Advanced Stats Matchup Analysis – 2017 Michigan at Ohio State

Submitted by Ecky Pting on November 21st, 2017 at 11:45 PM

Michigan vs. OSU Advanced Stats Matchup Analysis


As usual, this matchup analysis draws upon the Advanced Stats Profiles published weekly by Bill Connelly on Football Study Hall. The profiles feature Connelly’s well-known Five Factors, and also include the more detailed groups of S&P+ metrics that break down elements of the game such as Rushing and Passing, as well as the down-and-distance scenarios known as Standard Downs and Passing Downs. This new interpretation is an updated take on what you may recall from last season. It assesses the complete set of 26 advanced stats metrics using an approach that displays the matchups graphically, in a way that more clearly distinguishes and gauges the significance of any net advantages. For more details regarding the definition of and concepts behind each of the metrics, the Advanced Stats Glossary is a handy reference to bookmark.


If you’re interested in the approach to analyzing Bill Connelly’s base metrics, the formulation for deriving the matchup metrics or the data visualization concept for the charts, you can read more in the Michigan at Indiana diary. Nonetheless, nothing here is etched in stone, and certainly suggestions for improving any of the aspects of the methodology are welcome and appreciated!

So with that, on with the matchup analysis.

Executive Summary

Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Yelp!

The Five Factors Matchups

Here you have the matchups for the core Five Factors metrics. As of the beginning of this week, the S&P+ margin stands at 10.3 points in favor of the Buckeyes. Of the first four, which are the ones that contribute to the margin prediction, the Buckeyes have an edge in three - including the factor that is weighted most heavily: Efficiency. The other metric (Field Position) is a statistical push. The Wolverines manage save face and avoids sweep by posting a sizeable advantage in Turnover Margin, which alas, is the one factor that is most influenced by luck. Of course, Michigan’s luck this season has been predominantly of the bad variety, so that sounds about right at this point.

Some notable characteristics in this grouping include:

  • OSU has the #1 Offense in Efficiency going against UM’s #1 Defense in the same category, which makes the OSU Offense look about average.
  • OSU is in the top 25 in all categories on offense and defense except offensive Explosiveness (#42) and Turnover Margin (#38).
  • Other than defensive Efficiency, UM is in the top 25 in only offensive & defensive Field Position, and Turnover Margin.
  • The UM Offense is rated lower than the OSU Defense in all metrics, with the most significant disparity being in Efficiency.
  • The UM Defense rates close to even with OSU Offense in Efficiency and Field Position, but is well below the OSU Offense in Explosiveness and Finishing Drives.


Rushing Matchups

In going up against Ohio State, Michigan barely manages to avoid a clean sweep by the Buckeyes in the Rushing metrics. While OSU exhibits considerable advantages is most categories including the overall metric, UM’s only net advantage comes in metric that is arguably the least significant of the set: Power Success.

Notable characteristics in this group include:

  • OSU is #2 in both the offensive and defensive overall Rushing S&P+ metrics, while UM is #13 and #11, yielding a significant advantage for OSU in Rushing S&P+.
  • OSU also registers as elite in both offensive and defensive Rushing Success and Opportunity Rates, as well as defensive Adj. Line Yards and offensive Stuff Rate.
  • OSU is top 12 in all else except in the offensive and defensive Explosiveness metrics (#41 and #22, respectively), which are derivative of the Efficiency.
  • Explosiveness is the only metric in which the UM offense is rated above the OSU defense. Alas, the UM defense falls apart in the Explosiveness metric.
  • UM is elite only in defensive Power Success and Stuff Rate.


Passing Matchups

Once again, Michigan barely manages to avoid a clean sweep by the Buckeyes, this time in the Passing metrics. While OSU exhibits considerable advantages is most categories including the overall metric, UM’s only net advantage, which is a marginal at best, is in Passing Success Rate.

The continued atrophy of the Michigan passing attack, as well as its pass protection, are manifest in these metrics. That’s not to say that the Buckeye passing attack is particularly robust. This will say it better: OSU QB J.T. Barrett still ranks a pretty solid #1 in the B1G with a 166.3 QBR, #1 in yards, #3 in YPA, #1 in TDs, and only 3 INT’s not thrown to Iowa. As for UM’s QB, “Ask Again Later.”

