Our Defense, Their Offense - numbers offer hope!

Submitted by mistersuits on September 30th, 2010 at 4:07 PM

[Ed.: Bump. As the OP notes, this data is still very shaky four games in, but the amount of improvement in the offense is so great it can hardly be a mirage.]

In my post the other day, Why should 2010 not be another 2009?, I looked at what our offense has accomplished in 2010 relative to what it had accomplished at this point in the season in 2009. It had two meaningful results:

1) This years' offense draws its potency from highly reproduceable, base set offensive plays, unlike the high variance scrambles and special teams play of 2009.

2) This year's offense is putting up far superior numbers to what they did a year ago (up 28%!!) against as-good or slightly-better competition (77th strength-of-schedule in 2010 vs 114th in 2009).

The Conclusion From the Former:

Our offense will come back to earth from meteoric numbers in out-of-conference play, BUT we have statistically significant evidence to believe that our offense will be far more reliable than last year due to depth, experience, and dilithium.

The Worry:

Our defense cannot stop any team that is executing, whether it's UMass or that-team-down-south. In other words, our wins and losses are going to be determined by how good an offense we face each week, and how well they execute.

Examples: UConn played bad (dropped passes, poor throws) and we stopped them. On the flip side UMass played well (good schemes, good execution) and they had their way with us.

Each and every Big10 offense we play is going to put up at least or slightly better numbers than their normalized offensive output.

So let's find out how bad it's going to be against us with a--

Chart of Infinite Defensive Gloom (after 4 weeks)

Rank Opponent N-PPG N-YPG SoS
1 osu 39.5 409.4 61.38
2 Wisconsin 31.2 381.7 59.93
3 Iowa 28.7 355.1 60.53
4 Connecticut 28.2 333.7 64.34
5 MSU 27.2 343.2 56.11
6 BGSU 26.6 310.7 72.20
7 Indiana 25.7 260.1 47.36
8 UMass 23.1 351.4 57.92
9 Notre Dame 23.0 426.3 75.99
10 Penn St 20.9 330.0 68.00
11 Illinois 20.7 294.0 62.24
12 Purdue 17.3 297.9 60.47
2009 Chart (requested by commentors)
2009 Rank 2009 Opponent Expected N-PPG Expected N-YPG Actual PPG Actual YPG
1 MSU 32.5 404.7 26 417
2 Wisconsin 30.7 402.8 45 469
3 Notre Dame 30.0 455.0 34 490
4 osu 28.8 366.0 21 318
5 Penn St 27.4 387.7 35 396
6 Purdue 27.2 383.1 38 494
7 Illinois 24.1 391.7 38 500
8 Iowa 23.2 336.3 30 367
9 Indiana 22.7 352.8 33 467



Normalized Offensive Output - The important thing we're doing here is not looking at the raw PPG and YPG of these teams because it does not account for how good of competition they have played. Four weeks in, the SoS data is far from reliable, but it is at least forming.

Our opponent with the strongest SoS serves as the baseline (Notre Dame with 3 Big10 teams and Stanford). In other words, these numbers estimate what all of these teams' offenses would have generated if they had all played Notre Dame's schedule thus far (Purdue, Michigan, MSU, and Stanford).

Strength of Schedule is taken from Sagarin rankings. (BGSU and UMass are going to have way-inflated numbers at this time, but I included them on the chart anyway as a reminder this is not a perfect analysis and as an interesting couple of data points to track as the season progresses.)

N-PPG or Normalized Points-per-game is taken from the teams average PPG with a SoS multiplier factored in to deflate numbers from playing bad competition and inflate numbers based on playing good competition.

N-YPG or Normalized Yards-per-game is calculated using the same SoS multiplier as N-PPG but using this metric will help us determine a less variant guess as to how offenses will perform (PPG is subject to wild variance based on turnovers and special teams).

I am only tracking our 12 opponents because the only thing that matters is the twelve games Michigan plays and I don't want to get depressed that we are playing Wisconsin and Iowa instead of NW and Minnesota.


This chart pans out as expected. That-team-down-south is the clearcut leader. (Michigan is actually second in N-PPG with 36.3 but FIRST in N-YPG with a staggering 494.5).

We see a clearly defined pecking order in the Big10 that matches very closely the general consensus: clear-cut leaders in OSU-Wisconsin, a muddled middle of Iowa-MSU-Indiana, and a struggling bottom of offenses PSU-Illinois-Purdue.

The exceptions are Indiana, which is trending higher up the rankings due to its offense, and Penn St, which was generally considered a top-4 team in the Big10 going into the season (but is clearly not the case with their offense).

UMass and BGSU will continue to fall down this chart as their SoS gets watered down with conference and 1-AA play.

Conclusions Based on Not Enough Data

NSFMF! Teams always seem to play their lights out when they play Michigan. Michigan's defense has a way of making teams look better than they are. Notre Dame for instance had their highest offensive output of the year against Michigan, operating at 125% of their average YPG.

