This week’s survey – based on 311 respondents – brings mixed results. Regarding the game itself, respondents felt very similar to the way they felt after the Cincinnati game. Fans rated their satisfaction just a tick higher this week than last, with an average index of 62.7 compared to 59.9 after last week’s game. The distribution of responses was also quite similar.
Figure One. Air Force Feelings
This first result isn’t too surprising: the Air Force script followed the Cincinnati script pretty closely. Both weeks featured a somewhat lackluster win at home over a team Michigan was heavily favored to beat. Both games saw the defense delight while the offense sputtered.
The only mini surprise to me was that the overall rating of the game was slightly higher, rather than slightly lower. In my living room discussions after the Air Force game the consensus was that yes, logically Air Force was a better team and we should feel somewhat better about the outcome than last week, but emotionally, the fact that the offense stunk for a second week in a row was disappointing enough to make us feel worse about things. Evidently, however, for most people the defense’s confident takedown of the dreaded triple option, Donovan Peoples-Jones’ punt return for a touchdown, and the #NordinForHeisman hype train provided just enough buoyancy for them to rate the game a bit more favorably than last week’s.
Nonetheless, there is clear evidence that last Saturday’s showing has people concerned. As Figure Two shows, people’s satisfaction with the season took a dip from last week. The average season satisfaction rating was 72.6, down from 77.2 last week. My guess is that the team’s performance against Cincinnati and Air Force has put a serious damper on any irrational exuberance people may have felt in the wake of the Florida game. There is no reason to believe that the seasonal index can’t turn around, but another game at Purdue like this one and my guess is the index will sink quite a bit (i.e. a lot) lower.
Figure Two: Feelings about the 2017 Season (for now)
Themes, Thoughts, and Trends
Some Like It Hot
Like last week, feelings appeared to run both hotter and colder on Sunday, and satisfaction with the game rose a bit in the cool light of the work week, though not quite as much (from 61.6 on Sunday to 63.5 on Mon/Tues/Weds). Unlike last week, however, there was no post-weekend bounce in seasonal satisfaction, which averaged 72.9 on Sunday and 72.3 on Mon/Tues/Weds.
Half Full or Half Empty?
If you watch a lot of sports (which I assume you do), then you are familiar with two important fan stereotypes. First there’s the Optimist, who believes in St. Harbaugh and thinks Michigan will go undefeated every year regardless of what the Vegas lines might say. And then there’s the Pessimist, who imagines all the ways Michigan will find to fumble away games it should win and thinks Michigan will never beat Ohio State again.
Most of us probably fall somewhere in between, but how many of us? Thanks to the data, we can now provide a scientific answer. Let’s assume that seasonal satisfaction is a pretty reasonable measure of a person’s general optimism. At the beginning of the season, optimists should score higher than pessimists on the satisfaction index, of course, but we would also expect them to rate individual games more kindly, worry less about losses, and so on.
Assuming that optimism is partly responsible for how a person views each week’s game (i.e. half-full or half-empty), Figure 3 suggests that optimism (or pessimism) has a powerful impact indeed. The average game satisfaction rises from under 30 for those with the gloomiest take on the season to 80 for those with the rosiest take. For the stats geeks out there, the R-squared between the game and season ratings for the Air Force game was .48. Of course, it is also true that each week’s game influences how a person rates the season, but there’s only so much we can wring from the data at present. Over time it will be interesting to see how seasonal optimism holds up and how its influence on week-to-week satisfaction evolves.
Looked at another way, of the 311 respondents, 78% (244) rated their satisfaction with both the game and season over 50. A whopping 0 respondents – yes, 0 – rated both under 50, while 16% (50) are short-term pessimists but long-term optimists, rating the game under 50 but the season over 50. And 5% (17) are very strange (to me) folks who rated the game over 50 but the season under 50.
Figure Three: Optimists versus Pessmists
Is momentum in college football a thing? Who knows, but I do believe that fans ride an emotional roller coaster that sure as hell has momentum. Figure 4 provides our first sense of what that roller coaster looks like so far (though admittedly I just ball parked figures for Florida, having senselessly failed to post a survey the first week of the season – let me know in the comments if you think I’m wildly off on that one).
The seasonal satisfaction is the black line; the game ratings are the gray columns. The big question for this Saturday: does our roller coaster keep swinging down, or is this the week the offense puts it together and sends us rocketing back upwards?
Figure Four. Michigan Fan Satisfaction Trends, 2017 Season