RR setting Michigan & Big Ten total offense records

Submitted by Communist Football on November 4th, 2010 at 4:30 PM


As you know, I diarize weekly on the subject of Denard Robinson's record-setting season. At the suggestion of Comrade Raoul, I thought I would add some research on some of the team offense records that this year's Wolverines are chasing, especially given that some of our fellow MGoProletarians are arguing that Michigan's offense is "inconsistent."

Did you know that Michigan is averaging 518.4 yards per game in total offense, higher than any other team in Big Ten history? (Second place belongs to Penn State's 1994 team, which averaged 512.7 yards per game.) This year's team is on pace to demolish the old Michigan total offense record of 466.9, set in 1992, when Gary Moeller roamed the sidelines, barking orders to Elvis Grbac, Desmond Howard, and Tyrone Wheatley.

Big Ten All-Time Leaders Year YPG (Total Offense)
1. MICH 2010 518.4
2. Penn State 1994 512.7
3. Northwestern 2005 500.3
4. Ohio State 1998 497.6
5. Michigan State 2005 497.3
6. Minnesota 2005 494.8
7. Minnesota 2003 494.6
8. Ohio State 1974 493.2
9. Ohio State 1996 490.4
10. Michigan State 1978 481.3
11. Ohio State 1995 478.6
Michigan All-Time Leaders (QB/WR/RB) Year YPG (Total Offense)
1. Robinson / Roundtree / Smith 2010 518.4
2. Grbac / Howard / Wheatley 1992 466.9
3. Navarre / Edwards / Perry 2003 446.7
4. Henson / Terrell / Thomas 2000 446.1
5. Grbac / Howard / Vaughn 1990 432.5

Here are some other impressive stats:

  • Michigan is averaging 7.4 yards per play, which is most all-time in Michigan history (the existing record is 6.4 yards, in 1992 and 1947).
  • Michigan is averaging 35.1 points per game, good for 10th all-time in Michigan history, and the fourth-highest Michigan total in 63 years.
  • Michigan is averaging 275.5 rushing yards per game, 6th all-time in Big Ten history and 3rd all-time in Michigan history. (The Big Ten record is 349.9 in 1974 by Ohio State; the Michigan record is 345.3 in 1976.)
  • Michigan is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, higher than any other Michigan team in history (the current record is 5.9 per carry in 1976).
  • Michigan is averaging 246.1 passing yards per game, 3rd all-time in Michigan history. (The record is 270.8 in 2003.)
  • Michigan is averaging 23.1 first downs per game, second-highest in Michigan history. (The record is 23.9 in 2003.)

None of this is to excuse the performance on the defensive side of the ball -- but merely to remind people that our offense as a unit is one of the best Michigan has ever fielded.

As noted above, this year's team is averaging 35.1 points per game, one of Michigan's best in recent memory. But the Fielding Yost "point-a-minute" teams averaged 50.5, 58.5, 47.1, 56.7, and 38.1 points per game from 1901 to 1905. Fritz Crisler's 1947 national championship team of Bob Chappuis and Bump Elliott, nicknamed the "Mad Magicians," averaged 39.4.

Dynamic offenses have been few and far between in the postwar era. The 1976 Bo Schembechler team, led by Rick Leach and Rob Lytle, scored 36.0 points per game, and owns the rushing season record with 345.3 yards per game. The aforementioned 1992 team averaged 35.9 points; and the 2003 team averaged 35.4.

The difference between the Rodriguez offense and the previous two is that for Carr and Moeller, an all-time offense came around once or twice a decade, when there was a unique confluence of talent at every position. If Rodriguez is allowed to stay on, there is every reason to believe that this offense will get even better next year and the year after.

By all means, fix the defense, using whatever means necessary. But let's not send our offense back into the Dust Age. The Hegelian dialectic tells us that only Spread and Shred can lead us to a workers' paradise.



November 4th, 2010 at 7:48 PM ^

I'm not sure about Big Ten records, but it does appear that the 2010 defense is on pace for setting Michigan records of its own in some of the same categories that Communist Football highlights above:

  • Total yards allowed per game: 440.2 (U-M record: 393.3 [2009])
  • Yards allowed per play: 6.1 (U-M record: 5.6 [1994 and 2009])
  • Points allowed per game: 30.0 (U-M record: 28.9 [2008])

I'm hedging my bets here a bit because it seems that the team records section of the Michigan Record Book hasn't been kept up-to-date. For example, it lists the record for most yards allowed per game as 389.9 (2000), but last year's team unfortunately exceeded that total. 

pee on freep

November 4th, 2010 at 4:39 PM ^

all the more reason to keep RR.  I know the horse has been beaten, but come'on anti-RR's, do you not see the potential?  he's doing this with a young football team.  keep RR, fire Gerg, bring in a Pelini-type to compliment the offensive jugernaut that we have and will be developing.  to me it is a no-brainer.  not too many coaches step into a new situation and succeed off-the-bat, especially not to Michigan football standards.  In RR I trust (except on defense)...  In RR offense I trust...