If we take the MOST pessimistic view and give our opponents 125% of their offensive AND scoring outputs against us and only give ourselves 80% (assumption our offense slows down entering league play) of our average going into the Big10, Michigan ends the season 7-5 with wins over PSU, Illinois, and Purdue.

But remember:

Rank Team N-PPG N-YPG SoS
-- Michigan 36.3 494.5 66.77

If instead we give ourselves just our average offensive production going into this weekend - our Big10 expected record jumps to 6-2... 10-2 overall!! - with losses coming from Wisconsin and that-team-down-south.

Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in between 6-2 and 3-5. Would you take that outcome at the start of the season? In a heartbeat? I know I would.

It is going to be tremendous to watch this Michigan team storm into the Big10 season knowing that our offense only needs to hold serve and our defense can surrender season-best performances from every single opponent and we still have a fighting chance in all of those games!  And lest we forget... DILITIHIUM!

For now, I think we can look at this and add one more reason to the growing pile of why 2010 is NOT 2009! Get excited! Indiana here we come!

Prediction for Indiana:

Efficiency Team N-PPG N-YPG
125% Indiana 32.2 325

Michigan's ground game operates at MINIMUM of 100% our normalized average and puts up above-average PPG, but since we only score touchdowns we go to the next closest number after 36! Indiana plays their lights out and operates at 125% of their normalized efficiency, mostly through the air.

Michigan 42
Indiana 31




September 29th, 2010 at 8:35 PM ^

Even after working on stats HW all day, I still read that whole thing. Good thing I did, cuz it's amazing work, and it statistically bodes well for us. However, it still doesn't ease my stomach at all about B10 play, but I don't think anything will until the MSU game, simply because not only do teams play better offensively against us, but as we all know, every B10 team normally gives Michigan their best game.


Regardless, amazing work, again!


September 29th, 2010 at 8:42 PM ^

Indeed, I also have a hard time convincing myself we're going to do well in the Big10. If we can get to 5-0 that will be awesome, and if we can somehow manage to get to 6-0... all bets are off! I can't wait until saturday!

SC Wolverine

September 30th, 2010 at 7:11 PM ^

I was recently made aware of how many of my fellow alumni are still rooting for Rich Rod to fail so we can get a real "Michigan Man." Not only would this result show how misguided they are, but how they are missing a great ride this season.  As we enter the crucial B10 portion, I am nothing but impressed with RR in every phase of what he is bringing to the Wolverines.  A finish like this would be so sweet for him.  (As would a B10 title next year and a national championship in 2012).


September 30th, 2010 at 12:07 PM ^

we may improve enough by then, to surprise some people.

there is no answer to this offensive scheme, even now, so well executed by such gifted, hard working, team loving, great student-athletes.

5-6 more games of experience, learning and awesomeness, may be enough to get us some defense and some invincibleness

those two last schools should be very afraid

we'll see

in the meantime, like brian says, we will nuke indiana.

and beat msu, because we are a better team with a better coach and more solid and intelligent players.

then off we go. practically beat iowa with much less last year. penn st is down.

ill and purdue should both wear their brown pant uniforms.

go blue, mfer's!

UM Indy

September 29th, 2010 at 11:05 PM ^

that simply MUST be achieved in conference play IME:

1) Beat Michigan State.  No ifs, ands or buts about it.

2) Tear Purdue and Illinois new assholes.  I'm talking 40 point beatings.

3) "Steal" a game that perhaps we're not favored to win.  Iowa or Penn St.

Obviously beating Ohio State is incredibly important, but under the above scenario, we finish 8-4 and I think we beat IU so that's 9-3.  I'd be thrilled with that.

SC Wolverine

September 30th, 2010 at 7:06 PM ^

I agree with #2 and #3, but the really essential item is #1: we must be MSU. If we lose to them for a -- grrrh -- third straight year, the hot stove fires will get lit and if will hurt the key early enrollment recruiting decisions.  If we beat Indiana and MSU, then the hot stove is off barring a complete -- and then extremely unlikely -- meltdown and we have momentum through the commitments of Dee, Zettel, etc.  Don't forget, despite the excitement of this season and the joy dilithium has so far brought to our maize and blue hearts, this year is ultimately about next year.  And if we beat IU and MSU, RR will return and we will have an outstanding recruiting class.


September 30th, 2010 at 3:59 AM ^

I was wondering....  I'm way too lazy, but if you could do the same analysis for last year's team when they were 4-0 (excluding baby dolphin), what kind of results do you get?  And also, another minor nitpick is that based on the level of competition some teams have played (cough...Indiana....cough), I don't think we can definitively conclude that Michigan's defense will do worse than the opponent's current averages.

Other than that, excellent work! 


September 30th, 2010 at 4:24 PM ^

If we start 5-0 and finish 7-5 that would suck very badly and all of the fire RR circles will be begging for him to be fired.  We absolutely need to finish .500 or better in the big ten or else it's not going to be good for recruiting, the media, and our national perception.  8-4 was my prediction before the year and I honestly think now we could get to 9-3. 


September 30th, 2010 at 4:27 PM ^

to make a huge statement and hold this offense to under 20 points. I know its wishful thinking but how big would that be? Indiana has one of the best passing attacks that we will see and will be a huge test for our secondary!

