Redefining a "successful" season

Redefining a "successful" season

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on November 14th, 2017 at 5:03 PM

What is a "successful" season?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about what defines a "successful" season. Regarding this year, many arguments follow something like, "I predicted the regular season record would be between 8-4 and 10-2. So, given the youth and injuries, this season could be seen as decent if Michigan plays well against Wisconsin and OSU but loses, and 'successful' if they win at least one out of the two last games."

At face value, this seems reasonable enough. We all knew coming into the season that it was probably going to be a rebuilding year. Michigan has been decimated by key injuries. And winning 8 or 9 games...well, you may feel uneasy scoffing at that considering Michigan only did it twice during the era of Henri, the Otter of Ennui.

--Harbaugh finally started Henri on Prozac.--

But the fact is that record alone is a pretty meaningless metric for determining whether or not a season is successful. Nobody's preseason projections had Florida as a tire fire or Air Force as bad. Very few people predicted a loss to MSU (granted, they are better than expected). And if you had polled MGoBloggers before the season and asked, "How many wins against opponents with winning records will Michigan have going into the Wisconsin game," users answering 0 would have been negged to oblivion Bolivia.


Is a win always Win?

As with everything in life, defining success was so much easier back in the day. The steps were simple:

  1. Toe meets leather at high noon.
  2. Michigan stomps on inferior teams.
  3. Michigan beats Ohio State regularly.
  4. Michigan owns Michigan State.
  5. Michigan wins the Big Ten.

Under Bo, Michigan followed that Winning For Dummies formula to the tune of an overall record of 194-48-5, with 13 Big Ten titles, and 11/21 seasons featuring at least 10 wins. He went 11-9-1 against OSU and 17-4 against MSU.

--TaiStreet's Law: As a discussion about success at Michigan grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Bo approaches 1.--

Credit (or blame) Bo for the Michigan fan's fixation on 10 wins as a basic measuring stick for a successful season. When Harbaugh took over for the floundering Hoke, Michigan hit the 10-win threshold his first season after the impressive demolition of Florida in the Outback Bowl. Harbaugh's team followed it it up with another 10-win season the next year, in which they were only an imaginary inch short of real glory. There are many valid reasons why Harbaugh's first two seasons are viewed as successful, but measuring up to that 10-win mark is certainly a main one.

Unfortunately, this simple metric leaves a couple pink elephants in the room. For one, Michigan plays more games now than they did during the Bo era. In the 9 seasons with 10 wins under Bo, Michigan's winning percentage was 86%. Compare that to the 77% mark of a 10-3 season. In the modern era, Michigan has an extra built-in cupcake win every season.

The next issue to discuss is that Bo was playing in the era of the Big 2, Little 8. Outside of Michigan and OSU, there were no consistently good Big Ten teams. Under Bo, Michigan played an average of 5.57 games/season against teams with winning records. Compare that to Harbaugh's first two seasons, where the number was 6.50 games/season. Now, there is typically 1 additional [at least decent] opponent for Michigan to prove itself against each season than there was under Bo.

The last major obstacle to making this an apples-to-apples comparison is results against rivals. As outlined above, Bo beat OSU with regularity and owned MSU. While his tenure at Michigan is still in its infancy, Harbaugh has yet to replicate those results.

With these contextual factors added to the discussion, it's becoming clear that there are several key components to measuring a successful season. I thus set out to create a standardized season scoring metric to get a better sense of how Michigan seasons compare to one another.

The Season Score Metric

--All data comes from Sports Reference. Note, they only record the AP poll rankings--

In order to create a standardized season score metric, I went through each Michigan season since Bo's first year and recorded the following:

  • Wins
  • Win %
  • Quality wins: Wins against opponents that were ranked (in the AP poll) when they played Michigan AND finished with a winning record, OR wins against opponents that finished the season ranked (In the AP poll)
  • Bad losses: Losses against opponents that were not ranked (in the AP poll) when they played Michigan AND were not ranked (in the AP poll) at the end of the season
  • Wins against opponents that finished the season with winning records
  • Win % against opponents that finished the season with winning records
  • Results against OSU, MSU, and bowl game
  • B1G championships

The season score is thus calculated as follows:

(Wins x Win%) + Quality Wins - Bad Losses + (Wins vs. Opponents with Winning Records x Win% vs. Opponents with Winning Records) + 5 if Beat Ohio + 3 if Beat MSU + 3 if Win Bowl + 5 if B1G Champion

