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.