B1G Expectations: 2017 Preseason Redux – The Power Rank Analysis

B1G Expectations: 2017 Preseason Redux – The Power Rank Analysis

Submitted by Ecky Pting on August 13th, 2017 at 1:17 PM

Big_Ten_Conference_logo.png Expectations

"He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself."

- Herbert Pocket (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)

The 2017 Pre-season Ratings

With the 2017 season bearing down upon us, it seems a good time to have another quick pass at the pre-season ratings from the fancy stats perspective. To that end, this diary analyzes the preseason Advanced Stats-based ratings for Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten. The difference is this time around the diary features a look at results inferred from Ed Feng’s The Power Rank, which came out on July 5. Most readers are already familiar with the two principal resources that fed the first edition of this diary which was posted in February: Bill Connelly's S&P+ Ratings (of FB Outsiders and SBNation FB Study Hall fame) and ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) Ratings.

The rub with these initial, preseason ratings is that they apply a completely different set of metrics than do the in-season ratings, which are based on play-by-play or possession-by-possession datasets. A discussion of the formulation of the S&P+ and FPI pre-season metrics can be found in the first edition. The Power Rank pre-season metrics consist of two factors that are also included in FPI and S&P+ (team performance over the past 4 years, and returning starters) along with a third factor that is unique (turnovers). PR does not include factors related to recruiting or coaching talent, which FPI and S&P+ use.

In the end, ratings are established for all 130 FBS division teams, where the final rating is scaled to expected points better (or worse) than the average FBS division team at a neutral site. Simple enough. So without further ado, following  is quick rundown of the ratings for your 2017 Big Ten football teams.

B1G Ratings, from The Power Rank

Rank
Team
Rating
4
Ohio State
16.9
8
Wisconsin
13.6
11
Penn State
12.0
28
Iowa
7.2
30
Michigan
7.1
32
Northwestern
6.9
40
Minnesota
5.2
52
Nebraska
2.4
53
Indiana
2.4
72
Michigan State
-0.6
77
Maryland
-2.0
104
Purdue
-8.1
105
Rutgers
-8.1
114
Illinois
-9.3

At this point it’s worth noting some remarks offered by Dr. Feng in his original post:

    “Ohio State seems a bit low at #4, although QB J.T. Barrett and the offensive line struggled last season.”

    “Penn State had a spectacular season in 2016. However, my model doesn’t like them since they haven’t been elite over the 4 year window the model considers.”

    “Michigan. Can we talk about them later? Let’s just say their preseason rank seems low, way low. They will require an adjustment before I release their win total.”

      So, Dr. Feng’s take would appear to be that all three should be slotted higher than they are (to varying degrees, one would hope). But, since the Power Rank has not offered a win total as yet for Michigan, this diary will move ahead and infer one from his published ratings. In the meantime, you can read a detailed explanation from Dr. Feng as to just why his model might not be entirely applicable to Michigan in 2017.

      Schedules Matter … Big Time

      At this point, a basic approach might be to just pull out the Big Ten teams and look at their respective ratings, as in table 1. Those more foolish than you might jump to the conclusion that the team with the highest rating would be expected to win its division and the conference. However, as Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friend.” We all know by now, in the aftermath of the B1G moving to 9 conference games, that not all schedules are created equal, and that some provide more advantageous paths of glory than others. This is not just because of inter-divisional opponents drawn, but also because half the teams play 5 home conference games while the other half play only 4. That’s a 6-point year-to-year swing based on the scheduling constraint alone. Thus, the next step is to evaluate each team's schedule and respective matchups, and determine the point spreads therein using the various ratings, adjusting for whether games are played at home or on the road. Simple enough. So then, let’s just sum up the wins and losses and have look at the final standings. After working out tie-breakers, determining which teams should be meeting in the Big Ten Championship Game straight-forward. As a bonus, since the ratings of each team have already been scraped up, let’s just calculate the average rating of each team’s opponents, and call it something like the Quick-and-Dirty Strength of Schedule (SoS), and rank order them while we’re at it. Hmmm. The tables below don’t paint the prettiest of pictures, at least not compared to last season, but there you have it.

