Michigan has a great chance to wreak havoc in the Big Ten Title Race (!)

Michigan has a great chance to wreak havoc in the Big Ten Title Race (!)

Submitted by griesecheeks on November 9th, 2010 at 6:18 PM

(1) I think after this past weekend, many of us, players, fans & coaches alike felt at least some kind of burden lifted: Bowl Eligibility; Defeat of supposedly a team on the rise in Illinois. Things are a little bit calmer in these parts. Plus, we have some momentum going forward into a very winnable game @ Purdue. Sure, nothing's a given, but I like our chances to put a hurtin' on the Boilers. 7-3 going into the last two? Many predicted 7 wins for us this year. Check*.

(2) Those last two games against Wisconsin & OSU should be a blast! We are in a fantastic position to totally screw up the chances of those teams for Big 10 Title & BCS aspirations. A dollar says this team from here on out looks much less tense and seems to have a shitload of fun on the field. They will be underdogs in each of those games, and I'm going to predict that we upset one of them. I think these last three games will be a great preview of some of what should come next year. 

(3) There's been some more Denard/Heisman chatter around here recently, and while it's probably not going to happen, this stage is where Heisman finalists are made. If Denard leads us to wins over the last three games, he's got a real shot to get back into the picture. I think he could still be a finalist if he wins 2 of the three, but puts up great numbers in all three. Not super important right now, but it sure would be fun to see him get proper credit for the ridiculous year he's having.

(4) I, for one, am quite excited to see what happens with this team the rest of November. Before the season, I said very calmly to myself that if we improve enough to get to a bowl, I'm not going to complain about Rodriguez as our coach again in 2010. That's happened, and I'm sticking to my word. He gives us the absolute best shot to be a contender next year, and he seems to have full support of his players. So sit back, breathe a little easier, and let's all have some fun and see if this wacky combination of Top-5 offense and Bottom-Tier Defense can't find some happy medium and mess up the Big Ten Picture a little. 


*First things, first: Let's wipe the floor with Purdue this weekend. I think it will happen. Maybe some tense moments, maybe a high-scoring affair, but whatever, that's old hat at this point. Anyway, always have to put this disclaimer when looking ahead.

Our Defense Their Offense - tipping point!

Our Defense Their Offense - tipping point!

Submitted by mistersuits on October 6th, 2010 at 6:10 PM

Each week I trundle off to my favorite sports bar in Brooklyn, pumped up with expectations that far exceed what could ever possibly happen, promising myself I will behave in front of the other patrons, and that I'll remain calm when inevitably the other team scores or when Michigan goofs up.

And yet I was compelled to blurt out "Don't fumble it! Don't fumble it!" when Cam Gordon picked off Ben Chappell. The singular defensive highlight of the day and I respond as if Michigan had been the team committing a turnover on that play. I got some strange looks for sure.

That's how you know you're traumatized.

We still live under the spectre of the 2009 season and the reality that our defense is likely not going to stop any team we play.

The statistics tell me (Mathlete) that Michigan is absolutely going to win at least another couple Big10 games this year. I am resolutely impatient, however, and cannot wait until Illinois week in November to finally claim "improvement" from 2009. In fact if we lose the next three games - games we had already written off (Brian) no less - we'll be 5-3 and in crisis mode*.

A record of 7-5 was always the most likely outcome. But at 5-0, none of us could stand finishing the season 2-5, for so many reasons. So we reach a tipping point.

Win, and no one can ever claim again that this is 2009 all over again. Reclaim bowl eligibility, set the stage for a run at the Big10 title, and silence one of our most loathed rivals in one fell swoop.

Lose, and face the reality that our defense is going to limit us from getting over .500 in conference play, no matter how amazing and awesome Denard Robinson is.

*It's not really crisis mode when that's what we had as a baseline expectation, but it is the undeniable flaw of reaching 5-3 from 5-0 instead of 2-3.

But what do the numbers say?

Indiana Post-mortem

Last week I laid out a chart of our opponents and what kind of offensive output we can expect from each.

The numbers predicted a 36.3 (15.7% under) to 32.2 (8.7% under) Michigan victory - the margin of victory (4.1) was exactly correct. I extrapolated those considering likely real football scores and came up with a 42-31 prediction.

We had a turnover neutral game and special teams played no special role, so that levelled out any scoring variance, making these prediction about as accurate as they could be. Not bad for a first time, by the numbers prediction, all things considered.


