Offensive Big Ten Football

Submitted by Jeff on November 22nd, 2009 at 1:24 PM

Pop quiz hotshot, who has the best offense in the Big Ten? If you don't know the answer or want to follow along with some simple stat manipulation, read and find out.

As usual, 12 data points is not enough to draw solid conclusions but if you didn't enjoy making statistical interpretations about college football you probably wouldn't be reading mgoblog.

Scoring Offense

As everyone knew, going into the OSU game Michigan had the best scoring offense in the Big Ten.  Unfortunately that 10 spot we put up drops us all the way to 4th.  How do we drop so quickly from 1st to 4th?  What it really means is that we are in the 1st tier of offenses and a virtual tie for 2nd.  If we had made that field goal (or gotten a safety) we would have been 2nd place in the Big Ten.

So how does the Big Ten stack up?  Well, Wisconsin is the best scoring offense in the conference.  Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State make up the rest of tier 1.  Purdue*, Northwestern, Indiana and Iowa are the tier 2 offenses.  Finally, Minnesota and Illinois bring up the rear.

Points per game Standard Deviation
Wisconsin 31.09 11.1
Penn St 29.67 12.54
Michigan St 29.58 10.93
Michigan 29.50 15.6
Ohio St 29.25 8.8
Purdue 27.83 13.27
Northwestern 25.08 9.88
Indiana 23.50 8.28
Iowa 23.08 9.41
Minnesota 21.58 13.84
Illinois 20.2 14.25

The main point to take away is that our offense was comparable to the Big Ten's offenses this year.  Would you have said that last year?  The other important thing to note is the standard deviation.  Michigan was the most inconsistent of all Big Ten teams.  Shocking statistical analysis there.  Isn't it a good thing we can look at the numbers to see things we could never have known by watching the games?

Cupcakes aren't a high fiber diet

Again as everyone knew, part of that number 1 ranking was built out of baby seal carcasses.  Michigan wasn't the only team that played a cupcake though.  How can we adjust for these blowout games?

Well, one possibility is to look at performance against average points allowed.  However, this takes some work and is already covered in great detail by The Mathlete.  I prefer a quick and dirty approach.  We take out the high and low score for each team to get more of a sense of what the consistent performance of the offense is.

Adjusted PPG Std Dev
Wisconsin 31.89 8.49
Penn St 29.70 8.92
Michigan St 29.30 8.56
Ohio St 29.10 6.67
Purdue 28.20 8.00
Michigan 28.10 11.33
Northwestern 24.1 6.97
Indiana 23.70 5.50
Iowa 22.50 7.01
Minnesota 21.7 11.66
Illinois 19.63 10.7

The only change in the adjusted points per game is that Michigan drops from 4th to 6th.  It still remains in tier 1 though, along with Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State and this time Purdue.  Northwestern falls more in line with the tier 2 offenses along with Indiana and Iowa.  Minnesota and Illinois are still tier 3, although Illinois should probably be it's own tier 4.  By the way, who wants to guess how many of the high scores that got eliminated were scored against Michigan?**

What does this all mean?

Everybody will have their own interpretation of these stats.  When combined with the eyeball test, I think that it means our offense has made a lot of improvement over last year.  It's not quite the offensive juggernaut we hope to see soon, but a lot of that could be explained by a true freshman QB and Molk's absence.  We'll see how much more they improve next year, but I think there is a real reason for a lot of hope on the offensive side of the ball.

* Purdue is hard to judge because it is basically in between tier 1 and tier 2.  There is a gap between the tier 1 teams and Purdue so I made them tier 2.  I probably should have included the Boilermakers in tier 1 though, as we'll see in the next section.

** Trick question.  Surprisingly, only Wisconsin scored their season-high against us.  Although, Illinois and Indiana came within a touchdown of their season highs when they played us.



November 22nd, 2009 at 1:42 PM ^

As you say, a lot can be explained by a true freshman QB and Molk's absence. Not having a healthy Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor for most of the season hurt as well.

I also think we're going to find out that Forcier's shoulder injury, which he suffered in the Indiana game, was much worse than we were led to believe. During the OSU game, the announcers mentioned that he was getting treatment from the trainers between series.

Lastly, Michigan had one of the worst red zone offenses in the country. The Wolverines were probably the worst in the conference at leaving points on the field.


November 22nd, 2009 at 2:11 PM ^

There were a lot of personnel disappointments this year. In August I had dreams of Minor and Brown in the backfield at the same time. The defense wouldn't know if the zone-read was a zone stretch to the outside with Brown or an inside zone with Minor.

Your last point is so true. While I was fightin to tame those freaking tables, jmblue had a great post with the numbers on our red zone offense.


November 22nd, 2009 at 4:01 PM ^

Link to 2008 stats

Of Note:

We finished 8th in Scoring Offense in 2008 and 9th in 2009 relative to the Big10.

We finished 10 in Scoring Defense in 2008 and 11th in 2009.

Relative to the rest of the Big10 we went backwards on both Offense and Defense. How crazy is that?

Turnover Margin number 11 in B10 -.62 in 2008 and number 11 in 2009 -1.62. Worse in 2009, the next closest in Big10 is Michigan State at -.88.

We averaged an extra turnover per game this year.


November 22nd, 2009 at 4:15 PM ^

My thoughts exactly...our O really was no more effective than last year when you look at points. Don't know about the red zone stats, but it seemed like we had a lot of opportunities we didn't use to good advantage, including yesterday.

Statistics, on occasion, can get you in trouble. Look at total yards for QB's who are on teams that fall behind and they have to resort to passing to play catch up. Add our several non-conference games to the mix and we have what seems like a great offense when, as M-Go-Bleu pointed out, we really had a very so-so offense from the perspective of our conference play.


November 22nd, 2009 at 5:04 PM ^

In conference play, Michigan's offense seems not to have improved at all. However, if one wants to find the silver lining, it is there in at least a few respects.

First, in non-conference play, when the team was healthiest, Michigan dominated the opponents it was supposed to dominate (WMU, EMU), and it won a rivalry game (ND). Last season, Michigan lost ugly to ND and Toledo, and even the Miami win was hardly a dominant performance.

Second, if you compare games against common opponents from 2008 to 2009, Michigan was much more competitive against MSU and OSU, while nevertheless losing. The PSU, Illinois and Purdue games were basically instant replays of last year. The 2008 Wisconsin game was miraculous, and nobody could have expected that to happen twice in a row.

Third, there is a core of offensive players that you can honestly believe will be better next year. In contrast, I don't think anyone believed that the offense under Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet had anywhere to go but sideways.