Best part of the pic: Devin c-walking across the goalline? Minnesota defender flailing? or Minnesota coaches looking on hopelessly? (Fuller)
1. The Six Factors
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Minnesota scored 13 off of field position of 17 and Michigan scored 42 off of field position of 23. Take out the pick six and field position was even to go along with early conversions. Michigan had an edge in bonus yards but struggled in both setting up third downs and converting them. None of the six factors swung heavily to Michigan. The field position helped but didn’t make a big difference.
This is another data point to say that the Akron second half was a fluke on the defense’s part. Michigan is just pushing the bend but don’t break style big time this year. Another game with almost no bonus yards allowed, when you don’t give up big plays, the opponent keeps facing more times against the chains. Michigan has been decent at forcing third downs and not allowing a lot of short distances and they have actually been pretty bad at third down itself, but the quantity of downs they are forcing opponents into by not giving up big plays is driving their success. Sure sometimes a team is going to converting 10 third downs and take up a whole half on a drive, but most of the time things are going to flame out. Not giving up big plays on defense is going to be all that Michigan needs to be in position to win for most of the games on their schedule.
2. Individual Performances
Opponent adjustments now in effect
Devin Gardner +13.6 EV+, +37% WPA 6th best QB of the week
Fitzgerald Toussaint +1.6, +13%, 46th best RB of the week
Mitch Leidner +7.5, +17%, 26th best QB of the week
Devin Funchess +14.7, +24%, 5th best receiver of the week
A solid performance from Gardner that will almost certainly be downgraded over the course of the season as Minnesota’s adjustment begins to reflect a tougher slate.
While Toussaint’s numbers certainly aren’t amazing, if he can consistently perform at this level it should be adequate to maximize opportunities in the passing game.
Last week was loaded for pass catchers as the Funchess to WR experiment was 5th best of the week but was one of the top 15 of the season. Funchess joins Jeremy Gallon versus Notre Dame to give Michigan 2 of the top receiving games of the season. Only Mike Evans against Alabama put up as high of a score as Funchess on 7 or fewer catches.
3. Game Chart
6. +4.0% – Leidner incomplete on 3rd and 5 midway through the second quarter
5.+5.3% – Toussaint scores from 8 yards out to open the scoring
4. +5.8% – Gardner to Funchess for 21 yards setting up 1st and Goal at the 2
3. –8.1% – Minnesota gets their sole TD of the day on 3rd and 7
2. +8.6% – Michigan forces a fumble on Minnesota’s opening possession
1. +10.8% - Gardner hits Funchess for a TD on 3rd and 14 to give Michigan the lead going into halftime
Not very swingy, that game. The first two plays had a bit of a big play feel to them but man did that game lack drama or excitement. I kept double checking the numbers for #6 because it didn’t feel like a top swing play and then I realized that would have been about #25 in some games earlier in the season. Lack of big plays + lack of turnovers + lack of second half drama = boring swing plays.
4. Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
NC State and the ghost of Tom O’Brien punted on 4th and 1 from the Wake Forest 35 yard line. The Wolfpack got their Romer Karma as the punt went for a touchback and Wake Forest went on to win. Most weeks, this would be enough to win dumb punt of the week but this week has a honoree.
Southern Miss which hasn’t won in what seems like years and at least 3 coaches, faced a 4th and 7 at the hapless FIU 40 yard line. There were less than 6 minutes down and the Golden Eagles trailed by 1. What do you have to lose at this point? You have lost a million games in a row, go for the freaking win. Southern Miss was something like a touchdown favorite despite being awful. Don’t be scared, go for the win.
Southern Miss coach to be fired is your dumb punter of the week. Special bye week honors go to Gary Andersen of Wisconsin, for punting to Ohio State down two scores late. The best case scenario happened and Wisconsin had the whole field to drive for a touchdown to force overtime with a minute left and no timeouts. You might think that sounds dire, but the Badgers own late game time management and their fans saw no fear, mostly just the bottom of the beer from the bar they bolted to after the punt.
5. State of the stats
The Six Factors are now available for all 125 FBS teams. I’ll do my best to update these on Sundays so you can check out where other teams fall in different categories.
Other notes from around college football:
- Devin Gardner is currently ranked #18 among all quarterbacks with an EV+ (opponent adjusted) of 7.1. Currently Bryce Petty of Baylor and Aaron Murray are the two players ahead of the +14 mark.
- Jeremy Gallon is at 6.4 value added for the season, putting him at #30 in the country.
- Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and his insane YPA are leading the nation among running backs with a 5.9 EV+, nearly a full point above any other back.
- Devin Gardner is currently the most valuable player in the Big Ten, if you replaced Gardner plays with the expected value from all non-Gardner plays, it would have cost Michigan nearly 60 points so far this season. On the flip side, Fitzgerald Toussaint’s plays have been an overall drag on the offense, replacing his carries with average plays would add 24 points to Michigan’s total. Only Duke Johnson of Miami has been a bigger loss to his offense as a running back.
- Baylor’s offense has been absurd. Their opponent adjusted offensive EV is +23.7, over 6.5 points ahead of second place Texas A&M nearly double third place Miami. They also have not had a single play charted in the second half. Last week against West Virginia they put 327 bonus yards, in the first half. That’s as many yards past the line of scrimmage in one half than 15 teams are averaging for a game.
- On the flip side, Missouri held Vanderbilt to just 6 bonus yards in the first half while building a 23 point lead.
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I’m a little nervous about this one. Some people are blowing off Penn State as a team that got blown out by Indiana, but I see them as a team that almost beat UCF, a team that killed a dangerous Akron team.
As for the numbers, when Michigan has the ball it should be a fairly even matchup. Michigan’s biggest opportunities might come from big plays as Penn State has been a very good third down defense and putting together long drives should be a challenge.
When Penn State has the ball, Michigan should have a solid advantage. Much has been made of Penn State’s third down woes but that is more a story of being bad at early downs than bad at third down. Michigan has been great at not giving up bonus yards and if they can continue that trend, Penn State will have a very tough time putting together drives. Freshman QB Christian Hackenberg is –1.6 EV+ on the year and ranked 132nd out of 169 quarterbacks on the season. As noted everywhere, if you stop Allen Robinson (#15 ranked WR, #2 in Big Ten) you stop the Penn State offense.
The Penn State defense keeps the game close, but I see this a game that goes back and forth between a 1 and 2 score Michigan lead, never put away, but never that much in doubt.
Michigan 24 Penn State 20