November 4th, 2010 at 5:50 PM ^

but come'on anti-RR's, do you not see the potential? 

I see an offense that moves the ball and scores, but it's not enough to win.  And it's far from clear that this staff can fix our problems on defense and special teams.  If we remain terrible in those two phases of the game, offense won't be enough. 

not too many coaches step into a new situation and succeed off-the-bat, especially not to Michigan football standards.

Actually, the three coaches before RR went 8-3, 9-3 and 9-4 in their first seasons, respectively.  They also did not (at least the latter two) try to radically change the offense and defense from what had been run before. 

In RR I trust (except on defense)...  In RR offense I trust

Defense is an entire phase of the game.  If you don't trust the HC in that area, that's problematic.  Just who exactly is to hire the ace DC that we need?  RR?  His first two choices didn't work out. 

Maybe the more plausible solution is to hire a new HC, who can handle the defensive side of the ball, and have him retain RR's offensive assistants.  There is no rule that requires a new HC to broom the previous staff out. 


November 4th, 2010 at 6:13 PM ^

The second comment is what really bothers me. Since when is it unreasonable to demand that we not finish near the bottom of the conference? Being delusional means expecting a national championship every year, not expecting 7-8 wins at a program like this. 

And yes, plenty of coaches come into much worse situations and do well. Marrone at Syracuse. Pelini at Nebraska. Harbaugh at Stanford.

Is it too much to ask for a good coach? 


November 4th, 2010 at 6:20 PM ^

Points 1 and 3 are valid, but...

Blaming Rodriguez for installing his offensive system (and watching as it puts up insane numbers) is nonsense. That's what we wanted when we hired him. I don't think any offensive Head Coach to take our talent on D and put together a serviceable unit.

But that's just me.


November 4th, 2010 at 6:35 PM ^

I'm not exactly blaming him for doing so, just noting that this is something that not every new coach does.  The question we'll never have an answer to is whether or not he could have kept Ryan Mallett around if he'd have agreed to modify his offense for him.  If so (and again, I do not know if this was possible), then he made a major mistake, because starting out 3-9 put himself behind the 8-ball.


November 4th, 2010 at 6:46 PM ^

The reason Mallet came to Michigan in the first place was because the team he really wanted to play for, Arkansas, recruited 5* Mitch Mustain, and Mallett didn't want to sit on the bench, so he came to Michigan. In 2007 Mustain decided to transfer to USC, and it was a foregone conclusion that Mallett was going back to Arkansas in 2008 to sit out the season, and start playing again in 2009. Not only that, but many who were close to the situation say that Mallett was so homesick in 2007 that Carr had to convince him to stay up in Ann Arbor for that season alone. Once Carr retired I don't think there is anything RR could have done to persuade Mallett to stay.

From what I've read about Mallett's off-season "conditioning" habits, he would never have made it through Camp Barwis to begin with anyhow.


November 4th, 2010 at 6:08 PM ^

You know, after the results we have seen from William Campbell and the lack of Demar Dorsey making it to campus as well as the depletion of our D-backs, I think I will wait awhile until I anoint Dee Hart the next great running back.

I'm not saying it won't happen, I'm saying history should have taught us a lesson, namely, speak softly.

Where I think we will be better is that we will make fewer mistakes on O, thus making our yardage have more meaning.  Lots of yards without point production don't mean as much as some would like it to mean.


November 4th, 2010 at 6:12 PM ^

A-fucking-men. I got caught up ridiculously in the hype about Sam McGuffie, to the point where I asserted on MGoBlog before he had even played a down of Michigan football that he would be a legit Heisman candidate by the time he was a junior. All on the basis of his HS highlight tape. It's embarrassing to think about.


November 4th, 2010 at 4:41 PM ^

Thank you - this is exactly what I was thinking. This offense is so much better than almost anything Lloyd put on the field and they're all young and clearly have yet to reach their true potential. That's why I still think we have a chance (or better) in all four games this year. Even if the D gives up a score every possession, they hold a couple of those to field goals and odds are decent we can keep pace (not that we have so far, but the potential to do so is definitely there).


November 4th, 2010 at 5:03 PM ^

The thing is, this is something that might be able to attract a coach like Bellatio or offensive guru like Malzahn.

Everyone knows we have a beast in Denard and that he'll have another year under his belt next year. It's like looking at another Dennis Dixon or Cam Newton for these guys. Let's face it, Cam ain't sticking around in Auburn and Malzahn is nothing going to have another chance to coach a player like this unless he jumps ship to coach Denard.


November 4th, 2010 at 5:32 PM ^

There's definitely risk involved with going with Malzahn since he has no head coaching experience. But he's also recognized as one of the leading offensive minds in all of football.

I know RR is the godfather of the spread, but just coz you started something doesn't mean someone else can't make it better. At the very least, we can get someone else in who runs a similar system who is working with a great product like newton.


