Rich Rodriguez after Upset Wins

Submitted by mgoBrad on September 16th, 2009 at 4:10 PM
One of the things really concerning me this week is our team's newly-raised expectations going forward. After Saturday's thrilling victory, I'm sure every Michigan fan started at the very least thinking about what it means going forward this season, if not discussing it with other fans as I've seen here in diaries and on the board. "We'll be 4-0 going into the State game!" is a common theme, and it does seem highly probable. However, after the Lloyd Carr era saw us routinely playing down to our competition and lose or make it close in our fair share of games in the "probable win" or "auto-win" categories, I can't help but feel a little uneasy going into Saturday's game against Eastern.

In an attempt to get a better grasp of what we can expect Saturday, I took a look at Rich Rod's teams' efforts in weeks following upset victories, going back to his first season at WVU. At this point you're probably wondering if there's going to be a


Why yes, a chart:

*not technically an upset, but relevant to our interests

As we can see above, RR's record is 7-3, and 7-1 if we exclude last year's disaster area/statistical outlier. The lone loss was the bowl game following the 2002 season in which WVU upset Pitt in the backyard brawl in the last game of the regular season, then fell to an unranked Virginia team in the Continental Tire Bowl.

It would seem, based on the data above, that RR has no problem motivating his team following emotional, upset victories. I would say the scenario most applicable to our current situation is November, 2003. An unranked WVU team knocked off their rival #16 Pitt in a huge game, and the next week climbed into the rankings at #25 and polished off a Syracuse team that would finish 6-6. Sounds pretty familiar, right?

As we know, Ron English's crew (Embrace the Process!) gave Northwestern a scare last week in their home stadium, falling 24-27 on a last second field goal. This is considerable improvement after losing to Army by two touchdowns at home in the opening game. However, with RR's track record for keeping his teams prepared following upset wins, and this year's team's hunger to erase the embarrassment of last year, perhaps I have less to worry about than I originally thought.

Go Blue!

A couple items I thought I might add to clarify things further:

- As we can see, our sample size extremely small at only 10 games, 8 if we exclude last year. This is largely due to the fact that RR had no upsets in his first year (3 wins against cupcakes) and after that his team was rarely an underdog. What this means is that this shouldn't be taken as gospel, but rather something to give us a gist of what to expect.

- The average margin of victory in the upset wins was 8.7 points, whereas the average margin of victory in the post-upset win games was 18 points. This is to be expected because teams in the former category should be pretty good (hence being the favorite against RR's team) so you would expect the games should be close, but is nonetheless reassuring.



September 16th, 2009 at 4:21 PM ^

One of the things that I've found most comforting this year -- in the Western game, no less -- was Rodriguez's ability to avoid playing down to his opponent when it becomes clear that his team is superior. This is (obviously) in direct contrast to Carr's later years (well, most years, really), and I think this might be another facet of the same mindset that led to the results you put together here -- Rodriguez doesn't appear interested in doing "just enough" to win, which (IMO) will lead to less situations where the opponent is given the opportunity to do "just enough" to beat Michigan when it shouldn't even be close.

I'm sure my opinion will be tempered by events later on in the season, but at this point I'm nothing but optimistic. Strange place to be, two games removed from 3-9, eh?

The King of Belch

September 17th, 2009 at 2:35 AM ^

I'm thinking "No way would Carr go for that home run to Hemmingway with UM up 24-0" in the second quarter.

Dr Tom Osborne of Nebraska had a theory about this: You put as many points up as you can for three quarters. Then you call off the dogs.

I've never understood letting your foot off the gas once you think the game is "comfortable." a four to five touchdown lead entering the fourth quarter sounds about the right time to pull things back, get the 2nd-78th string in there, and allow the players to start thinking about banging coeds.

I Luv TDs

September 16th, 2009 at 4:51 PM ^

i get the sense rich rod has the attitude of wanting to bury everyone he plays which is the opposite of the lloyd carr years. There will not be a setback. This is a new brand of football.


September 16th, 2009 at 5:37 PM ^

Diary post. Exactly what it should be for. I know it's different year to year, but it's nice to know in the back of my head that he can keep his team focused on the opponent at hand following a big upset win.



