Are Big 10 Defensive Stats Inflated by Bad Offenses? A P5 Conference Comparison

Submitted by alum96 on May 30th, 2015 at 11:12 AM

There is an interesting dichotomy of the views of Michigan's defense of 2014 - some view it as a "top 10 defense" because the NCAA stats say so.  Others (hand raised) use more of an eye test and advanced stats, specifically FEI and S&P+ via Football Outsiders, which have various measures to adjust for SOS, garbage time points, etc.   (more info on how those stats are derived can be found on that site - I wont rehash)

Let's take a closer look at the NCAA stat for total defense which sports journalists of both the print and video variety tend to parrot.  What does it really track?  Only 1 thing:  total yards given up per game.  It is very simplistic and in my estimation misleading.  My thesis has been this gives an overinflated value to all Big 10 defenses because Big 10 offenses have really stunk it up of late, especially the past half decade.   So this piece will try to fact check my opinion.

There have been very few premium QBs the past 6-7 years in the Big 10 until last year... the last golden batch was 2007-2008 when you had Henne, Smith, Stanton.  Before that you had to go to 2004 to Navarre, Sorgi, Krenzel, Smoker.  1 year of Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins really are all you have had up to about 2013 and after 2008.  It's been 18 years since the Big 10 had a QB drafted in the 1st round although there is finally the potential for 3 at once in 2016 with Cook, Hackenberg, and Jones.  But even Hackenberg was a disaster last year.  So you get the general point - when you look at passing stats of Big 10 offenses vs those of the Pac 12, SEC, Big 12 - it has lacked severely for most teams... Wisconsin was throwing out a converted safety last year as a QB and they were the 3rd best team in the conf.  Gary Nova - in the conference for all of 1 year, was the 3rd best QB (If you group all the OSU QBs as one since only one plays at a time) in the conf last year.   Kevin Hogan in the Pac 12 ?  A lower third QB ... in the Big 10?  Awesome throw god....


I don't recall what week it was (maybe week 8 or 9) 8 of the top 25 defenses in the country per the NCAA stat were in the Big 10.  Even in the year end results the Big 10 had 4 of the country's top 10 defenses (PSU, Wisconsin, UM, MSU)... and 6 of the top 22 (OSU, Iowa)  Wow what a performance! Elite defenses all over this conference!! 

Or is this really a confluence of mediocre to poor offenses with some former powers looking awful (PSU, UM) and other recently high octane offenses (Indiana) hampered by a true freshman QB, while others were run by a former safety for much of the year.   Advanced stats say the latter - in fact only 2 offenses made the top 30 in the country via FEI; OSU and MSU.  Some Big 10 teams in the West avoided both those offenses, and others only played 1.  So you could in theory go through your conf slate playing 0 or 1 of the top 30 offenses in the country.  Wisconsin's 1 dimensional offense was 33, and then you have to drop to 50 to find another Big 10 team.  It's was an awful year save for a few teams on that side of the ball.  And advanced stats say only Wisconsin and PSU had anywhere near elite defenses - and you saw what OSU did to Wisconsin.

So with run heavy schemes without Jeff George, Chuck Long, Drew Brees (hell Kyle Orton) types populating mid level teams in the league (and of course those schools wont have that type of QB every year), Big 10 defenses have feasted.  Or at least that is my opinion so I thought I'd use advanced stats to compare the major conferences.

Below is a comparison chart of 7 teams comparing FEI offensive stats of their conference only schedule in 2014.  The lower the average rank, the better the average offense faced.  I've created a pool of 2 Big 10 teams (one from the East, one from the West), 2 SEC teams (one from the much tougher West, one from the East), and then 1 team from the other 3 power 5 conferences.  I chose mid level type teams (excl Michigan which had 5 wins) of 7-9 wins on average to try to compare similar teams from each conference in 2014.  Not the top teams, not the bottom teams....