To see this in action, here is how it looks for Michigan's best season, the 1997 championship:

  • 12 wins x 100% Win%: 12 points
  • 6 Quality Wins: +6 points
  • 0 Bad Losses: -0 points
  • 7 Wins vs. Opponents with Winning Records x 100% Win% vs. OwWR: +7 points
  • Beat OSU: +5 points
  • Beat MSU: +3 points
  • Won Bowl: +3 points
  • B1G Champions: +5 points
  • Total: 41 points

Some major caveats apply to making this a true apples-to-apples comparison:

  • Quality wins are based only on AP poll
  • A win vs. the #1 team is treated the same as a win vs. the #25 team
  • The relative strength of OSU and MSU in a given year is ignored
  • The B1G is much more competitive now than in previous years
  • Shared vs. outright B1G Titles are ignored
  • All advanced stats are ignored

However, this metric still provides a ton more context to the season than record alone. And, at the end of the day, the Winning For Dummies formula hasn't changed at all, it has simply gotten harder to follow. Edit: see comment section for some more justification of this metric.

So, how does it all stack up?

(Here is a link to the google sheet with all of the information for anyone interested.)

Average Season Results by Coaches
Coach Seasons Season Score Wins Win% Quality Wins Bad Losses Wins vs. OwWR Win% vs. OwWR OSU W MSU W ND W Bowl W B1G Champ
Moeller 5 20.45 8.80 73.4% 2.2 0.60 3.60 53.7% 60% 60% 40% 80% 60%
Carr 13 20.21 9.38 75.4% 3.0 0.54 4.15 59.2% 46% 77% 56% 46% 39%
Bo 21 19.55 9.24 78.8% 1.6 0.38 3.29 59.9% 52% 81% 40% 29% 62%
Harbaugh 2 15.09 10 77% 3.0 0.50 3.50 53.6% 0% 50% NA 50% 0%
Hoke 4 8.51 7.75 60.4% 1.0 2.0 3.25 38.4% 25% 25% 50% 33% 0%
Rich Rod 3 0.24 5 40.3% 0.3 2.67 1.33 15.3% 0% 0% 67% 0% 0%

When you factor in the importance of beating your rivals, winning the Big Ten, and finishing the year strong with a bowl win, it becomes clear that win totals alone aren't enough to measure the success of a season. This shows that Bo, Carr, and Moeller had nearly identical success at Michigan, and they all prduced at a tier above what Harbaugh has managed so far.

Here are the ten best seasons by this metric:

Year Coch Season Score Record
AP Rank
Quality Wins Bad Losses Wins vs. OwWR Losses vs. OwwR Beat OSU Beat MSU Beat ND B1G Champ Bowl Game
1997 Carr 41.00 12-0 1 6 0 7 0 Y Y Y Y Y
1980 Bo 29.97 10-2 4 3 0 4 2 Y Y N Y Y
1986 Bo 28.47 11-2 8 3 1 5 1 Y Y Y Y N
1988 Bo 27.88 9-2-1 4 2 0 5 2 Y Y N Y Y
2003 Carr 27.83 10-3 6 4 0 5 3 Y Y Y Y N
2000 Carr 27.55 9-3 11 3 0 3 2 Y Y NA Y Y
1989 Bo 26.97 10-2 7 3 0 4 2 Y Y N Y N
1991 Moeller 26.97 10-2 6 3 0 4 2 Y Y Y Y N
1990 Moeller 26.75 9-3 7 3 0 6 3 Y N N Y Y
1971 Bo 26.33 11-1 6 1 0 3 1 Y Y NA Y N

Harbaugh's 2015 team comes in at #28 w/ 15.99, and last year's team is at #34 w/ 14.20. For those of us who never watched Bo teams, this gives some better context to judge the Season Score metric. While last year's team was definitely a more talented team than the 2015 unit, it is not unreasonable based on end results for its overall success score to be worse.

For another comparison, Hoke's flukish 2011 squad is ranked #15 with a score of 23.75. Again, it's hard to believe that team was better than either the 2015 or 2016 Harbaugh squads, but there is something to be said for beating OSU (regardless of how bad they were) and winning a BCS bowl. What it does suggest, however, is that looking at the score metric by itself does not necessarily predict future seasons' success.

