Haven't made a diary before, so, if this should have been a board post, feel free to let me know through negs.
I wanted to take a look at the situational matchups where we have substantial advantages against Penn State this weekend. For the purpose of this post, I will define that as being ranked 10 spots or more ahead of Penn State's ranking in the corresponding category (i.e. Their offense's Rushing IsoPPP vs. our defense's Rushing IsoPPP). All statistics and rankings come from Bill Connelly's S&P+ advanced statistical profiles.
The areas where we have have substantial advantages:
PSU overall Offense (13th) vs. MICH overall Defense (2nd)
PSU Off Efficiency (24th) vs. MICH Def Efficiency (2nd)
PSU Off Finishing Drives (50th) vs. MICH Def Finishing Drives (36th)
PSU Off Rushing Success Rate (18th) vs. MICH Def Rushing Success Rate (4th)
PSU Off Adj. Line Yards (87th) vs. MICH Def Adj. Line Yards (4th)
PSU Off Power Success Rate (127th) vs. MICH Def Power Success Rate (1st)
PSU Off Stuff Rate (118th) vs. MICH Def Stuff Rate (6th)
MICH Off Rushing IsoPPP (33rd) vs. PSU Def Rushing IsoPPP (47th)
MICH Off Rushing Power Success Rate (13th) vs. PSU Def Rushing Power Success Rate (104th)
PSU Off overall Passing (26th) vs. MICH Def overall Passing (1st)
PSU Off Passing Success Rate (32nd) vs. MICH Def Passing Success Rate (1st)
PSU Off Passing Adj. Sack Rate (111th) vs. MICH Def Passing Adj. Sack Rate (9th)
PSU Off Standard Down Success Rate (20th) vs. MICH Def Standard Down Success Rate (2nd)
PSU Off Standard Down Line Yards Per Carry (59th) vs. MICH Def Standard Down Line Yards Per Carry (3rd)
PSU Off Standard Down Sack Rate (47th) vs. MICH Def Standard Down Sack Rate (3rd)
PSU Off Passing Down overall (25th) vs. MICH Def Passing Down overall (6th)
PSU Off Passing Down Success Rate (24th) vs. MICH Def Passing Down Success Rate (3rd)
PSU Off Passing Down Line Yards Per Carry (109th) vs. MICH Def Passing Down Line Yards Per Carry (34th)
PSU Off Passing Down Sack Rate (120th) vs. MICH Def Passing Down Sack Rate (40th)
MICH Off Passing Down IsoPPP (32nd) vs. PSU Def Passing Down IsoPPP (60th)
PSU Off overall S&P 1st Quarter (23rd) vs. MICH Def overall S&P 1st Quarter (8th)
PSU Off overal S&P 3rd Quarter (34th) vs. MICH Def overall S&P 3rd Quarter (4th)
PSU Off 2nd Down S&P (31st) vs. MICH Def 2nd Down S&P (10th)
PSU Off 3rd Down S&P (24th) vs. MICH Def 3rd Down S&P (1st)
So, what does this mean? The obvious conclusion is that our defense is better than their offense! Hooray! But, where can we expect to dominate them the most when they have the ball? In general, our line will dominate their offensive line. Their line yards are atrocious. If they try a run on a long 3rd down they are doomed. In non-fancy stats, their offensive line has given up the most tackles for loss in the conference, so the advanced stats bear out. Another great sign for our defense: we have a significant advantage on 2nd and 3rd downs, and in short yardage situations. To steal from Brian, cackle with knowing glee whenever they gain less than 5 yards on first down. Power Success Rate measures how well an offense can "power through" for a couple yards on 2nd and 3rd and short to go, or short yardage to go to the goal line. Penn State absolutely must stay ahead of the chains against us, or they will die. This shows itself in normal stats again in our respective 3rd down conversion rates. Penn State's offense is 77th in the nation in 3rd down conversion (38%), and our defense is the best in the country at getting off the field on 3rd down (21%). Penn State will have to hit us with broken or trick plays, or large chunks on first down to move the ball with any consistency against us. I don't want to distort expectations, but I would not be surprised to see a similar offensive output from them as their effort against us last year.
Now for the bleaker side of the ball. Clearly, the advanced stat matchups above don't discuss the Michigan offense much. In fact, Michigan's offense has a 10 spot advantage over Penn State's defense in just 3 out of the 34 comparable statistics that Bill C measures. Interestingly, two of these three are IsoPPP stats, Rushing IsoPPP and Passing Down IsoPPP. IsoPPP measures points per successful play. Our advantages in these two categories tells me that, while we may not have many successful plays on offense, we will have chances to make the successful plays we do get deadly. That is, when Higdon does get to the second level, he needs to get big chunks or touchdowns. When DPJ does catch a pass on 3rd down, he needs to house it. We will have a few chances for big plays in this game, and we (obviously) need to make these show up on the scoreboard in either 7s or 3s. Our offense also has an advantage in Rushing power success rate, meaning that we should feel good about moving the chains in short yardage situations, or punching the ball in from inside the three. Bottom line, when we run, we will get push. When we break through to the second level, we need to get into Nordin's range, or into the endzone.
The winning game plan here seems obvious: Run the ball (with gap schemes) and kill clock. Shorten the game. Pitt tried this and had a competitive game until taking a bad safety. We obviously have to win this one on the backs of our defense, so we need to keep them fresh. When we do throw the ball, which should be few and far between, we should go for big plays. Then the X factors become penalties and turnovers. In the game with Iowa (which Iowa should have won), Iowa was +1 in turnovers and +65 yards in penalties (5 fewer penalties than PSU). If we win this game, I would predict that:
- We win the turnover battle
- We have close or lower penalty yardage than Penn State
- We run for 200 yards
- Barkley gets less than 130 yards of rushing and receiving combined
- Penn State converts less than 30% on 3rd Down
If at least three of those things don't happen, then the outcome is probably bad. If we get four or five, we can feel good.
The conclusion might not be anything mind-blowing, but I hope the defensive advantages and the few offensive opportunities from the advanced stats give some of the more pessimistic around here hope for Saturday's game.