Mid Week Metrics Says Paul Bunyan=Top Legend

Submitted by The Mathlete on October 5th, 2011 at 10:14 AM

Not much to see on the Win Probability Chart this week. Michigan was a heavy favorite and shut the door early. After adjusting for the spread the chart imagines a conversation like this:

GopherBoy1960: Hey Chart, do we a shot to get the jug back today.

Chart: I wouldn’t get your hopes up. We are talking about single digit percents here.

GopherBoy1960: So you’re telling me there’s a chance.

LloydBrady: Hey, that’s my line.

Chart: Technically you have a chance but oh wait, just turned the game on and your chance is now zero. Hope you enjoyed your two minutes of hope.

GopherBoy1960: I miss Glen Mason.


Biggest plays of the day (from the unadjusted numbers)

1. Fitzgerald Toussaint rushes for 35 yards on the fourth play of the day, +7%

2. Denard scores from 9 yards out to push the lead to 14, +6%

3. Denard goes for 18 yards to the Minnesota 3 to set up Michigan’s first score, +5%

Worst plays of the day (and there weren’t many)

1. The first appearance of Fritz loses 4 yards, –4%

2. Michael Shaw loses a yard to set up 3rd down inside the 10, –2%

3. Dan Orseske boots a 64 yard punt with no return after Minnesota goes 3 and out, –2%

After the jump, projections, rankings, and a Northwestern preview.


It’s still early in the projections game and the opponent adjustments are still taking shape, but I be like dang, these numbers lookin’ good.

With Nebraska struggling a bit this year, and Sparty’s o-line in shambles, Michigan might be the only the only Legends team with a competent offense and defense. Currently they are a slight favorite over Michigan St to win the division, with the numbers currently showing the winner of that matchup to have the inside track at the inaugural division win.

On the remaining schedule, Michigan’s three remaining non-NW road games look like toss-ups and all the home games stand as likely M wins. Add it all up and it’s an average expectation of 10 wins with 11 more likely than 9. The odds of an undefeated regular season now stand at 1 in 11. Plenty of caution is still suggested but it’s certainly been a best case scenario first 5 weeks.


Rankings based on opponent adjusted PAN, with downward adjustments for ranking purposes for losses. Rankings adjusted for losses, but +/- PAN ratings not adjusted.

National Top 5

1. LSU +20

2. Alabama +17

3. Boise St +16

4. Oklahoma St. +16

5. Texas +15

Big Ten

6. Wisconsin +15

12. Michigan +11

14. Illinois +10

23. Michigan St. +9

29. Nebraska +6

31. Penn St. +5

37. Iowa +4

79. Ohio St. -1

87. Northwestern -6

99. Purdue -10

109. Indiana -14

110. Minnesota -15

I currently have 13 teams that are undefeated that I consider legitimate (Texas Tech and Houston, sorry) and Michigan is 12th of that group, ahead of Illinois. Michigan certainly isn’t an elite team but has been playing well enough to earn a spot in Tier 2/3.


  • I have 17 players from 2003-2010 that accomplished the TD hat trick that Vincent Smith did. Three players did last year including Randall Cobb from Kentucky, Boo Jackson from Ohio and Terrelle Pryor from…wait, that one never happened
  • Even though Red Zone stats are highly susceptible to sample size problems, Michigan has been outstanding on both sides of the ball. The defense is 6th with 53% of possible points allowed on 11 qualifying drives. 3 of the 5 teams above them have faced 3 or fewer chances.
  • The offense sits at #5 in Red Zone scoring at 96% with the first half field goal last week the only blemish. The only teams ahead are at 100% and none have more than 6 trips where Michigan has 15.
  • Michigan is currently #4 on first down, averaging 0.3 points per play. On second and long (8-10 yards) Michigan is second only to Wisconsin. The only situations where Michigan is below average are on 2nd and short (1-3) and 3rd and XL (11+)
  • The defense has been good but not great on almost all downs but is winning in short yardage as they are top 20 on both 2nd and 3rd and short.

Northwestern Preview

Northwestern is a bit tricky to project on offense since Persa has only played a single game at this point. I will provide NW’s year long numbers but also indicate how the offense did vs Illinois last week for comparison.

