The Weekly Maths: How Dire It Was

Submitted by The Mathlete on November 15th, 2012 at 1:26 PM

On the heals of another dramatic wins, I dug deep to try and quantify the most dire of Michigan situations that turned into wins from the last ten years. Some are big comebacks, a few are last second heroics. The WPA model is perfect in very late game situations, but it isn’t terrible so here are the ten games from ten seasons that Michigan won based on their lowest WPA during the game for any offensive play.

10. 2004 vs Minnesota, 21% chance of winning

Trailing by 4 with 3 minutes left at their own 13 yard line, Chad Henne led an 87 yard drive to take the lead and the defense held for the win.

9. 2011 at Northwestern, 21% chance of winning

Michigan started the second half trailing by 10 and faced an early 3rd and 11 from their own 19 before Denard hit Roundtree for a first down and Michigan went on to score the next 28 points and win comfortably.

8. 2005 vs Penn St, 17% chance of winning

Michigan took over at their own 40 trailing Penn St 18-10 with under 12 minutes remaining. A 60 yard TD drive with two point conversion and a subsequent Garrett Rivas 47 yard field goal gave Michigan the lead but it came down to that final second when Henne hit Manningham for 10 yards and the winning points.

7. 2010 vs Illinois, 11% chance of winning

In what would become the epic 67-65 swan song victory for Rich Rodriguez, Michigan trailed by a touchdown with five minutes left and had backup Tate Forcier in for an injured Denard Robinson. Forcier led Michigan to a touchdown with 1:47 left and the defense miraculously held. The defense got a final stop on a two point conversion in the third overtime.

6. 2012 vs Northwestern, 9% chance of winning

The punt return from Jeremy Gallon pushed the odds from 5% to nearly 9% but 53 yards later Gibbons trotted onto the field for a chip shot field goal and Michigan pulled it out for the win.

5. 2007 at Michigan St, 8% chance of winning

After a Spartan touchdown, Michigan took over at their own 21 facing a 10 point deficit with seven and a half minutes to go. A Greg Mathews touchdown would cut the margin to 3 in less than a minute. Michigan would force a punt and have a chance to take the lead from their own 35 with four and half minutes left. On 3rd and 12 Chad Henne hit Mario Manningham for a 31 yard touchdown to provide the final margin.

4. 2008 vs Wisconsin, 6% chance of winning

A lone bright spot in a dismal year. The low point came in third quarter with Michigan trailing 19-0. Kevin Grady would convert a 4th and 1 and Steven Threet would eventually hit Kevin Koger for 26 yards to put Michigan on the board. The odds would go back down to 7% before Brandon Minor ran for a 34 yard score, to cut it to a one possession game and bring Michigan’s odds up to 23%. John Thompson’s 25 yard interception return would give Michigan the lead they would hold the rest of the game.

3. 2011 vs Notre Dame, 5% chance of winning

5% is probably high for this one. This is a situation where the late game situations cause the calculator a bit of trouble. No matter what the actual odds where the situation was highly dire and only a Jeremy Gallon invisibility cloak allowed Michigan to pull this one out.

2. 2003 at Minnesota, 2% chance of winning

Michigan entered the fourth quarter trailing Minnesota 28-7. Before scoring 31 fourth quarter points to pull out the win with Garrett Rivas hitting a 33 yard field goal with 47 seconds left to give Michigan its first lead of the game.

1. 2004 vs Michigan St, 1% chance of winning

Down 17 with 8 minutes left at your own 11 yard line. It’s Braylon Edwards time.



Game Recap


Bonus Overtime Chart


Swing Plays

+42%-Gardner to Roundtree for 53 yards

+18%-Gardner to Roundtree for 17 yards in OT

+18%-Demens stonewalls Jones to end the game

+18%-Gardner to Funchess for an 8 yard TD

+11%-Gardner to Toussaint for a 28 yard TD

Interesting that none of the top 3 plays were touchdowns

-24%-Gardner intercepted by Dugar

-16%-Pat Fitzgerald come on down, your quarterback is the next contestant on questionable roughing the passer calls

-12%-Siemian to Fields for 21 yards on 1st and 20

-11%-Siemian to Dickerson right before half

-11%-Siemian to Jones to give Northwestern the lead 31-28

Game Scores

Michigan Rush Offense: +5 EV, +26% WPA

Michigan Pass Offense: +11, +64%

Michigan Rush Defense: –6, –9%

Michigan Pass Defense: –8, –44%

Penalties: +2%

Special Teams: +10%

Devin Gardner: +22, +104%

Fitzgerald Toussaint: +1, +13%

Jeremy Gallon: +5, +10%

Roy Roundtree: +7, +65%

Kain Colter: +3, +22%

Trevor Siemian: +9, +41%

Venric Mark: +1, –1%

Dumb Punt of the Week

I really wanted to give this week’s award to our favorite big guy, Charlie Weis for his second half punt from the Texas Tech 38 while trailing but there was another big guy much more deserving. Terry Bowden and the Akron Zips trailed winless UMass by 8 in the fourth quarter and had a 4th and 6 at the UMass 33 yard line. Now a 4th and 6 is not an easy conversion. BUT YOU ARE AT THE 33 YARD LINE! And trailing by 1.5 possessions, in the fourth quarter. The Zips managed to pin UMass at their own 7, but still ended up losing by 8.

