Defensive improvement in chart form (UPDATED)

Submitted by dnak438 on November 13th, 2011 at 10:58 PM

Since the defensive improvement has been far and away better than anything any of us could have expected, I thought it would be interesting to see the extent of the improvement in historical terms. I collected data on scoring defense and yardage defense from Rivals as far back as 2003 to the present. Here are the results (click on the graphs to embiggen):

And, to compare the two data sets, I've superimposed them by representing each as a percentage of the worst historical performance (i.e., 2010):

The result is striking. Thus far, Hoke, Mattison and the rest of the defensive staff have turned this squad into one of the best 3 defensive teams in the past 9 years.

UPDATE: MGoBlog user Mat suggested that I look at our defense's yards allowed per play. I did some googling and found stats dating back to 2003 foryards per play. The following graph is based on statistics that only take into account performances against other FBS teams:

Which confirms Mat's impression (and ours) that while this defense is excellent we are not yet elite. That's not surprising given that it's year 1 of yet another defensive system and that we are starting two freshmen.



November 13th, 2011 at 11:19 PM ^

as someone who was very against the Hoke hire, I will provide my perspective. Once I initially calmed down (my friends say I was livid the day of the hire), I decided I would judge Hoke with each event scoring points in my mind. I voted yes on each coaching hire, yes on his recruiting, and yes on his press conferences. I initially didn't care about this, but I have since decided PR is an important part of the job. Finally, the most important thing was winning. And while the MSU game is a slight hit (they are good and it was on the road), it is mostly a yes on the 8-2 mark so far.

So if you are wondering what the people who think Hoke was a bad hire think now, then they (if everyone else thinks like me) have changed our minds and think it's a good hire now.


November 14th, 2011 at 2:36 AM ^

While I wasn't as down as Brian was on the Borges hire, I was hoping for a more spread-ish guy just to ease the transition. But otherwise I went through the same process - somewhat depressed the day of the hire, calmed down and then gave him a thumbs up for the presser, ecstatic with the Mattison hire, encouraged by the way he salvaged the last recruiting class, impressed with his recruiting haul over the summer, and then became a full believer when he starting selling night jerseys in Ohio. Never in a million years did I think I'd see that. But in seriousness before the season he had me believing in him long term and willing to put up with a dissapointing first year. He has exceeded my expectations so far this year (albeit with a bad B1G, and the most important Game still left).


November 14th, 2011 at 10:52 AM ^

I think a lot of those people were satiated when the $$ that was going to be paid to the DC was leaked and then further calmed by the name tied to that check. 

The fact that Hoke's resume was lacking will never change no matter how many wins he has.  And his support from all parties will never be as low as RR's was from day 1, and that is the unit of measure that will effect what we all care about more than any other factor.   So yeah, he has support and he is now winning, so the original question is quickly becoming irrelevant.





November 14th, 2011 at 12:52 AM ^

Our running defense was almost unstoppable that year. Going into the Ohio State game, we were only giving up 29.9 rushing yards per game. After the OSU and USC games, it jumped up to 43.4, which is still ridiculously good. We held our opponents to fewer than 50 yards rushing in 10 of our 13 games. We held Notre Dame to 4 yards, Northwestern to -13, and Penn State to -14. Crazy.


November 13th, 2011 at 11:41 PM ^

Vanished with the Mattison hire. I have no doubt that the offense would be performing at a higher level this season if Rich Rod had not been fired, but the recruiting class would not be as strong and no matter who he hired to replace GERG, he wouldn't have made this kind of defensive improvement.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:06 AM ^

As badly as I want this defense to be as good as the stats indicate, I feel like these numbers are in some way inflated by the ineptness of B1G offenses this season. We won't really know until the bowl games but I get the feeling that the B1G teams are gonna get blown out this year, especially if we end up with 2 teams in the BCS.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:17 AM ^

I see what you're saying, but I'd counter with the fact that this defense has had a few performances this year that wouldn't even have been remotely possible last year.  @Illinois, @MSU, SDSU, even maybe Minnesota.  


None of those performances would have ever happened last year.  The improvement is real.  Maybe the numbers are inflated a little due to competition, but not much.  


November 14th, 2011 at 12:23 AM ^

Do you have any data that takes into account the number of play or possessions?  It seems like the defenses looked worse than they otherwise might have the last few years because the offense was either scoring or turning it over pretty quickly.  Not arguing the defense isn't better, just wonder if those other stats would indicate the same change.


November 14th, 2011 at 12:36 AM ^

I got some data from Here are the results:


Opponent plays per game

Opponent yards per play
















So number of plays our defense is facing per game has gone way down (although it's interesting that most of the RR years aren't very different from 2007's defense). The number of yards per play is down from the RR years, but not by a lot. I wish had a deeper history so we could go back to 2003.


November 14th, 2011 at 11:08 AM ^


Yeah, I had the general sense that the '07 and '08 defenses were decent and that '10 was a train-wreck (obviously.) Those numbers kind of confirm my gut feel.  The number of plays does seem to be biasing it, but then again, bad defenses can't put get offenses off the field.

Yards per play is the most informative number IMO. By that, we're back to a 'normal' Michigan defense, but (presumably) still off from the elite level everyone wants.

Enjoy Life

November 14th, 2011 at 4:10 PM ^ has those stats back to 1998.

BTW comparing total season stats to stats after 10 games may not be that meaningful. Howeva, since M got crushed in the last 3 games last year and it is unlikley that will happen again this year, the comparisons may hold up.

Thru 10 games last year, M had allowed a paltry 5.9 yards per play (sarcasm).



November 14th, 2011 at 12:33 AM ^

Feel the difference between running a defense meant to confuse an offense not knowing  where the pressure is coming from, but NOT EVER BRINGING PRESSURE, and a 4-3 coordinated by someone who actually knows how to run said 4-3


November 14th, 2011 at 2:04 PM ^

Please e-mail to Hoke and cc his staff. Yeah for the D, and I hope Hoke gets an OC so he can stay. Way too much offensive talent to be sucking this bad. It is his job to win with the players he has. If it isn't working adjust play calls.


November 14th, 2011 at 5:05 PM ^

We're starting 3 freshmen, not 2.

It should probably be noted that 3 of the top 6 and 4 of the top 8 scoring defenses in the country are in the Big10. While there really are some good defenses in this conference, at some point the common denominator becomes bad offense. OSU and PSU don't have QBs, Illinois is a bit of a mess, even Michigan is struggling. Outside of Wisconson, offense in the Big10 is nondescript at best.

Mattison has done a great job, but let's not set ourselves up for disappointment if the offenses in the conference improve in the next year or two and we find our D seeming to take a step back.


November 14th, 2011 at 9:55 PM ^

I am not suggesting that the offenses we have faced this year will rival Oregon, but our defense is so much better than lass year it almost defies belief.  Penn State was and offensive embarssment last year until they played us and we magically made that walkon redhead look spectacular.  Illinois looked as talented this year as they were last year, but they could not run the wheel and spring a back wide open this year.  I know we likely won't play Wisconsin, but does anyone think that this year's team would allow them to run over us like they did in the second half of last year?  I don't care about the strength of schedule, we are dramatically better and I am thrilled for these players who have worked so hard and taken such pride in their work.