The Weekly Maths: Reality Check

Submitted by The Mathlete on November 8th, 2012 at 4:09 PM

A win over Ohio, a BCS game win and a couple of killer recruiting classes have quickly escalated expectations of the Brady Hoke era. It’s time to put those expectations on ice. Not forever. But for another year or two it's safer to look at last season as the exception not the expectation.

This Year

The defense has been better than expected and I think this Greg Mattison thing is going to work out. They even have a fancy #7 ranking in total defense and a #13 scoring defense rank that’s not aided by fluck this time.

The offense has been a disappointment as Denard and Borges still seem further apart than ever, the offensive line has struggled and Toussaint hasn’t shown much when he does have a rare look at space.

I mentioned this in my season preview, but based on recruiting profiles and experience, this is the least talented Michigan team over the last 10 years [ed-S: I'm guessing attrition isn't taken into account?]. The Rodriguez recruiting bubble has arrived.

The other issue I was surprised to find this week is that Michigan is third nationally in a stat I call Garbage Points. For all of my analytics I exclude second half plays where the game is beyond two touchdowns, the approximate range at which teams deviate from their game plan and possibly individual effort in order to close out a less-competitive game. Garbage value has a pretty high correlation to team success because if you are good when it's close and in the first half you are having more drives in garbage time and probably having more success then, as well. Alabama and Kansas State are 1st and 2nd, Ohio cracks the top 10, but Michigan is the top team with a loss at #3 with a +57 EV during garage time. Lead extensions against UMass, Illinois and Minnesota all contributed to a Michigan spread that is one of the highest in the country. I have Michigan as the #28 in the country based on non-garbage time so a big spread between the two would likely indicate that Michigan has more of an issue with their official NCAA rankings being off due to extra time against over-matched teams.

Rank Team Garbage Points
1 Alabama 60
2 Kansas State 59
3 Michigan 57
4 Northern Illinois 56
5 LSU 56
6 Texas A&M 50
7 South Carolina 47
8 Florida State 45
9 Ohio State 43
10 Arizona State 41

Going Forward

Next year will be a first year starter at the most important position, which could be the newly popular Devin Gardner or five star Shane Morris. I’ll have more on this in the offseason but let’s just hope Gardner is able to win the job because the data on true freshman starting quarterbacks is emphatically troubling, even when they are elite recruits.

The defense should still continue on at a solid level, at this point the question with Mattison’s defenses is are they going to be good or great. A strong floor has been established.

Overall though, the talent/experience level isn’t going to be improved in 2013, in fact they may be worse. The upper classes will be Rodriguez’s final as well as the transition class. The elite classes will still be young enough that their contributions will likely be limited by playing time or play quality. By 2014, the team should be on par with the Carr-recruited, Rodriguez-coached teams in terms of talent and in 2015 back to the elite level of the late model Carr teams.

Michigan Talent/Experience Level By Season


Talent isn’t everything but it is certainly significant. At this point, the ability to overcome talent deficits seems more likely on defense than offense for Michigan, although the national trend is for talent to be more highly correlated to defensive success than offensive.

The other point of reference is that we aren’t talking about 2008-style drops, and especially in the current state of the Big TENNNNN! it could even mean conference championships. But don’t expect Michigan to make vast strides towards national elite until at least 2014.

Season Projection


Things keep coming back to eight wins. Northwestern is about 70%, Iowa 80% and Ohio 25% for the games remaining.

This week is probably Michigan’s last opening for the B1G Title game. If the Huskers survive a trip to Happy Valley visit from Penn St it’s hard to see them losing to Iowa or Minnesota.

Another little chart I put together shows who controlled their own destiny to the B1G title game by week.

Leaders division on top, Legends on bottom.

Dumb Punt of the Week

Not a lot of suspense for this one. Mark Dantonio was staring in the face victory and chose what any man with a strong jaw does. Hands the ability to win to the other team for 19 yards. It was fourth and 2 at the Nebraska 39. 1:27 on the clock and Nebraska out of timeouts. Hand it off to the best running back in the conference, watch him get 2 yards,  and that ices it. The WPA Calculator says that getting stopped gives Nebraska a 29% chance to win. A punt and touchback give Nebraska an 18% shot. Fourth and twos are successful 63% of the time, but even at 40% the return is positive. Even if you believe you can down them at the 1, going forward is at least neutral. Plus, Bell had just run five straight times in obvious running situations, gaining at least 2 yards on four of his five carries.

