in the nation
most people also believe that the game will be close and a hard fought win for Michigan
these people are wrong
Wolverines will thump the pack of wolves by a wide margin, and great fun will be had by all present at Crisler
those that don't believe THE KNOWLEDGE will be left in a trail of dust as THE KNOWLEDGE soars when this revelation comes true
at this point, THE KNOWLEDGE would also like to address some questions that came up on his farewell post. since THE KNOWLEDGE does not respond to comments in the comments section, and only responds to about 1 in 100 emails, it is best to address it here in this very post
THE KNOWLEDGE has extraordinarily high standards. even a single error means something exceptionally wrong has occurred in the universe
that emergency must be understood and dealt with - hence, the farewell
people don't understand the methods of THE KNOWLEDGE, but Mark Alpert came halfway close
THE KNOWLEDGE, of course, shall not provide pointers to the football game happening this weekend since THE CHALLENGE has been withdrawn for the season
however, one issue THE KNOWLEDGE would like to mention is that Michigan fans don't appear to appreciate the significance of WVU losing to OU in the final seconds
On September 27, I wrote: ‘The tidal wave of major conference expansion and re-alignment is complete. The “Big Five” conferences – the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac-12 – have reached equilibrium. None are likely to grow within the next ten years.’
Obviously I got that wrong. Way wrong. I don’t feel too badly about that. This move took practically everyone by surprise. (ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski seems to have been one of the few who predicted it.)
Still, I was wrong. It is worth exploring how.
The Four Axioms Revisited
In my last diary, I stated that conference realignment is governed by four axioms: money, football, academics, and geography. Stated more broadly:
- Money. No school willingly changes conferences to make less money. No conference accepts a school if its existing members will lose money.
- Football. No school moves willingly to a weaker football conference. No conference accepts a school that is below the league average in football.
- Academics. No school moves willingly to an academically weaker conference. No conference accepts a school that is drastically weaker academically than the rest of the league.
- Geography. The less sense a move makes geographically, the weaker the contracting parties.
Previously, I said that there’s no wiggle room at all in the first two axioms; there’s a bit of wiggle room in the third and fourth, especially for weaker leagues like the Big East.
I should have been more expansive about the second axiom, football. When a conference adds teams in pairs, it’s the combination that matters, not each school individually. Missouri never would have had a prayer of getting admitted to the SEC on its own, but it did obey the four axioms when you consider that it was part of a package deal with Texas A&M.
Those who criticize the Pac-12's addition of Colorado and Utah may be focusing too heavily on those schools' recent troubles. Historically, Colorado is #21 in all-time wins, ahead of every Pac-12 school except USC. Utah, at #36, is ahead of every Pac-12 school except USC, Cal, and Washington. It may not seem that way now, but for the Pac-12, Colorado and Utah were upgrades in the long term, assuming those schools don't remain long-term losers.
How Jim Delany Made History
This brings me to how Jim Delany made history: he broke the second axiom. No conference has ever voluntarily added two schools, both of whom were much weaker than the league average at football. With its .5283 all-time winning percentage, Maryland ranks ahead of just three Big Ten schools: Illinois, Indiana, and Northwestern. Rutgers, at .5048, ranks ahead of only the Hoosiers and Wildcats. (Neither percentage includes the 2012 season.)
These schools historically have played much weaker schedules than the rest of the Big Ten. Maryland, playing in the weakest of the Big Five leagues, has won the ACC championship in football just once in the last twenty years (2001). They’ve been in the final top-25 just eight times in the past 35 years. The Terps’ only period of comparative dominance was 1974–85, when they won the championship six times in twelve years. Before that, their last championship was in 1955. Against, the Big Ten, Maryland is a combined 4-44-1 all-time, with the majority coming against Penn State (1-29-1), whom the Terps used to play almost every year before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.
Rutgers’ history of futility is well known. The Scarlet Knights have finished in the top 25 just once in the last thirty-five years. They’ve never won a Big East championship; they could do so for the first time this season if they win their final two games. Knowing Rutgers, that’s a long shot. They’ve gone to just seven bowl games all-time, all minor ones, and only one before 2005 (in 1978).
Both teams have small stadiums by Big Ten standards. High Point Solutions Stadium in lovely Piscataway, New Jersey, seats 52,454, and Rutgers seldom fills it. They ranked fifth in Big East attendance last year, with an average of 43,761 fans. In basketball, Rutgers hasn’t fielded a winning team in six years. They averaged only a shade over 5,000 fans a game, good for 15th in a sixteen-team league. At Maryland, Byrd Stadium in College Park was expanded to 54,000 in 2008. Last Saturday, a home game against a top-10 Florida State team attracted just 35,000 fans.
You have to figure that recruiting and attendance at the two schools will improve after joining the Big Ten. Nevertheless, without very substantial program upgrades, it is likely that both Maryland and Rutgers will be bottom feeders in the Big Ten for many years to come.
Needless to say, this is quite a contrast from Penn State and Nebraska, who were championship contenders almost immediately upon joining.
