Progress, Quantified

Submitted by Swayze Howell Sheen on November 14th, 2010 at 11:43 AM


Now that we're seriously into the season, I thought it might be time to see how we're doing as compared to last year. Some people around here like tables (called "charts"), but methinks charts are hard to read. In fact, that's why last year I started plotting the Hennegraphs and other related graphical views of data B. Cook has put together.

The Graph

And hence, a graph of some key offensive statistics across the first ten games of the year, for both 2009 and 2010:

Click here for the full-sized graph, which is much easier to read.

The graph plots a number of statistics across each game of the season. On the left are all the number for 2009, and on the right the numbers for 2010. The bottom-most graph shows points scored in each game; the next graph up shows point differential (how many points we scored minus how many points the opposition scored); a similar set of graphs for how many yards our offense accumulated and yard differential (yards gained minus yards given up) are shown above those.

I also took some liberty of moving the 2009 Delaware St. game to before the Big Ten Season so that the comparable games are in the same part of the season.


These graphs I believe allow one to make a few observations about how much the team has progressed since last season. And so I do:

  • In 2009, we were outgained in yardage, often significantly, in virtually every game against serious competition (the Big Ten team and Notre Dame). I think it is reasonable to make the case, and the record indeed shows, that we were just a bad Big Ten team.
  • In 2010, there is only one game like this: the MSU game. We have thus made a jump, at least to the middle of the pack, and possible higher (which the next two weeks will play a significant role in determining).
  • In 2009, a number of Big Ten games were quite close despite the yardage differentials. Is this a testimony to the fact that the team is actually pretty tough mentally, never quitting in games even though they were getting pushed around? It is pretty amazing how close the team was to having a pretty good seasonin 2009.
  • In 2010, in many ways our record is worse than our yardage numbers. This has a lot to do with turnovers undoubtedly, and is a great sign for the 2011 season.
  • Your observations go here.

A lot of this is well known and obvious for those who follow the team (i.e. mgoblog fanatics like myself), but I thought the visualization was a nice way to see the differences between 2009 and 2010. Certainly, it can be shown to any idiot who claims we haven't made much progress. 

Enjoy! And please do suggest other items to include on said graphs; it is not hard to scrape the data from the espn box scores.



November 14th, 2010 at 12:07 PM ^

is all the evidence we need of improvement.  The rest of it is great in depth analysis and makes me very excited for next year, but I'm just thankful that I won't need to use it when discussing my team with outsiders....all I need to say is 7-5.  Makes for a shorter, less mind numbing, conversation.


November 14th, 2010 at 4:06 PM ^

7-5 is all the evidence we need of improvement.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that last year's team could have easily finished 7-5.  Our games last year against MSU and Purdue could have easily gone our way, giving us seven wins.  This year, we're 4-0 in games decided by single-digit margins.  We can't reasonably expect that to happen every year.  One could argue that the difference between 2009 and 2010 is simply that we've had better luck this year.  A win or two in the last two weeks would help to more clearly demonstrate progress. 


November 15th, 2010 at 10:29 PM ^

With losses vs. Notre Dame and Indiana which would mean we would have a 4 game improvement this year (which starts to look more like progress).  So many what ifs.  And next year we could go 2-2 in single digit games and go 10-2.  I think the point that was being made is that we're starting to win close ones that we may have lost last year.  It's ok to be unconvinced until seeing a greater body of work, but it's also ok for one to have the line of reasoning that 7-5 is progress since, in some circles, only wins and losses count.


November 14th, 2010 at 4:36 PM ^

If we finish up 7-5 overall it would mean we went 3-5 in the Big Ten.  Oh yeah, with the three wins coming against Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois.  If you told any Michigan fan when RR was hired that we would finish 3-5 in Big Ten play in his 3rd (and best) season, I doubt anyone would have been very excited.  Besides, since when do we base Michigan's "progress" on 2008 and 2009, which happen to be our two worst seasons in over forty years?  Thankfully we have an AD who knows where Michigan has been and a plan for achieving real progress.  I'm pretty sure that 2008 and 2009 have nothing to do with it.


November 14th, 2010 at 5:54 PM ^

Here's what I could gather, make sure I have this right:

1) If we end up 7-5 for the year, then we will be 3-5 in the Big Ten.  Some consider 3 Big Ten Wins progress over 2008 and 2009 when we had less Big Ten wins.

  a) 3 wins > 2 wins in 2008

  b) 3 wins > 1 win in 2009

2) When comparing 2010 to other years outside of 2008 and 2009, then one may not consider this year progess. 

3) We would like more than 3 Big Ten wins.

4) We like the AD hire.  The AD, like us, likes more wins and will not strive for 2008 and 2009 win/loss totals.