This week’s Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week goes to the refs in the Michigan St-Nebraska game for making Sparty punt the ball away.

Game Chart


Biggest Plays

+15% Gardner to Dileo for Michigan’s opening score

+9% Kirkwood stopped on 4th and 1 at the Michigan 41

+7% Nelson’s pass falls incomplete, forces Gophers into attempting long field goal at end of first half

-8% Gardner is intercepted at the Michigan 49

-8% Minnesota is on the board first with an 8 yard TD pass

-5% Nelson to Engel is good for 32 yards on third down

Devin Gardner, +14 EV, +30% WPA

Fitzgerald Toussaint, +4 EV (all on final run), +1%

Defense, +12 EV, +20%

Jake Ryan now 17th nationally in defender rankings, 11th in BCS players, 4th in Big Ten


Northwestern has surprisingly turned into a slightly more defensive than offensive player this year. Venric Mark is one of the nation’s most valuable running backs and the biggest threat from the Wildcat’s offense. If Michigan’s defense is up to task, the offense should be able to generate enough for a decent win.

Michigan 24 Northwestern 14



November 8th, 2012 at 2:00 PM ^

Correct me if I'm reading it wrong:

Illinois - orange

Purdue - gold

Wisconsin - crimson

Indiana - white

Northwestern - purple

Minnesota - brown

Iowa - yellow

Nebraska - red

Michigan State - green

Michigan - blue


November 8th, 2012 at 2:22 PM ^


Why not compare time remaining when a team scored the winning points as a meaningful "Margin of Victory" stat. This stat would be a good indicator of the strength of a win without biasing season long aggregations the way garbage points does. 

By this stat, if a team is consistantly scoring the winning points early in games, it shows that they controlled the game. Conversely, if a team scores winning points late in games, or has winning points scored ON them early, it shows a lock of control of game.



Victory Time = (Time remaining when winning points scored (in wins) - Time remaining when winning points scored (in losses))/Games Played


November 8th, 2012 at 4:50 PM ^

I had done an algorithmic college football ranking system that Massey published on his site.  I didn't do it this year because too busy but did in years past.  I call it MARS - minimally adjusted reduced score.  When I was coming up with it I had the same problem regarding garbage scores - how do you credit a team for dominating a game without crediting them with running up the score?  My first inclination was the scoreboard compliment to your Victory Time stat.  I used the score at the last lead change.  So for Minnesota 2011 it would have been 6-0 Michigan (PAT is a discrete score itself as a miss can decide a game).  For Minnesota this year it would have been 13-7 Michigan.  No scoring after that score altered the outcome of the game.  The problem was it is very difficult to go back in every game and manually follow the score to find the last lead change.  I would assume it would be equally as difficult finding the moment in game time when it occured.

The solution I came up with is this - what is the lowest winning score possible, assume everything after that is garbage.  Using percent of score you get the following:

The lowest winning score possible in football is 2-0.  That zero is problematic so we will assume that the game starts at a 1-1 tie.  So then the lowest winning score becomes 3-1.  75% seems high though.  In the other major sports 1-0 wins are possible (never going to happen in basketball but the theory remains) as their unit of score is one point.  If those games start at 1-1 ties, then the lowest winning score is 2-1 where percent score is (2/3) or ~67%.  Since football has a few units of score and the smallest is two points, let us assume that the game starts at a 2-2 tie, with the lowest winning score then becoming 4-2, and the percent score at (4/6) or ~67% which is in line with the other sports.  So then the minimally adjusted reduced score meant that the percent score of the victor was capped at (2/3). Any scoring where the victor accrued higher percentage than (2/3) was thrown out.

Then by definition close games are where the victor does not at least double the opponent's score.