      Projected Standings, from The Power Rank

      B1G East
      B1G
      Overall
      W
      L
      SoS
      Rk
      W
      L
      SoS
      Rk
      Ohio State
      9
      0
      1.6
      13
      12
      0
      0.7
      9
      Penn State
      8
      1
      3.9
      5
      11
      1
      1.6
      7
      Michigan
      6
      3
      3.8
      6
      8
      4
      2.0
      6
      Indiana
      5
      4
      2.7
      9
      8
      4
      0.0
      10
      Michigan State
      2
      7
      5.6
      2
      3
      9
      3.9
      1
      Maryland*
      1
      8
      6.5
      1
      3
      9
      3.0
      2
      Rutgers
      1
      8
      2.7
      10
      3
      9
      -0.4
      12
      * winner of tie breaker
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       B1G West
      B1G
       Overall 
       W
      L
       SoS 
      Rk
       W 
       L 
       SoS 
      Rk
      Wisconsin
      9
      0
      1.0
      14
      12
      0
      -0.7
      13
      Northwestern
      7
      2
      1.9
      12
      10
      2
      0.0
      11
      Minnesota
      6
      3
      4.0
      3
      9
      3
      1.2
      8
      Iowa
      5
      4
      2.0
      11
      8
      4
      -1.1
      14
      Nebraska
      3
      6
      3.7
      7
      5
      7
      2.2
      5
      Illinois
      1
      8
      4.0
      4
      2
      10
      2.4
      4
      Purdue
      0
      9
      3.4
      8
      0
      12
      2.7
      3

      Just to digest this a little, what is clear is that not only is OSU one of the highest rated teams in all the land, it also has one of the easiest conference schedules in the B1G. What many may have imagined what would be the alternate “easier” year for UM - with OSU and MSU at home - is not the boon it once was since now UM goes on the road to PSU and Wisconsin. That said, UM’s schedule challenges are still about average both in-conference and overall. Alas, poor Maryland and Sparty. They alternately have the most difficult conference and overall schedules. As for the B1GW, Wisconsin’s schedule could not be much easier, which is a far cry from the midseason gauntlet it faced last season. At this point you’ve got to like the Badgers chances of blowing through the season unscathed and returning to Indy for the B1GCG. That assumes Wisconsin can get past those sneaky Wildcats, who have also drawn one of the less challenging schedules both in the B1G and overall. More on that later.

      Obviously, the win-or-lose nature of divisional standings does not discriminate between contests of evenly-matched opponents and ruthless clubbings of baby seals. A win’s a win. However, just consider for a moment that the top two teams in the B1GW have 2 of the 3 easiest overall schedules in the entire conference. Good for them, but it’s the level of competition between opponents - in the form of a point spread - that brings color, subtlety and nuance to the fore, particularly when the College Football Playoff comes into play. A point spread, of course, is just a reflection of the odds, or likely outcome, of a game. So, this is where the rubber really meets the road when digesting equivalent points-based ratings such as the Power Rank, S&P+ or ESPN’s FPI. Is Michigan really just an 8 or 9-win team in 2017? That’s a lot of losses, but after dropping 3 games by a combined 5 points as we all witnessed in 2016, it doesn’t take much.

      Turning Spreads Into Likelihoods

      The following two tables of tables show the schedule details for each team in the B1G East & West divisions that inform the predicted standings in the previous section. The tables include the Power Rank ratings-based point spreads and attendant win probability (links to the FPI and S&P+ results are also provided below). A green-yellow-red pseudo-colormap is also applied to quickly give a qualitative indication of where each team faces its greatest challenges, how those challenges stack up, and by comparison, which teams have a more or less difficult row to hoe. Green indicates a favorable point spread; yellow, a competitive matchup; and red, an unfavorable margin. The last table in the group simply shows a rank-ordering of the divisional teams based on their  expected in-conference win totals - it’s not a projection of conference standings based on projected wins, losses and tie-breakers.

      B1GE Schedule Likelihoods

      2017w00_PR_B1_GE_overall_pwins.png

      Here are links to the same tabulations based on FPI results and S&P+ results for the B1GE.

      B1GW Schedule Likelihoods

      2017w00_PR_B1_GW_overall_pwins.png

      Here are links to the same tabulations based on FPI results and S&P+ results for the B1GW.

      Total Win Probabilities

      After computing projected win probabilities for all the games in each team's schedule based on the ratings-based point spreads (including a +3 point rating adjustment for the home team), it's possible to compute the distribution of total expected wins at the end of the season. The one vagary in this analysis is in regard to FCS opponents. Since neither S&P+ nor FPI provide ratings for FCS teams, I've taken the liberty of assigning the lowest available rating of -30 and -24 to FCS teams, respectively. I can already imagine the comments on this nugget in light of NDSU’s upset of Iowa last season.