This led me to: Nebraska, LSU, Tennessee, Louisville, West Virginia, Utah -along with control group Michigan.

My theories going into this were:

  1. The Pac 12 features the most NFL arms and prolific offenses so their defenses would be most stressed and thus a high defense ranking in that conf actually means something.
  2. The Big 10 and ACC would both suffer from a lot of mediocre offenses and thus their defenses (per NCAA stats) would be overinflated.
  3. The Big 12 rank in terms of opponent offensive rank would be closer to the Pac 12 although the struggles of Texas would hurt.
  4. The SEC West would rank very well, somewhere near the Big 12 while the SEC East would be hurt by the brutal (Michigan/PSU like) Florida offense

These are obviously 1 year data points specific to any 1 team (or 2 teams) in a conference (picking another team would give some variability) but I do think by and large they would hold up over the past half decade to give us a general trend (Obviously the Big 12 has changed body count over that time frame as has the Big 10 and SEC).

The Rankings Unadjusted

Let's see what the data told us (the # to the right of each team is their offensive FEI rank - lower = stronger)  UM was 82 for comparison.

UM   Neb   LSU   TN  
Minn 50 Ill 67 Miss State 20 Georgia 9
Rutgers 66 MSU 14 Auburn 2 UF 97
PSU 101 NW 81 UF 97 Ole Miss 46
MSU 14 Rutgers 66 UK 75 Bama 5
Indiana 92 Purdue 89 Ole Miss 46 SC 4
NW 81 Wisc 33 Bama 5 UK 75
MD 52 Minn 50 Ark 28 Missouri 48
OSU 7 Iowa 53 A&M 24 Vandy 121
  463   453   297   405
Ave Rank 57.9   56.6   37.1   50.6


Louisville   West Virginia   Utah  
Virginia 68 OK 18 WSU 35
Wake Forest 115 Kansas 118 UCLA 6
Syracuse 113 Texas Tech 34 OSU 47
Clemson 61 Baylor 11 USC 26
NC State 38 OK St 70 ASU 16
FSU 8 TCU 22 Oregon 3
BC 17 Texas 108 Stanford 44
ND 21 KSU 15 Arizona 23
    ISU 55 Colo 56
  441   451   256
Ave Rank 49.0   50.1   32.0


What does this data set say?

  • As predicted in theory 1, Utah had the most onerous schedule.  Pac 12 offenses are very good - they only faced ONE offense with a rank outside the FEI top 48.  Again there are only 3 teams in the entire Big 10 with a ranking inside the top 48. Week in and week out - its brutal and the 32.0 ranking clears the field.  (of course a cynic could say Pac 12 defenses are bad and Pac 12 offenses feast on bad defenses but I'd say the eye test disagrees - the Pac 12 offenses put a ton of pressure on you with a lot of pass oriented spread teams).
  • As predicted in theory 2, Big 10 defenses had a huge advantage as the 57.9 opponent rank for UM and 56.6 for Nebraska were far and away the worst readings out of all 7 teams.   And for all the talk of the how weak the Big 10 West is, the Big 10 East had even worse offensive outputs via FEI.  But its very close - any defense in the conference had a much easier time than in any other conference.
  • I was wrong in theory 2 about the ACC, I thought their offenses were as bad as the Big 10s.  In fact they were right on par (with Louisville's 49.0) to the SEC East, and the Big 12.
  • I was wrong about theory 3, than the Big 12 would be closer to the Pac 12 then not.  The offenses in that conf were not dissimilar to the ACC, and SEC East.  But part of that is due to both Oklahoma State and Texas having really bad offenses so it's a bit of an outlier this year.  More on that later.
  • I was correct on theory 4, the SEC West had the 2nd best offensive output - thus difficult on their defenses, and the SEC East was pushed down to average due to Florida.  In fact every SEC West opponent for LSU was in the top 50 - even better than Utah's opponents.  Surprising as we assumed this was a down year for SEC offense with a down year for SEC QB play.

