Preview 2013: Heuristics And Stupid Prediction

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Previously: Podcast 5.0, The Story, Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Friends, Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety, Special Teams. Five Questions: Offense, Five Questions: Defense.


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)
2012 -0.69 (99th) 7 11 1.69 (69th) 19 8 1.38 (28th)

Michigan's one year bounce was followed by a ruthless reversion to Rodriguez-era norms as Michigan's fumble recovery rate dropped to human levels and Denard threw a bunch of interceptions. Actually, Russell Bellomy made quite a contribution himself with four interceptions on just 21 throws. Vincent Smith also tossed one on his only attempt. That's quite an interception haul from 22 attempts.

Gardner's INT rate (3.9%) was not great, but it was a significant improvement on Denard and especially the random throws. If he'd taken all of Michigan's 318 throws he would have thrown 13 interceptions (actually 12.6), and one of his picks was a third-and-long chuck that became a virtual punt. Even if Gardner doesn't improve that INT rate Michigan can expect to drop a lot of interceptions.

Fumbles lost should stay at low levels as Taylor Lewan protects Gardner from blindside hits and low-fumble Fitz Toussaint gets the bulk of the carries. Robinson was a  consistent source of fumbles, too.

That should get Michigan to about even, and then you'd hope increased pressure on the quarterback and a defensive backfield more oriented towards MAKING PLAYS would increase Michigan's crappy takeaway rate.

I'd guess Michigan is in a range from turnover-neutral to +0.25, but as always with turnovers they can do wacky 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.

The dossier:

WDE Brennen Beyer moves to SAM to cover for the Ryan injury. Fret level: none. Minor move and Beyer is competing with Cam Gordon to start until Ryan gets back for the meat of the schedule.

WLB Desmond Morgan moves to MLB so Ross can start. Fret level: negative? Morgan's more natural at MLB and the differences are minimal.

LT Ben Braden moves to guard and back, which leaves Michigan in a bit of a spot on the interior. Fret level: moderate. Michigan could use another bullet or two on the interior and obviously wanted Braden to grab the job.

CB Courtney Avery moves to safety, apparently to start. Fret level: severe.

This is actually a low level of motion, which is good.

An Embarrassing Prediction, No Doubt

Worst Case If Devin Gardner Is Healthy

The offensive line remains in shambles, though Kalis does bring a nastiness Michigan did not have previously. Any gains in the run game are offset by the loss of Robinson. Clark is JAG again, Ryan does not come back as Jake Ryan, and the pass rush remains stagnant as the secondary gets leaky. Gardner pulls out a couple of tough games; Michigan loses their other four and ends up 8-4.

Worst Case If Devin Gardner Gets Injured


Best Case

Michigan isn't quite there. If Gardner is all that and if the offensive line is okay, they still don't get enough pass rush and safety play in one particular game that blows up a potentially undefeated season. 11-1.

Final Verdict

Gardner's the man, Toussaint recaptures his glory, the offensive line is middling in the middle and great on the edges, Gallon blows up.

On defense, the line is a sold B+, the linebackers are good to start and great at the end of the season once Ryan gets his feet back under him. The secondary is solid but prone to giving up big plays.

Special teams is a hidden asset as some of the blocking issues get resolved, Michigan flirts with spread punting, and Norfleet brings some pizzazz to the return jobs.

Brady Hoke wins a game by going for it.

8/31 CMU Must win
9/7 Notre Dame Tossup
9/14 Akron Must win
9/21 @ UConn Must win
10/5 Minnesota Must win
10/12 @ Penn State Lean to win
10/19 Indiana Must win
11/2 @ Michigan State Lean to win
11/9 Nebraska Tossup
11/16 @ Northwestern Tossup
11/23 @ Iowa Must win
11/30 Ohio State Tossup

Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue

Six games should be in the bag already, and road games against Penn State (freshman quarterback) and Michigan State (lost entire offense in the person of LeVeon Bell, four way QB duel) feature what should be immensely struggling offenses and solid defenses. Notre Dame, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Ohio State are where the season will be made or lost. Only one of those is on the road, that a quasi-road game against Northwestern in the Little Big House. It looks like 10-2. 9-3 is more likely than 11-1.

