Come Out From The Bomb Shelter Chicken Little

Submitted by Bielfeldt's Calves on October 18th, 2010 at 2:15 PM

This is a repost of an entry over at my blog:


So after Saturday's loss to Iowa it seems that most of yesterday and today in Michigan blogdom has been about keeping everyone calm.


Brian at MGoBlog rightly reminds everyone that our defense is young and our secondary is what it is. And In Rod We Trust tells us the we need to let 2010 play itself out and that the odds are very small for a repeat of 2009.


I agree with both. I think they have provided a logical argument for why we are where we are. If you've watched Michigan nothing that has happened should be a surprise. The thing that I found most surprising was that State actually handled us a lot better than Iowa. I also believe that State is the better team and, gasp, might be the best team in the Big 10. But it's too early and I'm waaaay too sober to have that conversation.


So why is it safe to come out of the bomb shelter? Well a look into the numbers and the upcoming schedule helps. But first I need you to concede a couple points to me.


First, our defense is what it is. It's not shutting people down but what it is doing is holding people to their average season output. Teams are scoring the most points against us, but right at their average. In both our losses thus far Michigan State scored 4 points above their season average and Iowa was right at theirs. To me the defense in those games did exactly what we should ask and expect them to do. Don't get blown out.


Second, our offense is good. We all know that we are ranked third in total offense in the country. Denard is pure Dilithium. The offense can still produce when Tate comes in. It rocks. Against State the offense put up the second most rushing yards, second total yards and gain the most yards per play that State has given up all year. Verse Iowa they more than double any rushing output by any previous Iowa opponent, gained the most passing yards, scored the second most points and gain the most yards per play. State's D is giving up 325 yds/game and 16.6 points and Iowa is giving up 288.8 yds and 12.9 points. The point is the offense performed.


Third, since the defense is what it is and the offense clearly can dominate, if we lose the turn over battle we will lose every time.


Fair? Ok good. Now the good news.


Michigan State and Iowa are #9 and #5 in the country in turn over margin. They are #3 and #18 in INTs. And they are #17 and #6 in scoring defense. Needless to say they are the 2 of the 3 best defenses we are going to face this year (with OSU being the third).


The remaining opponents in terms of turn overs look like this




























So the turn over battle over the next four games shouldn't be anything close to what we've just been through the last two games. Now don't get me wrong the defenses of the next five are good. But we've already proven against two of the top Big Ten defenses that the offense can still dominate.


Now let's look at scoring. With State averaging 34.4 and scoring 38 on us and Iowa averaging 34.4 and scoring 34, the defense is holding teams to their average output as we discussed above. So let's look at our remaining games
















So of those five only OSU is a better scoring D than State and isn't better than Iowa. So our chances of scoring at least 17 over the next four games is pretty good. And the likelihood that we score more in the 28 range is better. That gives us at least three wins if the defense does it's thing and the offense its, without the turn overs.


Now if we were even or positive in the turn over department of the last two games do we win? I don't know, but it's possible. What I do know is that until we get to OSU we won't see a defense of the caliber of the last two we just faced. And the next three games we face teams that are even or negative in the TOM column. That is good news for us.


Maybe, just maybe, the 2009 sky isn't hurling towards us after all.


M_Born M_Believer

October 18th, 2010 at 2:37 PM ^

I was working on the same theroy, I was just looking a more data to support everything you just stated.  Here is what I came up with in addition to what you already presented:

Here are the Offensive ranking of the next three games (I focused on these because I believe these are the most winnable):

Team          Rushing     Passing     Overall

Penn St.          85               70               85

Illinois              29              114             84

Purdue            27               104            72

What I see there are three teams that do not have good passing games.  For reference points Indiana is 5th(!), ND is 18th, Iowa is 30th, MSU is 47th, and UCONN is 91st.  So each of next three opponents have yet to demostrate they could take advantage of our biggest weakness.

In addition, I have been banging the drum the past 2 weeks that TOM was going to be a huge factor.  And that remains so for the balance of the season.  Given the data you provided, plus the information listed above.  I believe that RR will lean on his improving O-Line and run the ball heavily.  Taking advantage of the passing game off of Play Action - this is when it works the best.