The Rankings Adjusted

Now I decided to take this one step further and create an adjusted set of data.  What does the adjusted data do?  It simply takes a handful of teams above and puts them nearer to a historical reading - those teams would be UM, PSU, Clemson, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma State.  I also threw in Indiana to try to make Michigan look better :P and also to account for their offenses of late which under Wilson are usually decent...when not run by a true freshman model.  So I re-ran the numbers giving those schools a 35 FEI offensive rank.  That is not world beater but it is solid (Wisconsin like).  Let's see how the data changed.

UM   Neb   LSU   TN  
Minn 50 Ill 67 Miss State 20 Georgia 9
Rutgers 66 MSU 14 Auburn 2 UF 35
PSU 35 NW 81 UF 35 Ole Miss 46
MSU 14 Rutgers 66 UK 75 Bama 5
Indiana 35 Purdue 89 Ole Miss 46 SC 4
NW 81 Wisc 33 Bama 5 UK 75
MD 52 Minn 50 Ark 28 Missouri 48
OSU 7 Iowa 53 A&M 24 Vandy 121
  340   453   235   343
Ave Rank 42.5   56.6   29.4   42.9


Louisville   West Virginia   Utah  
Virginia 68 OK 18 WSU 35
Wake Forest 115 Kansas 118 UCLA 6
Syracuse 113 Texas Tech 34 OSU 47
Clemson 35 Baylor 11 USC 26
NC State 38 OK St 35 ASU 16
FSU 8 TCU 22 Oregon 3
BC 17 Texas 35 Stanford 44
ND 21 KSU 15 Arizona 23
    ISU 55 Colo 56
  415   343   256
Ave Rank 46.1   38.1   32.0


What did the rerank do?  It benefited the Big 10 East (UM) and Big 12 team (WV) the most as it rocketed up PSU - Indiana - OK State - Texas.   2 teams for each schedule - and in a 8 game schedule that is (math alert!) 25% of the schedule adjusted.   Louisville benefited from Clemson, and both SEC teams from Florida.   There was no benefit to Utah.

Results?   The SEC West moved ahead of the Pac 12.  A bit surprising because it felt like a down year for SEC West offenses.  But these are clearly the 2 most competent conference / divisions from an offensive standpoint.   Coming in 3rd was the Big 12 - which more fits my theory #3 above.  So I believe my theory that the Big 12 is a good offensive league is true in general but didnt hold so much in 2014 as Texas and Oklahoma State had abnormal readings.

The Big 10 East and SEC East would be more on par with each other if PSU/Indiana (and Michigan) and Florida were more normal rather than abysmal.   Then just behind them would come the ACC if Clemson had been a more typical offensive power as they usually have been under Chad Morris.  Then way way way at the bottom is the Big West - which would support the case the Big 10 West sucks if UM and PSU can ever find their way.  But for the purpose of this exercise - even adjusting to "normal times" for PSU and UM, and a Kevin Wilson Indiana the typical Big 10 defense is going to have the easiest time out there- and hence their stats are going to be inflated via's stats.  Throw in their normal foray into the offensive juggernauts of the MAC in their non conf schedules and it gets even more slanted for Big 10 defenses.  As expected the ACC would not be too far behind the Big 10 in a "normalized" environment. 

The other 3 conferences are on a different plane, esp the SEC West and Pac 12 in terms of offenses and their defenses suffer.  Or put another way - if your defense is performing in those conferences / divisions they have really earned it. 

Or if you are a Big 10 apologist you can just yell they dont play no stinking defense in the SEC or Pac 12....  Or you could also blame cold weather for bad offenses and bad passing attacks but teams in Boston, Columbus, East Lansing, West Lafayette (in the Tiller years), Ann Arbor (in the Carr years), South Bend, et al seem to be able to run nice offenses even in northern climates so I dont buy the excuse.  Lack of good QBs is more the issue.

