Heuristics And Stupid Prediction Comment Count

Brian August 31st, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Previously: Podcast 4.0, the story, quarterback, running back, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, Qs on D, Qs on O.


Turnover Margin


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)
2010 -0.77(109th) 12 7 1.38(98th) 15 14 0.85(10th)
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

Jibreel Black Ohio State v Michigan 8THB4vo8SwAl[1]

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

Worst Case

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.

Best Case

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.

Final Verdict

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.

9/1 @ Alabama Loss
9/8 Air Force Must win
9/15 UMass 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
11/10 Northwestern 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.



August 31st, 2012 at 3:16 PM ^

I'm'a say it: if we lose to State, the year will be a disappointment. Hard to see us winning the division without beating them. Plus, you know, 5 years and isht. it's a bigger game than The Game this year.

snarling wolverine

August 31st, 2012 at 3:19 PM ^

MSU at home, with their inexperienced QB, is a "lean to loss" game?  I don't know about that.

I think Nebraska might end up being the tougher of those two, since it's a road game right after the emotional MSU contest.



August 31st, 2012 at 3:32 PM ^

The pessimism may be due to the fact that a Denard-led offense has never scored more than 17 on them.  I keep going back and forth about this one.  Their D should be just as stout as last year, if not more so, and we all saw what that did to our offense.  Then again, it will be their first tough road game with a new QB and receivers.  

I think no matter how you look at it, it will shape up to be closer than either of the last two contests.


August 31st, 2012 at 4:15 PM ^

They have good running backs and a solid-to-good O-line (contrary to my beliefs last year, it appears), and we have a potential tire-fire on the D-line.

The worst-case scenario is that they walk the ball down the field over and over again, such that our offense converts three of its drives and still loses because they only got six possessions.

snarling wolverine

August 31st, 2012 at 3:47 PM ^

Their D should be good, but people may be overlooking how important Jerel Worthy was to ther DL.  He was their Mike Martin.  I'm not sure they can replace him.  Likewise, Cousins will not be simple to replace.  He wasn't just a 3-year starter, he was a 3-year captain.  Who knows if Maxwell can hold it together in a big game on the road?

As for our offense, Denard is now going to be at home and in his second year in Borges's system. Toussaint will surely get more than two carries this time.  I think our coaching staff is going to pull out all the stops.  For once, it's as important to us as it is to MSU. 


Franz Schubert

August 31st, 2012 at 5:22 PM ^

MSU was 4th in the conference in total defense and a weakly 9th against the pass during conference play. The game against FAU, which just so happened to be the worst offense in the country really skewed the overall numbers.  http://www.bigten.org/sports/m-footbl/stats/2011-2012/confonly.html

Playing OSU in B. Millers first career start and OSU without its best players including Posey didnt hurt either. MSU has a solid defense but the hype is way beyond what is warranted.

Perkis-Size Me

August 31st, 2012 at 4:05 PM ^

Should be a victory? I think you're taking their defense out of the equation. A defense which has figured out how to shut Denard Robinson down the last 2 years.

Not saying that can't be beaten. They absolutely can be. A lot of question marks for their offense, but I think you're underestimating how difficult it will be.


August 31st, 2012 at 3:39 PM ^

How ironic was it that he never ever never fumbled... until his last game. That one where he stretched it out for the TD against Florida... But hey, a win's a win!


August 31st, 2012 at 4:03 PM ^

This sort of post is why I'm a mgoblog reader. Fantastic stuff as always Brian. As I was reading I'm shuffling around trying to think of whom I could share this with and realized that very few people I know combine a love for logic, statistics and Michigan football. The world is a better place because of mgoblog. Thank you kind sir.


August 31st, 2012 at 4:19 PM ^

... but am expecting losses to Alabama, MSU, and two of Nebraska/ND/Iowa/OSU.

I am slightly more hopeful about the O-line than I used to be, in that I can see my way to believing that a year of growth/health from Barnum/Schofield/Omameh/Mealer will offset the loss of a Rimington-winning center, and that Borges will be able to get the rest of the line to where they can maximize Lewan's usage such that his value goes up even if he makes a few more mistakes (due to getting twice as many key plays).

I am not hopeful about the D-line at all, and expect that the solid back seven will not contribute as much as we'd expect due to facing an inordinate number of lineman stepping over the fallen D-linemen.  I think we're going to appreciate Martin and Van Bergen even more once this year is done and we see the difference between Team 132 and 133 on their line.  There's just no one there who looks like they'll be capable of absorbing a double-team game after game, and that means a free guard and TE clearing Demens and Kovacs time and again for big gains.  The fact that this happens to play right to MSU/Alabama's (and to some extent Nebraska's) strengths and away from their weaknesses in the passing game is what makes me feel like we'll lose those games.

Bottom line is that if we can withstand the loss of three NFL-worthy lineman, the coaching staff will have transceded greatness and ascended into the realm of genius.  

Naked Bootlegger

August 31st, 2012 at 4:42 PM ^

Rational analysis.    9-3 seems like a happy place given the schedule and thin 2-deep in key areas.    I would be ecstatic for 10-2, especially if MSU is in the "win" column.


August 31st, 2012 at 8:47 PM ^

Brian's disdain for intangibles is hurting his predictions here.

ND should be lean to loss. ND knows they have to scratch for every win this year, we've made our point against them with this personnel, it's not in the B1G, we'll quite possibly already have one loss and be thinking ahead to the B1G season, it's in SB, and of course ND is burning to finally beat us.

MSU should be... well, I was going to say lean to win. I guess I still will. We're at home, we know what they've done to us the last four years, they're a rival, we should be undefeated in the B1G at that point, no way we'll look past to Nebraska, Sparty may on some level be looking past us to Wiscy the week after, etc. On the other hand, at the moment Sparty's defense is looking as good as advertised against Boise. I was wondering if they would fail to meet expectations like the Huskers' blackshirts did last year, but it doesn't appear that way based on the quarter or so they've played so far.

Iowa should be a win for us. And Bama... I think we've got a much better shot than everyone thinks.


August 31st, 2012 at 9:46 PM ^

Does anyone here actually follow football from year to year?

We lose to ND, MSU, NEB and OSU? Get used to 2012 people!!

It's not 2010!!!

P.S. We beat Bama by 10


September 1st, 2012 at 10:34 AM ^

Your heuristics are off.  9-3 sounds too much like the errant heuristics of last year.  Tougher schedule?  Yup, but we have an all upper class dback pack.  Lots of tough road games?  Yup, but we have a linebacking corps that takes no prisoners.  Opening with Bama?  Yup.  Two words:  Denard Kovacs.  11-3 is our bottom, 14-0 is the ceiling.  Go Blue!