      There are only three B1G vs. FCS games this season. They are as follows:

      • Maryland vs. Towson
      • Rutgers vs. Morgan State
      • Minnesota vs. Indiana State

      The B1G East Distributions

      Based on the Power Rank ratings for the B1G East, the teams can be grouped into three classes: the Contenders (Ohio State and Penn State), the Bubble (Michigan and Indiana) and the Bottom Feeders (Michigan State, Rutgers and Maryland). The Contenders are those teams that by one rating or the other, are shown to have peak-win modes within 2 total expected wins of the top rated team. The Bubble consists of those teams within 1 total expected wins of being bowl-eligible. The Bottom Feeders are the teams with few prospects of gridiron glory or post-season hijinks.

      Below are the charts of the overall and in-conference total win distributions for the B1GE based on the S&P+ ratings (with links to the FPI charts), followed by a brief digest of each team’s results.

      Overall2017w00_PR_B1_GE_overall_wins_pdfs.png

      Here are links to the same charts based on FPI results and S&P+ results for the B1GE overall.

      In-Conference

      2017w00_PR_B1_GE_conf_wins_pdfs.png

      Here are links to the same charts based on FPI results and S&P+ results for the B1GE overall.

      Rutgers

      What can be said about Rutgers? OK, how about this: they have newish coach with some OSU heritage who may be able to attract a few recruits with the prospect of early playing time. Otherwise, it's not a pretty picture for the Scarlet Knights. Basically, they're staring at a 7% (S&P+) to 15% (PR) chance of not having a losing season, including a near freebie from Morgan State. These are worse prospect than last season. Their most likely record per PR is about 4-8, or a shade above 4 wins, and are double-digit dogs in six of their games. It still doesn't look like there's any chance that the '14 win over Michigan is going to be dislodged from the Pantheon of Rutgers Classics anytime soon.

      Maryland

      Despite D.J. Durkin’s auspicious beginning by qualifying for a bowl game, it appears the Terpds will be backsliding in 2017. The Terpds’ chances of not having a losing season ranges between 10% (S&P+) and 25% (PR), including an FCS freebie from Towson. Like Rutgers, Maryland’s most-likely record is 4-8, but on the high side of 4 wins, and are double-digit dogs in five of their games.  Still, here’s where D.J. Durkin’s motivational skills may effectively put a shine on the Terpds and continue to make progress on the recruiting trail.

      Michigan State

      Rounding out the B1GE Bottom Feeders as per the Power Rank is Sparty. Alas, things might otherwise be looking up in East Lansing if it weren’t sinking into a quagmire of player misconduct. Yeesh. On the bright side, the chance of Sparty  improving its regular season win total of 3 from last year ranges from 79% (PR) to  94% (S&P+). Sparty’s most likely record takes a relative jump up to 5-7. Yet, PR says volatility will continue to be the hallmark of this season for Sparty, with 5 spreads  of less than one score. Sparty is also a double-digit dog in 3 games. In the end, this probabilistic “lumpiness” of its schedule works against Sparty in a big way, such that its final record works out to ... 3-9 (2-7). Can I get a “Sparty Nooo!”?

      Indiana

      The data says Indiana is still looking like the perennial Bubble team, but may have some surprising company thereabouts this season. That said, i remains to be seen whether the wholesale elimination of its coaching staff sends this team from precipice of chaos into the abyss. Still, the Hoosiers preseason numbers have improved over 2016, with most likely records of 6-6 per the Power Rank and FPI, and 7-5 per S&P+, and with no FCS cupcakes on its schedule. Yet, the probabilistic “lumpiness” of its schedule has the Hoosiers finishing 8-4 (5-4). In that sense, with a solid shot at post-season glory, the fire in the belly of the Hoosiers may well remain stoked. The threat of chaos may have made its exit with Kevin Wilson, but it would still be prudent to not take Indiana lightly.