Before looking at this I felt UM disappointed on defense last year relative to expectations - despite their "top 10!!!" ranking.  Now - adjusting for what appears to be the easiest set of offenses faced in 2014 in any conference / division it makes it even more disappointing considering a relative good amount of talent and experience on that defense.  Most advanced stats only had the defense around #40ish in the country despite an array of mediocre offenses faced.  Going forward, it is worth keeping this sort of data in mind when comparing conference defensive achievement - the Big 10 (and ACC) defenses seem to have a quite clear advantage.



May 30th, 2015 at 1:06 PM ^

Let me preface this by saying that I do think that Michigan's defense was not a top 10 unit last year. However, I also think they were better than 40. 

That is because, the one issue that I have always found with this line of reasoning is that it is a classic chicken-egg problem. Are the offenses in the PAC 12 that much better, or are their defenses just that much worse? Yes, there are great offenses in the PAC, but OSU and Wiscy both had great offenses too. Just look at the bowl games. In those games, 4 teams (OSU twice, MSU, Rutgers, and Nebraska) scored 40+ points; 2 (PSU, Wiscy) scored 30+; and Iowa scored 28. You don't need to have a great QB to have a great offense, even though it certainly helps. Wisconsin's system, for instance, does not need a first round QB to be great. Basing everything off of one offensive position and perception of offenses by conference can lead to problems with confirmation bias. In this line of thought the offenses are great or bad, therefore, the defenses are better or worse than they appear; however, it does not take into account whether the offenses are better or worse than they appear based on the defenses they face.


May 30th, 2015 at 1:33 PM ^

First, Wisconsin had a pretty good offense - in the low 30s.  I imagine if they had a good QB they would have been scary good  i.e. top 10.   They are one of the teams if you face and your defense stop them I give all credit to. 

That said, if I recall, the same Wisconsin which did well in a bowl was stymied by LSU when they faced each other in the first game - Wisconsin scored early and then completely fell apart.  Because they had no QB.  A real defense just focused on that run game and made Wisconsin horribly 1 dimensional in the 2nd half.

Second, I dont know if throwing away 12 games of data and basing everything on a bowl is going to tell you a lot.  Some teams go to bowls and have conditions where their head is not into it, their coach is about to be fired, the coaches take it more seriously (or not), the players take it more seriously (or not).  I am excluding the top 6 bowls but talking about a generic Rutgers v North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit MI.   By the way, North Carolina's FEI defense was: 114.  There are only 128 teams in Div 1.  Only South Carolina was worse among all P5 teams.  So what are we giving Rutgers credit for in that regard? It was worse than every defense they faced in the Big 10.

Rutgers played 3 good defenses - MSU, PSU, and Wisconsin.  They scored 3, 10, and 0 respectively.  13 total in 3 games.  (I think Nova was hurt vs Wisconsin but still)  Vs UM they scored 26.


I DO agree you dont need a great QB to have a great offense - see Georgia Tech's crazy offense last year.  And Wisconsin does it most years.  But my point is who is the 4th best offense in the league?  If you are telling me Rutgers or Iowa I am showing you what those offenses do when facing any real defense.  They are Rich Rod at UM like - light up bad teams, and once real defenses show up they implode.

Your point total for Iowa fails to neglect they lost by 17.  Teams tend to relax when they are up a lot.  Look at the box score - Iowa scored 21 of their 28 pts in the 4th.  Meaning they were down 42-7 entering the 4th quarter.  You see how teams mentally relaxed when they are blowing someone away like this.  I am pretty sure TN got some of their non regulars in there in the 4th too to get some bowl time.

And again I am not going to emphasize so much on these mid to lower tier bowls.  But Iowa was destroyed thru 3 quarters and scored a whopping 7 pts when the game was even somewhat competitive.

