Advanced Stats Matchup Analysis – 2018 Michigan vs. S. Carolina

Submitted by Ecky Pting on December 31st, 2017 at 2:12 PM

Advanced Stats Matchup Analysis - Michigan vs. S. Carolina


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

The S&P+ margin stands at 8.3 points in favor of the Wolverines. Of the first four of the Five Factors matchups, which are the ones that contribute most significantly to the margin prediction, Michigan shows an advantage in three, with Turnover Margin being close to a push.

The Five Factors Matchups

Here you have the matchups for the core Five Factors metrics for the New Year's Day tussle with the Gamecocks from yonder South Cackalacky. As of the beginning of this week, the S&P+ margin stands at 8.3 points in favor of the Wolverines. Of the first four metrics, which are the ones that contribute most significantly to the margin prediction, Michigan shows an advantage in three - including the factor that is weighted most heavily: Efficiency. The Gamecocks biggest edge is in Explosiveness IsoPPP). The fifth metric, Turnover Margin, is close to a push.

Some notable characteristics in this grouping include:

  • Michigan closes the regular season with the #1 Defense in Efficiency, going against the slightly above average Cackalacky Offense. Michigan’s Offense is well below average, so it helps Michigan that the Cackalacky Defense is slightly below average.
  • The Gamecocks’ edge in Explosiveness is almost entirely attributable to the Michigan Defense, which has been notoriously bad in the way of giving up explosive plays this season. Just think back to the one pass completed by Air Force as an exemplar of the potential downside of having a front seven with a highly aggressive disposition. Not that the Cackalacky Offense is very explosive, but the UM Defense is likely to offer up ample opportunities for the Gamecocks to shine in this regard.

  • Michigan’s advantage in Field Position is largely attributable to the Cackalacky Offense, which is below average. Both Michigan units are well above average, as is the Cackalacky Defense.

  • As for Finishing Drives, despite its above average offensive unit, the well below average Cackalacky Offense factors significantly in tilting this metric to Michigan.

  • in Turnover Margin, the Gamecocks are even more effective in generating turnover opportunities than Michigan. What’s more, the Gamecocks have benefitted from an ever greater number of actual turnovers to the tune of about one point per game. Conversely, Michigan has suffered through a dearth of realized turnovers over the course of the regular season, to the tune of about 3.4 points per game.

Rushing Matchups

In going up against South Cackalacky, Michigan nearly manages a clean sweep in the Rushing metrics. While UM exhibits considerable advantages is most categories including the overall metric, USC’s only net advantage comes in Explosiveness, while achieving a push in Opportunity Rate.

Notable characteristics in this group include:

  • UM is top ten in both the offensive and defensive overall Rushing S&P+ metrics, while USC is #67 and #24, yielding a significant advantage for UM in Rushing S&P+.
  • The UM Offense is also top ten in in Adj. Line Yards and Power Success Rate, once again affirming that while this OL can’t seem to protect its Quarterbacks, it can still reliably execute gap blocking schemes to move ball carriers down field.
  • The UM Defense is elite in Adj. Line Yards, Power Success Rate and Stuff Rate, all of which contribute to significant advantages for UM in these metrics.
  • Cackalacky’s only advantage, in Explosiveness, is due to the typically low rating of the UM Defense (#121) in this category.

Passing Matchups

Once again, Michigan nearly manages a clean sweep of the Gamecocks, this time in the Passing metrics. While the Wolverines exhibits considerable advantages is most categories including the overall metric, the ‘Cocks only net advantage is in, of course, Explosiveness.

The season-long atrophy of the Michigan passing attack, as well as its pass protection, are not so readily apparent, largely because of gross mismatch between the USC Offense and the UM Defense.

Notable characteristics from this group include:

  • The Michigan Defense is elite in the overall Passing S&P+, Passing Success Rate as well as Adjusted Sack Rate.
  • The USC Defense is top ten-ish in only Explosiveness, which is not saying much since this metric is derivative of Passing Success, in which the ‘Cocks are well below average. In a sense, the USC pass defense is the opposite of UM’s: opponents have great success throwing against them, but big plays are limited.

Standard Down Matchups

Here again, Michigan captures all but one of the Standard Down matchup advantages over the Gamecocks. While the Wolverines exhibits considerable advantages is most categories including the overall metric, the ‘Cocks only net advantage is in, of course, Explosiveness.

None of the matchups are very close. Some notables are:

  • The UM Defense is elite in overall SD S&P+, SD Success Rate and SD Sack Rate; and is top ten in SD Line Yards per Carry.
  • The UM Offense is bottom ten in SD Sack Rate, but fortunately, the USC Defense is sufficiently below average that it will make the UM Offense look better than usual in things like play-action.

Passing Down Matchups

Last, but certainly not least, are the Passing Down matchups, in which Michigan achieves a clean sweep of a category. One thing to keep in mind is that 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 Michigan is actually in the overall PD S&P+ category, and even manages to show and advantage in the Explosiveness (IsoPPP) metric. UM still looks to be vulnerable in regard to its shaky pass-protection, as the USC Defense is above average in generating sacks on passing downs. However, the UM Defense will make matters far worse for the USC Offense.

Some other notables are:

  • The UM Defense is elite in the overall PD S&P+, PD Success Rate and PD Sack Rate metrics, which as has been the case all season, is the key to UM’s matchup advantages in this category.
  • The Cackalacky Offense is bottom ten in PD Explosiveness. The below average UM Defense will make them look better.
  • The UM Offense is top twenty in PD Explosiveness; however, the Cackalacky Defense is top ten, which brings the UM Offense down to below average.


If nothing else, this is a pleasant return to seeing a set of matchup charts that are predominantly and overwhelmingly maize-and-blue-colored. It would appear that UM has not only managed to sneak into a New Year’s Day bowl game, but also pulled a patsy as an opponent. The outlook is good for closing this rebuilding season on a high note!

Of course, the big question mark still is regarding the Quarterback position. Is Brandon Peters completely recovered from the hammering that took him out over a month ago against Wisconsin? Will he have any confidence in his OL to allow him stand in the pocket and deliver, or will he be hearing footsteps that threaten his rhythm and patience in finding open receivers? If Peters can get off to a good start and manage to put up a couple of scores, that may be all this team needs to put this game away, as it does not appear that Cackalacky poses a significant threat to UM Defense to turn this game into any sort of shootout.

If Michigan manages to puts up 35 (or more) points in the game, then it’s going to be game on for the 2018 season.

And so, that concludes this, this final installment of the Five Factors Matchup Analysis.

Yours in football, and Go Blue!



December 31st, 2017 at 4:59 PM ^

I won't be at all surprised if SC comes out like MS State did yesterday and commits quite a lot of fouls, looking to intimidate and daring the officials to call everything. Keep your poise and hit back hard would be my advice, both sides of the ball. Equally curious to see how Peters plays.