Going up early 'cause we're going on WTKA this morning to yap about HTTV Hoops/Hockey from 9-10 with Sam Webb and several of our authors.
What have I done? My brains are going into my feet!
Brady Hoke said his team was prepared for Indiana's ludicrous speed offense, in other words: "Buckle this." Following the science fiction movie at Michigan Stadium last Saturday, the old hypothesis is again making its rounds: teams that don't play up-tempo tend to not be as prepared for teams that do, leading to an uncharacteristically negative defensive performance.
Fortunately there are data here (thank you once again cfbstats.com). They say Indiana is indeed the fastest ship in galaxy.
To get a tempo stat I just divided time of possession (in seconds) by total offensive plays. Games against FCS opponents are removed entirely. The Big Ten by Tempo (all FBS in Google Doc):
It's not perfect since you can't pull out the seconds actually spent in a play, or the actual seconds during clock stoppages because of out of bounds or incomplete passes or first downs, but in the aggregate I think it does the job.* Michigan, as you supposed, is pretty low: 105th, and in the 26th percentile at 28.3 seconds per play. Nothing before or since on Michigan's schedule is like Indiana; for objects in the mirror: CMU is 97th, Notre Dame is 85th, Akron is 58th, UConn 55th.
* Anomaly: thanks to all the stoppages Penn State's offense vs. Michigan charted as fast as Indiana's. That's why I didn't use game-by-game stats, since those sorts of things average out and betray the offense's truer intentions.
High tempo does not equate or really even correlate that strongly with Yards per Play. Observe chart:
Click embiggens (updated)
Cal's offense functions at warp speed but its output isn't any better than Florida's ambles through the swamp. Wisconsin and Alabama both manage to move even slower than we do, and FSU is hardly faster, yet those are elite scoring machines. The linear tilt might be tempo teams winning a few more plays here and there, or it could simply mean the spread guys who run many of the great offenses today are just accidental carriers of up-tempo alleles (like how blue eyes followed the path of Vikings, but didn't necessarily provide any advantage).
The question, however, is not what tempo can do for you, but whether teams on the right side of the chart are more susceptible to those on the left. [Jump to see]
Does a Fast Offense Teach Fast Defense?
Methodology (boring part): Pretty simplistic: I started with an expectation of yards per play that each team would cede to its opponent. I simply took the mean of the average yards per play ceded by the defense and the average yards per play of the opponent's offense. So if Michigan's average defensive day against their competition is 5.05 yards per play, and Indiana's YPP has been 6.56 on average this season, the expectation is Indiana gains 5.81 yards per play against Michigan. Then I subtracted the expectation from the actual, so, again using our example, Indiana put up 7.53 yards per play against Michigan, versus 5.81 expected, is a value of 1.72 yards per play more than expected.
For the X axis I did another simple difference between the year-long tempo of the defensive team minus that of its opponent. So in our example Indiana has a TOP/play of 18.5 and Michigan's is 28.3, so there's a difference of –9.7 (the 7th largest gap in the study).
Results: Another scatter chart time:
The light blue stuff on the left are the extremes: defensive performances (vs expectation) of very low-tempo teams facing very high-tempo teams (the cutoff is Michigan vs. Penn State). The yellow circles are Michigan games. Of the bad (top half) from left to right it's Indiana, Akron, ND. Of the lower four (good) it's Penn State, UConn, CMU, and Minnesota.
Anything in the upper quadrant is your defense giving up lots of yards; the lower is your defense performing better than expected. The linear progression is slightly steeper for that sub-group (the line for football as a whole is so horizontal you can barely distinguish it from the X-axis), but still doesn't say much. There is nothing here to suggest high-tempo teams facing low-tempo ones have any advantage.
This doesn't prove anything, but suggests that the tempo complaint isn't related to Michigan's offensive pace. Some teams have been bombed out of the house by high-tempo teams, but the light-blue buckshot is pretty strongly centered on the midline. It could be other slow-ass teams like us know how to teach high-tempo to their scout teams. It could be the defense this week, despite warnings, just wasn't buckled in for Ludicrous Speed.