The theory of turnover margin: it is pretty random. Teams that find themselves at one end or the other at the end of the year are likely to rebound towards the average. So teams towards the top will tend to be overrated and vice versa. Nonrandom factors to evaluate: quarterback experience, quarterback pressure applied and received, and odd running backs like Mike Hart who just don't fumble.
|Year||Margin||Int +||Fumb +||Sacks +||Int -||Fumb -||Sacks -|
|2007||0.15 (41st)||14||15||2.46(33rd)||14||13||2.17 (67th)|
|2008||-.83 (104th)||9||11||2.42(33rd)||12||18||1.83 (57th)|
|2009||-1.00 (115th)||11||5||1.83(68th)||15||13||2.33 (83rd)|
|2011||+0.54 (25th)||9||20||2.31 (29th)||16||6||1.38 (33rd)|
I know you've heard it, so briefly: Michigan's recovered fumbles at a 75% rate and this is unsustainable. Move that to 50% and Michigan drops quite a bit, but does stay at or around zero for the year, which is a massive positive. How Michigan got there for reasons other than fumble recovery rate:
- dumping a bunch of carries on a to-date fumble-free Fitz Toussaint,
- coaching Denard to be more responsible with the ball when he's running, and
- getting a lot more pressure on opposing QBs.
None of those things should change. Michigan may not have much four-on-four pass rush but that didn't prevent Mattison from blitzing up a top-30 sack rate last year. Denard should also throw many fewer interceptions. He's a senior, he's in a second year in the offense, and Borges will have a better grasp on what leads to trouble. That should offset the fumble recovery rate regression and keep Michigan in a comfortable range near or slightly above zero.
Or, of course, it may do the exact opposite of all these things.
Position Switch Starters
Theory of position switches: if you are starting or considering starting a guy who was playing somewhere else a year ago, that position is in trouble. There are degrees of this. When Notre Dame moved Travis Thomas, a useful backup at tailback, to linebacker and then declared him a starter, there was no way that could end well. Wisconsin's flip of LB Travis Beckum to tight end was less ominous because Wisconsin had a solid linebacking corps and Beckum hadn't established himself on that side of the ball. Michigan flipping Prescott Burgess from SLB to WLB or PSU moving Dan Connor inside don't register here: we're talking major moves that indicate a serious lack somewhere.
There are a number of varying severity.
Here's a dossier:
- LG Michael Schofield moves to RT, which is actually undoing a position switch from last year. Fret level: none.
- LG Ricky Barnum moves to center, where he's reportedly doing well. Snapping is another burden, I guess, but fret level: minimal.
- QB Devin Gardner moves to WR, is still sort of a QB, and may be a QB again next year. Fret level: high. It could be that Gardner is undeniable at WR. It could be that Michigan is flailing for options.
- WDE Craig Roh moves to SDE. Fret level: minimal. Given last year, Roh's probably a better fit at the 5 anyway.
- WDE Jibreel Black moves to three-tech, moves back, may move back inside at points. Fret level: severe.
- SAM Brennen Beyer moves to WDE. Fret level: none. Beyer was supposed to be a WDE from the start, is now 252.
Concerns at WR and DL. Surprise!
An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt
Again, there's no bottom if certain critical contributors implode. Assuming disastrous injuries do not occur at QB and OT…
Denard chews up low-level defenses; combine that with a back seven not giving up cheap points and it's hard to see a threat from Air Force, UMass, Purdue, Northwestern, or Minnesota. None of those teams have defenses that will be able to slow down Denard enough, if at all.
The second tier of should-win games is small, though: Illinois and Iowa are the only other games it seems like they absolutely should win, and Iowa was a loss last year. Even in a dark world where things go all wrong, they'd take one of those two and probably swing another game from the Bama/ND/Nebraska/OSU group to get to 7-5.
Michigan's going to implode in one game this year for reasons yet undetermined and must prove that it can teach its center to put his head up before he snaps the ball against MSU, but there isn't a game on the schedule other than the first one that seems like a true longshot. It's asking a but much of them to go to ND, Nebraska, and OSU and win 'em all, though. 10-2 is the reasonable ceiling.
The defense will be fine, even if turnovers decrease. The line will be a surprise to the positive. By the end of the year we are all convinced that Michigan's DL coaching can turn virtually anyone into a serviceable player.
There's a lot of bend-don't-break on D as Mattison struggles to find a pass rush against teams with veteran lines that can pick up his blitzes and Kovacs and Gordon hew down dudes at the first down marker. This is generally effective. The defense is far from dominant but steady and not prone to doing stupid things to itself. Morgan and Demens both improve noticeably, Washington and Campbell hold up okay, and a lot of tackles shift from the DL to the LBs.
On offense, Borges + Denard will still be a problem as those two jigsaw puzzles aren't ever going to mesh smoothly, but there isn't much dropoff at the skill positions if Devin Gardner lives up to even half the hype—for all our hand-wringing, Hemingway had 34 catches last year. Having Toussaint firmly in the driver's seat will help RB productivity, and as a whole the line should be better than it was a year ago now that the guards know how to pull and the right tackle is a high-level performer.
TE remains an issue. Denard getting year two in the new system should easily overwhelm that. His numbers will improve, most obviously in the INT category, and there won't be more than one clunker this time around.
We're gonna die tomorrow, but whatever.
|9/8||Air Force||Must win|
|9/22||@ ND||Lean to win|
|10/6||@ Purdue||Must win|
|10/13||Illinois||Lean to win|
|10/20||MSU||Lean to loss|
|10/27||@ Nebraska||Lean to win|
|11/3||@ Minnesota||Must win|
|11/17||Iowa||Lean to win|
|11/24||@ Akron State||Lean to loss|
Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana
Add it up and you get 9-3. Not a bold prediction this time around, I know.