It's decent analysis, but unfortunately it's complicated by the fact that there are two teams that don't get played each season.
Michigan's bad Big 10 scheduling luck
If you are placing a bet on who you will think will win the Big Ten, you might want to avoid betting on Northwestern or Minnesota. If someone offers you the under-over on wins, take the under. Is it because of who they lose off of the 2-deep? Is it because of coaching or talent? No.
Why then? It is because they don't play Michigan this year. Now, you might think that not playing Michigan is usually good for your record, but for some reason, history demonstrates the opposite. Michigan has an uncanny knack for playing Big Ten teams when they are good, and avoiding them when they are really really bad. It's almost as if the schedule is made up by somebody who has magical foresight and then purposely rotates the bad teams off of Michigan's schedule. Michigan already has a tough draw by facing Ohio State every year. In addition, our game with Penn State is like a de facto protected rivalry. Because of all of these factors, we have one of the toughest intra-conference schedules on a yearly basis.
Since the Big Ten expanded in 1993, there have been 16 seasons, and 2 teams rotate off of the schedule each season. Do the math, and that means that there have been 32 Big 10 teams that have rotated off of our schedule. Want to take a guess as to how many of those teams have ever won or shared a conference title? The answer -- none. 16 years, and not once has a team won or shared a title in a year where they did not play Michigan. Even though we frequently rotate off the doormats of the league like Indiana, wouldn't you think that just once out of all those times, somebody would have stepped up and won or shared a championship? Nobody has ever won 7 conference games, and only four times has somebody won 6 conference games (1996 Iowa, 1997&1998 Purdue, and 2004 Wisconsin). Since 1993, we are sporting an impressive .727 Big 10 winning percentage, but nobody has ever take advantage of not playing us to go to a BCS Bowl. Nobody has ever even made it to the Citrus Bowl! Only two teams have made it as high as the Outback Bowl (Wisconsin '04, Iowa '08).
Let's compare winning percentages for various programs when they play Michigan against their winning percentages when they don't play Michigan. For this analysis, I am only using Big 10 winning percentage, since non-conference scheduling has so much variation that it can distort the results. For the "did play Michigan" years, the head-to-head game against Michigan is removed from the analysis so that these years can be validly compared to the "did not play Michigan" years.
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .500
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .643
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .354
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .214
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .094
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .440
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .188
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .745
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .458
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .586
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .563
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .316
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .625
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .429
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .156
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .536
Winning percentages in the "did not play Michigan" years: .371
Winning percentages in the "did play Michigan" years: .494
There are a few teams that slightly buck the trend, but that trend is overwhelming. Now I'm not an expert statistician, but a difference in winning percentages of .123 with a huge sample of 8 teams over 16 seasons has to be very significant. Remember in 2003 when we thought we were finally getting a break by having Penn State rotate off of our schedule for 2 years? They went 3-13 in those two years. Ouch. Joe Paterno has never had a losing conference record except for when he has avoided playing Michigan. The differences for Illinois and Northwestern are drastic too. Illinois' conference record when they avoid us is a futile 3-29. Northwestern's is 5-27. We have played all of Kirk Frerentz's great teams from 2002-2004, and other than 2004, we played all of Barry Alvarez's best teams too.
What's the point of all this? None, I guess, except that for some reason, Michigan usually misses teams when they are down and plays them when they are up. Since we don't play Northwestern and Minnesota this year, look for those teams to inexplicably suck.
Well, OSU and Michigan have one the championship outright twice each. That leaves 12 championships left for others to take.
I’ve been thinking this for years. The percentage with psu is crazy.
Shenanigans. No way do I buy that.
At least, the .188 figure when they haven't played us is. (I didn't check the .745 figure.) In 2003 and 2004, PSU went 1-7 and 2-6 in conference, respectively.
"In addition, our game with Penn State is like a de facto protected rivalry".
Well, we didn't miss them in the first 10 years when they joined the conference, but we missed them in 2003 & 2004 and will miss them again in 2010 & 1011. So maybe the BigTen scheduling is starting to change with Penn State, which stinks, as I like playing the quality teams like Penn State.
Wow those are some interesting numbers.
