so much for that
It's the Turnovers, Stupid
The commonly accepted logic is that Michigan is not winning against quality opponents because our defense sucks balls on a historically bad level. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t, but in trying to answer the question for myself over the weekend I kept running into the same problem - we turn the ball over so frequently (especially against B10 opponents) that it is nearly impossible to objectively measure the performance of our defense relative to historical Michigan benchmarks or other top teams.
The following table tracks net turnovers (including failed 4th down attempts and missed field goals) in each of our wins and losses over the past two seasons:
|W/L||Margin||(Net) (a)||(Net Yds)|
|Average Turnover Margin in 4 Losses (2010 YTD)||-3.3|
|*||Michigan State||L (OT)||-6||1||79|
|Average Turnover Margin in 7 Losses (2009)||-2.1|
|* = Winnner of turnover battle did not win game.|
|(a) Adjusted Turnovers (Net) is defined to include interceptions, fumbles, failed|
|4th down conversions and missed field goals.|
In 16 out of 23 games, the winner of the turnover margin won the game. Of the remaining 7 games, we won 6 (2 in which the turnover margin was 0 and 4 in which we were able to overcome a negative turnover margin because we were playing significantly inferior opponents). In only one game over the past two years did Michigan actually win the turnover battle but still lose the game – that was our loss to MSU last year in East Lansing (we had a turnover margin of +1 but lost in overtime).
I’m all for identifying and fixing the problems on defense, but the offense needs to accept some of the blame for the defense’s statistical woes (especially points allowed per game). Regardless of who Michigan has as a DC, what base scheme he runs or how many experienced players he has in the secondary, we will never consistently be competitive against the best teams in the country until our offense stops turning the ball over multiple times per game.
[Note: I included a column in the table to track net penalty yards to see if there is any obvious correlation with wins and losses. I cannot find one.]