Michigan needs to win at least 2 of the next 3 (I think they will win all 3) to fit right in with most fans perspective outlook on this season.  I went with 8-4, and I am sticking to it with them picking up these next 3 games. 

That means RR is staying.  That means bowling (Jacksonville here we come?).  That means finishing up what will be a sick recruiting class (Zettel, Walls, Crawford, Watkins, Jerrigens?, Frost, etc).  It all adds up to an improving program.  Not a finished product, but getting better.....


October 18th, 2010 at 5:21 PM ^

This post more than anything else has calmed me down about the next few games, at least as far as the defense is concerned.  I'm much more comfortable watching Michigan play against a rushing offense than a team like Indiana.  Although, UMass did put up a bunch of yards on the ground . . .

I think the old rule applies this year more than ever - the team that wins the turnover battle is going to win the game.  With a weakened defense, the offense simply cannot afford to turn the ball over.


October 18th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

I am not as rosy in my expectations for the Wisconsin game as the original poster - still a winnable game, but more in the same sense that MSU and Iowa were winnable if we executed our game plan.

Therefore, the next three games makes or breaks the season.  Between those three contests and the bowl game, we're going to need 3 wins to keep the progress train moving on schedule (recruiting impact, for example, minimizing the distraction of the RR haters, etc.)

Let's start with Penn State - potentially the most winnable game.  Illini made a game out of OSU and (for 3 quarters) MSU.  Purdue has managed to beat us the last two years with magic pixie dust and made a game of ND - you can't look past them at this point. 


October 18th, 2010 at 3:14 PM ^

is fun. It is even better when applied to what will happen to Michigan this season. Thank you for the post and logic. I live in PA and believe me the mood is grimmer than being 5-2 and having an offense that could conquer a third world country with a bad defense. Injuries, worries JoePa won't get 400 wins this year, rumblings of getting rid of JoePa, Freshman QB and his cursed arm, depleted OL, hoping to get some pieces back by the Michigan game on defense, and a plethora of other things.

I believe Michigan will win big, save implosion, against a injured and demoralized PSU team. They have to prepare for Minnesota this week while Michigan gets two weeks to prepare for them. The only thing in their favor October 30th will be it is a night home game/white out. So based on sane logic, I think we should be optimistic and putting pictures of kitty cats in slings on the post so we can all chuckle.

I would love to meet some of the Mgobloggers on here, I will be at the game and pretty sure I will be sitting in the Michigan section.


Enjoy Life

October 18th, 2010 at 3:21 PM ^

Excellent points on the TOs. If you look at TOM for Iowa (#5) and MSU (#9), they are better in TOM than future opponents.

The only caveat is that Iowa and MSU have benefitted from the TOs in the games against us. MSU was just #43 in TOs prior to the M game. Iowa was #18 prior to the M game.

Bielfeldt's Calves

October 18th, 2010 at 5:41 PM ^

I considered that when I was looking at it. Iowa had it's most turn overs against us, but MSU had two games in which they had more turn overs.

I considered taking out the Mich games from MSU and Iowa and then the best TOM for the other teams as well, but that didn't seem right.

I will say that from a total and scoring defense they are still better than the defenses that are coming up.

Blue in Seattle

October 20th, 2010 at 5:01 PM ^

I don't get the sense of taking it out.  It was a result of the MSU and Iowa defenses.  Or if you take it out, then why not take out all of the previous games and end up with no data?

Everyone sees turnovers for their offense as an offensive mistake with no responsibility on the enemy defense for creating the opportunity for a mistake.

So look at it this way, Indiana's defense is not as good at creating turnover opportunity than MSU, therefore the same risky throws that Denard made against Indiana didn't result in any turnovers.  So the data on TOM for the Indiana vs. Michigan ends up supporting the ranking that Indiana isn't as good as MSU in creating turnovers.

Once you accept this, then you should be able to accept the other rankings on the other teams.

