...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Ohio State, as we all know, is 11-0. But there are some interesting statistics that came up in my research on our upcoming rivalry game regarding how OSU got to 11 wins: In 4 of their close games, OSU was outgained by their opponents.
|Total yards (opponent)||Total yards (OSU)||Turnover differential (OSU)|
The Purdue game can be thrown out because of B. Miller's injury. Of the remaining, 2/3 were decided only by a touchdown. Turnover margin for those three games collectively was +3 for OSU.
The most compelling statistic is the one against Wisconsin - a difference of 124 yards. Given that Wisconsin ranks #11 in total defense in the NCAA (against our #12), this is promising. We played a harder pre-conference schedule - Oregon State was the only tough competition for Wisco, against our Alabama + Notre Dame - and, Ohio game removed, Wisco would fall below us in Total Defense rankings.
That said, Wisconsin is very strong at defending the run (#9) and pretty good at defending the pass (#25). We are very average at defending the run (#51)* and excellent at defending the pass (#1). OSU is a team heavy on the run.
OSU is bad at defending the pass (#84) and good at defending the run (#17).* Since the advent of Devin Gardner, 63% of our yardage has been in passing yards. More than 500 of those 800 yards came against opponents ranked higher in pass defense than OSU (Iowa #58, Minnesota #16). Even correcting for strength of schedule would likely not fully resolve the parity between Minnesota and OSU's passing defenses.
Expect our run game to be stuffed but for our pass attack to move willingly down the field (Gardner starting). Expect OSU's rush to move downfield but for their pass attack to be stuffed.
Worry if our players turn the ball over. OSU will capitalize on turnovers. Gardner has thrown one interception per game since he has been the starter. Granted, that is with a remarkable play by Marcus Hyde, but nonetheless. We also had a fumble against Northwestern.
It is certain that we can outgain OSU and still lose the game. This is an important thing. At full strength, OSU has bested 3 opponents who have outgained them - 2/3 by 100 yards or more. That's unheard of by my ears. We cannot turn the ball over.
What does this tell us? OSU has come off with some miraculous wins. A +3 turnover margin still isn't that major. Being outgained by 280 yards in 3 of their wins makes those wins look remarkable and unbelievable. OSU has a stellar red zone defense. Otherwise, we learn little. Scheme is a better predictor than statistics like these, but I'm not a schematic minded fellow. Take this all with a grain of salt. Mostly, this is just interesting fluff that hopefully will help guide you in where you look today and tomorrow.
Who will win the game? I have a good feeling. I think we are clearly the better team this year. But this game is bigger than statistics. We haven't won in the Toilet Bowl in 12 years.
*It is worth noting that we have played rushing offense teams ranked #2, #16, #8, #27, and #33. OSU has played #8 and #17 in the same range. We face the #9 rushing team this weekend. Against #8 Nebraska, we allowed 160 rushing yards - significantly below their season average. #16 Northwestern put 248 up - slightly above their average. #2 Air Force hung 290 - slightly below their average. Alabama put up slightly above their average, and Notre Dame put up less than half their average. Wisconsin has only played #8 and #9 in rushing offense in the same range, holding OSU significantly below their average and Nebraska around their average.
A lot of Michigan fans like to throw around the tired phrase that Hoke and his coaches get it. They really understand "it", and what "it's" all about. We know the word "it" is ambiguous; MGoBloggers like to throw around the phrase sarcastically so as to make fun of those who think that a coach who gets it is somehow better than a coach who doesn't "get it," whatever that means.
"It" being loosely defined as tradition, then by and large, I think the Michigan fanbase popularly believes that having a coach familiar with the traditions of the program is a good thing. But why? Other than vain aesthetics, what does a coach familiar with the program do for our team beyond what an "outsider" might do?
I think many MGoBloggers have found themselves asking the above question. I'd contend that there are actually many positives to having coaches familiar with traditions than having coaches who aren't familiar with traditions. Things it benefits include (but are not limited to):
- It helps the players understand the program. It helps them to understand that they are not just playing football, but they are playing football for a cause. It increases their motivation. They are not just playing anywhere: they are playing at Michigan, one of the greatest college football powers of the past 132 years.
- It helps the coaches and the fan base find common ground. We've talked before about how a coach's job is not really PR, but PR is still a big part in our media-centric world. Fans have to like the coach. Tradition is a huge selling point for liking a coach. Someone who understands the tradition likes to listen to other people who understand it.
- It carries on the legacy of greatness. Rather than just trying to be a great school for football, Michigan has to be its own great school for football. We are more likely to sell ourselves to recruits well if we have an established "brand," as DB might call it. We have to protect the brand: to maintain the academic integrity, the clean record, the traditions, the alumni connections, the in-state connections and relationships...which brings me to #4.
- It attracts a certain type of recruit: namely, those in-state and in the state down south. It's good to recruit elsewhere nationally, of course, but winning in-state recruiting battles can make a huge difference. These are kids who have grown up watching Michigan football more than anyone else. Maybe their mom or dad or aunt or uncle went to UM. They will have a dedication to the program that a kid who comes just to play at a good school and a usual BCS contender will have. The motivations of the kids the tradition attracts are not selfish; they really want to serve the program rather than just rack up W after W and yard after yard. The great thing is: those who want to serve the program want to do that too. But it's more about honor and sacrifice to make it great.
None of this is to say that an "outsider" can't do the same as all the above points, but I think the odds are better with a coach familiar with the traditions and program, one who "gets it" rather than one who doesn't. There may also be drawbacks about keeping the coaching succession "in the family," as well, of course. But that doesn't mean it's without its benefits.
Frankly, I think it's best to have, in general, someone who has coached or grown up in the Big Ten area as our coach. I think Hoke's appreciation for tradition is not only a PR response to the tenure he follows, but something he actually does feel pretty genuine about as he coaches. After all, he grew up in Ohio and his family is closely connected to Bo and Woody. The question is: can he coach at the requisite level? Well...that's a topic for a different diary.