Is the schedule just randomized? or like the OSU game is there 2-3 teams that UM always plays year in year out to keep the rivalries going
Michigan plays the other eight in six of every eight years, with a pair rotating of for two years at a time.
the pairs, as I recall are:
Minnesota & Northwestern (off this year + next)
Iowa & Indiana (off '08 + '07)
Illinois & Purdue (off '06 + '05)
Penn St & Wisconsin (off '04 + '03)
All Big Ten teams have two protected rivalries that don't drop off the schedule:
Michigan: OSU and MSU
OSU: Michigan and PSU
MSU: Michigan and PSU
PSU: OSU and MSU
Wisconsin: Minnesota and Iowa
Iowa: Minnesota and Wisconsin
Minnesota: Wisconsin and Iowa
Illinois: Northwestern and one of IU/PU (can't remember which)
Northwestern: Illinois and one of IU/PU
Indiana: Purdue and one of Ill/NW
Purdue: Indiana and one of Ill/NW
Illinois: Northwestern and Indiana
Northwestern: Illinois and Purdue
Indiana: Purdue and Illinois
Purdue: Indiana and Northwestern
* Illinois: Indiana, Northwestern
* Indiana: Illinois, Purdue
* Northwestern: Illinois, Purdue
* Purdue: Indiana, Northwestern
Looks like Illinois and Purdue have, year-in and year-out, the two easiest schedules in the conference. The two hardest have to be OSU's and MSU's.
Northwestern and Minnesota inexplicably sucking? I think it's actually pretty explicable. They frequently suck.
I have to axe ya: Is Illinois REALLY at .094 in years they don't play Michigan? Horrible.
the last time the Big Ten played a complete round robin, Illinois defeated Michigan at home 16-6 to finish 9-0 in the conference, while M finished second at 8-1.
I think those were the back-to-back two win seasons under the first years of the Zookian era. Seasons in which the legend of J Leman's greatness had its beginning, before he burst into the public eye in 2007 and captivated the country with his tacklin' ways and his American flag tie.
Other than that, those seasons pretty much sucked.
avoid Michigan *and* Ohio State in consecutive years.
Iowa did last year, IIRC,; and seem to recall Purdue a few years back.
Oddly, those teams don't do as well overall. Perhaps they're not as motivated over the summer and in practice. It's wierd.
Or they get more hype than they deserve because "OMG easiest schedule evar!!! Rose Bowl here we come!!!" and everyone overlooks the fact that those teams aren't actually that good.
From you stats, it looks like Northwestern is headed for a below average year while Minnesota should have an above average year for themselves, if the historical averages bear out.
I too have had this in the back of my mind for years.
..that UM once again has to play Wisky the week before OSU. At least OSU has to play Iowa this time. Usually, it seems like UM plays Wisky and OSU plays NW or some other easy school.
Hopefully, Wisky has lost that physical edge that allowed them to threaten the structural integrity of the Big Three and little eight under Alvarez. I want to see a healthy UM play OSU this year.
Just like a few others I always knew without any real data that we were on the short end of the stick over this period of time. Thanks for crunching the numbers and proving so.
I've always thought about this, I have just never really done research on it. Nice job though, I think Minessota will have a decent team this year but I think Nothwestern is going to have a big drop-off from last year.
Iowa last year?
With Notre Dame being our supposedly big nonconference opponent now, this doesn't bother me.
I gave Joey B a point back. It's won, Joey, not one. A+ for content.
Three sets of two Make it hard. MSU followed by Iowa(both on the road!), PSU Followed by going to Illinois, and at WIS(always tough at home even if it is a down year), Followed by OSU. Wouldn't everyone be more Comfortable if it looked like this. I know I would.
This still gives 3 Home games to start and get Tate comfortable before we go on the road and breaks up some of the pairs. IMO I would rather go to ILL and WIS back to back weeks and get Purdue(which should be awful) before OSU. Rather than play MSU and Iowa back to back as it is in reality. Just a Theory not that theorys do anything!
By the Hannibal this was a good post! The numbers are not what I expected and Ill was awful in the years we didn't have them!
I was thinking nobody got tougher locked down rivals than us, except then I noticed Ohio plays MICHIGAN and PENN STATE every year.
I guess now we have a good response if a Smart Buckeye ever comes at us with "we play Penn State, you play Michigan State," which, like, okay, I think anyone not named Xerxes would rather play Michigan State than Penn State in any given year. On the other hand, serendipity duked us in the fart box in saving the Lions' and Illini's bad years for when we don't play them.
I would bet, however, that Ohio State generally feels a similar effect. In college football, talent acquisition is through recruiting, and recruiting is helped by wins, so wins tend to create more future wins. For any college football team, wins are more precious any year you play Michigan or Ohio State or Penn State. Remember, the difference one loss makes in recruiting is huge, the fewer total losses, the more so.