November 4th, 2010 at 5:03 PM ^

I love our offense, no doubt.  We have a very bright future, particularly with 2 more years of Denard and Devin Gardner thereafter.

It's not about offense though.  It's about wins.  Show me how the team has progressed.  I think overall you can make an argument when including defense and special teams that we have regressed.  


November 4th, 2010 at 5:04 PM ^

another reminder that we don't need a complete overhaul of this team, only certain components.

It's interesting to see in the first chart that MI historically doesn't have an offense with high enough YPG to make the top 10 in the Big 10.....ALL TIME..........I would have thought MI would have at least one entry on that list.


November 4th, 2010 at 5:08 PM ^

1. Because of Michigan’s terrible defense, the offense sees the ball less often. Michigan is giving up long drives, and it hardly ever records a turnover. With just an average defense, the offense could easily have two or three extra possessions per game.

2. When comparing points per game, you aren’t just looking at TDs scored by the offense. You are also including FGs, TDs scored on defense, and kick returns. The Wolverines are probably close to a record low in FGs made. I don’t think Michigan has any TDs scored by its defense or special teams this year.

3. Michigan’s kickoff and punt return teams are mediocre, which means the offense usually needs drives longer than 50 yards to score.


November 4th, 2010 at 5:32 PM ^

One counter argument would be that this year's Michigan team is involved in a lot of close games or games where they are behind, resulting in a lot more plays for the first team offense.  The 94 PSU and 98 OSU teams were involved in plenty of blowouts where they rested the starters or slowed things down in the 3rd/4th quarters.

I suspect some of the NW/Minny teams on that list are similar.  Good offense/bad defense is a good way to put up some yards  (good fantasy football rule as well).


November 4th, 2010 at 5:10 PM ^

Thesis: this offense is crazy good.

Antithesis: it doesn't matter because the defense is terrible, and this team still can't beat any Big 10 opponent besides Indiana.

Synthesis: fix the defense and the team will be unstoppable.

Makes perfect sense to me.


November 4th, 2010 at 5:55 PM ^

The problem here is that fixing a defense is not like flipping a switch. I know from experience that improving a defense is just as much about changing an attitude as much as it is about scheme. Yeah, getting a new DC could be the answer but until there is a new attitude implemented then nothing will change. 


November 4th, 2010 at 5:13 PM ^

It is a pretty good offense right now. With a high ceiling yet. That's exciting

Sadly, they need to play perfect to win and they're just not there yet.


November 4th, 2010 at 5:14 PM ^

how bad historically the defense is, big ten-wise. Exact opposite of the offense (all-time worst defense vs. all-time best offense)? Or have there been worse defenses?


November 4th, 2010 at 5:16 PM ^

Michigan has a defense full of freshmen, first time players and injuries,what part of that is confusing.

The players ,being young don't match up physically and not played enough to match up mentally.

Blue in Seattle

November 4th, 2010 at 5:38 PM ^

Completely agree.  I'm going to look at comparisons to Iowa UFR and Penn State UFR to better understand Brian's conclusion that this was so bad because of the scheme changes.

Not that I necessarily disagree, but when he describes one play where 7 players are "in the box" from a 3-3-5 scheme and still fail to tackle, except for the former walkon, I just don't understand how everyone can say the defensive scheme is wrong.

I don't know how to criticize the day by day technique training, but was Jeff Casteel the only one teaching defensive technique?  On top of that if you refer to the BG article, he states GERG is a good teacher.  Clearly there is good teaching on the offensive side, and I can't understand how that would be so different.

So I don't really know what to think, but it seems like the talent is young and below average.  Maybe the game time play calling could add to that, but it really seems like there are a lot of plays where people are in the correct spot, and just don't quite do what needs doing.

Communist Football

November 4th, 2010 at 6:18 PM ^

We were doing better in scoring offense until the MSU game, in which Denard threw two end-zone interceptions, and we had a couple of red-zone fumbles at both MSU and Iowa.  In addition, as others have mentioned, our FG kicking sucks worse than Hitler's invasion of Leningrad. Fix those two things and our scoring offense will improve.


November 4th, 2010 at 6:40 PM ^

We were doing better in scoring offense until the MSU game,

That also happens to be the point at which the schedule got a lot tougher.  I think we need another scoring explosion (scoring, not just yardage) before we anoint this one of the best offenses in B10 history.  Until then, one could argue that we padded our numbers against bad competition and better defenses figured out how to slow us down, if not completely stop us.

Communist Football

November 4th, 2010 at 6:46 PM ^

That cuts both ways. Northwestern and Minnesota didn't bludgeon their non-conference opponents. In 2005, Northwestern played Ohio and Northern Illinois; Minnesota played Tulsa, Colorado State, and Florida Atlantic. They should have bludgeoned those opponents if they're so awesome. That they didn't is a mark against them.