September 16th, 2009 at 5:42 PM ^

I think we will be favored in every remaining game this year, except probably PSU and OSU. How often does RR get upset? How often does he beat a favored opponent? Answer these questions Grasshopper and you will know the eventual outcome of our season.


September 16th, 2009 at 6:20 PM ^

But how did you define "upset" wins? Was it just any game in which they were the underdogs on the gambling line? Or underdogs by more than "x" points? Or just by eyeballing the games and subjectively determining that the game was an "upset" win?

Again, pardon if I missed where that was explained. Thanks!


September 16th, 2009 at 8:46 PM ^

Good question, thanks for bringing this up. I went more along the lines of "eyeballing the games and subjectively determining the game was an 'upset' win." The reason for this is simply that I don't have a list of gambling lines from past games (although if there is a way to look this up, please let me know, I would love to see it). I suppose if we went strictly by gambling lines there may have been a few more games that I missed, because I only selected the (fairly) obvious choices.


September 16th, 2009 at 8:27 PM ^

thanks for doing the research, and appreciate the chart! I also wonder what coach rod's record is after "Big" wins, games that maybe both teams are ranked highly... ie. if WVU was ranked like #9 and beat like a #12 miami team (made up scenario)


September 16th, 2009 at 8:27 PM ^

thanks for doing the research, and appreciate the chart! I also wonder what coach rod's record is after "Big" wins, games that maybe both teams are ranked highly... ie. if WVU was ranked like #9 and beat like a #12 miami team (made up scenario)


September 16th, 2009 at 8:57 PM ^

You do not get arrogant after a 3-9 season. There are lots of revenge games on the schedule, and all RR has to do is say "Toledo" or "The Horror" if he wants to get this team's attention. This team will stay hungry all year and try to do everything they can to wash the taste of last year out of their mouths.

RR has so many examples of shitty teams making their year last year by beating UM that he should be able to keep them motivated for both this year and next.


September 17th, 2009 at 10:02 AM ^

The 3-9 record from last year, coming as it does with the loss to MAC school Toledo should be more than enough to maintain a very high level of motivation. We shouldn't be taking anyone for granted this year.

I'd add a couple more unique factors: playing against a former coach, playing the team from 8 miles away, and wanting to improve on the #26/#25 rankings.

Coach Rod's emphasis on weekly competition and working to get better is designed to overcome trap games like this one. I don't think the coaching staff will let down, and that generally carries over to the team.


September 16th, 2009 at 9:08 PM ^

Nice Post.

I hope RR can keep them focused. We'll find out Sat.
It's aweful tough when you're reading the articles about
how good you are. I hope he teachs these boys a little humility,
because we know how much it sucks to be beaten by somebody
that doesn't deserve to be on the same field.


September 16th, 2009 at 9:25 PM ^

First off, excellent diary. As another user said, this is what diaries are meant to be about. After last season I would think that this team needs to play like they have a chip on their shoulder for every down. In terms of the game against Eastern, I think that Coach Rod will privately want to prove something against Coach English since he was a coach in the last regime.

Tha Stunna

September 16th, 2009 at 11:40 PM ^

What? A good diary? With research?? Preposterous.

Seriously, nice job though. 34-23 is a bit closer than I'd think the EMU game would be, but I think they'll definitely have us nervous for quite a while, particularly since we should be developing weaker aspects of our offense (aka Denard's throwing in game).


September 17th, 2009 at 9:02 AM ^

I'll echo the tweaks of others to say: if you want to know whether the upset victory has any impact on the likelihood of winning the next game, compare the 7-3 results with the overall record.

The statsgeek question is "is the record any different after upset wins than in general? I hate it when other people tell you how to fix your stats problems but won't help do the legwork. So, according to a google search, RR's record was 60-26 while at WVU, or 69.8% wins. After upsets, 7-3 or 70% wins.

Identical! So, no effect.


September 17th, 2009 at 9:56 AM ^

no letdown this week. Michigan runs wild over eastern. BUT, T-Force has an unremarkable/somewhat sloppy day.

UM 38, EMU 17.
Tate: 12-20, 125yds, 1TD, 1 INT-or-FUMBLE; 40yds on 10 carries.
Minor: 25 carries, 175yds, 2 TDs
DRob: 100yds on 10 carries, including a 50+ yd TD. plays most of the 2nd half, completes 5-10 passes for 30 yds with a bad underthrow that's picked off.