      Michigan

      With the exodus of so much talent and experience from Team 137, it appears that the fancy-stats love affair with Michigan under Harbaugh has come to an end. The most likely records range from 9-3 (S&P+) to 7-5 (the Power Rank), but with a strong lean in the PR distribution toward 8 wins. Michigan gets just a modest beneficial effect from its schedule, as the games break to an 8-4 (5-4) record. Michigan is favored by double-digits in 8 games by both S&P+ and FPI, but in only 5 games by PR. PR also shows M with margins of less than one score in 5 games, which means volatility. Florida, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State at this point are favored by PR with UM being more than a one-score dog to PSU and Wisconsin. The opener against Florida looks like one of the closest matchups on the season, and so will be critical from the standpoint of getting UM off the schneid and setting the tone for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, the tussle with fellow bubble team Indiana is M’s tightest match of the year, with a margin of only 1.6 points.

      Here are some sobering statistical observations:

      • Chances of Michigan improving on last season (i.e. winning 11 or more): 1-12%.
      • Chances of a Michigan losing season: less than 2% to about 11%.
      • Chances of Michigan going undefeated: less than 2%.

        Penn State

        Stemming largely from its late season push to the B1G Championship and a Rose Bowl berth, Penn State appears to have finagled its way into second banana status in at least the B1GE, if not the entire conference. The most likely record for PSU is 9-3 as per PR, or 10-2 by both S&P+ and FPI. This is founded largely on the strength of its returning production in the form of 2nd-team All B1G QB Trace McSorley and B1G Offensive POTY RB Saquon Barkley. Yet, the probabilistic “lumpiness” of its actual schedule pushes PSU to a remarkable 11-1 (8-1) finish. The Power Rank says the Nits are favored by double-digits in half of its games, plus they’re favored over UM at home by more than one score. PSU is an underdog in only one game, at OSU, by a margin of a TD and a 2-point conversion. That said, the Nits will have a couple of closely contested match-ups in Iowa and Northwestern before UM shows up in Happy Valley. If the Nits can get past those and then down the Wolverines, they will be flying high into Columbus with the B1GCG and a CFP invitation on the table.

        Some incredible statistical observations:

        • Chances of PSU improving on last season (i.e. winning 11 or more): 10-29%.
        • Chances of PSU having a losing season: 5% to vanishingly small.
        • Chances of PSU going undefeated: 1-6%.

        Ohio State

        Not many teams rate ahead of PSU in returning production, but one of them happens to be Ohio State. Indeed, this is no surprise since OSU was one of the youngest teams in the country in 2016 - the surprise was their coming off of 2015’s loss of talent to make the CFP. Like the other ratings, the Power Rank has OSU poised to separate itself from PSU and UM, with a most likely record of 10-2 overall. Still, the probabilistic “lumpiness” principal also works largely to the Buckeyes’ benefit, having them finishing undefeated overall. OSU is not only favored in all of its games by all three ratings, but by double-digits in no less than 8 games (PR). OSU’s toughest opponent per PR is Oklahoma in week 2, who is less than a one-score underdog. Even so, an early loss to the Sooners would do little to hurt the Buckeyes’ CFP prospects. In conference, OSU shows a mode of 8 wins (with a strong lean toward 7), which is incrementally greater than the 6-win modes of PSU and the 5 for UM, making OSU the team to beat. There’s not a great deal of solace in the fact that the Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor in 2017. They’re still favored by nearly a touchdown.

        Other sobering statistical observations:

        • Chances of tOSU improving on last season (i.e. going undefeated): 7-32%.
        • Chances of tOSU losing 3 or more games: 6-38%.
        • Chances of tOSU having a losing season: vanishingly small.

        The B1G West Distributions

        In the B1G West, four teams might be classified as a Contender: Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota and Iowa. Yet clearly, the Badgers have a pronounced separation from the other three. Holding down the B1GW Bubble is Nebraska, with a peak-wins mode that is 4 wins back. Meanwhile, the Bottom Feeders (Illinois and Purdue) pick up from where they were left for dead last season, promising to carry on like zombies looking for something to bite, but more often than not getting the goo smashed out of their skulls.

        Following are the charts of the overall and in-conference total win distributions for the B1GW based on the S&P+ ratings (with links to the FPI charts), followed by a brief digest of each team’s results.

        Overall

        2017w00_PR_B1_GW_overall_wins_pdfs.png

        Here are links to the same charts based on FPI results and S&P+ results for the B1GW overall.

        In-Conference

        2017w00_PR_B1_GW_conf_wins_pdfs.png

        Here are links to the same charts based on FPI results and S&P+ results for the B1GW in conference.