A prolonged series of years in which a team faces the monsters, then, will negatively effect recruiting. For teams that rotate away, it is understandable if they have an off year afterward.
CASE IN POINT
The years we got off from Penn State we also had off of Wisconsin. This was for 2003 and 2004. I remember that succinctly for two reasons:
1. NCAA 2004, which I played for like 10 seasons, had the very annoying feature of never changing M's Big Ten schedule, i.e. I never played PSU or Wis (except PSU once in a bowl game).
2. I have a college football 2003 preview that has hung around my bathroom for six years, and it claims M has it easy not having to face those monsters.
Anyway, here's the Big Ten Standings for those seasons:
You see a Penn State in the dumps, right? And Wisconsin took an uncharacteristic tumble to the middle in 2003. Both improved markedly after that year, the first year off from Michigan since 1992.
Let's look at that run:
So without Michigan on their schedules, Wisconsin and Penn State were able to (re-) load in 1991 and 1992, and came out swinging in the mid-'90s. However, from 1997 to the next break, both teams suffered annual losses to the Wolverines. They also suffered loss of recruits to Michigan in that period. Think of all the top PA (PSU's stomping grounds) and Western MI (normally strong for WI) recruits that Carr hauled in during and just after that time. They couldn't beat us, and their high school kids knew it.
I bet this looks similar for any program that gets a much-needed break from Ohio State or Michigan: the decade of playing the boys eventually wears a program out. Rotating away may cause the final collapse, but it's a purging fire in a way, too. It's during those between years that those teams were able to recruit players that beat us. And lo and behold, we've had a tough time against both of those teams since they came back on the schedule in 2005. As we play them more and more often, and our coaches get used to facing each other, I think the balance will swing toward Michigan once again.
It's the nature of these things.
I think. Really, I'm just musing.
+1 for having the words "Xerxes" and "fart box" in the same paragraph. That's skill.
Wisconsin has had it better than anyone in this department. It helps when the big 3 are the most opponents rotated off your schedule.
*didn't have to face Michigan (10-2) in 1991.
*didn't have to face Michigan (9-0-3) in 1992.
*didn't have to face Penn State (10-2) in 1993.
*didn't have to face Penn State (12-0) in 1994.
*didn't have to face Michigan (9-4) in 1995.
*didn't have to face Michigan (9-3) in 1996.
*didn't have to face Ohio State (10-3) in 1997.
*didn't have to face Ohio State (11-1) in 1998.
*didn't have to play Penn State (10-3) in 1999.
*didn't have to play Illinois (8-4) in 1999.
*didn't have to play Michigan (10-3) in 2003.
*didn't have to play Michigan (9-3) in 2004.
*didn't have to play Ohio State (10-2) in 2005.
*didn't have to play Ohio State (12-1) in 2006.
Should all the tie-in teams be removed from the statistical analysis? Our opponents winning percentage whilst having us on their schedule would drop significantly if you take out OSU's winning percentage from the analysis, considering they play us every season and obviously had a high-winning percentage over the last 16 years.
I think this is a phenomena that many Michigan fans have suspected for years, but had no comprehensive proof of other than their own observations. Kudos on a very throrough and informative look at what we all know in the back of our minds...A tie in rivalry with Indiana would help.
Or, this may be a perfect time to re-amp the Brown Jug rivalry.
Hey, look, there's Jim Delaney over there. Act natural...
"Oooh, those stinkin dirty Gophers." (is he looking?)
"We should play the Gophers every year."
"Yeah, the Brown Jug is the best rivalry in sports." (keep going, he's walking over here)
"Yeah, they're our real rival." (c'mon guys, they're buying it).
May your hate for the LOLphers burn as hot as a thousand suns.
I don't care to do the significance calculations, but it's worth noting that the winning percentage difference in Big Ten play is only about 1 game (0.494-0.371 = 0.123, 1/8 = 0.125). In fact, it's actually more like half a game since any win is actually +1 win and -1 loss (and since winning percentage is a ratio, you get numerator/denominator things happening there). Assuming that UM is better than most of the teams in the Big Ten, you could just pencil in a loss for those teams and you've more or less arrived at the numbers you've tallied in your post.
The aggregate numbers being considered, I'm genuinely curious about the outliers (Illinois and Penn State). I know from watching the games that they've been all over the map in the past decade, but those numbers are really crazy.
"A real man makes his own luck." Billy Zane, Titanic.