Defensive statistical charts, 1998-present

Submitted by dnak438 on November 14th, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Thanks to MGoUser Enjoy Life, my attention was drawn to the statistics available on This has allowed me to increase the historical depth of my analysis. (As usual, click on each graph to embiggen).

We'll begin with scoring defense, the strength of this year's defense. (I've removed the numbers from the WMU game):

This is incredibly impressive, especially given that this defense isn't nearly as good when it comes to yards per play:

Although the average yards per play have improved (note especially how much better we are against the pass), they are still not as good as the averages from the Carr years, which basically were 5.0 yars per play or better (excepting 2000).

Finally, here are the statistics for total yards per game. In order to make the curves comparable, I've expressed each as a percentage of the 2010 stastics. The drop-off is pretty intense. (Yes, those numbers from 2006 are right. Michigan allowed 43 rushing yards per game that year.)

The overall result is that this defense is (overall) about average for a Michigan defense during this span:



Average, 1998-2010

Average, 1998-2007






avg per rush




avg rush per game




average per pass




avg pass per game




average per play




average per game




Here is a link to my spreadsheet, based on the statistics from


coastal blue

November 14th, 2011 at 7:26 PM ^

I'd love to know what the biggest drop in scoring defense from one season to the next is. It's completely ridiculous that we've basically cut three touchdowns off per game from last season. 

Drew Sharp

November 14th, 2011 at 8:38 PM ^

I can't find anything that has complete historical data, but I did find it for data since 2000. 

Here are the three best improvements since 2000:


1)  South Florida: 2004, 34.4 ppg ranked 102;  2005, 19.4 ppg ranked 19 (from very bad to great)

2) Eastern Michigan (i know, right?): 2004, 42.7 ppg ranked 115; 2005, 26.8m ranked 63 (so from absolutely awful to barely mediocre, but's an improvement)

and by far the best improvement.........

Nebraska: 2008, 28.5 ppg ranked 74; 2009, 10.4(!) ppg, ranked 1(!).  WOW!!! from below average to by far the best in the nation.  FWIW, the 2nd ranked defense that year was TCU at 12.1.  


So, I'd say we compare pretty well to Nebraska.  I mean going from 104th to 5th is about as big of a jump as you can get.  Nebraska is as close as it comes I'd say.


November 14th, 2011 at 7:38 PM ^

Yeah, that first graph just looks rediculous.  Well, they all kinda do.  Our 2006 defense was disgusting, and the fact that this defense even gets to be in the same discussion is awesome. 

The coolest part is that although the 2006 defense had a ton of talent leave for the NFL after that year, we'll bring back all but 3 starters (not counting Woolfolk) from this D next fall and nearly every back up - Woolfolk and a few rarely used LBs are the only senior back-ups. 


November 14th, 2011 at 7:56 PM ^

We get a bunch returning, but losing RVB and MM is huge. I'm hoping that another year of coaching makes up for it, but I personally think the most critical players, after the QB, are the centers and interior defensive line. On the other hand, I think we have some talent there that could blossom given rep's and better technique.


November 14th, 2011 at 8:26 PM ^

I think Mattison will put a floor underneath our defense. I wouldn't venture a guess on ppg, there is too much that is happenstance (e.g. recovered fumbles) and how long they are left on the field by the offense, but with this coaching staff, I can't see us back to the days of players looking so lost in their assignments. The last few years, by late in the season, it seemed like the D looked defeated before they even took the field. I'm amazed at how they withstood the adversity and have shown such ferocity and character (and a willingness to learn) this year.


November 15th, 2011 at 10:47 AM ^

If we regress any, it will be only slightly.  After 2005 we lost Gabe Watson in the middle, and our defense improved by a good amount. 

I don't know who our DTs will be next fall, but the pool to choose from is solid.  Recruiting ranking-wise, it's probably the deepest on the team (which might say more about the rankings than our depth, but bare with me).  One of the likely starters is BWC, and we all know about his hype.  Two other candidates are Q Washington and RIchard Ash, both 4 star recruits.  Neither have looked like 4 stars yet, but both are young.  Ondre Pipkins is almost certain to get immediate playing time, and he's a top-50 four star, could even be a 5 star by the end.  The dark horse is Kenny Wilkins, another 4 star, who hasn't seen any play time or praise, but is still a redshirt freshmen and is probably still getting used to playing football at 280 pounds. 

That leaves us with four 4-stars and a 5-star to build a DT rotation from, and maybe someone like Chris Rock or Matt Godin becomes a pleasant surprise early in their careers.  This won't leave us with an elite DT group, but for the worst unit on the team, it won't be that bad. 


November 14th, 2011 at 10:56 PM ^

Thanks for the great graphic.  The tease is what was 1997 like?  In my mind, the '97 Defense was the best ever.  I only vaguely remember the '85 D.  I remember doing a briefing for a "presentation" in a class and the '97 D lead the Nation in every category.  Just unbelievable how good they were and how much fun to watch.

blue in dc

November 15th, 2011 at 3:02 PM ^

I think it starts to show, that even with all of the other issues, a decent defense would have made a world of difference. Looking at this in an incredibly oversimplified way (I'd be interested in knowing if the stat geniuses on this site have a better way to do this) you can start to quantify the impacts that a better defense would have had.
<br>If you assume that a good defensive coordinator could have allowed the same number of points per game as the worst Michigan defense in terms of points per game (2004 at 23.2) then assumed each team on the schedule scored that many fewer points and adjustbthe win/loss record, you start to see the impact. In 2008, that means teams would have scored on average 5.7 points less, enough for victories over Utah and Toledo, a 5-7 record. In 2009, 4.3 points less a game equals wins over Iowa and Purdue and a 7-5 record. In 2010, the 12 point differential nets wins over Iowa and Penn State and 9-4.
<br>If Instead of the worst defense 98-2007, we assume an average defense, things get even better. A 9.3 point differential in 2008 adds wins over Purdue and Northwestern. With a 7-5 record, the bowl streak and the winning record streaks stay alive. A 7.9 point differential gets us the elusive win over Michigan State and an 8-4 record. An average defense doesn't net us any more wins in 2010.