        Purdue

        It's just about the same story for Purdue as with Rutgers, except maybe even more godforsaken. PR shows a most likely record of 3-8, the same as S&P+ and FPI. That’s what not having an FCS team on the schedule does for you if you’re a bottom feeder. The Boilers are double-digit dogs in 7 games, and at a deficit larger than one score in another two! They’re chances of a losing season overall range from 94% to 97%, with the chances of going completely winless registering in the 1%-3% range. Suffice it to say, the Boilermakers’ prospects for 2017 cover the entire gamut of losing. Somewhat ironically, Purdue is favored in only one game, which brings us to...

        Illinois

        To its credit, the Illini have no FCS creampuff this season, is favored in two games, and are double-digit dogs in only half of its games. Beyond that, in three more games the Illini are at greater than one-score deficits. The chances for Illinois to go bowl-ing range from 4% to 12%. In the aggregate, Illinois’ distributions are almost indistinguishable from Purdue’s. Together, they define the bottom of the B1G West, which is about one win less overall than the B1G East.

        Nebraska

        Holding down the B1GW Bubble are the Cornhuskers, whose best chance to break back into the B1GCG again may have been last season. Like both S&P+ and FPI, PR places them at a perfectly mediocre 6-6 record, with about equal chances of doing better or worse. As such, PR gives the Huskers a 65% chance of reaching bowl eligibility.

        Iowa

        It would appear that the Power Rank is rather smitten with the Hawkeyes. In lieu of predicting its continued regression from the millennial celestial alignment that took place in 2015, PR estimates that Iowa is most likely to maintain an 8-4 record, with a strong lean toward 7-5. The scheduling breakdown reinforces the 8-4 record, and so the road rises up to meet the Hawkeyes, taking them into the pool of contenders for the B1GW Title. PR also likes Iowa to hold onto Floyd of Rosedale in its trophy matchup with Minnesota. Iowa is an underdog in 4 games, but in none by double-digits.

        Minnesota

        New Head Coach P.J. Fleck may be just the sort of high-character persona who can assuage the tumult that swept through Minny at the end of last season. Regardless, Fleck steps into a situation that is otherwise not nearly as dire as most of the others B1G teams that have changed coaches in the last year. Like the Hawkeyes, the Power Rank is smitten with the Gophers as well. PR results show a most likely record of 8-4, with a strong lean toward 7-5. In fact, the Gophers’ distribution is nearly indistinguishable from the Hawkeyes’. The probabilistic “lumpiness”  breaks like a wind that’s always at the Gophers’ backs, to the tune of a 9-3 (6-3) finish. Fleck just needs to get the team to focus on its oarsmanship.

        Northwestern

        Fitz is dutifully rebuilding this squad, and coupled with the return of 3rd-year starting Jr. QB Clayton Thorson and B1G R-OTY Austin Carr a cadre of experienced receivers that combined for 120+ catches, the Cats are due to get their share of highlights. The Power Rank essentially splits the middle in its assessment of the Wildcats 2017 prospects, predicting a most likely record of 8-4. The probabilistic “lumpiness” of its schedule, however, shines warmly upon the Wildcats’ faces, working out to a 10-2 (7-2) final record. The Cats are underdogs in only 2 conference games, whereas the Gophers and Hawks are underdogs in four apiece. In the end, this puts Northwestern in slightly closer contention with Wisconsin than either Minnesota or Iowa.

        Wisconsin

        What a difference a year makes! Of all the teams in the B1G, it would appear that Wisconsin will see the greatest benefit of the swing in both scheduling constraints and interdivisional draws. Not only do the Badgers have five B1G home games, but three of them are Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan - its strongest intra- and inter-divisional opponents. Add to that Maryland and Indiana, plus OOC’s Utah State, FAU and BYU, and it’s no wonder the Power Rank predicts the Badgers’ most likely record is 10-2 (with a slight lean toward 9-3). Yet, Wisconsin is the only team other than Ohio State (who is not on the Badgers’ schedule this year) that is favored in all of its games. And so it goes that the probabilistic “lumpiness” of its schedule falls gently upon the Badgers’ fields, and little W’s pop up like peonies in every possible place. PR has the Badgers as double-digit favorites in 5 games, and one-score favorites in 6 more. The only opponent within one score of them? Your ever-lovin’ Maize’n’Blue. The Gophers, against whom the Badgers close the season. By all accounts, Wisconsin looks to run away with the B1G West and may well have punched its ticket to Indy by the time the Wolverines shows up in Madison on November 18.