November 15th, 2010 at 10:16 PM ^

I do agree with cali4444.  The point is that I was showing our commonality, and that cali4444 and MileHighWolverine's comments are both each his own.

So where you saw condescension I saw compassion for MileHighWolverine.


November 14th, 2010 at 2:30 PM ^

Just a suggestion, take it or leave it:

Maybe put the 2009 and 2010 data in the same graph?  Just something I thought of when comparing back and forth.

Great work though, very cool to graphically see the improvements.


November 14th, 2010 at 5:00 PM ^

With all the talk about the Defense and the youth on the team, we seem to overlook the biggest problem of all - no kicking game. The poor kicking game makes the offense and defense volnerable on too many occasions. The offense seems to move the ball at will between the 20's, but once in the red zone, there seems to be too many turnovers and botched plays. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the offense must either score a touchdown or there will be no scoring - no hope of a field goal. Poor Denard must take unfair risks because he knows that is the only hope of scoring any points. And even when they do score touchdowns, there's a reasonable chance we won't kick the extra point. And the kickoffs? We might as well put the ball on the opposing team's 40 yard line and save the wear and tear on our kickoff team. The poor defense, they are constantly being put in the hole as a result of poor kickoffs, poor punts or pressure produced turnovers. How can a big time program like Michigan fail to secure a super star kicker year after year? It is an embarassment. I watch high school football in Texas week after week and even the high school teams down here have better kickers than Michigan. What is going on?


November 14th, 2010 at 9:17 PM ^


                            2008             2009            2010
W-L:                    3-9 (2-6)       5-7 (1-7)     7-3 (3-3)
OPPG (Rank)    20.3 (11)      29.5 (4)       37.7 (3)
DPPG (Rank)    28.9 (10)      27.5 (8)       32.1 (9)
OYPG (Rank)    290.8 (11)    384.5 (7)     521.8 (1)
-PYPG (Rank)   143.2 (11)    198.3 (8)     255.5 (3)
-RYPG (Rank)   147.6 (7)      186.2 (4)     266.3 (1)
DYPG (Rank)     366.9 (9)      393.3 (9)    434.4 (11)
O3D%                 27.3 (11)       39.8 (6)      47.4 (3)
TOP:                    27:38 (10)     26:25 (11)  27:58 (11)
Big Ten Rankings are in parentheses.
another way of showing it, although i didn't go all techy with the presentation :)
basically, we've gone from Round Hole/Square peg season, to Freshmen QB, to Non-Freshmen QB!.
This year, we've basically beaten everyone we were supposed to beat. We've been competitive in games we probably aren't supposed to win (Iowa, MSU, PSU). Last year, with inexperience all over the place, sure, maybe we should have had a better record, but we couldn't put teams away. Whatever. Now, we are holding on later in the game.
For all you anti-Rich Rod folks, I'll give you this: Next year, we need to start winning some BIG games, or it's lights out. I am very optimistic that this will happen. If our Defense could improve to what would be decidedly middle of the pack in the Big-10 - 25ppg, and our offense holds steady, but improves in the turnover area, we should start to see some returns against the elite teams. With a new coach in there, even if the defense got better, there's not a chance in hell a first year coach running a new system puts up 37 ppg.
As for the Defense getting worse this year?  I think it's fair to say that Brandon Graham and a functional Troy Woolfolk = the 40 or so yards / ~6 point differences seen this year. Doesn't mean GERG shouldn't be canned, but it's an explanation for why it makes sense that we've gotten statistically worse.


November 14th, 2010 at 9:24 PM ^

plus: I think we win one of these last 2 games. All this talk of the season essentially being over is such bullshit right now. If we could play a game with no turnovers, or at least win the turnover margin against either Wisc or OSU, our offense can hang with them. IMO, wisconsin will be the tougher game. We shall see. But, as I noted on the stats chart above, we are 7-3. not 7-5.

have some faith, people. Let's just see what happens.


November 15th, 2010 at 11:26 AM ^

"we've basically beaten everyone we were supposed to beat."

Since Illinois, I've been thinking the same thing. We thought PSU would be better, and U-IL would be worse, and so the unexpected outcome in each case puts us exactly where the pre-season projections of 7-5 predicted (which can still be exceeded with another unexpected win).

From what I've been hearing here, from Brian on down, I get the idea that the problems on D may be, in some important ways, systemmic, and may require our AD, DB, to intervene with RR to get M the rest of the way onto the winning track.

Are there examples of successful programs where someone like the AD has had to over-ride or interfere with the HC in some kind of way in order to get the program to winning ways?


November 15th, 2010 at 11:13 AM ^

How about points/yard (mean would be around 0.1 or so?) for Blue and for the opposition. It would probably just be an indirect metric for turnovers or bad placekicking. Or maybe this stat already has a name like "red-zone efficiency." Anyway, I don't have quite the information-gathering chops to jump on this myself.