The Weekly Maths: Focused on Paul

Submitted by The Mathlete on October 18th, 2012 at 8:09 AM

Dumb Punt of the Week

I’m tempted to award it to Iowa for punting on 4th and 2 from the MSU 39 last Saturday, but that wouldn’t be fair to Greg Davis whose call sheet’s only play listed for 4th and 2 says: Hail Mary.

This week’s dumb punt of the week goes to the Virginia Cavaliers. Trailing the Fighting Edsalls by 11 with 13 minutes and change left in the game, Virginia was facing 4th and 1 from their own 42. Giving up a precious possession near midfield down two scores in the fourth quarter for the chance to kick a 21 yard punt earns Mike London the Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week.

Game Chart


Not too much exciting on a game chart from a 45-0 nothing for a game that started as a 20+ point favorite. Robinson to Gallon provides the big jump in the first quarter and it was a slow burn off of Illini hope between then and early in the third quarter.

Game Scores

Due to a 17+ point lead in the second half, only first half plays are used to calculate numbers from Saturday’s game.

Rush Offense: +5 EV, +10% WPA

Pass Offense: +6, +15%

Rush Defense: +6, +12%

Pass Defense: +0, –2%

Denard Robinson: +13, +28%

Fitzgerald Toussaint: –2, –2%

Thomas Rawls: +1, 1%


A detailed breakdown of each unit and key contributors. All numbers are opponent adjusted except field position and special teams.

EV+, National Rank (leader), B1G Rank (leader)

Rush Offense

Michigan Offense: +3, 24th (Texas A&M), 3rd (Nebraska)

Michigan St Defense: +7, 1st, 1st

Denard Robinson: +4 (rush only), 7th among QB/RBs (Johnny Manziel), 2nd (Braxton Miller)

Fitzgerald Toussaint: –2

Thomas Rawls: -0

Pass Offense

Michigan Offense: +3, 27th (Baylor), 2nd (Nebraska)

Michigan St Defense: +5, 12th, 1st

Denard Robinson: +4 (pass only), 21st (Nick Florence), 2nd (Taylor Martinez)

Devin Funchess: +3, 83rd

Jeremy Gallon: +3, 118th

Devin Gardner: +2, 164th

Rush Defense

Michigan Defense: +2, 34th (MSU), 4th

Michigan St Offense: –2, 95th, 10th

Le’Veon Bell: -1

Pass Defense

Michigan Defense: +4, 23rd (Bama), 4th (MSU)

Michigan St Offense: +0, 59th, 6th

Andrew Maxwell: –2, 109th

Dion Sims: +4, 71st

Aaron Burbridge: +1

Field Position


2.04 expected points per drive (57th)

2.76 points per drive (30th)

135% conversion (26th)

Michigan St:

2.03 expected points per drive (63rd)

1.63 points per drive (99th)

80% conversion (100th)

Special Teams

Michigan: –1, 82nd (TCU), 7th (Iowa)

Michigan St: +0, 52nd, 6th

The defenses should have the upper hand. Michigan’s offense has clearly been better than Sparty’s but the model thinks that so far this year the Michigan State defense has been one of the best in the country. Michigan’s faced two other elite defenses and lost both times. This time they have the advantage of home field and a more defined identity. This is a game that Michigan could certainly lose, but directionally there seems to be much more upside for Michigan than for MSU. Dion Sims’ status could be huge as he is the only Spartan generated much offensive value. If the Denard/Borges fusion can have a good game Paul Bunyan should return to Ann Arbor on Saturday.

Michigan 17 Michigan St 13



October 18th, 2012 at 9:19 AM ^

Just curious, where do you get your data from? Do you scrape it from the NCAA site? And do you have a place to get more advanced information like YAC or formation (including shotgun/pistol/undercenter)?

Across 110th St

October 18th, 2012 at 9:24 AM ^

Used to think I understood your model - the outputs anyway.  You write:

"Michigan’s offense has clearly been better than Sparty’s but the model thinks that so far this year the Michigan State defense has been one of the best in the country."

But the listings have MSU rush defense as -2, 95th OA, 10th B1G, pass defense as +0, 59th OA, 6th B1G.  Also, the MSU pass offense is +5, 12th OA, 1st B1G?  What am I missing?



October 18th, 2012 at 9:34 AM ^

Rush Offense = Michigan is rushing on offense, therefore MSU is on defense. So, the listings under offense are MSU's defense and that's why those numbers are really good. The listings under defense are MSU's offense and that's why those numbers are really bad. It's just a problem with the presentation of the data, not the model. He does this, though because he follows Brian's format for game predictions (Michigan rushing, Michigan Passing, Opp rushing, Opp Passing).


October 18th, 2012 at 9:39 AM ^

That's actually MSU's rush offense vs. our rush defense under the Rush Defense heading. (Which is why Bell is listed at the bottom). Obviously MSU's defense is one of the best in the country (alledgedly) and their offense is definitely not.


Edit: I'm so, so late to the party. At this point it's just a few blacked out dudes sitting on the couch playing Halo 3 and what looks like a trash tornado of red cups and PBR cans.


October 18th, 2012 at 9:34 AM ^

My understanding is that your calculations toss away plays where one team has a solid lead, figured by a sliding scale between time and margin, and that this is to compare only truly competitive situations of first team vs. first team. However, this method obviously must sometimes truncate plays that are still representative of competitive play, such as early in the third quarter last Saturday when U-M still had their first offense against the first Illinois defense. In an ideal world where time isn't an issue and you crunch stats all day, would you like to include more of those truncated plays?

The Mathlete

October 18th, 2012 at 9:43 AM ^

The issue isn't having the plays or the power to crunch them, it is a decision not to use them. As the chart above notes, Michigan was already 90+% chance of winning at the start of the third quarter with a three score lead, and it quickly climbed over 95%. Yes the starters stayed in the game but in my opinion, when the score reaches three possessions or more in the second, at the very least the strategy shifts from the teams' perspectives. Some positions may be subbed more liberally, play calling will likely shift down to a more conservative approach for the team with the lead. 

Ron Utah

October 18th, 2012 at 10:18 AM ^

With your prediction.  I think we win a close game, but would probably predict a 20-16 win, with MSU mustering 3 FGs.  I'm not sure how well we'll deal with a power offense, not having played one since week one, and that one a very different system.  I think Sparty will struggle to find the end zone, but will have a few sustained drives that get them three points.

If Denard can hold onto the ball, I think we find the end zone at least twice, and have a couple of good drives stall.  So yeah, here it is in bold:

Michigan 20 - MSU 16


October 18th, 2012 at 11:03 AM ^

While I recognize that this is a serious possibility, the truth is I just don't see it. MSU is so laughably predictable and UM has so much toughness on defense that I just can't see them running over us effectively. I think this game is long over before MSU even sniffs the end zone.


October 18th, 2012 at 11:31 AM ^

That just seems like a pessimistic score to me from a UM fan perspective. From the way the team has been starting to gel and Borges' play calling as of late I'd say UM has a formidible advantage regardless of the game being in AA. I went to the tOSU @ MSU game a few weeks back and they're none too impressive in person. If Sims is out who else do they have that is a threat in the recieving core? Maxwell isnt exactly Cousins this year and they REALLY miss Cunningham and Martin. I mean they only scored 16 on tOSU's defense which then gave up 49 to Indiana. Indiana fergodsakes!! Which I know on this site you like to poke fun at Indiana and Minnesota for forgetting that they have football programs lol! Anyways it just seems to me if we can do what we did vs ND(minus the turnover-fest) then we should be feeling pretty good. We walked all over ND before shooting ourselves repeatedly in the foot.