Notable characteristics from this group include:

  • The OSU Offense is elite in the overall Passing S&P+ and Passing Success Rate. The Michigan Defense is elite in the same metrics, plus Adj. Sack Rate.
  • The UM Offense is rated well below the OSU Defense in all four metrics. 


Standard Down Matchups

It seems inevitable that the Wolverines can do little to resist a Buckeye clean sweep of the Standard Down matchups. None of the matchups are even very close. The notables are:

  • The Buckeyes are top 25ish in all offensive and defensive metrics in this group, and are elite in five of the ten, including both the overall offensive and defensive SD S&P+ metrics.
  • The UM Defense is competitive with the OSU Offense overall, as well as in Success Rate and SD LYPC. The UM Defense also has an edge in Sack Rate, but is deficient in Explosiveness.
  • The UM Offense is rated well below the OSU Defense in all metrics in this group.


Passing Down Matchups

Last, but certainly not least, are the Passing Down matchups, in which Michigan manages to capture only one of the four base metrics, yet manages to capture – by a vanishingly small margin - the overall PD+ metric! One thing to keep in mind is that a Passing Down metrics are not measures of passing efficacy per se. These metrics are situational, in that they reflect performance in down-and-distance situations that are usually, but not necessarily, approached using passing plays. Clearly, the PD LYPC metric implies a rushing play on a passing down – and this is where UM has often excelled in the past - whereas PD Sack Rate would imply a drop back of some sort (a passing play or play action).

Anyway, the biggest advantage in this group for either team is Michigan’s edge in PD Explosiveness. This would suggest that the Buckeyes are not a significant threat to go deep on passing downs (perhaps this Buckeye team’s only weakness), so these situations may be prime opportunities for Don Brown to press the OSU Offense to get them further behind the chains.

Some other notables are:

  • The OSU Offense and UM Defense are both elite in the overall PD S&P+ metric, which brings the OSU Offense down to a shade below average.
  • The UM Offense and OSU Defense are both top 25 in overall PD S&P+, which brings the UM Offense down to a shade below average.
  • Both the OSU Offense & Defense are about average in PD Sack Rate, while the UM Offense is as bad as the UM Defense is good.



Oh, how I long for the days of seeing matchup charts that are predominantly and overwhelmingly maize-and-blue-colored. The only hope now is that UM pulls a real patsy for whatever mid-tier, late-December, cold-weather, empty-stadium [Your Corporate Trademark Here]-Bowl it gets placed into. Otherwise, the charts may not be much different until next season, I hope?

It would be good if scoring could be kept low, but given this offense, the defense will be fortunate to keep OSU at bay for a half. The intangibles like turnovers, hidden yards, penalties and weather will need to factor significantly in Michigan’s favor to tilt the balance enough to escape with a win. Michigan’s execution will need to be – if not dominating – at least mistake free, while inducing the Buckeyes to be the error-prone combatant.

As with Wisconsin, should Michigan attempt to pass, step one will be to minimize the Buckeye pass rush. In other fancy stats, the Buckeye Defense currently ranks #8 in Overall Havoc (UM is still #2), as well as #1 in DL Havoc. Therefore, failing step one, step two will be to duck before…

It seems like the best option will be more of the same emphasis on the blocky-catchy types and heavy sets – particularly multi-TE/H-backs.

Here’s hoping that:

  • John O’Korn somehow develops enough pocket instincts to stand and deliver, yet also avoid getting hospitalized.
  • Harbaugh has secreted away an entire set of unused and heretofore un-filmed packages featuring variations on waggles, play-actions and mis-directions.

Yet we all know, as the late, great Lou Reed once sang:

You can't depend on no miracle
you can't depend on the air
You can't depend on a wise man
you can't find 'em because they're not there

You can depend on cruelty
crudity of thought and sound
You can depend on the worst always happening
you need a busload of faith to get by, ha!

And so, that concludes this week’s Five Factors Matchup Analysis.

Yours in football, and Go Blue!



November 22nd, 2017 at 8:00 AM ^

It's been a long time since the underdog has won in this rivalry, the dog is due to win one soon. The favorite has won 12 straight. In the 13 years prior, from '92-'04 I can think of 6 games off the top of my head in which the favorite did not win.