Projecting this season's score

Michigan is currently sitting at 8-2, with 0 quality wins, 0 bad losses, 0 wins against opponents with winning records in 2 games, and a loss to MSU. All that is good for a season score of 6.40.

But, there is theoretically a huge range of final success for this season. Just for fun, let's look at all of the possible end results:

Rest of Season Results Season Score* Record Rank (out of 49 seasons)
LLL 4.92 8-5 43
WLL 7.43 9-4 42
LLW 9.43 9-4 42
LWL 12.41 9-4 36
WLW 13.49 10-3 36
WWL 15.49 10-3 29
LWW 18.49 10-3 24
WWLL 19.14 10-4 21
WWLW 21.93 11-3 18
WWW 22.11 11-2 18
WWWL 23.93 11-3 14
WWWW 30.86 12-2 2

*Note: I looked at the Massey game predictor to determine the likely outcomes for our previous opponents' final games. No previous opponent is expected to gain a winning record. However, in the highly unlikely scenario where Michigan wins the B1G East division, it would probably only be possible if one previous opponent does gain a winning record.

So now we have some real context for how relatively successful this season can finish. Obviously, the most likely outcome of the season will see Michigan finish (by some combination) between 8-5 and 10-3. Let's look at how those season scores compare to previous Michigan ones:

  • A score of 4.92 puts the season score between those of the 8-4, 2001 Carr team and the 7-6, 2013 Hoke team.
  • Scores of 7.43 or 9.43 puts the season score between those of the 8-5, 2012 Hoke team and that 2001 Carr team.
  • Scores of 12.41 or 13.49 puts the season score between those of the 9-4, 1995 Carr team and the 8-2-2, 1975 Bo team.
  • A score of 15.94 puts the season score between those of the 10-3, 2015 Michigan team and the 8-4, 1993 Moeller team.
  • A score of 18.49 puts the season score between those of the 9-0-3, 1992 Moeller team and the 10-0-1, 1992 Bo team.


With all of this information, I think it is reasonable to argue that this season can be called "successful" if Michigan does (at least) either of the following:

  • Beat OSU
  • Beat Wisconsin AND win the bowl game



Wallpaper Season - The Game - 2016

Wallpaper Season - The Game - 2016

Submitted by jonvalk on November 23rd, 2016 at 1:36 AM

Good evening, ladies and gentlement of MGoBlog.

As you may or may not have noticed, I have been absent from the wallpaper scene this year for the most part.  I've been extremely busy with both work and life and haven't had some of the free-time to do wallpapers like I would like to.  Well, this week I was sent to Kentucky for work and so I have had some evening free time - so you get a wallpaper from me for "The Game."  Ok, enough stupid filler "me" content, and on to the wallpaper content.

I'm constantly struck by how much of Bo is in Jim Harbaugh.  I think some of it is fabricated by my mind and others in the Michigan fanbase, but I also truly believe Bo had such a lasting impression on Jim that he tries hard to emulate Bo in many areas of coaching.  For this week's wallpaper, I went with the sentimental approach rather than the "Beat Ohio" chest-pounding.  While I love to talk trash about Ohio State, they are not who I am focusing on this week - focusing on your rival is for little brothers.  I am focusing on The Game, and on Jim Harbaugh, and on Bo - all things that make Michigan that much more MICHIGAN in my mind.

There's no way I could know this, of course, but I like to think that Jim can hear his old coach giving him advice while he roams the sideline, grinning or growling, teaching or throwing things.  I just imagine him hearing Bo curse when a flag is thrown, laugh at the futility of dealing with referees, and encourage his quarterback when he's down on himself - wanting to give in to doubt.  I like to think that these things fuel Jim - that they give him some sort of supernatural serenity, an unnatural peace in the midst of the chaos that is gametime. I want so desperately for Bo's words to be prophetic.

"It's gonna be Michigan again...Michigan."

Damn it, Bo. We miss you. Jim misses you. This world took you away too soon. Here's to being "Michigan again." For Bo, for Jim, for the Team, and for all of us fans. I'm thankful to be a Michigan Wolverine. I'm thankful for a forum to express my unhealthy love for this game and for the Team that plays it so well. I hope you enjoy this wallpaper.

Go Blue.

Desktop (1920x1080):

Mobile (Bo):

Mobile (Jim):

Ten Years Gone

Ten Years Gone

Submitted by goblueram on November 17th, 2016 at 8:56 AM

For Bo...