Of course this is just a complexity on the simple coin flip logic.  Everytime you flip a coin there is a 50% chance of getting heads independent of any previous results.

But when people ask what the odds are that heads comes up 5 times in a row, of course we expect a low low percentage.

But what always blows my mind is that if you ever get to that moment when you've hit heads 4 times in a row, the next flip is still only 50% that you'll hit heads again, no more, no less.

And that's why this kind of analysis neither comforts, nor frightens me.  Because every game starts at the same spot, and only has two results,

W or L

Of course the football game is more fun to watch than coin flipping, but for some reason the end result is what's focused on.


October 18th, 2010 at 4:53 PM ^

I appreciate your level headed approach ... and generally, I agree with you. I've been sitting back and saying, "this takes time." I've coached football for years - primarily on the high school level. I get it ... to expect results immediately is assanine. It takes a long time to build a new paradigm - in more than just sports.

Though, I'm getting close to going over the edge toward despair, when it comes to Robinson and Tony Gibson (the DB and Spec. Teams coach). They are astronomically bad ... and I wonder when RR will set his loyalty (which I admire) aside. I think that GERG may be ok ... ok at best in being a coordinator, but I can't believe that he's better than Ron English. There's no way he's better than Ron English.

Yes, we have freshmen playing - who are well outmatched in strength, experience, and general feel for their positions. I get that - but this is Michigan, and it simply doesn't compute that these kids who were generally studs at good high school programs now seemingly don't know how to do a lot of fundamentally sound things. We're improving - I see a lot of good things on defense, but I also see a lot of things on film that look like our guys are confused in the secondary and a lot of things on Special Teams. That's not our guys' faults. I've learned a lot - have eaten some humble pie about it in my experience too - that when guys make mistakes, that's either on them, or we have to be willing to say that it's because they don't know what to do - or aren't sure. If kids aren't sure, then that's coaching. They may be sure what to do and simply can't do it because of strength or ability ... but if they don't know what to do, then we can't continue to say it's because they're young. We're too far into the season to excuse extreme confusion - and that's quite often what I see ... and I wonder if Tony Gibson is the best guy for the job. He has never really had a a great reputation for putting together strong secondary cohesion (even though he's had some good players) ... and here at Michigan, I think that cohesion is the farthest thing from what we see. RR has to say ... and I pray he does. Certainly Gibson has to go ... he just has to.


October 18th, 2010 at 5:54 PM ^

If you give anyone the following hand they will have trouble:

Guy #1-Highly touted, comes to campus, get's in a heap of trouble and is booted. At a time like this we don't need that.

Guy #2-Decides it would be best to go pro even though he isn't actually drafted. Whoopsie daisy.

Guy#3-Probably one of the better safeties to be recruited to UM, however he doesn't make it through admissions for one reason or another. Son of a.....

Guy#4-Highly touted, doesn't really seem to be interested in football that much, or he just isn't good, he tranfers. Bye I guess.

Guy#5-Got hurt last year, maybe isn't the same, however the depth chart has him competeing for a spot but he leaves for playing time........uh what? HELLO? Have you seen what is going on here. Good lord you would have been starting.

Guy#6-The leader, our one hope left for the secondary. Should be solid. He is struck down by AMSHG. You have got to be fucking kidding me.


So then we are left with:

Guy#7-Former walkon. He is slow and leetle. He does however have a ton of experience and seems to have a football IQ of 200000. You can live with one of him.

Guy#8-RS Sen. who used to be a receiver. He now is a defensive back who is somewhat slow for a corner and just doesn't have what is needed. Uh, he gon get burned.

Guy#9-RS Fr. who was just flipped from offense to defense. Seems to be a torpedo however his geometry is simple freshman geometry and all around he is a freshman. Don't blame him but he is a freshman.

Guy#10-All of a sudden this guy has gone from just having to be somewhat capable to being our shut down corner. He is OK in coverage however his tackling is somewhat shaky and he again is not very experienced.

Guys#11, 12, 13-All should have been redhsirted but since the depth chart is thin and crisy they are thrust into playing. Not their fault, for crying out loud they are freshmen.