November 8th, 2012 at 4:06 PM ^

cluck. But fortunately for us, his manly jaw should keep him at MSU long past the time when it grows clear he doesn't cut it. 

I'm okay with Narduzzi getting another gig, btw. Including with the Mafia. 

Everyone Murders

November 8th, 2012 at 4:22 PM ^

You don't get analysis like this

This week’s Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Week goes to the refs in the Michigan St Nebraska game for making Sparty punt the ball away.

on many other football blogs.  The whole diary is great, but this is wonderful.

"We would have won the game, too, if not for those meddling refs!"  /spoken in Scooby Doo villain voice/


November 8th, 2012 at 4:30 PM ^

You mention "elite level" recruiting for the late model Carr teams.  I thought his recruiting supposedly dipped a little towards the end of his coaching career.  Maybe the dip is with the RR teams with Carr recruits?


November 8th, 2012 at 4:31 PM ^

eh..elite talent in 2015 from a recruiting ranking perspective I guess. UM can be an Elite team before that though.

Mattison and Hoke have shown that the some is greater than its parts regarding the defense. Michigan plays D way above what Rivals Def player rankings would suggest IMO.

The only thing UM is missing from being elite is a great OL play and a #1 WR. You don't need elite QB play in order to have an elite team ( as long as you have a good defense). I think with Mattison/Hoke UM will have that going forward.

Gardner next year should be plenty good enough. By just having half of Denards INTs and moving the chains via timely scrambles the O will be just fine. All UM needs to be elite team next year is for the OL recruits from the last 2 years to step in well and to find a #1 WR.

Either way, I think waiting till 2015 is way too long. KSU is elite this season and look at their rankings. They play in a tougher conf too so its not like they have a weak schedule.


November 8th, 2012 at 5:51 PM ^

You aren't saying that it can't be done, thats true. But I just think that UM is only a couple positions away from being REALLY good (OL, WR). It shouldn't take 3 years to get those up to snuff esp with the OL recruiting already done the last two years.

Plus, while KSU is an outlier. How many teams recruit at "elite level" and have an elite team right now? I mean it works the other way too. You can have elite recruiting classes and not be elite. UF, LSU, FSU, OU, UGA are not in the top 5 right now but all consistently have high recruiting ie "elite talent". ND used to fall into this bucket but they have been pulling crap out there ass this season so they are still undefeated and are as a result elite.

Other than than LSU, you could argue that the other names on that list and ND (until this year) have been underachieving pretty consistently. So there are KSU's out there but there are also OU's and FSUs, and UGAs.

I think thus far that Hoke and Co have shown that they can overachieve. I guess i think that ability makes me think an elite team can come sooner than later. ie one big time WR away.

*as a caveeat, I do believe that Borges will be a lot better once Denard is gone. He just doesn't know how to really do a shotgun-spread O that well.

anyways, thanks for the work on the post/diaries. always a good read.





November 8th, 2012 at 5:02 PM ^

The o-line recruiting under Rich Rod suffered but so did the WR recruiting. RR did bring in some fast slot guys but, other than Stonum, we lacked a prototypical NFL receiver type a la Edwards, Walker, Avant, etc. Dileo, Gallon, J. Robinson, etc. have been able to make plays but we do lack the fast/stretch the field big targets and the large possession receivers of Carr's days. I think Funchess will get better and better and will turn into a great TE but we need some big target receivers. I am sure the coaches are telling Treadwell that he will be THE guy. If he is every bit as good as advertised, he would be THE guy at WR. Other than WR, the OL needs to get better. It may be a combination of not having great RBs and a average o-line but, other than Denard, we cannot get a running game going. At this point our o-line is functional but strong defenses (a la Bama) wear it down pretty quickly. I think in a few years the o-line will be solid, as the top recruits grow into their positions and the running game will consequantly improve.


November 9th, 2012 at 5:38 AM ^

Looking at the facts and ignoring them because this is Michigan Fergodsakes.

MAthlete didn't say, "We won't do well", just "We won't be Elite." Until we get our dominant o line, we will not be able to play with the Alabama's, LSU's and Oregon's of the world.