        Some enviable statistical observations:

        • Chances of Bucky going undefeated: 6%-13%.
        • Chances of Bucky improving on last season (win 11 or more): 24%-43%.
        • Chances of Bucky losing 3 or more games: 26%-47%.
        • Chances of Bucky having a losing season: vanishingly small.

        Overlay Redux

        Just to wrap things up with a quick visual summary, here are the combined overlays of the total wins probabilities broken out by division, based on the ratings provided by the Power Rank, sized for download and quick-reference on your smarty-pants phone.

        2017w00_PR_B1_GE_B1_GW_overall_pdf_overlays.pngHere are links to the same charts based on FPI results and S&P+ results for the B1G East and West.

        Yours in football, and Go Blue!

        Adv. Stats Schedule Rundown - Week 12 Results

        Adv. Stats Schedule Rundown - Week 12 Results

        Submitted by Ecky Pting on November 24th, 2015 at 4:14 PM

        Here's the Advanced Statistics Schedule Rundown for UM as of the end of Week 12, and despite the Buckeyes intentionally throwing that game against Sparty, the chart is still including a B1G Championship Game since UM still has somewhere in the range of a 10:1 to 4:1 chance to play into it. Iowa, of course, is a lock for Indy even if it dumps the Nebraska game, so they're the de facto opponent. Here's your embiggable chart:

        Fancy Stats Comp Sched Rundown, 2015 wk 12

        The race in terms of fancy stats has taken a slight turn in M's direction on account on the heels of essentially dominating performance of PSU, which has effectively rekindled the S&P+ romance with M. OSU's debacle didn't help its position, which pretties things up nicely looking into The Game. Of course, the same can't be said for MSU, but overall as of this writing, MSU still sucks. What follows below is a discussion of some of the details and week-to-week fancy-stat trends of M, OSU, MSU, PSU and Iowa.

        In the S&P+ ratings, M improved its standing in Offense again over last week's results, moving up one position from #42 to #41, while MSU climbed from #32 to #29. OSU plummeted from #16 to #23, PSU dropped from #66 to #68. On S&P+ Defense, M took an impressive stand against PSU, particularly on the DL, and moved back up from #3 to #2. Putting Taco on the end and moving Hurst over appears to have been the proper remedy in lieu of the approach attempted at IU – so this bodes well for The Game. Moreover, the rating improved by 0.3 points from 12.0 to 11.7. Likewise, the PSU & MSU defensive units continued to register improvements. PSU moving up slightly from #13 and #11, and MSU significantly from #35 to #21. OSU dropped one spot from #7 to #8. Overall, M and OSU swapped order in the rankings: M now at #4, and OSU at #5, with the spread opening once again by 2.0 points to M -3.8. Despite yet another win, Iowa dropped again in overall S&P+ rank from #28 to #29, with the net spread vs. M increasing by 0.6 points to M –7.5.

        As for the FEI Ratings, it appears M has managed to turn around its retrograde Special Teams play, moving back up from #15 to #14 – but still a far cry from having been #1 just 3 weeks ago. Giving up a blocked punt were probably neutralized by Lewis' fabulous KOR as well as the fumble recovery on the botched fair catch by PSU. The next closest teams are Iowa and OSU at #33 and #40, respectively. As for MSU and PSU Special Teams ... they continue to wallow in the lower echelons.

        FEI warmed slightly regarding M's offense, which improved its rating while holding its rank #39, thanks yet again to a gritty, workmanlike performance by Jake Rudock. The running game is what it is, but at least coupled with an array of screen passing schemes and some solid pass protection, it can be sold off enough to make play-action effective. This is a situation where scheme is everything, and it appears by virtue of M having gotten this far on that basis, M's coaching staff are schemers extraordinaire. MSU also held its rank at #19, as did PSU its middling performance, shifting from #75 to #76. OSU meanwihle dropped by a good chunk from #31 to #38 – just one ahead of M! On the other hand, Iowa popped up from #32 to #24, so good for them. Wouldn't it be interesting to see a matchup of Rudock and C.J. Beathard in the B1GCG?

        Carrying on with the trend from last week, the most alarming aspect here is the FEI Defensive numbers, which sees M continue retrograde movement from #7 to #11, while OSU stepped up from #11 to #8 – a remarkable reversal. MSU also popped up from #31 to #24 however, PSU and Iowa's defenses continued to slip from #14 and #36 to #17 and #44, respectively. As such, the FEI and S&P+ characteristics for offense and defense are largely congruent.