Terry Bowden is your Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punter of the Week


Iowa is not good. Their offense has had one game with an EV+ above 2 (Minnesota) on the season. Their defense has been decent but their three worst performances have come over the last month. No matter who goes at quarterback for Michigan there should be enough firepower to outscore the Hawkeyes. By policy the pick comes from the season numbers but I would consider this score to be a bare minimum margin for Saturday.

Michigan 24 Iowa 10



November 15th, 2012 at 1:45 PM ^

First of all, in the write-up you said the nadir was 5%, not 9%.

Beyond that, Michigan had 1st & Goal from its own 38 with 18 seconds left and no time-outs. They needed around 30 yards to get into field goal range, and basically only one play to do it. (Clearly, if the long past to Roundtree had been incomplete, there wasn't enough time to throw another pass of that length and spike the ball.)

And even if you complete the pass, the FG isn't a sure thing, and OT is basically a toss-up, with perhaps a narrow edge for the home team.

You're saying that almost 1 out of 10 teams in that situation go on to win? I can't imagine it's that high.

The Mathlete

November 15th, 2012 at 2:03 PM ^

Like I wrote, in the final seconds things get a bit hazy. The 9% vs 5% has to do with the way I am counting. The 9% was the lowest when an offensive play was run. That was used for easier tracking in the database. It was 5% at the time of the punt, but 9% was the lowest when an offensive play was run. 

The 9% does seem a bit high but I looked at the 100 games with the most similar situations, trailing by 3 ball around own forty and about 18 seconds left and 6% of teams went on to win the games so it isn't dramatically over stated.


November 15th, 2012 at 10:40 PM ^

I immediately thought 9% is too high. We needed 37 yards in 2 plays and a very solid 42-yard field goal just to tie and force a 50/50 OT. 1 in 11 seems too favorable from my offensive perspective.

[I'm not sure OT is 50/50 though as the scoring team might have so much mojo that it wins a disproportional share of OTs as the 2 events (tie in reg and win in OT) are not independent.]

Then the 6% made me re-think the situation from a DC's perspective. Would I play a shell or prevent to seal a win 15 out of 16 times? Yes since the 1 out of 16 would be a kid falling down or screwing up or not winning a jump ball - but ill get my kids in the right spots so the 1/16 doesn't happen. Oh, shit, he caught it?!


November 15th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

I'm just guessing here, but the odds of winning the 2005 Penn State game must have been lower after Penn State scored to go up 4 with 53 seconds left than when we were down 8, with the ball, with 12 minutes left.  I can't believe more than 10% of teams go on to win when receiving a kick with 53 seconds left and needing a TD.


November 15th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

The game that jumps out at me the most that I thought we didn't have a prayer of winning was 2008 Wisconsin, even though we held them to field goals more often than not. 

I knew we would come back against Northwestern last year and even the 2003 Minnesota game didn't feel like a lost cause when we came within 14 at the start of the 4th quarter. 

Being at the 2005-Penn State game, right before Henne to Manningham, I kept telling myself we're not going to get this, we're not going to get this.  We have a chance but we're not going to get it. 

I was at Braylonfest too but it's hard to describe that game with the proper words. Sparty had NOT played that well at the big house in decades and I was too shocked to contemplate what I was actually watching. 

For as negative as I am, I'm surprised that only 3 of those 10 games I thought would be automatic losses. 

matty blue

November 15th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^'s a project for you mathy types:  what's the flip side?  what games did we have in the bag, but gave away late?  the hail mary vs. colorado, obviously, and i remember a blown 3-touchdown lead against illinois (1999?  2000?), plus the 54-51 northwestern debacle, but i don't remember how late those leads lasted.


The Mathlete

November 15th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

Five games from the last 10 years above 80% on defense and lost:

2005 Nebraska 92%

Leading by 11 with 10 minutes left

2005 Ohio St 88%

Leading by 9 with 8 minutes left

2009 Purdue 86%

Up 13 in the third quarter

2004 Texas 84%

Leading by 10 to start the fourth quarter

2008 Purdue 84%

Up 14 in the second quarter


November 15th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

My son was 6 days old when that game happened. What a way to enter the world!

My dad was staying with us because my mom was with my sister, who had just given birth 4 days earlier. Dad and I were watching the game, but had to go to Church because he was flying back on Sunday. We held on as long as we could, but eventually had to turn the radio off and go pray for a victory. I'm pretty sure we were losing in the 4th quarter when we turned the radio off. The rally had sort of started, but it still looked bleak. When Church was over, we got back in the car, turned the radio on, and were shocked that the game was still going. We hurried home and caught the end.

Some people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot. I remember dramatic M football games.

/my cool story bro


November 15th, 2012 at 5:23 PM ^

There should be some adjustment in the percentage for the 2004 MSU game to account for the fact that MSU was coached by John L Smith. When you're playing a JLS-coached team, no lead is insurmountable. 


November 15th, 2012 at 6:52 PM ^

That 2004 MSU/UM video makes me realize 3 things I miss about Michigan Football:

1. Running backs who can go downfield

2. Big Receivers

3. Pro Style QBs



November 16th, 2012 at 8:28 AM ^

I'm gonna quote Han Solo and say "Never tell me the odds."

The only games out of these I really felt we had no chance were 2003 Minnesota because of how good their running backs were playing and 2011 Notre Dame because of how badly I felt Denard was throwing. Oh and 2008 Wisconsin...but I still don't believe people when they tell me we won that game.

Hopefully many more to come!