Iowa Preview

Submitted by The Mathlete on October 14th, 2010 at 6:07 PM

All numbers included in this preview are using my PAN metric, Points Above Normal. PAN is essentially how many points above an average FBS team was a team/unit/player worth. For reference, an average FBS is approximately equal to UConn or a top team from the MAC.

All games against FCS teams are excluded for all teams, as well as any plays in the second half where one team leads by more than 2 touchdowns or any end of half run out the clock situations.

At this point adjustments for strength of opponent are directional but getting better. Opponent adjustment is included unless otherwise noted.

Rush Offense vs Iowa

Michigan Off +8 PAN, 1st nationally, 1st Big Ten

Iowa Def +5 PAN, 3rd, 1st


Despite a season worst showing last week against Michigan St, Michigan still enters with the number one rated rush offense in the country. The tests don’t get any easier as Michigan will look to hold the title against the #3 ranked rush defense. Neither team has had a below average game on the season and both teams have put up multiple +5 performances, which are very difficult to come by on the ground.

Taylor Martinez of Nebraska may have taken the headlines for a week, but the season totals are not even close. Denard is the nation’s top rusher at any position with a +9 himself. No other player has exceeded +5.

Even with the tough Hawkeye ground game, Michigan still should be able to manage several points of positive value out of the ground game on Saturday.

Pass Offense vs Iowa

Michigan Off +5, 15th, 2nd

Iowa Def –0, 57th, 6th


Michigan’s biggest advantage coming in will be passing against Iowa’s defense. The Hawkeye pass defense hasn’t been bad, but it is about as close to average as a group can be. Michigan has had three great games passing and two that have been subpar, including last week’s 3 interception outing. Iowa has only one great performance and that was against Iowa St.

Michigan’s pass offense still checks in at #15, even after last week. Look for the Denard and the receivers to bounce back for a potential big day through air if Michigan can find even a little success on the ground.

Rush Defense vs Iowa

Michigan Def –2, 92nd, 9th

Iowa Off +0, 54th, 6th


Michigan defensive backs : Iowa running backs ::

We wish the answer was Michigan pass defense : Iowa ground game. But unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. Michigan hasn’t found a solution to slowing down the pass but Iowa has found enough of a running game to survive. You’ll notice no breakout games from the Hawkeye crew but they haven’t exactly struggled either. Adam Robinson has been –1 on the season and is the worst back left on Michigan’s schedule.

Michigan was gashed last week in their worst performance to date. Michigan can not allow another big game on the ground this week but luckily Iowa doesn’t appear to have the horses for a big day. Should be slight advantage Hawkeyes but hopefully not any worse.

Pass Defense vs Iowa

Michigan Def –2, 81st, 10th

Iowa Off +4, 22nd, 3rd


Stanzi ball has been transformed in 2010. After the pick six disasters of last season, Stanzi has become an asset for his own team instead of the opposition. Arizona was the only below average performance on the season and the other three games were all solid, consistent outcomes.

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt are the two primary targets. The two are combined +11 PAN on the season and their output is nearly equivalent to what Hemingway and Roundtree have done this year. The four are all grouped together at positions 5 through 8 in my Big Ten rankings.

The big advantage Michigan is that with as consistent as this group has been, they haven’t put up any monster games. Unless 2009 Stanzi makes a welcome appearance, Michigan should be glad to have this matchup end up anywhere less than a major victory for Iowa.

Special Teams vs Iowa


Over the last several games Michigan has done a good job of limiting their exposure to poor special teams. Iowa hasn’t done much of note on special teams yet this year outside of another poor showing in Arizona. I am guessing both teams would be content to let special teams play little to no role in the outcome Saturday.

Predictions Almost Certain to Cost You Money if Taken Seriously

Michigan 28 Iowa 27

There was certainly a correction in expectations last week, but as Brian noted, that doesn’t change the other data points we had. The defense is still bad, the offense wasn’t their usual spectacular selves last week but their resume to date is still outstanding. The offense is still #1 nationally in my rankings and the difference between Denard and the #2 QB nationally in my ratings (Cam Newton) is the same as the difference between Newton and #22, Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi.