Then as it was, then again it will be
And though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea
Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays
On the wings of maybe, down in birds of prey
Kind of makes me feel sometimes, didn't have to grow
But as the eagle leaves the nest, it's got so far to go
Changes fill my time, baby, that's alright with me
In the midst I think of you, and how it used to be
Did you ever really need somebody
And really need 'em bad
Did you ever really want somebody
The best love you ever had
Do you ever remember me, baby
Did it feel so good
'Cause it was just the first time
And you knew you would
Through the eyes an' I sparkle
Senses growing keen
Taste your love along the way
See your feathers preen
Kind of makes makes me feel sometimes
Didn't have to grow
We are eagles of one nest
The nest is in our soul
Vixen in my dreams, with great surprise to me
Never thought I'd see your face
The way it used to be
Oh darlin', oh darlin'
I'm never gonna leave you
I never gonna leave
Holdin' on, ten years gone
Ten years gone, holdin' on, ten years gone
Ten years gone, holdin' on
I know WD made his post, but this is the musical tribute from the greatest band to the greatest ball coach.  Though a few of the sappy love lyrics may go too far, it's still a fitting jam.

My Cool Story Bro - Dinner with Jarrod Bunch and 'Rocket' Ismail

My Cool Story Bro - Dinner with Jarrod Bunch and 'Rocket' Ismail

Submitted by Mturner on August 26th, 2015 at 5:27 PM

Wanted to get this in before the end of the OT season. It's my first in a long long time so be gentle. Sorry for the length, and any typos. I had to write this in a hurry during my lunch at work. 

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a private dinner with guest speakers Jarrod Bunch and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail.

For any of the unfamiliar, Jarrod Bunch played fullback for Michigan from 1987-90 and captained the 1990 team. He was drafted 27th overall  in the first round to the New York Giants where he had  3 year career due to knee injuries.  Bunch is now an actor making appearances in Django Unchained, and Entourage among many others.

Rocket Ismail was a star WR for Notre Dame from 88-91 where he finished runner up in the Heisman voting in 1990 losing to Ty Detmer. Ismail was projected as the top overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft, but decided to forgo the draft and sign with the Toronto Argonauts. He eventually moved back to the NFL playing for the LA(!) Raiders, Panthers, and Cowboys before retiring in 2001.

The dinner was very Michigan – Notre Dame centric obviously (a lot of chanting going on back and forth).  The party I wanted to share with you guys however, came when Teddy Greenstein (B1G reporter for the Chicago Tribune)  got to interview both Jarrod and Rocket. It was very entertaining to get insight into the rivalry between Bo and Lou Holtz.

The first topic they covered was the 1989 game (which sadly I was too young to see) between #1 ND and #2 Michigan. ND escaped with a win in the Big House by a score of 24-19 thanks to Rocket’s two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Jarrod was the first to speak about the game and just put his head down and smiled. He said that before the game Bo sat the team down and said “We are going to go out there and we are going to give them exactly what they want, and still stick it in their face be WE ARE MICHIGAN. We are going to kick it straight to this Rocket Ismail, and then we are going to run down the field and tackle him harder then he has ever been tackled because this is Michigan. This is our field. We aren’t afraid of them, or any player that they have. Nobody can come in here and be a star against us.” Jarrod then smiled and looked at the crowd and said “I think you know what happened after the first kickoff.” Bo then told the team to kick off to him again because there is no way somebody can do that to Michigan again. Jarrod then laughed and looked at Ismail and said “He did it again”. He then explained the reason that he isn’t mad about telling this story, is because it showed how much love and confidence Bo had for Michigan. He truly thought that every team he had was the best team he had ever coached, and had the best players in the nation.  He then went on to say that his most memorable game in college was the 1990 loss to USC, as before the game Bo announced his retirement. He said it was the first and only time he will ever see Bo on the brink of tears. He said that game sticks with him still today because at the end of the game it started to get out of hand, and Jarrod and the offense were sitting on the sidelines watching the game and feeling worse ‘than he ever has in his life because they felt like they wanted to do something and would give anything to do something but couldn’t. They all loved Bo so much, and Bo loved them, and it killed them to not be able to send him out with a win.

I wont get into Rocket’s side of the story as this is already way to long of a post, but I will share some brief notes and comments that stuck out to me.

·      When Jarrod was asked about Dave Brandon, he simply responded “WHO???”

