How The Big Ten Is Doing Two Games In

Submitted by LSAClassOf2000 on September 9th, 2013 at 10:45 AM


We are now two games into the season in the Big Ten, and although the average of two performances is not a lot to go on and we are still trudging through the non-conference opponents, I thought it might be interesting to see where everyone sits on a few basic metrics.


There are in fact two teams that have now scored 100 points or more already, and yes, one of them is indeed our team. The other one is Indiana, as you might suspect, as their conference-best  108 points is bolstered by their opening week embarrassment of Indiana State. Those 73 points were followed up by 35 more points in a loss to Navy, so Michigan is in fact the only currently undefeated Big Ten team with 100 points or more (actually, precisely 100 points for us). The conference averages are below:

 photo Week2ScoringOff_zps4178ccb9.png


Well, if you’ve paid attention to the conference as a whole, then you know that this title goes to the team that has likely played the most lopsided matchups of all to date – Wisconsin. The two teams that I have destroyed by the Badgers combine for precisely zero points. Michigan would actually towards the middle of the conference right now, having given up 39 points for an average of 19.5 per game (over two games, I know). Current averages:

 photo Week2ScoringDef_zps03ddfb41.png


It is in this area that the effects of playing a largely unappealing non-conference slate are likely most apparent, and I don’t doubt that the numbers will moderate in a month or so. The current leader here is again Wisconsin, averaging a cool 602 yards of offense per game even against the stout defensive fronts of Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech. Michigan sits around the middle, awash in a sea of teams that are generating anywhere from 400-500 yards per game so far. Here’s how that looks:

 photo Week2TotalOff_zpsfd52a0fd.png


Wisconsin and Michigan State are within 20 yards of being the best teams in this arena right now, and it’s incredible considering the competency of the offenses that these teams have faced to date.  The top five here – in terms of the average – are rounded out by Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan in that order. On the extreme end of the spectrum, as scary as Northwestern looks on offense, they aren’t doing an awful lot to stop people right now.

 photo Week2TotalDef_zps765b6241.png


The two teams in the conference that you might expect to go to the ground a lot (and they do almost 70% of the time, at least in the past couple seasons) have been doing just that. Wisconsin and Nebraska are the clear frontrunners for rushing offense to date.  Michigan is in the lower half at an average of 204 yards per game.

 photo Week2RushingOff_zps8fabd148.png

On defense, the stingiest team when it comes to rushing is Michigan State, followed closely by Penn State and Ohio State. Actually, five teams right now – Michigan included – are sitting below 100 yards per game allowed on the ground, which isn’t a bad start at all. Average are below:

 photo Week2RushingDef_zpsfb205da0.png


The Big Ten has been doing a lot in the air in these first two games, with four teams coming in at 300 yards or more on average for passing offense. Nathan Scheelhaase put on a nice little show against the same Cincinnati team that pummeled Purdue and as a result, they lead the current averages in the conference. Michigan is a respectable fifth here:

 photo Week2PassingOff_zps70440762.png

When it comes to stopping things in the air, you might guess that – in the case of Michigan – Saturday sort of hurt the average a little, and you would be right. We are currently seventh in the conference in pass defense, but there are ten games left in the season (well, the regular one). The best team right now? Wisconsin, followed by Indiana, who of course played against a triple-option team last week.

 photo Week2PassingDef_zpsea883272.png


I shall confine this to Michigan specifically since this is getting rather long -

Michigan's ability to sustain drives ranks high in comparison with the rest of the conference. Although we averaging 23.5 first downs per game - which so far is a middling Big Ten performance comparatively - we are converting 59.6% of our third downs and holding opponents to a 41.4% success rate. So far, so good for the two games we have played.



I will just let you look at these – we’re towards the middle on both.

 photo Week2PuntReturn_zpse2ebbcd7.png  photo Week2KickoffReturn_zps21b08b1e.png





September 9th, 2013 at 11:28 AM ^

I knew the first few weeks of this would be comparatively "meh" when it came to stats only because of the competition, but the conference schedule should make these very interesting.

I also plan to bring back the AP Poll tracker for football - it would be similar to the series I did for basketball. I have the first three weeks already loaded. 


September 9th, 2013 at 11:33 AM ^

Interesting stuff.  Thanks for taking the time and sharing. 

FYI, second passing chart should read "Avg. Passing Yards - Defense - Week 2."  Right now both the Offense and Defense charts are labeled "Offense."


September 9th, 2013 at 11:44 AM ^

Good catch. Fixed.

It's timely too, because in the interests of making this less of a pain to continue, I have formatted the Big Ten stats page in the spreadsheet to mirror the format of the Big Ten site, so essentially I can cut and paste numbers to update charts automatically. Work smart, not hard, right?


September 9th, 2013 at 12:03 PM ^

Good stuff.  Obviously SoS should be taken into account, but it does highlight just how good UM has been and how the conference as a whole lacks a consistent offensive philosophy.  Wiscy is power run the whole way, OSU and NW are flavors of the spread, and UM is somewhere in the middle.  Oh yeah, and MSU's offense is sitting on the curb eating paste.