Rush Offense

Michigan: +6, 4th (Georgia Tech), 1st

Northwestern: 0, 61st, 9th

Denard: +4 rushing, 4th nationally (Collin Klein, Kansas St)

Fitz: +2, 35th RB (Orwin Smith, GT)

Vincent Smith: +2 (not enough carries to be ranked)

Pass Offense

Michigan: +2, 39th (Clemson), 4th (Wisconsin)

Northwestern: –3, 93rd, 9th

Denard: +2 passing, 63rd (Tyler Bray, Tenn.)

Rush Defense

Michigan: +3, 17th (Notre Dame), 3rd (Penn St)

Northwestern: 0, 57th, 5th (+4 vs Illinois)

Mike Trumpy (out for season): +1, 59th

Pass Defense

Michigan: +1, 49th (UCF), 7th (Michigan St)

Northwestern: –2, 86th, 9th (+8 vs Illinois)

Dan Persa: +11 vs Illinois (58th best passing game of the year)

Jeremy Ebert: +7, 22nd receiving (Kendall Wright, Baylor)

Field Position

Michigan: –0.33 pts/drive, 105th (Boise St), 12th (Ohio St)

Northwestern: –0.03 pts/drive, 61st, 8th


Michigan: +5, 7th (Rutgers), 1st

Northwestern: +5, 13th, 2nd

Special Teams

Michigan: –1, 87th (Auburn), 11th (Purdue)

Northwestern: 0, 60th, 7th

Prediction: With Persa in the lineup Northwestern finds as much success as Notre Dame but ultimately Michigan’s offense is too much and closes the game out in the fourth quarter. 38-28 Michigan

Reminder, if there is anything you want to see in MWM post it in the comments or hit me up on twitter: @The_Mathlete


One Inch Woody…

October 5th, 2011 at 2:24 AM ^

Dan Persa and Jeremy Ebert combine for + 18?? I don't know why everyone plays these guys up so much. Jeremy Ebert is nowhere near Jordan White or Michael Floyd. Persa is probably Lindley level at best. Without Trumpy, their offense becomes one dimensional. We run Okie blitz mania package all day long and hit Persa enough times where he decides the bench is best for him. I am going to dream of Will Campbell flipping the NU center and launching Persa 2 yards into the air Branch/Morelli style. It will be a good dream.


October 5th, 2011 at 7:45 AM ^

Even a hobbled Persa is better than Lindley I think. He is pretty accurate and he only needs to use his legs to find extra time in pocket. Ebert though is not on the same level as Floyd (who is?). Loss of Trumpy does not make their offense one dimensional - they have capable backups and the backup QB is a good runner as well. I think they will provide a good test of our defense.


October 5th, 2011 at 10:14 AM ^

Persa completed 73.5% of his passes last year and had a 15:4 TD-INT ratio. On top of this he rushed for over 500 yards and put up 9TD's on the ground.

Lindley threw for way more yards in 2010 (with two NFL receivers facing Mountain West defenses) but also threw more than triple the interceptions and completed at a 57% rate. Lindley is also not a rushing threat by any means, which is a major NFL knock. He rushed for negative yards in 2010.

Even without being able to move as well this year, Persa will still have much better accuracy than Lindley has.

The Mathlete

October 5th, 2011 at 8:36 AM ^

Ebert and Persa are not +18 together. Receivers rarely get a negative play so their numbers are always highly positive. Plus adding a QB and a receiver's values together is like adding the yards together. A QB who throws for 300 and a receiver who catches 100 yards don't combine for 400 yards. Persa had a strong game against what to date has been a very good defense. +11 in one game is very good. +11 is top 5 level and well above Persa's historical success. He is good but probably not +11 over a whole year good.

One Inch Woody…

October 5th, 2011 at 8:55 AM ^

Ok thanks for the clarification. I was going to say... How do they both combine for + 18?? But I see. I don't know... we single-handedly removed Lindley from the high-NFL draft pick hype (despite many people saying he and his Heisman buddy were going to tear us apart) and dropped Hillman completely out of heisman contention for now. We'll see how well the Northwestern O-Line holds up in pass protection.