  • Michigan's offense exceeded expectations, netting 80 yards over predicted.
  • Michigan's turnover was crucial. It's safe to say that we will lose every game in which we lose the turnover battle.
  • I predicted Indiana would kick a field goal. Bill Lynch, however, after losing by three points while kicking four field goals in 2009, decided he was never ever going to only go for three. That attitude was the difference between Indiana's 31 and actual total of 35.
  • Michigan's defense lived up to its bad expectations, yielding 175% of expected yardage.
  • While Michigan gave up almost double the expected yardage, it yielded precisely 100% of the expected points. This, my friends, is how you would define a bend-not-break defense.
  • Prediction wise, Michigan should have had an offensive multiplier greater than 100% against a defense as bad as Indiana.
  • Prediction wise, Indiana's multiplier was slightly too low at 125% (actual was 136%). Hard to determine if it was our defense or Ben Chappell that made up that difference. I will assume it was quality play by a senior QB until he proves me very wrong this week @osu.

How about the rest of our opponents?

Chart of Offensive Expectations (through 5 weeks)

Rank Opponent N-PPG N-YPG SoS
1 Michigan 37.1 506 67.89
2 osu 36.8 386 63.18
3 Connecticut 30.1 337 65.94
4 Iowa 29.8 378 67.32
5 Wisconsin 29.6 363 61.70
6 MSU 28.1 357 58.82
7 Indiana 27.3 312 51.95
8 BGSU 25.2 271 69.16
9 Notre Dame 24.6 404 75.82
10 UMass 21.7 327 55.48
11 Illinois 20.9 311 71.12
12 Penn State 18.1 337 71.62
13 Purdue 18.1 311 62.92


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).

Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings.

Usage: The chart doesn't predict that #3 would beat #5. Instead it tries to predict with the most accuracy how many points/yards on average each of these teams would score against a common opponent.


Michigan's N-PPG jumps into lead this week after a suspect outing by osu versus Illinois, and further expands their staggering lead in N-YPG, eclipsing 500 yards expected even after it has strength of schedule reducing it to normalized amounts, a full 100 yards more than anyone else on the schedule (120 yards more than anyone else on the Big10 slate).

  • There is a full touchdown gap of production between the top two teams and the next five on the list, suggesting a competitive plateau of Iowa-Wisconsin-MSU-Indiana, all shadowed by The Denard Show.
  • Indiana makes a leap with their outburst against Michigan. If they can even put up half of those numbers against osu expect their rank to continue to climb upwards as their SoS will jump way up after this week.
  • Iowa made modest gains this week after a fairly conservative game against Penn State, which they were in control of the whole way.
  • Wisconsin struggled big time against MSU. They are at best the 4th place team in the Big10 behind osu, Iowa and MSU.
  • Illinois had as good an opportunity as they were going to get to make a run at an upset (at home, injured opposing QB), but couldn't produce.
  • Penn State has been absolutely shut down now by two really good defensive teams (Iowa/Alabama).
  • UConn continues to perform decently after two letdowns in their first three games.
  • BGSU and UMass fall with their strength of schedule. The rest of the Big10 saw their SoS jump higher this week (duh!).

Conclusions Based on Almost Enough Data

Until given reason to expect otherwise, I am giving our opponents 125% of their N-PPG and 150% of their N-YPG for predictions vs Michigan.

However!!! The elephant in the room is not Michigan's defense. Our defense remains a constant, an ugly constant. The biggest factor remaining is whether or not Michigan can sustain it's offensive play into the Big10 schedule.

Last year, this is where Michigan's offense fell off a cliff. The last seven Big10 games they averaged 20.1 PPG. They did not outgain any of their opponents and they lost the turnover battle nearly every time. Michigan's 2010 unit, however, is light years ahead of where they were last year and, more importantly, healthy (knock on wood).

Best Case

A week ago had a Big10 best case scenario of 6-2. That remains the outlook this week except instead of our second loss coming from Wisconsin it comes from Iowa (We will beat Wisconsin 37.1 to 37.0!).

Worst Case

In a worst case scenario, wherein our offense drops off to 75-80% of current production and we still yield 125% to our opponents, Michigan will go 3-4 the rest of the way with wins over Purdue, Penn St, and Illinois. This is the same from last week (3-5) except we scratch off Indiana from the possible loss column.

The Truth!

Our new outlook ranges between 8-4 and 10-2!