Are the Four Axioms Busted?
We’ve learned that Money is King. Practically any deal is possible, if the money is good enough.
But before we abandon the Four Axioms, let’s remember this:
- Until now, no conference has violated the Football axiom by adding teams so far below the league average. The Football axiom is more of a guideline now, and not an inexorable command. But I wouldn’t count on it being violated regularly.
- The Academics and Geography axioms both held: Maryland and Rutgers, both AAU members, are well within the Big Ten academic profile, and both are adjacent to its geographic footprint.
Do Fans Matter Any More?
I could have added—but did not—a fifth axiom:
- The Fans. No school or conference makes a voluntary move that alienates its fans.
Jim Delany busted that axiom too. Now, let’s stipulate that fans are a fickle bunch, and there’s no change that everyone likes. Some people still think it was a mistake to add Penn State and Nebraska. But most Big Ten football fans could relate to those moves. Nebraska and Penn State will always be red-letter games on most schedules in the conference. From the schools’ perspective, most Penn State fans long ago realized that football independence was no longer practical for them. Nebraska fans surely miss the old Big Eight rivalries, but the Big 12 had become a Texas/Oklahoma-based league, in which the Cornhuskers were increasingly outsiders.
In contrast, very few Big Ten fans outside of Penn State will look forward to playing Maryland and Rutgers. Many will resent it, as there will be fewer games between historic Big Ten foes, like Michigan and Wisconsin. Reactions of the Maryland fan base have been decidedly mixed, although Terrapin fans are gradually figuring out that this is in their best interests. Only at Rutgers is the move an unvarnished blessing: when the alternative is the Big East, who wouldn’t prefer the Big Ten?
Is Jim Delany Canny or Crazy?
Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated has a good article explaining what the Big Ten stands to gain by adding Maryland and Rutgers. If the Big Ten could get carriage on basic cable in every household in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, it would bring in another $200 million in revenue per year. This is highly unlikely, but Delany doesn’t need anywhere near all of it for Maryland and Rutgers to be cash-flow positive for the conference. And that’s before you consider the Big Ten’s primary television rights deal, which is up in 2017, and will surely be worth a lot more with two new markets in its footprint.
Skeptics will point out that Maryland and Rutgers can’t deliver their television markets, the way Nebraska did. That is true. But the NY–Philly–Washington axis is so heavily populated that it might not matter. If Delany just gets just a decent fraction of it, the conference will make more than it did in Nebraska.
You can fault Delany for many things, but the one thing he surely knows is how to count money. That is pretty much all that he does. If you’re a betting man, you shouldn’t bet against Jim Delany’s ability to turn sports into cash.
None of this is to deny the very real fan anger at what is obviously a money grab with no other benefits. But remember, the money doesn’t just fund private jets for athletic directors. It also funds the rowing team at Michigan and the hockey team at Penn State. If the conference is going to make a move with only one purpose, money, you can at least be fairly confident that Delany got that right.
For a contrary view, check out the bearish analysis from Nate Silver, the New York Times statistical guru who forecasted all 50 states correctly in the presidential race. As good as Silver is in his own sphere of expertise, this was just a one-off blog post. Delany has spent years studying this. My bet is still on Delany.
What Happens Next?
Many message board participants see a push for 16-team conferences. This is wrong. Expansion is about making more money, not fielding some arbitrary number of teams. For the Big Ten to expand again, it’ll need two more schools that:
- Are eager to make a move
- Provide access to substantial markets that the Big Ten isn’t already in
- Are academically and geographically suitable
Currently, the Big Ten pays nearly $25 million per school in media rights, and that could grow to about $43 million per school when the conference negotiates its next media deal in 2017. Hence, the next pair of schools would need to bring in about $90 million per year just to break even, or else they’d dilute the average pay-out. Jim Delany doesn’t do deals to break even. In fact, the next pair probably needs to bring more than 100 million, as there’s clearly no point in making a move if it’s just a push. It needs to be compelling.
The ACC will almost certainly take another school from the wilting Big East, most likely UConn, but possibly Louisville, to get back up to an even number of football schools.
I noted in my last expansion diary that the Big 12 has structural reasons for actively preferring a 10-team league. As Former interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told Fox News, “Let's face it, they're making as much money as for the (Sugar Bowl) as the SEC and as the Pac-12 and Big Ten are making for the Rose Bowl and they only have to share it with 10 teams.”
The SEC does not have the Big Ten’s demographic problem: the south is still growing, and it’s the nation’s dominant football conference. Historically, the SEC does not expand in states where it already has members, and all of the available trophy programs are in those states. Should it choose to expand, the next logical step might be Virginia and Virginia Tech, though it is not clear if those two programs bring enough revenue.
I cannot see a money-making expansion path for the Pac-12. They’d need to make another play for Oklahoma and Texas, which they already tried and failed.
I won’t make the rash statement again that major-conference realignment is done, but the four axioms I introduced in my previous post still hold largely true. The more conferences expand, the harder it is to find logical moves that make money.