Tha Stunna

September 30th, 2010 at 4:29 PM ^

I don't really understand how you're determining wins.  Are you just comparing the teams and picking the better team 100% of the time?  It would be much more accurate to assign some sort of winning percentage to each team, with a minor difference being 45-55%, etc.  The problem with just assuming the favored team wins is that a team which is favored to win all its games probably won't win all its games.


I do like your analysis however.  Thanks for putting the work for it.


September 30th, 2010 at 4:43 PM ^

I like the fact that an mgoblog user's statistical analysis predicts a michigan win by 11 points when the online spread yesterday (made by professionals) was 10 or 10.5. Legit.


September 30th, 2010 at 4:48 PM ^

Last I checked, the spread was 10.5 and the over/under was 75. that means that 42.75-32.25 would be a push in both. Rounding that out would give you 43-32, neither of which is easy to achieve given 7 and 3 point scores. 42-31 or 45-30 seems much more likely. I find it very interesting that your numbers seem to predict the same result.


September 30th, 2010 at 4:54 PM ^

was ahhhh!  the 31 points is what i dont like.  love the 42 but not the 31!  that being said i am impressed with those on here that take the time to do something like this for MgoFans enjoyment!  quick question, because i just wonder what goes on in the lives of those that post info like this.  how long does this stuff take you all to lay out and get typed up.  i do lesson plans and other work as a teacher and i am sure the vast majority of you have jobs that require a significant time of your efforts.  the little ceasars comercial with the guy in the black suit asking the little ceasars geek "how do they do it?" comes to mind!  GO BLUE


September 30th, 2010 at 5:27 PM ^

Great stuff, my man!!

Goodt luck in the Pick-4 this week.......actually, since you've looked into this game pretty deeply, do you have an Over/Under game suggestion for the MICH/IU game that we could use?

Congrats on the Babby Girl!


September 30th, 2010 at 5:57 PM ^

For a strictly unbiased O/U I'd have to stick with my numbers untouched (not giving Indiana 125%) and going with 62.

It's really hard to look at that and not be swayed by my biases against both defenses that are going to be on the field (And my desire to see Dilithium numbers).


September 30th, 2010 at 6:00 PM ^

Its the highest O/U total I've seen for a MIchigan game. And as an IU follower, they dont really ever stop good offenses, so I dont expect them to start this weekend.

I was wondering if during your research and thought process you've had on the game if there was a player stat or something you think would be good for our O/U game


September 30th, 2010 at 5:42 PM ^

Another great post, thank you.

I especially enjoy how your goal posts of 7-5 and 10-2 are the same that I came up with.  Now I will know to really light myself on fire if we win 6 games or less this season. 


September 30th, 2010 at 6:19 PM ^

I will admit that I don't understand much of what you did there, and I have no idea whether your assumptions are accurate, but somewhere between 7-5 and 10-2 (!!) looks pretty damn good to me.

Well done.


September 30th, 2010 at 6:26 PM ^

You say that our offense is perhaps better than the raw numbers indicate because the success is reproduceable.  I wonder if perhaps a closer look at our defense might give us more confidence as well since the numbers are skewed by a few long plays where our guys were in a position to make a play but failed to do so.  About a tenth of the yardage we've given up came on two plays against ND and BGSU (Rudolph and long screen).  On a play by play basis the D has actually been pretty solid in every game except UMass. 

Just from an eyeball test standpoint, the middle of the defense (linebacker and safety) doesn't appear to be the gaping black hole it was last year.  I wonder if a closer look at how the team is giving up yards would support that theory (or maybe I'm just grasping at straws).  It may also explain why 400 yards of offense is only resulting in 23 points a game for our opponents.


September 30th, 2010 at 6:29 PM ^

on the little one, may your home be filled with M victories for decades to come.

You have done all of us a great service. THANK YOU,  [golf clap, golf clap, golf clap]


September 30th, 2010 at 7:11 PM ^

A 7-5 or 11-1 record could depend on if we have enough time for a late winning TD drive.  I think several b10 games will come down to our offense having the ball last and sticking it into the end zone.  I just have this haunch that, other than OSU, most b10 teams will not have an answer to stop DROB (or Tate) and this offense. I think WI will be ripe for an upset when they visit us. Though we could lose a few games we should win.  The team seems to be a lot more mature where a mistake or two will not upset them, they will just recover and not collapse like last season. 11-1 and a BCS bowl!!!!  I can't wait to see how they play on the road at IU.  The defense may surprise us in a good way during this game.


September 30th, 2010 at 7:26 PM ^

Good analysis.  I may be wildly optimistic but I believe we have a chance to exceed even these expectations if our young defense improves as the season progresses.  Normally at this point you wouldn't expect things to change too much but our youth holds out that chance.


September 30th, 2010 at 8:25 PM ^

While I have been working hard to convince myself that 7-5 is the realistic goal for this year . . . I'm having a very hard time not believing in 8-4 or possibly even 9-3.  

This weekend is make or break for my dream season hopes.