Bottom line: our record improves with a sustainable, explosive offense. Even with a loss saturday, if our offense still shows up to expectation, we have much to be happy about. If our offense takes a dive, however, run for the hills.

Prediction for Michigan State:

Michigan lost a close game at East Lansing due to primarily yakety sax, snapping issues, and botched fake punts. This year sets up much more favorably for Michigan despite having serious defensive issues.

Here are a couple of statistics that might give us hope:

Rank Team Sacks Allowed Sack Yards
10 MSU 11 82
Rank Team Turnovers Fumbles Interceptions
10 MSU 9 5 4
Rank Team Third Down Conversion %
11 MSU 23/62 37.1%

MSU is 10th in the Big10 in sacks allowed, turnovers coughed up and last in the Big10 in 3rd Down conversions, all of which will play a part in getting our defense off the field. Sparty is also the most penalized team in the Big10 (41 penalties for 362 yards).

In addition MSU, unlike Indiana, will kick field goals - they are 7 for 7 on the year.

NSFMF! MSU has a more experienced QB and a better rushing game than last year. What would you call a Chappellbomb that happens mostly on the ground? A Bakerrush? A Bellringing? A Capernickledandy? Whatever it's called, that's the likeliest of outcomes.

But based strictly on the numbers:

Team PPG vs Mich YPG vs Mich
MSU 35.1 536

It's sobering to see 35 points and 500+ yards as an expected value. Yet there is reasonable hope we will maintain yardage parity with such ridiculous numbers.

I sincerely doubt MSU will hold Michigan to their defense's season average of 101 yards rushing. If they do, it will be a blow-out for Sparty. Last year Michigan gained 28 rushing yards on 28 rushing attempts. You can bet the house that won't happen again.

Even if you believe the assertion that "Michigan hasn't played any real defense yet", you can't argue with the fact that all five opposing defenses have yielded their largest yardage totals on the season (tpilews).

The numbers say 37.1 - 35.1 in favor of Michigan but I can't help but feeling this is a game where special teams is finally going to cost us. Yet after all of this analysis, everything is evenly divided, so I'm not going to pick against Dilithium at home.

Michigan 42
Michigan State 38

/By Saturday at 3:30 I will have convinced myself Michigan is going to win 49-14.


Our Defense, Their Offense - numbers offer hope!

Our Defense, Their Offense - numbers offer hope!

Submitted by mistersuits on September 30th, 2010 at 4:07 PM

[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.

The Worry:

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)

Rank Opponent N-PPG N-YPG SoS
1 osu 39.5 409.4 61.38
2 Wisconsin 31.2 381.7 59.93
3 Iowa 28.7 355.1 60.53
4 Connecticut 28.2 333.7 64.34
5 MSU 27.2 343.2 56.11
6 BGSU 26.6 310.7 72.20
7 Indiana 25.7 260.1 47.36
8 UMass 23.1 351.4 57.92
9 Notre Dame 23.0 426.3 75.99
10 Penn St 20.9 330.0 68.00
11 Illinois 20.7 294.0 62.24
12 Purdue 17.3 297.9 60.47
2009 Chart (requested by commentors)
2009 Rank 2009 Opponent Expected N-PPG Expected N-YPG Actual PPG Actual YPG
1 MSU 32.5 404.7 26 417
2 Wisconsin 30.7 402.8 45 469
3 Notre Dame 30.0 455.0 34 490
4 osu 28.8 366.0 21 318
5 Penn St 27.4 387.7 35 396
6 Purdue 27.2 383.1 38 494
7 Illinois 24.1 391.7 38 500
8 Iowa 23.2 336.3 30 367
9 Indiana 22.7 352.8 33 467



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.

But remember:

Rank Team N-PPG N-YPG SoS
-- Michigan 36.3 494.5 66.77

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:

Efficiency Team N-PPG N-YPG
125% Indiana 32.2 325

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.

Michigan 42
Indiana 31


Need new board subtitle.

Need new board subtitle.

Submitted by Moe Greene on August 26th, 2010 at 8:12 AM

We're closing in on one week until UCONN.

It's time to batten down the hatches.

Has "third and existential terror" gone away as a feeling we'll have on defense? Likely not.

But, what do we know?

* The team has rallied behind our glorious leader

* RR wants payback

* We have an incredible one-two punch at QB

All of these things are effectively new this year.

So, I'd like to propose a change in the board subtitle from the present "nevermind. PANIC aaaaeeeiieieie" to "Keep believing."

Because that's what we have to do.