I'm sure I am missing something but every time I read that or in this case type it, I can't imagine it would ever result in a decent secondary. I have a hard time blaming Gibson for all of the above. Also, didn't Gibson turn Ryan Mundy into an NFL draftee?


October 18th, 2010 at 5:22 PM ^

In August, I made three predictions:

Michigan nine wins

OSU two losses

Bama two losses

I have found nothing to make me want to change my original assessment so far.


October 18th, 2010 at 6:08 PM ^

great post, RR made it clear we turn the ball over a number of times were not good enough to get a way with a win playing like that.  Im excited for this bye week, get guys healthy, have our younger dbs focusing more on tackling and getting off blocks.  Recognizing the plays develop as well.  500 yards on a number 4 defense, 4 turnovers, costly mistakes here and there.  However still having a chance to win.  Gotta like that.


October 18th, 2010 at 6:56 PM ^

As a Detroit native (who like the majority of my neighbors moved away in the 80's) that lives in San Francisco, I have two teams I now live and die with.  Michigan Football and SF Giants baseball.  What has been amazing is that the last few years for both teams has been remarkably similar.  Two tradition rich teams going from perenial contenders to pretty much laughing stocks overnight.  Everyone here is familiar with the Michigan saga, so I just wanted to write about my SF fandom for a bit .

    With the Giants, Barry Bonds "retired" and a team that was completely built around him had to find a new formula.  The Giants brought in Bruce Bochy who had done an amazing job with a horrible Padres team making them competitve every year and even won the Division.  He was a well respected manager around the league but never managed one the "big" teams.  He was an absolute failure for 3 seasons.  The team had the worst offense in the baseball for 3 years straight.   All the stat wizards were calling for Bochy's head and GM Brian Sabean's as well.  They were obviously idiots because eveyone saw that the players were playing terribly.  It had to be the coaches had no idea how to coach and the Management had no idea how to recognize talent.  The team was horrible to watch, for a reason exaclty like watching Michigan is horrible right now.  One part of the team was slowly becoming the best in baseball, while the other side was mired with no progress.  The pitching was becoming dominant, the hitting was a joke. People wanted to trade Tim Lincecum for Alex Rios.  People demanded trading Matt Cain for Prince Fielder.  In spring this year people wanted heads to role because Johnny Sanchez was not traded for even a mediocre bat.  Tim Lincecum won his second Cy Young wining only 15 games.  How, because he was the best pitcher in the NL but some of the lowest run support in all of baseball.  Who had lowest, oh Matt Cain who has a record of 14-8 with 2.89 ERA.  The offense was a complete joke.  We had John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, Emanuel Burris, Fred Lewis, Eugenio Velez, Matt Downs......  A bunch of AA-AAA talent that we were forced to play with.  Trust me, watching a constant barage of 1-0, 2-1 losses is the exact feeling as watching the Iowa game. 

     But, I never wanted Bochy or Sabean to go.  I saw that if we just kept the amazing but young pitching staff intact and patiently waited for a few bats to arrive, we could build something special.  And this year it started to come together.  I really don't expect the Giants to win the WS this year.  But all the young pitching is here for years to come, and the offense is starting to come around.  By being patient, the Giants have built what looks to be a very special team that will compete for years and years.  There is hitting talent down on the farm that will add pop over the next few years.  What the Giants have right now I wouldn't trade for any other team in baseball.  And I feel the same way about Michigan.  Patience.  The high school kids playing D right now will turn into college players and the team will really become something special with the offense we have in place already.  Stay the course, because, oh man does it feel good when you've been preaching patience on the blogs for 3 years and the team did what you wanted and you find yourself 1-1 in the NLCS.


October 18th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

Yes, the offense accumulated hundreds and hundreds of yards, but the fact remains we didn't score enough points the last few games. I wouldn't say that's an effective enough offense. In fact, I was much more pleased with our D against Iowa than the O. Love Denard, but he looked very inept at times in the passing game. Hopefully this is not a trend for him going forward.