October 5th, 2011 at 2:40 AM ^

How can you compare a +10% play that takes us from 50% to 60% to a +10% play that takes us from 80% to 90%? The first play increases our chances of winning by 20% but the second play increases our chance by double. Shouldn't you weigh plays more when we are either down by several touchdowns (getting  back in the game) or up by several touchdowns (slamming the door) more than say a 40 yard run on the first drive?

The Mathlete

October 5th, 2011 at 8:40 AM ^

You have to get to 100% one way or another and just like the TD early is worth 7 just like the one late, all points count the same. The plays with the most leverage come when the score is close, not far apart. Which is more valuable a play that doubles your chances of winning from 1% to 2% or a play that doubles your winning percent from 50% to 100%? 


October 5th, 2011 at 12:32 PM ^

my point at all. Goint from 50 to 100 makes you infinitely more likely likely to win, not twice as likely to win.

Let's take the Vegas example. Let's say a book that gives coninuous odds based on your database and doesn't take a commision starts the game out as 1:1 for Michigan to win. If the first play of the game adds 16.7% to your chart the odds will now go to 2:1 (66.7%/33.3%) in Michigan's favor. If later in the game Michigan's win percentage is at 66.7% and a play adds 13.3% Michigan's odds would now 4:1 (80%/20%).

Now we could debate all day if it's more important to double your odds to 2:1 or double them to 4:1 (from a mathematical and betting standpoint they are the same) but the fact remains that as you get closer to 100% it takes less of a percentage addition to double your odds of winning.

If you don't agree with my example how adding 16.7% is the same as adding 13.3% please explain why you think I'm missing something.


October 5th, 2011 at 11:16 AM ^

I'd argue the opposite - it's a marginal shift from 20% chance of losing to 10% - either way you're feeling pretty comfortable. The switch from toss-up (50-50) to 60% chance of win feels more meaningful.   That's because if you're looking at it from our side's chances of winning they go up 20% (from 50%) as compared to 13% reflected by the shift from 80 to 90.  But that's an emotional reaction - 10% is 10% ,either way.  If I give you a dollar you gain a dollar, regardless of it you have 1 in your pocket or 2.




October 6th, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

Instead of just looking at the probability of something you are choosing to divide the respective ratios of winning to losing (odds).  This is a... lets say unique... approach.

If you extend it, a barely relevant shift from 95% to 99%  (5 times improvement from 19:1 to 99:1) is more meaningful than a shift from 50% to 80% (4 times improvement).  The implication would be that a 30% shift in probability is less important than a 4% shift -  silly, right?  Or to extend it to the extreme, a 99:1 odds scenario, increased by 1%, shifts to become infinite -- therefore more significant than a 50% game increasing to 99% (or even larger).


October 5th, 2011 at 4:27 AM ^

Sorry for being an ungrateful bastard since this is awsome, but could you do a weekly update of what our chances are against each remaining opponent based on PAN, and the upcoming one based on the spread? *pls don't smite me with your math*


October 5th, 2011 at 10:09 AM ^


Opponent 2010 PAN 2008-'09 Avg Returning Starters Total PAN Michigan Odds
W Michigan -2.8 -3.2 1.8 -1.2 89%
Notre Dame 6.5 1.2 1.8 5.7 48%
E Michigan -10.4 -9.5 1.0 -9.0 100%
San Diego St 6.3 -6.0 -0.6 -0.5 85%
Minnesota -4.9 -0.6 -0.2 -3.0 100%
@Northwestern -6.4 -2.3 1.0 -3.4 84%
@Michigan St 6.8 0.5 0.2 3.9 41%
Purdue -2.5 0.5 0.6 -0.4 85%
@Iowa 8.1 3.7 -3.4 2.5 49%
@Illinois 4.3 0.4 0.2 2.5 49%
Nebraska 10.6 3.6 1.0 8.1 34%
Ohio St 11.7 10.7 -3.4 7.8 35%



October 5th, 2011 at 11:06 AM ^

I have several questions.