Roc Blue in the Lou

May 30th, 2015 at 6:29 PM ^

Agreed.  Certainly no Big 10 team belongs in the First College Football Playoff, right?  RIGHT!  And that's the non-sense we heard all November and early December...until January when the Big 10 actually won the damn thing.  Tell me, wasn't it Michigan that played O-State to nearly a draw, 2 out of the last 3 years???  This "Big 10 is way down" meme is getting old and just has a giant hole in it, as pointed out above.  If you want to compare the esseesee then tell them to stop playing sisiters of the poor and try, i don't know, say Utah or Oregon AT EUGENE, or Va Tech.  Hell, even Indiana.  Oopsie, Mizzou (yes, that SEC East goliath of the sec) actually did play IU and LOST!!  How about we accept the NCAA stats and let the playoffs decide which conference and teams belong.


May 31st, 2015 at 1:31 PM ^

OSU's FEI offense was #7.  OSU's FEI defense was #7 as well.

So because the league had an elite team the league is suddenly good?

Who was the Big 10's 4th best team.  Struggle with that for a few hours - I guess we can go with Minnesota. Who was decimated by TCU.

Would you argue the ACC was the top league or top 2 league in 2013 because FSU won the national championship?  Because that's the argument you are giving for a top heavy league - MSU and OSU and then to a lesser degree Wisconsin basically were competitive nationally.  Then a big drop off to a bunch of meh teams.  Almost a perfect parallel to the ACC in 2013 where you had FSU, Clemson and then sorta Duke as competive - then a big drop off to a bunch of meh teams.

Or would you argue that Boston College playing close to FSU close in 2013 proves there is not much difference between FSU and Boston College?  (that's your parallel to UM v OSU last year or 2 years ago)  Devin had a game for the ages in 2013 - it was Vince Youngish at his best.  An outlier.

Rivalry games are funny - usually the underdog, esp at home puts up a great fight.  MSU did it for years at home when UM was far superior in talent in the 70s 80s and 90s.  I am sure if you look over 50 years you'd see the same for Auburn v Bama or A&M v Texas or whichever rivalry one team has been down and the other is a prohibitive favorite most years.

Roc Blue in the Lou

May 31st, 2015 at 5:18 PM ^

I wouldn't say anything about Minn...that wasn't my point.  But, attempting to compare conferences statistically is not only fraught with difficulty and loopholes (thus, my mentioning the SEC's penchant for playing meaningless, no UTTERLY MEANINGLESS games in the non-conference, which enhances all their statistics), to the problem of claiming the sec west was so offensively dominant, but in reality maybe their defenses were not as great as all the talking heads said.  The point about Ohio State is not as you seem to think it--no doubt we had "one great team" in the Big 10--but WHO, REALLY WHO in the ESPN/Media crowd was calling Ohio State "great" at the playoff selection time????  Most decried the pick, and why, you may ask, because they played in the horrible Big 10, got beat by Va Tech (which is NOT a little sisters of the poor team, no matter how you slice it) and Michigan actually hung with them for 3 quarters.  It is precisely this meme of the overated Big 10 that was BOTH wrong about OSU and wrong about the overall conference.  Hoke was right about this one thing.  And we all know what statistics can prove--ANYTHING you need proven. 


May 30th, 2015 at 11:05 PM ^

Yes, the Big Ten isn't the greatest offensive conference.

But Michigan held Notre Dame to 280 yards all game. The score was 31-0 mainly because of turnovers. Notre Dame averaged 445 yards per game all season.

Michigan held Utah to 286 yards all game. Again, lost mainly because of turnovers. Utah averaged 397 yards per game last season.

These are not bad offenses Michigan faced. Good offenses that Michigan was holding well under their season averages.

If you're going to say the Big Ten has good defenses only because the offenses are bad, you should account for how the Pac-12 and Big XII are only good offensively because the defense are bad.


May 31st, 2015 at 1:07 AM ^

Blaming the loss of these games on turnovers is just wrong. 