October 19th, 2010 at 12:49 AM ^

in themselves and the system they're running.  They're getting stagefright having to operate at the fringes of a complicated system.  They don't have the instinctive buy-in yet, where they just know what to do, rather than having to think about it.  Improvisation is a part of this offense, and they're not comfortable with doing that yet.

I'm looking for the moment when the penny drops, they "get it" and begin trusting their instincts just to do what seems right without thinking.  They're not quite there yet, but I saw signs that they're close. 

Once they make the connection, and going from hoping things work to knowing things will work, they will be come giant killers.  The mistakes will largely go away, and the offense will look like a proverbial well-oiled machine, chewing up yardage like a rototiller.

We're just this close to making that breakthrough.  I hope the 2nd half against Iowa is the start of it.  The week off to practice can solidify it.  If they come out against PSU crushing rocks, the world is going to seem a much happier place for the rest of the season, and seasons going forward.


October 19th, 2010 at 7:37 AM ^

Will be willing to overlook the massive offensive output of yards and point out he 7 turnovers in the last 2 games, not the almost 1,000 yards of offense.  Everyone is taking a sky is falling mentality, and that won't change until Michigan gets that 6th win.

Personally I think Michigan will go 3-2 in the last 5 games.  4-1 if they can keep Wisky from scoring non-stop.


October 19th, 2010 at 9:43 AM ^

That is why I love this site...level headed people that do more than just watch UM play on Saturday.

A loss is not just a loss there are dimensions to each loss there are positive and negatives about each loss that tell us about our team and where they are headed. I think given the talent on defense we are lucky to be 5-2 right now. We could very easily be 2-3 with losses to ND and Indiana. Could you imagine what would have happened if we did have our defense we were supposed to have...


October 20th, 2010 at 12:01 AM ^

.......of weeks: Our offense was basically stopped by itself. Those defenses of MSU and Iowa had very little to do with it. If our offense plays to it's stats prior to those games, at least one or possibly both have different outcomes, particularly because our defense didn't get roasted for more yards or points than the opponents averages. Both games, at one point could have seen us with a 14 point lead  sometime in the first half, putting pressure on the opposing offenses to perform.

Thanks for the analysis. Very thoughtful. The hope now is simply that the offense performs well in the first half as well as the second, and that our defense doesn't all the sudden implode into nothing. If those happen, I like our chances not only in the next 3 games, but against Wisky as well.


October 20th, 2010 at 8:08 PM ^

is that we are building a team that is great at beating bad teams. 3 losses to MSU and another pummeling by OSU are going to leave me jaded. I don't have alot of faith in this system. I can see us beating a demoralized PSU, then maybe Purdue and Illinois. Which means we are great at beating alot of lousy teams. Its like when the Lions would rip off four wins against the dregs of the NFL and everyone got all their hopes up. Does anyone seriously think this year or next Tressel is going to have a hard time game planning for the Michigan O?

I don't think we have great balance. We have a team with decent recievers, an amazing starting QB, a slightly above average line, and a tricky scheme. It works well on bad teams, it tagged a great Iowa D for alot of yards, but failed at getting clinch scores. And it isn't a real disciplined team. It relies ALOT on Denard. Looking to next year, assuming the O is as productive, we are still reliant on one guy. If Denard gets hurt do we end up like Oregon a few years back? Looking like world beaters until the QB gets hurt, then we are merely normal, if that?

With this high powered scoring machine, can they ever shift gears to ball control? What if the defense needs a breather, can they mellow out and go for an 8 minute drive?  Where are the lineman that can blast holes and the RB's that can pound and chew clock? Or take the offense over and let an inexperienced QB ride on their back and still be productive?

And even with more experience I don't see alot of raw talent on the defensive side of the ball that makes me say its going to be much better next year than it has been for this year or last two years. They play hard, but I've seen them pushed around and outrun alot this year. 

I see us developing into a team that is like an old school Ferrari. When everything is perfect HOLY CRAP! But most of the time things aren't perfect. And you're better off with the NSX.

Just random thoughts from a bummed fan.