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Our Defense, Their Offense - numbers offer hope!
[Ed.: Bump. As the OP notes, this data is still very shaky four games in, but the amount of improvement in the offense is so great it can hardly be a mirage.]
In my post the other day, Why should 2010 not be another 2009?, I looked at what our offense has accomplished in 2010 relative to what it had accomplished at this point in the season in 2009. It had two meaningful results:
1) This years' offense draws its potency from highly reproduceable, base set offensive plays, unlike the high variance scrambles and special teams play of 2009.
2) This year's offense is putting up far superior numbers to what they did a year ago (up 28%!!) against as-good or slightly-better competition (77th strength-of-schedule in 2010 vs 114th in 2009).
The Conclusion From the Former:
Our offense will come back to earth from meteoric numbers in out-of-conference play, BUT we have statistically significant evidence to believe that our offense will be far more reliable than last year due to depth, experience, and dilithium.
Our defense cannot stop any team that is executing, whether it's UMass or that-team-down-south. In other words, our wins and losses are going to be determined by how good an offense we face each week, and how well they execute.
Examples: UConn played bad (dropped passes, poor throws) and we stopped them. On the flip side UMass played well (good schemes, good execution) and they had their way with us.
Each and every Big10 offense we play is going to put up at least or slightly better numbers than their normalized offensive output.
So let's find out how bad it's going to be against us with a--
Chart of Infinite Defensive Gloom (after 4 weeks)
|2009 Rank||2009 Opponent||Expected N-PPG||Expected N-YPG||Actual PPG||Actual YPG|
Normalized Offensive Output - The important thing we're doing here is not looking at the raw PPG and YPG of these teams because it does not account for how good of competition they have played. Four weeks in, the SoS data is far from reliable, but it is at least forming.
Our opponent with the strongest SoS serves as the baseline (Notre Dame with 3 Big10 teams and Stanford). In other words, these numbers estimate what all of these teams' offenses would have generated if they had all played Notre Dame's schedule thus far (Purdue, Michigan, MSU, and Stanford).
Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings. (BGSU and UMass are going to have way-inflated numbers at this time, but I included them on the chart anyway as a reminder this is not a perfect analysis and as an interesting couple of data points to track as the season progresses.)
N-PPG or Normalized Points-per-game is taken from the teams average PPG with a SoS multiplier factored in to deflate numbers from playing bad competition and inflate numbers based on playing good competition.
N-YPG or Normalized Yards-per-game is calculated using the same SoS multiplier as N-PPG but using this metric will help us determine a less variant guess as to how offenses will perform (PPG is subject to wild variance based on turnovers and special teams).
I am only tracking our 12 opponents because the only thing that matters is the twelve games Michigan plays and I don't want to get depressed that we are playing Wisconsin and Iowa instead of NW and Minnesota.
This chart pans out as expected. That-team-down-south is the clearcut leader. (Michigan is actually second in N-PPG with 36.3 but FIRST in N-YPG with a staggering 494.5).
We see a clearly defined pecking order in the Big10 that matches very closely the general consensus: clear-cut leaders in OSU-Wisconsin, a muddled middle of Iowa-MSU-Indiana, and a struggling bottom of offenses PSU-Illinois-Purdue.
The exceptions are Indiana, which is trending higher up the rankings due to its offense, and Penn St, which was generally considered a top-4 team in the Big10 going into the season (but is clearly not the case with their offense).
UMass and BGSU will continue to fall down this chart as their SoS gets watered down with conference and 1-AA play.
Conclusions Based on Not Enough Data
NSFMF! Teams always seem to play their lights out when they play Michigan. Michigan's defense has a way of making teams look better than they are. Notre Dame for instance had their highest offensive output of the year against Michigan, operating at 125% of their average YPG.
If we take the MOST pessimistic view and give our opponents 125% of their offensive AND scoring outputs against us and only give ourselves 80% (assumption our offense slows down entering league play) of our average going into the Big10, Michigan ends the season 7-5 with wins over PSU, Illinois, and Purdue.
If instead we give ourselves just our average offensive production going into this weekend - our Big10 expected record jumps to 6-2... 10-2 overall!! - with losses coming from Wisconsin and that-team-down-south.
Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in between 6-2 and 3-5. Would you take that outcome at the start of the season? In a heartbeat? I know I would.
It is going to be tremendous to watch this Michigan team storm into the Big10 season knowing that our offense only needs to hold serve and our defense can surrender season-best performances from every single opponent and we still have a fighting chance in all of those games! And lest we forget... DILITIHIUM!
For now, I think we can look at this and add one more reason to the growing pile of why 2010 is NOT 2009! Get excited! Indiana here we come!
Prediction for Indiana:
Michigan's ground game operates at MINIMUM of 100% our normalized average and puts up above-average PPG, but since we only score touchdowns we go to the next closest number after 36! Indiana plays their lights out and operates at 125% of their normalized efficiency, mostly through the air.