ND was up 21-0 at the half and Michigan hadn't turned the ball over yet.  ND's TD that put them up 28-0 came after a UM punt.  Only the FG to make it 31-0 came after a UM turnover.

Utah's first FG came after a UM punt.  Utah started on their own 3 and drover 79 yds for a FG.  Utah's first TD came on a punt return for a touchdown.  Utah's FG to make it 13-10 right before half came after Michigan kicked off thanks to Henry's defensive TD.  Utah received the ball to start the second half and marched down the field to score a TD.  The FG to make it 23-10 came after Michigan didn't make it on 4th down in Utah territory  Only one of Utah's scoring drives started in UM territory.

Hotel Putingrad

May 31st, 2015 at 12:52 AM ^

although I have neither the time nor inclination to sift through all the raw data, the eyeball test said they were better than average overall but wore down from frequent turnovers and stalled drives by the offense. Their lack of a consistent pass rush ended up eating their corners alive by the second half. as others have posited, notions of "good offenses" are tempered by realities of weak defenses. For the upcoming year, I would expect better ball security ( and the Peppers effect) to result in better numbers and, the resultant record improvement.


May 31st, 2015 at 12:14 PM ^

could not sustain drives. Any defense will wear down if they're kept out on the field 70 percent of the game. Next season, the best way to help out our good defense, is for the offense to have more sustained drives and score more points!


May 31st, 2015 at 1:35 PM ^

Michigan was #40 in the country in time of possesion at 31 minutes a game.  That is not 70% of the game.  It is not even 50%.  It's a board meme that is incorrect.

Penn State's horrific offense was just as bad (in fact slightly worse than UM's in many stats).... and held the ball the exact same 31 minutes a game. 

But their defense was far superior in almost every advanced stat to Michigan's.  Somehow their defense didnt wilter under the duress of having to play 29 minutes a game.  (which is the same as UM's defense had to deal with)


May 31st, 2015 at 3:03 AM ^

During the NC game, the thing that definitely stood out most to me was the Oregon DL getting flat-out wrecked. They couldn't stop the run whatsoever and struggled to create much of any pass rush. The goons on the OL for Ohio St had them pinned from start to finish.

Generally I'd figure a defense ranked #14 (according to this site) would have to be pretty solid in the trenches - or at least good enough to still be mildly serviceable against OSU. But that's just my guess.

Obviously this is one little tidbit, although potentially a modest indicator that the PAC 12 might not have the most stifling of defenses.


May 31st, 2015 at 1:39 PM ^

Not if you are trying to determine the type of offenses each defense benefits from (or is hurt by) playing within their conference.

The idea was to compare what sort of offensive firepower an average defense from each conference faces over its 8 (or 9 week) slate


May 31st, 2015 at 5:40 PM ^

anyone other than the biggest B10 homer can admit that.

Look at the draft performance of offensive players for the conference. Lack of elite QB play (no first round picks since how long??) has stunted the offenses. As a result WR play has been medicore as well. 

OL is never a problem for B1G or RBs. But in modern CFB you can't be one dimensional or you get shut down (unless you run the option which I would argue is NOT one dimensional given the multiude of options per play). Too many B10 O's are one dimensional with no real aerial threat.

As a result, Big 10 offenses have been very very bad as a whole for awhile. Basically all but 1-2 teams per year (one being OSU and the other rotating) are very medicore on O.

To think this doesn't inflate traditional defensive stats is crazy. So agree with the OP that D stats for the cond are misleading. 

UM D' s have feasted on crap schedules since the late 90s. UM has held a bowl opponent to 21 points or less once since he NC season (Hokes Sugar bowl vs a bad VT team). UM wins bowl games when it can put up big offensive numbers bc come bowl games vs good non-B10 schools the D comes back to earth (statistically).



May 31st, 2015 at 5:53 PM ^

I think B10 Ds are better than avg as they usualy tackle well and are not afraid to play physical.