        FEI Overall rankings show M held steady at #10, while OSU gave MSU the #6 spot while retreating to #9. PSU continues to wallow in mediocrity, sliding back from #48 to #51, and Iowa slipped a good bit from  #19 to #24.

        Rolling the S&P+ and FEI numbers together, Connelly & Fremeau come up with the F/+ Combined Ratings, in which M swaps places with OSU, moving into the #5 spot, while OSU drops down to #6. MSU advances significantly from #15 to #10, but is still not as highly regarded as two teams from whom they've managed to steal games. PSU drops from #36 to #40, while Iowa continued its decline as well from #23 to #24.

        Last but not least are the Football Power Index (FPI) ratings from ESPN. Here as well M reversed last weeks trend, moving up by 0.5 points from #17 to #16, while OSU held onto its CFP placement at #4, but with a 1.0 point lower score. As with S&P+, the total spread moved 1.5 points in M's favor from M +3.7 to +2.2, not a bad trend going into The Game! What's more, the spread between MSU and PSU, at MSU –5.4, is also within one score. Now, if Hackenberg can just get enough time to put a deep ball in the seam between MSU's safeties, they might still do what OSU did not.

        Yours in football, and Go Blue!

        Adv. Stats Schedule Rundown - Week 9 Results

        Adv. Stats Schedule Rundown - Week 9 Results

        Submitted by Ecky Pting on November 3rd, 2015 at 9:09 AM

        Here's the Advanced Statistics Schedule Rundown for UM as of the end of Week 9, with the inclusion of Iowa as a 13th game should UM be so fortunate as to wiggle into it. The chances of Iowa making it to Indy in December are far greater than UM's, but as long as UM's chances are greater than zero, I'm showing it. I'll be looking into win expectations and B1G-wide outcomes in a separate diary, but I'll wait until after the Committee posts its rankings to get into that, since the CFPSC has a say in B1G results in certain tie-break scenarios, as I'm sure most of you are aware.

        So without further adieu, here's the embiggable chart:

        U-M Adv Stats Sched Rundown, 2015 wk. 9

        Despite squeaking by Minny last week, U-M's position in the various ranks has held up quite well in the aggregate.  The defense is still the best in all the land in S&P+, and #2 in FEI, and surprisingly, the offense actually improved it's rankings in S&P+ and FEI.  Making efficient work of a short field still counts for something, but the damned Special Teams keep thwarting any opportunities for working long drives!

        Speaking of which, Special Teams are the story of this season, and as Harbaugh mentioned in yesterday's presser, U-M's ST's are the best in the nation (openly acknowledging that the advanced stats are a thing). The cautious optimism associated with the Baxter hire last winter has evolved into a salty swagger. It would be the ultimate troll if say, once the game were well in hand, M punted on first down to Rutgers, and then buried them in the endzone for a safety, just because U-M could conceivably do that at will. Would that be considered impolite or running up the score? Comparing last year to this year, it's a more stunning difference than just night & day.  It's more like dark-side-of-the-Moon & sunny-side-of-Mercury. What's more is this hasn't been something that's been slowly progressing. This all started with that first punt against Utah, and Peppers first return. Then there was the Chesson KOR versus NWU ... what a thing of beauty to see those blocks and his route laid out there right in front of my eyes. It's the most remarkable thing of this team, IMHO, even more than the defense, which I admittedly take for granted as being a U-M birthright.

        Anyway, getting back to the chart... Overall, U-M declined from #2 to #3 in S&P+, #7 to #10 in FEI, #2 to #4 in F/+, and #15 to #18 in FPI. Whereas U-M has held its own or shown marginal improvement in the unit ratings, what's more important are the relative ratings of U-M's remaining competition, particularly PSU and OSU, who have by-and-large improved by a much greater degree.  Although S&P+ still shows U-M as the favorite in all its remaining games, the margins have eroded (last week's chart can be viewed here). FPI shows U-M as a home dog versus OSU. Oh yea FWIW, U-M would still be favored over Iowa in the B1GCG.

        Yours in football - Go Blue!


        Please refer to the week 6 diary for additional external sources & references, as well as how to interpret the color scheme if it's not completely intuitive for you.