"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
W - WMU
W - ND (we've beaten them with less, and this is home)
W - EMU
W - SDSU
W - Minnesota
L - @Nwestern (they win a shootout)
W - @MSU (we played them close but match up better on the line than 2009 or 2010)
W - Purdue (take it, hope)
W - @Iowa (they've lost too much, and we played them close even when overmatched)
L - @Illinois (maybe we break the Zook curse this year, but i think it will be tough)
L - Nebraska (most certain loss on schedule)
W - Ohio (bad QB situation, unclear coaching situation there/Hokamania here produce first win in ages)
PLACE: 2nd in Legends Division
BOWL: Capital One Bowl WOOT! WOOT!
Now that Brian has burned through the position previews and depth charts in beautiful excruciating detail, there is little for me to add to the personnel side, so I wanted to look a little deeper at the schedule portion to see how we got to the 8-4 I projected last week.
I also wanted to add a bit of addendum to the Denard struggles on passing downs meme, so to not clutter the site any further I have dropped that at the end of this column for those interested.
Throughout the season, I will be posting a weekly column on Wed/Thurs. I will try and pick out interesting tidbits and trends from the numbers as the week goes. If you have any questions you would like to see answered in the column or ideas on angles, don’t hesitate to hit me up on the twitters.
As always, your handy reference guide is here.
So which are the 8 wins?
Well, it doesn’t really work that way. Obviously no game is certain and no prediction is either. To get to 8-4 I assign values to each team based on the prior three seasons' performance and returning starters at QB and defense. These are factors that I have found significantly improve a season’s forecast.
Each team is then pitted against their schedule, accounting for home field which is worth about 3 points for the home team each game. Each game then gets a spread and a likelihood of winning. When you play out those probabilities, some seasons ended up with as few as 1 win and some ended up with 12. Nearly three quarters ended up with seven, eight or nine wins. My calculated odds of missing out on a bowl are about 1 in 29, about the same odds of winning 11. Going 12-0 is rated at 1 in 327. This is all assuming that Michigan plays at the projected level. If they play better or worse than I have projected, the numbers can and will change.
All that was to say, the eight wins and the four losses change each scenario. The most likely version has losses to Ohio, Nebraska, Michigan St and Notre Dame, but even that scenario is only a 1 in 60 shot. In fact the most likely specific scenario is 6-6 with losses to Illinois and Iowa added to the mix, but that’s still a 1 in 55 shot.
In summary, here is how the percentages break out:
The Individual Teams
|Opponent||2010 PAN||2008-'09 Avg||Returning Starters||Total PAN||Michigan Odds|
|San Diego St||6.3||-6.0||-0.6||-0.5||85%|
The numbers quickly break out into four groups:
Eastern Michigan and Minnesota coming into the Big House without much hope. Eastern was bad every year considered and only gets a slight uptick from returning starters. No points awarded for hiring Mike Hart.
Minnesota saw last year plummet below already-low-for-a-Big-Ten-team values and returning starters push them down slightly further.
Just Don’t Screw It Up
Western Michigan, San Diego St, Purdue, and at Northwestern all seem pretty safe on their own, but there is only a 55% chance we go 4-0 in these four games. Successfully do that and a nine-win season becomes a more attainable. Dropping one or more will make it tougher to top last season’s win total in the regular season.
Notre Dame, at Iowa and at Illinois all place Michigan a percent or two below 50/50. 5-2 between these last two groups keeps us on pace to 8 wins. Iowa overachieved last year but is brought down to earth thanks to a depleted roster. Illinois is heading in the opposite direction after [NAME REDACTED] made one last run to save his job. Notre Dame is the highest rated of the bunch as Brian Kelly begins to purge the Weis ratings from the books. The Domers get the benefit of a strong returning group but are in the mix with Iowa and Illinois thanks to an under the lights meet-up in Ann Arbor.
There’s a Clock for That
OK, so we don’t have a countdown clock for that school down south and four states over (Nebraska), but Ohio and State form the last group. To hold serve on an 8-win season, expect one win out of this group. Ohio has been the cream of the Big Ten for the last several years, but graduation and Tressel-gate have dropped the Buckeyes into the mix. Michigan State and Nebraska both saw 6+ point improvements last season and have a decent group returning. Nebraska should definitely be the better team, but they won’t have the luxury of home field.
PS: Denard and Passing Downs
In general, my data supports what Burgeoning Wolverine Star found on Denard and passing downs. I was curious about which down and distances that Denard excelled and what was their value. For the season, Denard was a non-opponent-adjusted +70 for the season. This includes rushes, passes, sacks, fumbles, picks, everything but garbage time. This is a huge number.
I broke down where the +70 came from situationally.
|Down & Distance||PAN|
|2nd & Long (8-10)||21.5|
|1st & 10||21.2|
|2nd & Med (4-7)||18.7|
|3rd & Short (1-3)||12.0|
|2nd & Short (1-3)||6.9|
|3rd & Med (4-7)||1.5|
|2nd & XL (11+)||(0.4)|
|3rd & Long (8-10)||(4.9)|
|3rd & XL (11+)||(6.6)|
Denard was light years ahead on 1st and 2nd down but considerably below average on 3rd down with at least 8 yards to go. In fact, he was pretty good at 3rd and short and started quickly falling from there.