Denard has very strong bounce back performance, this time against an elite defense and the defense limits two Iowa trips to field goals instead of touchdowns to provide the difference.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten

Michigan St 28 Illinois 22 – Another close but no cigar for [name redacted] against a quality Big Ten opponent

Indiana 35 Arkansas St 34 – Hoosier’s escape with an ugly victory against their best non-conference opponent

Purdue 26 Minnesota 21 – The schedule favors Purdue as the Boilermakers move to 2-0 in the Big Ten

Ohio St 23 Wisconsin 14 – And probably not as close as the score shows. Ohio St controls this one throughout. My numbers continue to place Wisconsin at the top of my overrated list.

Around the country

Auburn 35 Arkansas 28 – Cam Newton > Ryan Mallett. Newton, Martinez and of course Robinson all have big days and the rise of the mobile QB becomes the official theme of the 2010 football season until Boise St and TCU are 1 and 2 in the BCS standings and the world ends.

Follow me @The_Mathlete



October 14th, 2010 at 6:39 PM ^

Eastern Illinois #107 in total offense

Iowa State #93 in total offense

Arizona #26 in total offense (beat Iowa 34-27)

Ball State #104 in total offense

Penn State #88 in total offense

That is an awful lot of suck right there.

Iowa might have a great defense. Not enough data yet.


October 14th, 2010 at 7:20 PM ^

How come people say we put up big numbers against crappy defenses, but never say Iowa's defense is only good against crappy offenses?
<br>I remember we ran the ball very well against them last year. They had not allowed a rushing Td in like 9 quarters or something like that. But that didn't stop Brandon Minor from scoring.


October 14th, 2010 at 7:30 PM ^

Perhaps because your quant values yards between the 20's more highly than points on the scoreboard.  Iowa doesn't care how many yards you roll up between the 20's, duh. 

Or, the best run offense of the past 30 years is Paul Johnson's -- and they had one first down at halftime, in January.


October 14th, 2010 at 10:20 PM ^

We all know that rushing attacks aren't the same - and that an ability to stop a certain style isn't indicative of an ability to stop another. In 1998, Michigan's rushing defense ended the year in the top 20 rusing defenses in the nation - and gave up over 230 to Syracuse and Donovan McNabb.

So, yes, Iowa shut down an excellent Georgia Tech running game. But  I wonder if there's any data on how theymatchup against a rushing spread, instead of Georgia Tech's loadec backfield?

Wait - there is! Iowa surrendered 210 yards on the ground to Michigan last year. So why go all the way to the transitive property with GT when you have data of how Iowa "stopped" this running game - a running game that features a significantly scarier primary ball-carrier and an improved offensive line. On the other hand, that Iowa defense, that surrendered 210 yards, lost a 2nd round LB (Angerer), a 4th round pick (AJ Edds), and a 3rd round pick (Ameri Spievey).

Of course you know this. You're just too busy harboring a 3 year long grudge against Brian, and, oddly, Rodriguez, because Brian said something nasty about your favorite coach. Now, you're poorly cloaking it in a critique of the Mathlete, and making non-sensical and iirelevent points (I don't care if Iowa only lets up 4 points on the ground, Michigan put up 18 last year; the GT game is a poor daa point given our meeting last year). Go troll elsewhere.


October 14th, 2010 at 7:43 PM ^

a) who cares how many yards a team accumulates if they do not score?

b)  Iowa has given up about 4 pts per game on the ground since 2007.  I did the arithmetic last week, trust me, it's less than 4.5.  Feel good?

The Mathlete's model should reflect effective yards resulting in points, not yards resulting in nothing.  Norm Parker doesn't care how many yards you get, because he's just waiting for the field to contract inside the 20's.

Anyway, that's why they play the game, even on Mt. Olympus d/b/a Ann Arbor, and this effort at sabremetrics for football has a ways to go.

Obviously Iowa is coached by people who can't coach their way out of a wet paper bag*.  So you may be correct.

Denard is so extraordinary that he can win this game by himself.  Or Iowa can implode (cf. Arizona).  But if it's played straight up, it's still tackle football, and I would put more money on the team that doesn't allow points, than the one who can't count the points it does allow.

*You said it, December 2007.


October 14th, 2010 at 9:09 PM ^

but the stuff I put together suggested that in general scoring points follows field position linearly and then gets easier and easier inside the 20.  IOW, giving up a lot of yards between the 20's suggests that you lack the talent and/or discipline necessary to take advantage of the short field, not that you are choosing where to take a stand.  and that's not really surprising.  you'd see a lot more teams going for it on 4th deep in their own territory if defense were easier on a short field.  in fact you see coaches not going for it enough in their own territory.

...also, the OP says that Iowa has a crazy good run defense and an average pass defense.  not sure where you got crappy from.  but you also seem to think Mathlete is Brian, so there's that.


October 15th, 2010 at 6:43 AM ^

that it is Iowa's coaching philosophy that college football players cannot execute consistently and therefore they intentionally (attempt to) force teams to put together 12-15 play drives.  If you consider the simplicity of Iowa's offensive and defensive schemes (probably the simplest in the Big Ten, and in fact little changed in 10 years) this may become intuitive.  

Michigan is a profoundly dangerous offense because they are a big play *run-game* offense which potentially breaks the conventional model Iowa offers, which assumes that 4.35 sprinters with football skills are *not* touching the ball on every play.  Still, it's very plain what Iowa will attempt to do, and that is, again, force Michigan to run 12 consecutive error-free plays in order to score.  If Michigan can do that, they will win.  Against MSU they could not, which Brian's game review makes very clear: they simply had breakdowns that took at least 14 points off the board.  If Iowa doesn't force Michigan to assemble long drives, Michigan will probably win, though the outcome is less certain than it would be against a DI defense, which this is not:  Stanzi and his receivers have shown great flexibility and discipline this year.  (Stanzi's had one pick; the other one was a bounce pass off McNutt's hands.)  Iowa's offense is extremely efficient this year, even though we have only one running back and he is not a big-play burner.  Football Outsiders S&P+ ranking has Iowa's offense ranked higher (#4, nationally) than Iowa's defense (22).  Obviously, Iowa's defense suffers here from the same algorithmic bias that Mathlete is applying.  

Iowa consistently is a top-two deciles red zone defense because the pressure on the offense goes up once the field contracts, and the discipline that you say is lacking because they're playing assignment, not attacking, defense between the 20's rewards the defense.  At the moment Iowa is #1 in the country in red zone defense.  This would seem to better support my statement than yours.

In regard to the other fellow saying I was making stuff up, facts are stubborn things, and we don't get to make them up:

Since 2007, Iowa has given up 27 rush touchdowns in 43 games.  Saying a rush TD is worth an automatic 7, that is 4.4 points per game on the ground.  So that is not made up, is it.  Iowa is the only team in the country to not yield a rush touchdown this year.  So I understand that he doesn't care what the facts are, but those are the facts, and these facts point to the collision tomorrow between a premier defense and the most dangerous runner in college football.   

This year, as of October 9, Iowa is #1 in the country in red zone defense, #1 in scoring defense, and #2 in rushing defense, so perhaps my comments have some merit.  Mathlete says that Iowa's only "great" pass defense game came against Iowa State, yet somehow Iowa is only yielding 10.2 points per game.  The Mathlete analysis is not yielding insight.  The speed and joy with which you guys go ad hominem, however, may not make such objective measures relevant.  

Still, you might consider that Iowa's explicit strategy is not to win statistical contests between the 20's, such activity distorting Mathlete's analysis, but rather to win games.  (A contending team with "as close to average" pass defense is a team with a crappy pass defense, because average doesn't win championships.)  That means preventing scores, not preventing teams from throwing underneath Iowa's quarters coverage between the 20's.  Further, inasmuch as this is Iowa's best d-line in 10, and maybe 50, years, the spread between rush and passing yardage allowed is exaggerated.

In review, in any problem one must decide what objective one is solving for, and Iowa does not solve for absolute defensive mastery between the 20's.  Iowa solves for controlling the line of scrimmage, forcing offenses to execute long drives, being one of the best red zone defenses in the country, and allowing teams to run the ball into the end zone approximately .63 times per game.  Iowa averages about 8 rush touchdowns allowed -- per year.  That's why this game is fascinating to contemplate.  Something has to give.


October 14th, 2010 at 9:31 PM ^

b)  Iowa has given up about 4 pts per game on the ground since 2007.  I did the arithmetic last week, trust me, it's less than 4.5.  Feel good?


An average of 4 points per game on the ground is a classic BHGP made up stat to make the writer sound smart. Last year it was MICH did not have the ball on the Iowa half of the field in the second half with a chance to take the lead. Michigan scored 18 points (3 TDs) on the ground last year and this year is averaging 21 (3.5 TDs/game) points per game on the ground. So what should we expect? Based on my calculations since 2007 MICH is averaging 18 points per game on the ground against Iowa. Besides it is points per game that matters, which matters even less than wins or losses. I don't care what stat you have to offer in response. 


October 15th, 2010 at 10:52 AM ^

Hey welcome to mgoblog. Good luck on Saturday.

Your memory of statements made regarding Iowa coach's is startling. I tracked down the 'paper bag' comment and a comment likening coaching ability to a paper bag was indeed made in an item about Ferentz in December 2007 on mgoblog.

So that is either pretty amazing or creepy that you remembered that so accurately. Kudos to you.

Unfortunately, that is where the accuracy ends.

First, someone called the Mathlete wrote this diary item on which you are commenting. The Mathlete writes a lot on mgoblog but he is not the creator of mgoblog. That is Brain Cook. As you can see Brain Cook wrote the comment about a paper bag. So, when you write "you wrote" in 2007 you are holding the Mathlete accountable for something someone else wrote long before the Mathlete started playing a big role at mgoblog. This strikes me as unfair.


Second, here is the actual 'paper bag' quote;

"The opportunity represented by the Carr retirement is to take the program in a different direction. Michigan has stagnated, allowing Ohio State to pass it both off the field and on. Ohio State has better facilities, has won six of seven against Michigan, and has fewer disciplinary problems. The Horror was supposed to be a wakeup call inside the department and amongst the heavy movers; Ferentz represents the snooze button, especially if his hiring is contingent upon retaining certain key assistants who have done nothing to suggest they are capable of coaching out of a wet paper bag."

I admit it is a little confusing whose coaching ability is being compared to a paper bag but my reading is that 'certain key assistants' at Michigan (Mike DeBord maybe?) are the ones not capable of "coaching out of wet paper bag."

Do you agree?

The good news. And it is very good news indeed. Is that this grudge you've held so dearly and for so long due to this percieved insult is actually a big misunderstanding. Brain Cook (not the Mathlete, remember) was insulting Michigan's own coaching staff and not your precious Kirk Ferentz's coaching staff. Congratulations, at long last, you can move past this ugly scene in history.


October 14th, 2010 at 9:21 PM ^

Can you please find stats that will make me feel like we are going to win easily.

I was told I have high-blood pressure, don't know how much more of this I can take.

M_Born M_Believer

October 14th, 2010 at 11:15 PM ^

Mathlete, I respect the data analysis you do in predicting these games week in and week out.  And I can follow the PAN theory very well (makes since to me).  Being that I am relatively new to the board, can you tell me how you could factor in Turnovers into your analysis (Maybe a teams average number of giveaways compared to the oppontents average number of takeaways).

The reason I ask is because I felt that even before last weeks game, the difference was going to be turnover margin.  I actually thought that Michigan had an advantage there becasue they have done so well taking care of the ball to date.

I also believe that the Saturday's game will come down to the same thing.....Turnover margin.  If we stay even (or win the turnover battle), I feel that we have a very good chance.  If we lose the battle, then we will have problems.