  1. You have us with 48% of winning at MSU (so I assume they are the favorite.) Can you explain what goes into that projection?
  2. And yet, in your article/post, you have Michigan as slight favorites (over MSU) to win their division. Can you explain the discrepancy (with your prediction that MSU is favored to win vs. Michigan in two weeks.)
  3. Because of: the emergence of Michigan's defense, and injuries on MSU's OL, and MSU not facing a strong offense like Michigan so far this year, I see Michigan winning this game. Can you explain how even with these factors, you favor MSU?
  4. You have MSU & Illinois favored over Michigan, albeit just slightly. If you isolate those two games, are there stats on the likelihood Michigan wins one and loses one?
  5. Should Michigan win it's next two games (really, next three) handily, how does that affect predictions for the month of November?

Thanks much in advance for your answers!

The Mathlete

October 5th, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

1. Start at 59% for the home team, add/subtract 3 percentage points for every point difference in PAN.

2. Like the commenter noted, MSU plays a more difficult schedule and Michigan is slightly higher rated.

3. Home field is the reason, every team's ratings are adjusted for the strength of opponents but the adjustment is still not fully developed this early in the season.

4. Odds of going 1-1 in toss-up games are about 50%, 25% each to win both or lose both.

5. Winning and losing is irrelevant to how the game grades out. A losing team can grade out higher than a winning team (like ND did against us). Handy wins should at least keep our PAN afloat assuming our prior opponents don't fall apart.


October 5th, 2011 at 9:46 AM ^

don't mean to be an ungreatful bastard, and really love your diary, but could The Mathlete do the graph or percentage of expected wins too, like you did in your season preview?


October 5th, 2011 at 9:27 AM ^

On the chart, Michigan’s unadjusted win percentage twice dipped below 50, early in the first quarter. It’s hard for me to imagine how this could be possible, given that Minnesota never even had a credible threat to score until fairly late in the game. What did Michigan do, however briefly, that made Minnesota favored to win the game?


October 5th, 2011 at 10:30 AM ^

Unless I'm mistaken, the unadjusted percentages assume the two teams are equal (i.e., each has a 50% chance to win the game at kickoff).  The spread percentages are modified using the spread as an indicator of how comparable the teams really are.  So, once Fitz lost 4 yards to bring up 3rd and 5 from our own 25, we'd have been slightly more likely to lose than to win if Minnesota had been as good as us.

Ali G Bomaye

October 5th, 2011 at 11:23 AM ^

They almost beat USC (although the game shouldn't have been that close) - that has to count for something.  And although they haven't exactly played a demanding schedule, they also hadn't gotten blown out until they played us.

Minnesota DID lose to North Dakota State, but NDSU is definitely one of the top 20-30 FCS teams, and the top 20-30 FCS teams are probably better than the bottom 20-30 FBS teams in any given year.


October 5th, 2011 at 11:27 AM ^

Not sure how its possible to do this every year, but somehow we are way too over confident again. "and all the home games stand as likely M wins" ...really??? I understand the defense has done better this year, but its still not good. The only half decent offense we played was ND, and they rolled all over us. If it weren't for some gifts from god handed to us, we would have lost that game badly. 4 out of 5 games, Denard's passing has been worse than pathetic. Last year the Big 10 defense learned to contain Denard's running game by years end. I know many Big 10 teams looked bad this weekend, but I still see us getting pounded by MSU & Nebraska, and probably losing a couple more.


October 5th, 2011 at 12:31 PM ^

Last year MSU's oline killed us. This year they suck. Everyone was projecting MSU to do well because of their skill positions but without a competent oline they can't run and don't have time to pass/play action isn't effective.

I think the MSU game will be close. I would be shocked if a repeat of last year happened.

As far as Nebraska, I think people are more down on them than they should be. Wisconsin is really good. That being said, Nebraska is not nearly as good as I expected. They will beat OSU soundly this weekend though, and everyone will start worrying about them again.


October 5th, 2011 at 12:40 PM ^

Mathlete: Any chance of getting your full team PAN rankings added as a tab under Useful Stuff? It would be great to have that table as a reference during the season.