[Last year I predicted 9-3, which was a game off. I claim Nebraska as an unforeseeable event, though.]


los barcos

August 30th, 2013 at 2:57 PM ^

all this content on a slow friday before a three-day weekend.

i predict a 9-3, with an unfortunate loss to sparty (hoke hasn't won a big road game yet, but is now the time...?)


August 30th, 2013 at 2:58 PM ^

I love this blog and am an addict.  Here's hoping we hit some luck on our way to an undefeated season.  With a BIG championship game that seems very unlikely, but that's what hope is for.


August 30th, 2013 at 2:58 PM ^

10-2 would be great. If one of those two is to ND or OSU (or PSU I suppose) then we're likely in the championship game. If we aren't, we're in a BCS bowl. I'm cool with that.

Crime Reporter

August 30th, 2013 at 3:02 PM ^

I'm thinking 8-4 or 9-3. Think we will lose to ND, Ohio State and a combo of MSU, NW or Nebraska. Penn State might give us problems as well but I think we win a close one.
I like the depth this team is getting but we are a year or two away. Of course I base all this on my overly pessimistic outlook and no concrete evidence. Still, I can't stress how excited I am for football.

Zone Left

August 30th, 2013 at 3:13 PM ^

The only way I see 10-2 is with a loss to either ND or OSU (or both). The loss to ND would leave us at 7-1 in conference, which should get us there given that the Legends round robin should produce losses by everyone else.

If we lose to OSU and a random Big 10 team, I don't think we make it. The other likely conference losses are all in the Legends and I think that probably leaves us losing a tiebreaker. We'll probably be co-champs of the division, but won't get what matters.


August 30th, 2013 at 3:07 PM ^

Amazing work this week.  I know some of these have been in the bag a bit, but just great content all week.  Kudos.

As for the prediction, sounds about right.  I figure they split the 4 tough games, and actually don't consider ND or NW as toss-ups.  Those feel like leans to win.  OSU feels like a lean to a loss just because they have such an easy schedule it is a game they can focus on for weeks beforehand - they have Iowa on the 19th and then two weeks before the Game.

Zone Left

August 30th, 2013 at 3:09 PM ^

10-2 with a loss to ND and random flub is a really nice season. 10-2 with losses to ND and OSU is a borderline disappointment. 11-1 with a loss to OSU and a shot to get it back in the Big 10 Title Game is a really nice year.

Frankly, I don't see anyone on the schedule outside of ND and OSU having the horses to play with us. It's great to finally write that again, but seriously, no one else in the conference has that special guy who can win a game just by being special. In particular, I think Northwestern is good, but way overrated. I also disagree with the idea that both offenses will totally struggle in the MSU game. MSU has a bad offense on paper. Michigan has a pretty good offense on paper with huge potential upside. The difference between our defense and MSU's offense is a vast gulf, while the difference between their defense and our offense is sizable, but not enough to prevent 24-28 points.


August 30th, 2013 at 3:27 PM ^

11-0 going into Ohio.....then we probably win and I honestly think Wisconson takes the leaders division...we beat them and on to play.....Stanford in NC game.....then we win and  revenge the Jim Plunkett led team in 1972 and win the whole enchilada just like it


August 31st, 2013 at 2:06 PM ^

Our team is simply not an undefeated team this year unless we get incredibly lucky time and again. Too many question marks and too many toss up games. There are incredibly few teams who go undefeated without just a ridiculous amount of luck. See Ohio and ND last year. Both teams had so many breaks throughout the year that absolutely cannot be counted on, it is incredibly unlikely we will have anything like that happen this year to cover up our deficiencies.


August 30th, 2013 at 3:45 PM ^

These season previews are always crazy impressive. This may not come as a shock but I dig the pictures, man. A little glimpse into the mind of a man.