September 9th, 2013 at 12:07 PM ^

Just curious how scoring defense works. Technically Michigan's D has given up 32 points (or 33 depending on how you look at the extra point for the Gardner pick-6). Do stats people differentiate this for defensive stats? Or is it just team Defense. 


September 9th, 2013 at 12:13 PM ^

Very nice!  Love this stuff.  Thanks for pulling it together.

Open to a few requests for additional metrics?  Pretty please with sugar on top? :-)

  1. Plot similar metrics for the bell cow of college football -- Alabama*.  Just to see how the Big 10 is doing against them.
  2. Plot each team's offensive 3rd down rate and defensive 3rd down rate.  I have a pet theory about 3rd down rates being a really good single stat to indicate the effectiveness of offense and defense when it counts**.

Just suggestions.  Love the format as it is as well.

* I thought about suggesting the #1 team whoever that may be, but that would be more work.  I think it's relatively safe to say Alabama is the team to beat this year.  Of course, this week's game at Texas A&M may change that.

** It's not a perfect indicator ... I was thinking about this the other day when looking at the Arizona vs. Northern Arizona boxscore week 1.  UofA won 35-0.  But time of possession favored NAU 40:16 to 19:44!?  NAU was 4 for 19 in 3rd down, and also turned the ball over 3 times.  UofA was 4 for 10 in 3rd down conversions.  I didn't watch the game, but I suspect Arizona didn't face many 3rd downs because they were scoring on 1st and 2nd.  And NAU must have bent UofA's defense but then either turned the ball over or failed to make 3rd after chewing up clock.  Oddly, NAU went 4 for 5 on 4th down conversions.



September 9th, 2013 at 12:21 PM ^

The conversion items are definitely going in next week. I may post this week's in a reply here yet, but definitely next week. Part of this too - in the first few weeks - is getting suggestions exactly like yours. Thanks!

In reference to the TOP battle, there were a few games like that this last week, I think, where the winning team did not have the ball for a majority of the game. 


September 9th, 2013 at 12:25 PM ^

Thanks for this!  I would also be interested in seeing some tempo-free stats--I'm sure fast-tempo teams like Northwestern and Ohio State have numbers that tend to exaggerate offensive output and make the defense look worse than it is.  Likewise, our passing defense numbers likely look worse than our actual performance becuase Rees threw over 50 times on Saturday, but his yards per attempt were still pretty low, I think.

I've always wondered why yards per play are not the dominant measure in football as compared to total yards.


September 9th, 2013 at 12:29 PM ^

I'm not keen on the first two titles, but maybe that's the way it is in the stats. The only reason I even have this thought is MSU: The MSU offense scored 12 points against Western and 7 points against USF. The MSU defense scored the rest of the points.

Maybe they should be titled "Points For" and "Points Against"?

oriental andrew

September 9th, 2013 at 5:18 PM ^

I was about to post this very comment.  msu is averaging 9.5 points per game of scoring OFFENSE.  msu is averaging 23.5 points per game of scoring OVERALL.  So the scoring offense metric is flawed, or at least incorrectly labeled.

Similarly, I would imagine that the "Scoring Defense" metric includes defensive scores against those teams.  Again, perhaps it should be called Points For and Points Against, or actually exclude defensive scores in both.  


September 9th, 2013 at 5:21 PM ^

Actually, this is an example where a team sort of "breaks the system", I think. Someone asked for the tempo-free yardage, which is easy enough to calculate. Perhaps, thanks to the Spartans, there needs to be something like tempo-free scoring. 


September 9th, 2013 at 2:37 PM ^

Purdue is bad.

It's intersting that Northwestern was supposed to have a decent D this year, rumored to be one of it's best, and it's currently second to last after two games.


September 9th, 2013 at 2:55 PM ^

We know a lot more about Michigan now, but we'll get a much better picture about the rest of the league this Saturday.

Wisconsin travels to ASU (the heat, my God, the heat), OSU goes to Berkeley for their first road game against a team that should have beaten them in Columbus last year, Nebraska hosts #16 UCLA (who beat them in LA last year), Illinois hosts #19 Washington (who smoked Boise State in their opener), Iowa and ISU have a pillow fight to determine the second best team in the state, Penn State hosts 2-0 UCF (not the kind of game you can lose and maintain respectability nationally), and Indiana hosts a BGSU team that has won 9 of 11 going back to last year (looking to avoid back to back losses).



September 10th, 2013 at 9:15 AM ^

Below are the Week 2 point differentials, yards per paly differentials and 3rd down conversion differentials (3rd downs are expressed as a percentage here). These will become part of the main diary next week:

 photo Week2PointDiff_zpse33a1907.png  photo Week2YardDiff_zps9dd60dec.png  photo Week2ThirdDiff_zps7e9e625c.png