Ultimately, as long as the offense didn’t lose ground on first down they were still in good shape. Denard could turn a mediocre 1st down around quickly, but if Michigan wasn’t able to get into a third down distance that was manageable, the offense quickly become below average.
So seeing as we are close to the first game, I figure we may as well make some stupid predictions. So:
What do you think Michigan's first offensive play vs Western will be?
Who do you think will be the first Michigan player to score a TD?
Who will be the first (true or redshirt) freshman to score a TD?
Who do you think will be the first Michigan player to record a sack?
Who do you think will be the first Michigan player to intercept the opposing quarterback?
College football is 7 days away. Michigan football is 9 days away. It is time for a little Big Ten preview. Last year my numbers pegged Michigan at 7-8 wins. This year you’ll have to read on to see my predictions for Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten.
The Nuts and Bolts
If you just want to see the picks and the nice standings you skip on ahead. If this section confuses you or brings about more questions than answers, you might want to head here.
My methodology is along the same lines of user Undefeated Dream Season of 1992’s great post from last week.
Begin with the PAN from the team’s previous season. Regress that season half-way to a team-specific mean, which for me is the five preceding years, then adjust for returning starters. Every team ends up with a rating which is then plugged into the full season schedule and simulated a whole bunch to produce average results for every team in the FBS.
I weight returning starters based on what I can find validation from in past seasons. I am continually tweaking this because it is very difficult to separate out, but my best method currently accounts only for returning QBs on offense. A returning signal caller is worth 1 extra point per game vs average and a loss of QB is a 1 point reduction, leaving a 2-point spread. Once accounting for a regression to the mean and the QB effect I can’t find any other correlation across returning offensive starters. On defense the break-even point is seven returners. Each player returning above or below seven is worth 0.8 points per game. Return all 11 and it’s 3.2 points per game. Return 3 from the previous season and it’s –3.2.
For prediction purposes I exclude special teams because their success or failure isn’t typically consistent from one year to the next like offense and defense are. Almost all teams are predicted to have 2+ losses because even though you know several teams are going to run the table or have just one loss, which teams is a challenge and my numbers are based on averages across multiple “plays” of a season.
The Power Poll
Michigan checks in right in the middle of the Big Ten at +4 predicted. I didn’t know what to do with Purdue at QB since they have just been a mess the last two years, but hedging to the negative is probably the right call. Those of you familiar with my numbers know that Northwestern has some sort of crazy luck/skill at exceeding their numbers year in and year out. They are the one team in my ratings out of 120 that just never work and it’s always to the Wildcats' favor.
It should also be noted that I had Wisconsin as a non-returner at QB even though they kind of do have a returner. If Russell Wilson is counted as a returner, Wisconsin jumps to the top of the table.
The power poll tells you how good I think a team is but to get a read on how they will be predicted to do you have to factor in opponents and game locations.
Woody Division (R. Wilson as returning starter)
|Team||W||L||Conf W||Conf L||Conf SOS||NC SOS||SOS|
If you drop Wisconsin down based on Wilson, Ohio State sneaks into the top spot.
SOS indicates the average PAN rating for all opponents on the season.
|Team||W||L||Conf W||Conf L||Conf SOS||NC SOS||SOS|
Michigan, at 8-4 (5-3 Big Ten) comes in second in the division, but Michigan, State and Iowa are all virtually indistinguishable in spots 2-4.
The Big Ten is highly bunched this season. Whether it’s Wisconsin, Ohio or Nebraska that makes it through the championship game depending on the scenario, I am projecting the Big Ten winner to have the most conference losses of any conference winner in 2011. [Ed-M: I'm predicting SEC fans will give us shit for that.]
Overall, the Big Ten is slotted third in my preseason conference ratings behind the SEC and what’s left of the Big XII. In conference strength of schedule, the Big Ten ranks fourth behind the Big XII, Pac 12 and SEC. The SEC is the only conference with a weaker non-conference lineup than the Big Ten.
Michigan’s strength of schedule is ranked 12th in the country, Notre Dame and Ohio [Ed-M: He means OSU; next thing you know Mathlete's gonna be pointing at things too.] are #1 and 2. The SEC has the seven toughest conference schedules among its ranks but its cupcake-loaded preseason leaves them lower overall.
Predicted winners from other conferences:
|Team||Conf||W||L||Conf W||Conf L||Conf SOS||NC SOS||SOS|
|W Virginia||Big East||10.2||1.8||5.8||1.2||0.7||-3.3||-1.0|
|Boise St||Mtn West||11.8||0.2||6.9||0.1||-2.1||3.1||0.1|
Four of my top five match the AP top five (Boise, Oklahoma, Oregon and Alabama) but beyond that I have a handful of teams I think are over/underrated: