Taking a stroll down memory lane during the bye week to see how pre-season predictions stand now along with various nuggets of interest.
In my preseason post I grouped the season into four groups, Cupcakes, Just Don’t Screw It Up, Toss-Ups, Countdown Games (plus Nebraska).
Eastern Michigan and Minnesota coming into the Big House without much hope. Eastern was bad every year considered and only gets a slight uptick from returning starters. No points awarded for hiring Mike Hart.
Minnesota saw last year plummet below already-low-for-a-Big-Ten-team values and returning starters push them down slightly further.
Both of the cupcake games are in the bag. Eastern is looking slightly better than expected and Minnesota has inspired GopherQuest.
Just Don’t Screw It Up
Western Michigan, San Diego St, Purdue, and at Northwestern all seem pretty safe on their own, but there is only a 55% chance we go 4-0 in these four games. Successfully do that and a nine-win season becomes a more attainable. Dropping one or more will make it tougher to top last season’s win total in the regular season.
The last of this group comes on Saturday vs. Purdue. That game sits at 84% chance of winning, 1% better than preseason. So far we have taken care of the first three games from this group, a win against Purdue should is a must.
Notre Dame, at Iowa and at Illinois all place Michigan a percent or two below 50/50. 5-2 between these last two groups keeps us on pace to 8 wins. Iowa overachieved last year but is brought down to earth thanks to a depleted roster. Illinois is heading in the opposite direction after [NAME REDACTED] made one last run to save his job. Notre Dame is the highest rated of the bunch as Brian Kelly begins to purge the Weis ratings from the books. The Domers get the benefit of a strong returning group but are in the mix with Iowa and Illinois thanks to an under the lights meet-up in Ann Arbor.
The formula for eight wins was 5-2 against the previous two groups. Currently we sit at 4-0 here. Iowa has moved from 49% preseason to 62% currently, Illinois is holding at 53% from 49% in August, but showing signs of fading. Winning two of the next three would obviously guarantee eight wins and make 9 or 10 very possible.
Countdowns and Nebraska
To hold serve on an 8-win season, expect one win out of this group. Ohio has been the cream of the Big Ten for the last several years, but graduation and Tressel-gate have dropped the Buckeyes into the mix. Michigan State and Nebraska both saw 6+ point improvements last season and have a decent group returning. Nebraska should definitely be the better team, but they won’t have the luxury of home field.
Sitting at 0-1 from this group now but a real shot at picking up at least one and maybe two wins from here. Ohio is already sitting at three losses and despite only a single loss on the season, Nebraska’s projected strength seems overstated. In August both games were projected about 35% for Michigan. Nebraska currently sits at 62% and Ohio at 75%, virtually flipped from where we started.
All told, the eight win projection seems pretty safe. I am projected a 96% chance of at least eight wins. The coin flip win over Notre Dame and holding serve against the Don’t Screw It Up group pushed the 8 wins to 9. Despite the loss to Sparty, Nebraska and Ohio’s weakness has pushed that from a 1-2 expectation to a 1.5, putting Michigan smack dab between a 9 and 10 win year projection at this point.
Big Ten Predictions
2. Ohio St
3. Penn St
Drop Ohio St down a couple spots and everything looks about right.
3. Michigan St
Swap Nebraska and Michigan St and you have my latest projections, pretty good for the Big Ten.
Overall, the Big Ten is slotted third in my preseason conference ratings behind the SEC and what’s left of the Big XII
LSU and Alabama are the real deal but this is a down year for the rest of the SEC. Georgia is the only team outside of the big 2 that I have in my top 30 power rankings. Right now the Big XII sits atop my conference leaderboard, followed by the SEC and the PAC12/Big Ten. ACC is next with the smoking ashes of the Big East a distant 6th.
There is a lot of turnover in my conference champ picks. Only Alabama, Oregon, Boise, Toledo and Nevada carry-over. Oklahoma St, Michigan St, Clemson, Cincinnati, Houston, and Arkansas St take over for Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Tulsa and Troy respectively.
The three biggest overachievers versus preseason projections (+12 PAN vs projection) are Baylor, Oklahoma St and Temple. Michigan St is tops in the Big Ten and 5th overall at +10 vs preseason. Minnesota checks in at the bottom of the Big Ten at –11 vs preseason (which was already bad) and Michigan is #30 at +6 pts.
Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week
Goes to…Ron Zook and Paul Wulff at Washington St. Both coaches faced 4th and 3 from the opponent 38 trailing by 3 scores in the second half. Both coaches punted and both teams lost.
- Denard drops to #2 in Win Percent Added (WPA) on the season at 2.11. Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech holds the top spot at 2.17.
- Michigan’s offense has done more to contribute to wins than any other team. The offensive WPA is 2.61. Clemson is the only other offense above 2.
- The defense has been average in WPA, –.14, #63 in the country. Rutgers defense leads at 2.39 and the Nittany Lion defense is tops in the Big Ten at 1.63 games won on account of the defense.
- Michigan has dropped to #17 in turnover value on the season, producing 3 ppg of value more than average from turnovers.
- After starting slowly Michigan is starting to even out the field position disparity. Michigan ranks 71st nationally at –.06 points/drive difference vs opponents.
- Michigan is #5 in Red Zone efficiency with 89% of possible points scored on 23 relevant red zone trips. The defense is 31st, allowing 68% of possible points on 18 relevant trips.
- Denard is ranked as the 11th most value QB at +7 points per game (this adjusts for opponent, but not “clutchness.” WPA does not adjust for opponent but does adjust for “clutchness”). He is +4 rushing which is #2 behind Collin Klein at Kansas St. Robert Griffin leads overall with +15, Russell Wilson is second at +13.
- Jordan Kovacs is ranked #11 nationally in impact value, contributing 21 points on negative value plays for the opposing offense. Other LB’s are way down the list. Kenny Demens is #17 among Big Ten LBs at +9 and Jake Ryan is #26 at +6. Our DL hasn’t been much better with RVB tops at #16 among Big Ten linemen.
PAN (Points Above Normal), National Rank (Leader), Big Ten Rank (Leader)
- Michigan: +6, 3rd (Oregon), 1st
- Purdue: +1, 43rd, 6th
- Pass Offense
- Michigan: +2, 33rd (Baylor), 3rd (Wisconsin)
- Purdue: +1, 51st, 7th
- Rush Defense
- Michigan: +2, 32nd (LSU), 4th (MSU)
- Purdue: –1, 87th, 11th
- Pass Defense
- Michigan: 0, 53rd (Oklahoma St), 8th (MSU)
- Purdue: –2, 87th, 9th
- Special Teams
- Michigan: –1, 96th (Florida St), 12th (Purdue)
- Purdue: +3 , 9th, 1st
Purdue has special teams and everything else points to M. I do think that this could be a proverbial closer than the experts think, Michigan 31 Purdue 21