Is beating a mediocre Minnesota team with zero offense really worth an average game satisfaction of 78.2? I mean, I love the Little Brown Jug as much as the next guy, but I think I was 10 the last time I was actually excited about seeing us win it. But the fans loved it, rating their satisfaction with the Minnesota victory higher than any other game this season except Florida.
Figure 1. Minnesota Game Satisfaction
Last week we tried to explain the exuberant reaction to the Rutgers game as a response to the arrival of the Messiah. That line won’t fly this week, as Peters turned in a solid but decidedly un-Messiah-like performance, completing just 8 of 13 throws for 56 yards.
If you want to stick with a player-based explanation, you can point to the double-barreled running attack of Higdon and Evans, who torched Minnesota for 377 yards and multiple explosive touchdown runs. And no question, for many of us the clear improvement in the ground game has been invigorating; watching Higdon and Evans blow past Gopher defenders was fantastic.
But perhaps a more compelling explanation for fan satisfaction this week is the fact that Michigan exceeded expectations. Not only did the running game go off unexpectedly, but Michigan also beat the spread by 7 points, its greatest margin against the spread this season other than – you guessed it – Florida. As Figure 2 shows, the R-squared between performance versus expectations and game satisfaction is .79.
Figure 2. The Expectations Effect
Buoyed by consecutive (and satisfying) wins, season satisfaction crept up another notch this week to an average of 69.1, its highest mark since the Purdue game, when satisfaction was 76.7. Like last week, game satisfaction outpaced season satisfaction – fans are still not completely over the two losses, but I’m a little surprised that the season satisfaction rebound has been so significant. It’s also interesting how tightly bunched fans’ feelings are this week – the standard deviation in season satisfaction this week was just 11.6.
Figure 3. Season Satisfaction after Minnesota
Themes, Thoughts, Trends
Another week, another bullet in the data chamber, and the seasonal trend lines get another tick longer. So far game satisfaction has averaged 69.2 across the 7 wins, and a meagerly 22.4 for the two losses.
Figure 4: The Season So Far
The Road Ahead
As Maryland continues to shed quarterbacks, Vegas has pegged Michigan a 15 or 16-point favorite over the poor Terps. It should be another chance for the running backs to go ham and hopefully Brandon Peters gets a few more live-fire opportunities to prove he is the Anointed One. An upset on the road would undoubtedly send satisfaction plummeting. Another hamblasting should see season satisfaction sneak even further up before the next real test in Madison.