I'll eat my hat if NW is any more dicey than lean to win. They're scrappy, I'll give them that. They're just overrated.


August 30th, 2013 at 3:49 PM ^

Alabama - Off the scedule (+1)

ND - Lost by one score to what was a better team than this year, & it was on the road (+1)

MSU - Won without scoring a TD. Our offense is better, their offense is worse, defenses on both side push. Playing @ State cancels out offense fluctuation. M wins 12-10 (+0)

Neb - Lost close game with 3rd string QB on the road. Defense suspect. No Burkhead, add more Abdullah = wash. We are at home (+1)

NW - Won by way of a miracle. NW is due for a win over us. (-1)

OSU - Lost by one score on the road. N.C. between teams Only hope is that home field swings in our favor. Don't think it is enough. (+0).

Overall, add 3 wins, subtract one. We go from 8-4 to 10-2. So I guess that. We better cross our fingers that we make the B1G Championship game. Failing again would be hugely disappointing. I don't think it's job-losing worthy. Our recruiting alone makes up for that (George Campbell*). But, if we can't win the damn terrible BIG TEHNN, then, WELL I DON'T EVEN KNOW!

*Committed...BOOM HAhAhahahh!

Blue in Denver

August 30th, 2013 at 5:24 PM ^

I love this blog but it consistently underestimates MSU.  There's absolutely no way their passing game is anywhere close to as bad this year as it was last year.  Last year they had a first year starting QB and WRs who started dropping passes and it got in their heads.

They lost Bell, yes, but they're gaining their injured linemen back.  Nobody who watched Michigan the last two years should have any doubt about the difference a competent line makes to a running game.

I think the game in East Lansing is a tossup at best and maybe a lean-to-lose.

9-3 feels right to me.


August 30th, 2013 at 6:13 PM ^

No, MSU will be that bad.  So let's say their passing game improves as much as you say (they also lost Dion Sims remember, and how much better with Maxwell get from year 4 to 5?).  Their running game just fell off a cliff.  Sure, they returned an injured lineman, and then they lost their LT to a career ending injury.  Needless to say, LeVeon Bell was their entire offense, and he's gone.  Now their entire offense will have to be a terrible passing game that might be better.  


August 30th, 2013 at 5:28 PM ^

I honestly don't see this team losing a B1G game until the last game of the regular season. I'm always a more optimistic fan before the year than during the year but as of right now I'm feeling a 12-2 season with a split against Ohio and a loss in the Rose Bowl against probably Stanford. I could buy a 10-3 year though. 


August 30th, 2013 at 5:30 PM ^

Good stuff. I see the division possibly breaking down to a three-way tie between MSU, Nebraska, and UM, all 7-1 in the conference and our loss coming to MSU and MSU's to Nebraska.


August 30th, 2013 at 11:19 PM ^

Looks like too many weaknesses to finish any higher than 9-3. The interier line will be tough to watch, Defense will be improving through the season,

I think we lose to ND, PSU, MSU, NU and OSU. It looks like a 7-5 type team. In couple years we will be a very good team.

High 9-3

Low 5-7

I predict we go 7-5,


August 31st, 2013 at 9:33 AM ^

I think some people have a different idea of what "best/worst case scenario" means than I do.  To me, best case scenario is what happens if we play the best ball we possibly can in every single game.  To me, last year 11-1 was a best case scenario, because we could have won any of the games we played except Alabama, who we could have played 12 times and never beat.  There is no Alabama on the schedule this year, and no one we play comes close to beating us 12 times out of 12.  There's no one we play we can't beat.  Now whether you think we have a 60% chance of beating ohio or a 40% chance, there is a definite and reasonable chance we win that game.  Same for Notre Dame.  IMO, the odds only continue to tilt in our favor against everyone else.  So best case scenario?  12-0.  Doesn't mean I'm predicting that, because I don't think we'll play to our abilities all 720 minutes we play football this season.  But I don't think it makes sense to act as if it's a total impossibility.  On a good day, we can beat anyone we're going to play.