One of the things really concerning me this week is our team's newly-raised expectations going forward. After Saturday's thrilling victory, I'm sure every Michigan fan started at the very least thinking about what it means going forward this season, if not discussing it with other fans as I've seen here in diaries and on the board. "We'll be 4-0 going into the State game!" is a common theme, and it does seem highly probable. However, after the Lloyd Carr era saw us routinely playing down to our competition and lose or make it close in our fair share of games in the "probable win" or "auto-win" categories, I can't help but feel a little uneasy going into Saturday's game against Eastern.
In an attempt to get a better grasp of what we can expect Saturday, I took a look at Rich Rod's teams' efforts in weeks following upset victories, going back to his first season at WVU. At this point you're probably wondering if there's going to be a Chart?
Why yes, a chart:
*not technically an upset, but relevant to our interests
As we can see above, RR's record is 7-3, and 7-1 if we exclude last year's disaster area/statistical outlier. The lone loss was the bowl game following the 2002 season in which WVU upset Pitt in the backyard brawl in the last game of the regular season, then fell to an unranked Virginia team in the Continental Tire Bowl.
It would seem, based on the data above, that RR has no problem motivating his team following emotional, upset victories. I would say the scenario most applicable to our current situation is November, 2003. An unranked WVU team knocked off their rival #16 Pitt in a huge game, and the next week climbed into the rankings at #25 and polished off a Syracuse team that would finish 6-6. Sounds pretty familiar, right?
As we know, Ron English's crew (Embrace the Process!) gave Northwestern a scare last week in their home stadium, falling 24-27 on a last second field goal. This is considerable improvement after losing to Army by two touchdowns at home in the opening game. However, with RR's track record for keeping his teams prepared following upset wins, and this year's team's hunger to erase the embarrassment of last year, perhaps I have less to worry about than I originally thought.
A couple items I thought I might add to clarify things further:
- As we can see, our sample size extremely small at only 10 games, 8 if we exclude last year. This is largely due to the fact that RR had no upsets in his first year (3 wins against cupcakes) and after that his team was rarely an underdog. What this means is that this shouldn't be taken as gospel, but rather something to give us a gist of what to expect.
- The average margin of victory in the upset wins was 8.7 points, whereas the average margin of victory in the post-upset win games was 18 points. This is to be expected because teams in the former category should be pretty good (hence being the favorite against RR's team) so you would expect the games should be close, but is nonetheless reassuring.