For that I never expect B10 O's to put B12 or some Pac12 type offensive statistics. But I think the B10 as a whole can make that next step to challenge the SEC only if they get better QB play and as a result aerial attack to balane out historically strong OL and RB play. You can't be 1 dimensional first stacked SEC teams.

OSU won the title bc they had a GREAT running game AND their QBs could make teams pay for cheating against the Run. Most B10 bowl teams (let along the whole conf) couldn't do that very well as of late.

B10 currently has some solid QBs and as a result had a good bowl season. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new trend. With so many teams going spread nationally hopefully the B10 can get better pro QB prospects since their is less competition out there. I don't see the B10 going full on spread anytime soon. At least not outside of OSU and IU.


Roc Blue in the Lou

May 31st, 2015 at 6:57 PM ^

Yes and all the teams with speed are in the PAC 12 and the grand generalizations there.  Funny thing, Urban the Great Liar Meyer found a way to win against the superfast Oregon team with his 3rd string QB.  And remember, lest you think OSU is from another galaxie of grand champions so far and above the rest of the poor Big 10 and UM, during Hoke's years, UM was not far behind OSU in the recruiting rankings--leaving aside the small classes--but WAAAAY behind in developing the talent and properly utilizing the talent (see DG wideout and Morris burned Redshirt) we had.  As to spread and such, Alabama won with a strong OL/Running game and an efficient game-managing QB...something Harbaugh seems to have also had success coaching.  Are we equal to OSU?  Probably not yet, but neither are we light years away like some of the negative nancys seem to believe.  In fact, I like where we stand--not just in the Big 10 but nationally--given JH and a little time to do the developing/proper utilizing he is known to provide.

Space Coyote

June 1st, 2015 at 4:11 PM ^

You take a look at FEI Offense to mark B1G defenses down. So do FEI offenses get to look at FEI Defenses to make them look better?

FEI Defense

7. OSU

9. PSU

23. Wisconsin

36. Northwestern

40. MSU

41. Michigan

42. Minnesota

43. Nebraska

53. Iowa

60. Purdue

Or do they get to use S&P+?

2. OSU

9. MSU

13. PSU

15. Wisconsin

37. Michigan

41. Nebraska

44. Minnesota

54. Northwestern

55. Maryland

63. Iowa

Either way, 10/14 teams were in the top half of FBS football teams. They had 3-4 top 25 defenses adjusting for the weak offenses. Michigan was a top 1/4 to 1/3 defense last year. That jives with the eye test as well.

This diary, to me, doesn't point to B1G defenses being bad. Worse than the raw stats the NCAA uses? Sure. But the B1G defenses are still one of the better defensive conferences. This post really only summarizes that the B1G offenses are pretty bad for the most part, which I think everyone agreed before.


June 2nd, 2015 at 6:18 PM ^

I love your stuff normally, so I dont want to sound like im taking a shot, but I can't seem to wrap my head around what this exercise is supposed to prove.  

FEI/S&P defense statistics are already adjusted to account for the offensive efficiency of the opponents faced by each defense so this doesnt seem like it would tell us anything not already baked into FEI.

Was the point to somehow resolve the difference between FEI and NCAA stats for Michigan (and/or Big Ten defenses in general)? If so, using FEI-ranked schedules in order to prove the superiority of FEI would seem to be putting the cart before the horse.  

I think you are trying to prove a point about relative strength of schedule - but you using stats that have already been adjusted for SOS and then ignoring 1/3 of the schedule that makes up the OOC slate.

I think that most people view Michigan's defense as somewhere in between the NCAA stats and FEI. My eyeball says Michigan's 2014 defense was somewhere on the cusp on the Top 25. Solid, but not "dominant" in any one area, and prone to occassional breakdowns (mostly from the DBs).

Michigan looked and played like a top 10 defense at times - but the regular end of half drives or other breakdowns definitely pulled down their average performance below what it could have been otherwise.