At this point in the season it is very difficult to apply a strength of schedule/opponent to the games that have been played so far. For that reason the Bowling Green preview will be based on raw numbers and not opponent adjusted numbers. Opponent adjusted numbers will probably start to make sense around the Michigan State game.
All numbers included in this preview 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 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 situations.
Run Offense vs. Bowling Green
In two countable games, Michigan is 8th nationally in team rushing with +11 PAN per game. Bowling Green is 95th nationally in rush defense at +7 PAN allowed per game.
Denard is first nationally on the ground, worth 12 points a game rushing all by himself. Vincent Smith checks in at just under +1 on the season while Shaw’s big game aginst UMass (would have been +9) is excluded, leaving him just below average at –1. Carries by Hopkins, Gardner and Grady total up to –1 as well.
In three games Bowling Green has consistently been gashed. They have allowed between 5 and 8 PAN per game in all three games.
This should obviously be a huge advantage for Michigan. The projected +18 advantage will be difficult for Michigan to fully achieve, only 6 teams have done it so far this year, but even if they don’t hit that level, this matchup should be a big win for Michigan.
Pass Offense vs Bowling Green
Note: Sacks are included with the pass stats not with the run stats
Michigan: 37th, +5
Bowling Green: 69th, +3 allowed
+5 is a good but not spectacular number but when combined with the top 10 value of the running game, it is very good. While still early in the season, only two teams have achieved the run/pass splits as good as Michigan, TCU and Nevada.
Denard’s +5 ranks much lower on the individual rankings than the team 37th. This is due largely to the fact that Michigan has yet to allow a sack against an FBS team. Since these numbers only count against the team’s passing stats and not the individual, team numbers are usually lower than individual unless there are no sacks allowed.
Even though there were very few passes called against UMass, Denard had his most efficient day through the air. It is not included in the averages because of the opponent, but on 14 throws against UMass, Denard added 15 points of value (11 of them directed to Stonum) to the offense through the air, to go with another solid +5 on the ground.
Bowling Green’s +3 average allowed has been much more varied than their run defense performance. Opening against Troy, they allowed +4, then +8 against Tulsa. However, they bounced back last week against Marshall by posting their first negative allowed of the season at –2 on the back of 4 interceptions.
Based on the first three weeks of the season Michigan should be able to have another solid day through air.
Run Defense vs Bowling Green
Michigan: 63rd, +3 allowed
Bowling Green: 62nd, +3
Bowling Green has been a solid, but not spectacular +2 or +3 in every game so far this year. The good news for Michigan is that primary back Willie Geter hasn’t been that productive. Geter has 66 of the teams 83 qualified carries and is averaging –1 PAN per game this year. All of the value from the running game has come from from one off carries as no other player has more than 9 carries on the season.
Michigan allowed +5 vs Notre Dame after giving up +2 against UConn in week one. Last week’s frustration-fest equaled the Notre Dame game at +5 allowed.
The closest I can come to good news is that the magnitude of Bowling Green’s advantage on the ground is much smaller than the magnitude of Michigan’s advantage on the ground. Bowling Green shouldn’t be good enough to gash Michigan’s run defense but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a big strength, either.
Pass Defense vs Bowling Green
Michigan: 62nd, +3 allowed
Bowling Green: 87th, –1
Bowling Green had a big bounceback game last week against Marshall, going +8 through the air after going –3 and –9 in their opening two matchups against Troy and Tulsa. It looks like BG will be without their starter who was injured in the third quarter last week. Back-up Aaron Pankratz came in for the fourth quarter and went +3 on 8 throws.
Michigan’s +3 allowed would look much worse if last week' was included. Despite not completing a pass for more than 19 yards, UMass produced a very efficient +13 on Saturday against the Michigan defense. The performance was much worse than the not spectacularly terrible +4 allowed against UConn and the +2, 3 interception Notre Dame game.
Bowling Green has two receiver ranked in the top 100. Kamar Jordan has been worth +7 a game this year and Tyrone Pronty has been worth +5. For comparison, Michigan’s top receivers (Odoms without Umass and Stonum with) have both averaged about +5 a game.
As someone who had Freddie Barnes on my college fantasy team last year I can attest that at least in the past, Bowling Green has been able to effectively move the ball through the air without needing big chunks of yards at a time. If Bowling Green can do that with a back-up quarterback and have the success that UMass had in their gameplan last week, this is the one area that could make this game more interesting than it should be.
If this game somehow goes to the end with a team with a shot to win it with a field goal, both teams will be hoping its the other teams kicker out there. Michigan is the 3rd worst in the FBS kicking, having lost 5 points in the two qualifying games due to FG and PAT misses. Bowling Green is only marginally better with 4 points lost over three games, coming in only two spots ahead of Michigan.
Kickoff coverage appears to be equally mediocre. Bowling Green has done better in both punt and kick returns than Michigan has (not that’s too hard) but Michigan should have an advantage in punters which they hopefully will not need to use.
I think the line is too high on this game given Michigan’s defensive situation. As I noted on Monday, I have this game as a 97% likelihood of victory for Michigan, with a spread of 16 points. Score predictions are generally pretty worthless but I’ll call it 41-24 just for fun. The 41 is of course 6 TD’s and a missed PAT, prompting us to go all Kiffin on two point conversions in Big Ten play.
Since the Big 10 slate is absolutely pathetic this week I’ll make some worthless picks of some other big games:
Notre Dame vs Stanford: I still like Stanford here but think they’re asking for too many points, 30-28 Stanford wins
LSU vs W Virginia: Same story here, like the favorite to win but don’t like all the points, 24-23 LSU on some Les Miles last minute voodoo once again
Arkansas vs Alabama: All four games including Michigan’s my numbers like the favored team to win but think the points are too much. 21-17 Alabama