We will be relevant in the B1G, just not Elite nationally. Expect some 8-9 win seasons until these Freshman are Seniors... Then watch out World.


November 9th, 2012 at 10:34 AM ^

nothing wrong with having high expectations. I mean Hoke expects UM to compete for the Big 10 title every year or else its a failure. guess what people, we will need to go 7-1 at worst to ever win a big ten 3-4 loss seasons are not going to get that done. unless we are planning on lossing 2+ OOC games a year, and I don't think UM plans on doing that.

Michigan has pretty much every advantage that can be afforded to a college football team (except for a wiliingness to be corrupt/pay cheat). No reason not to be optimistic about 10+ win seasons.

Plus, I'd say for the last 8-10 years or so a good portion of fans have been saying:

wait till Henne and Hart are seniors...

wait till Prescott Burgess is a senior

wati till Will Campbell starts..and then wait until he is a senior

wait till Tate is a senior

wait till Gardner is a senior

wait till Denard is a senior

wait till Toussiant is a senior

Now people are saying wait till 2015? sorry, thats a crock of you now what. Michigan should be an 8 loss team at the worst pretty much every season. 10+ wins shouldn't be something UM has to "build up to" with recruiting class after recruiting class and waiting for a senior laden team. Thats what the Iowas or the Wisconsins of the world need to do.

UM has pretty good talent and should always be a playmaker or two away from a title. That's a fair assesment IMO.



November 9th, 2012 at 10:41 AM ^

Just want it to be known that I'm completeld satisified with the work Hoke and Co have done. Last season, this season and expect things to be gravy going forward.

I fully expect some 8-9 win seasons to be mixed in with 10+. I mean to a large extent the game is still about catching breaks and sometimes you do and sometimes you don't.

I just don't see whats wrong with being optimistic and looking for 10+ wins seasons. I know I look for that every september...10+ wins and a BIG title/BCS bowl win.

Those should be the goal every season. Nothing wrong with that.


November 8th, 2012 at 6:25 PM ^

Is that a flaw with the model then? Once they are beyond the "no chance the other team will come back" point spread, even if it's the first half, those would seem to be garbage points....

What's the all-time-biggest comeback in the second half? I feel like it should be anything more than 3 TD's or 24 points or something regardless of time left....


November 8th, 2012 at 6:57 PM ^

in a "normal" Big Ten conference will be 9-3 on average.

This is pretty much what we observed during Carr's tenure, with a lot of great recruiting classes and talent.

I do believe Michigan will earn its share of 11-1 and 12-0 seasons in the future, but normally this is a pretty tough league.  Adding in Nebraska doesn't make matters easier. Ohio has a great coach and good recruiting, but even they won't get the "free lunch"  they enjoyed during the tail end of Carr's tenure and the Rodriguez era.  Those days of skating past Michigan are likely over. Even this November's game is not a slam dunk for the Buckeyes IMO.

I agree with the 8-4 scenario for 2012.

I love the "garbage time stats" above. I would be very interested to apply that model to Michigan teams in the late 1970s and 1980s, mainly because Bo was such a ruthless bastard about scoring touchdowns with his 3rd string tailback with less than 2:00 minutes to play.  Yeah, there was indeed time when it was "normal" for Michigan team to steamroll Stanford 51-0 or sandblast Wisconsin 42-0.





November 9th, 2012 at 12:47 AM ^

I can't wait to show this to my GF, who endured me "raising my voice" about a DPotW as soon as I saw Dantonio wasn't faking. I knew there wouldn't be a dumber punt than this the whole weekend. She just rolled her pretty eyes and said, "MGoBlog..."


November 9th, 2012 at 9:31 AM ^

After 2 years of reading MGoBlog it's time to comment - Mathlete is awesome!

Growing up in a family with a dad and uncles as football coaches, the debates would have been electric with these charts and insights. They were widely known for "crazy" tactics like not punting, using the spread in the early 80s and going for 2 all the time - simply because they charted outcomes and decided other coaches struggled with "irrational" opponents. Thus, I screamed at Lloyd during my AA days to ditch the conservative choices.

Go Blue.