·      Jarrod thinks the reason Michigan has been down is the mis-interpretation of the ‘Michigan Man’.

o   He said a Michigan Man is “a person who wants to win, but not by any means necessary. A person that wants to win on the field and in life. A develop men to have the same mentality.

o   He said Harbaugh is a Michigan Man.  He hold all of Bo’s principals but to a more modern standpoint. His father was a Bo coach and raised him under the same principals, which Bo then instilled in him during his time at Michigan.

·      Bo was a Michigan man to the max. Bo never let past players come back to practice, because he only concentrated on current team. Only concentrated on the players that he was molding into Michigan men, not the ones that already were.

·      Rocket mentioned that Holtz always said that Notre Dame wins the Big 10 every year.

·      Jarrod and Rocket both think players should be compensated, but they didn’t when they played. But now with the longer practices

·      and season they think they should. They said it used to be a sport but now it is a full-time job in college.

o   Now coaches get paid more.

o   Huge apparel contracts.

§  Not fair to players.

·      Rocket said that ND is a CFB Playoff team this year, and if the QB play is good can win it all.

·      Jarrod said that Harbaugh will bring this team to the top, but we have to be patient, as it won’t happen overnight but this team will be TOUGH.

·      Rocket liked playing Miami the most because his freshmen year their was full team brawl between the teams that almost led to Holtz cancelling the game. 

OT: Ex-Bo assistant Elliot Uzelac coaching again at 74

OT: Ex-Bo assistant Elliot Uzelac coaching again at 74

Submitted by The Mad Hatter on July 24th, 2015 at 3:26 PM

Elliot Uzelac was the Michigan OL Coach when Harbaugh was playing.  He also did stints at Western and Navy.  

He's out of retirement at 74 to help turn around Benton Harbor, a team that hasn't won a game in two years.  Their last winning season was in 1989.


He's pretty fired up about the Harbaugh hire too.

"Jimmy will do great at Michigan," Uzelac said. "He was a great player and fierce competitor. Michigan needs physical toughness and mental discipline, and Jimmy will make sure they get it."


Forty Years In The Bighouse - Jon Falk Shipping Update

Forty Years In The Bighouse - Jon Falk Shipping Update

Submitted by The Geek on July 24th, 2015 at 10:55 AM

MGoBloggers -- Just FYSA, I received an update from Amazon referencing Jon Falk's new book, "Forty Years.."

The new expected delivery date is now Wednesday, 29 July!

This should help subside the offseason blues, albeit briefly. I'm really looking forward to his first-hand stories and will probably fly through this by Friday the 31st. Jon Falk is a living legend.

Go Blue!

Bump Elliott, Brady Hoke, And The Next Bo

Bump Elliott, Brady Hoke, And The Next Bo

Submitted by WolverineOptimist on December 12th, 2014 at 4:18 PM

While all the focus is on which man will take over the Michigan Football program, I am inclined to take just an extra moment to reflect on the recently dismissed Brady Hoke. Usually during struggles the fan base turns on a coach to the point that they celebrate his firing. This was not the usual situation. Almost everyone who has truly supported and cared about Michigan Football for any length of time was not celebratory in the least bit when Hoke was let go. Almost all agreed, however, that it was a move that was necessary for a program that is on a downward trend. Where will Brady Hoke reside in Michigan Football history? This question has nagged me; and while it is still much too early to tell, I would like to believe he will be viewed much in the same light as Bump Elliott. The similarities are striking between two Michigan coaches whose years with the school did not end the way they wanted.... read more:

Bo and why he was/is important

Bo and why he was/is important

Submitted by Amaizing Blue on October 12th, 2014 at 7:31 PM
I turned 50 last Tuesday, and am realizing many on the board are too young to remember and "get" the impact Bo had on this program. You can watch him on film, but it isn't the same as having seen the man live on the sidelines. Multiply that by whatever factor you want to feel the impact of having played for or coached with him. When it comes to Michigan football, he was the Godfather. Loyalty was valued above all, and dissent was not tolerated, but Michigan always came first. Rich Rod is absolutely right when he says if Bo had been alive, he would have had it easier. Rich is the Michigan coach? Get in line and do everything you can to help him succeed. Shut up, Lloyd, Michigan won the NC, not you. Bo had many faults, clock management the most glaring. But...He was a Michigan Man. Meaning, Michigan came before anything else. That's all, full stop. We need another Michigan Man. A great coach who puts Michigan first. THAT is a Michigan Man.