Looks like crap. Feels like crap. There wasn’t much to love about that game. This year’s game felt about as bad as last year’s felt good. Last year I expected Michigan to win, but not as handily as they did. This year I expected Michigan to lose, but not as badly as they did. The average game rating this week was 23.9 – not quite as low as after the loss to Michigan State, but close. Probably the only thing saving it from being lower was the widely-held expectation that Michigan had little chance to win.
Figure 1. Post-Penn State (Dis) Satisfaction
The more fundamental change in the wake of Saturday’s drubbing is Michigan fans’ sense of the season so far. With two losses and no real shot at a conference title, the season satisfaction index dropped to its lowest point to date, averaging 33.7 this week, down from 53.7 after the Indiana game and well below the 40.5 recorded after the team’s first loss.
The question now becomes whether this figure represents the eventual ceiling for the season. Taking care of Rutgers, Minnesota, and Maryland – a less sure bet than originally imagined, sadly – will placate many fans at least to some degree. Even if those wins look convincing, however, it’s difficult to see the season satisfaction index rising much above 50. Losses to Wisconsin and Ohio State to end the season, however, would almost certainly send season satisfaction plummeting to as yet unseen lows.
Figure 2. Week 8 Season (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
On the other hand, of course, the southerly trend in seasonal satisfaction displayed in Figure 3 would rebound dramatically should Michigan upset Wisconsin on the road, and a win over the Buckeyes in the season finale would abolish all sorts of demons. Hey, we can dream.
Figure 3: The Season So Far
Themes, Thoughts, Trends
As I have written before – and many posters have commented – fan satisfaction has a lot to do with expectations. Winning games you shouldn’t feels inordinately good. Losing games you expect to win…not so much. And as we are learning from the satisfaction index this season, fans are also highly sensitive to the margin of victory. Winning and losing by less/more than expected is closely related to people’s post-game satisfaction reports. Figure 4 updates the weekly satisfaction figures relative to Michigan’s performance versus the Vegas point spread. The correlation there is very tight (r = .87).
Figure 4: Against the Spread
Keeping Hope Alive!
At this point the fact that many fans have written off the season is both obvious and not very interesting. What is less obvious and more interesting is why 18% of the fan base hasn’t gotten the memo yet. Figure 5 shows the percentage of fans who are “optimistic” about the season, which I define as a satisfaction rating of greater than 50 on our 0 to 100 scale.
Unsurprisingly, early season optimism ran high. As long as the wins kept coming almost everyone offered some kind of generally positive take on the season. The first loss clearly separated the average fan from the truly optimistic 27% of us who were still keeping the faith. But what kind of genetically ingrained optimism is required to have a positive view of the season after the Penn State game? If you are one of those folks please let us know in the comments. We could probably all use some of what you're drinking.
Figure 5: Irrational Optimism?