The Weekly Six-Penn State

Submitted by The Mathlete on October 18th, 2013 at 3:07 PM

1. The Six Factors

  Exp Score Early Conv Bonus Yds Avg 3rd Dist Adj 3rd Conv Red Zone
Offense 52.3 55.6% 163 11.0 -14% 3.3
Defense 49.2 38.8% 114 9.0 -16% 4.0

Holy cow those were a lot of ugly third downs. Michigan averaged 11 yards to go on third and Penn State was nearly as bad at 9. Michigan had a huge advantage in they converted a lot more before third down than Penn State. Plus, both teams were bad at converting, even when accounting for the miles to go.

So Michigan won field position, bypassed third down more often, had more big plays and was slightly more terrible on third downs. That is a pretty outstanding line for the defense. I would take those numbers across the board in any game. Everything except the field position number. Some of that is four overtimes ratcheting up the expected score, but it’s not all of it. The offense as we have discussed forever at this point was either really good or really bad. Call the good stuff, get first downs, call the bad stuff and end up in third and Philadelphia.

2. Individual Performances

Devin Gardner: +9.1 EV+, +52% WPA, (16th best QB of the week)

Christian Hackenberg: +6.2, +10% (23rd)

Fitzgerald Toussaint: –9.4, –40%, (114/115 ranked RB of the week)

Bill Belton: +1.6, +43%, (36th)

Devin Funchess: +9.8, +25% (18th)

Jeremy Gallon: +7.7, +40% (41st)

Brandon Felder: +11.4, +34% (9th)

Allen Robinson: +6.2, +38% (74th)

Apparently there are factions of the Michigan community who think Gardner is the problem and should be benched. I just don’t get it. Yes, the bar has been lowered a little bit after last season and the first 7 quarters of this season, but that bar started as high as it gets. The turnovers are very frustrating but he adds so much value to the team.

The flip side to the equation is if you benched him, your best case scenario is Christian Hackenberg, and that is pretty much best case with a lot more downside. I think he’s going to be a player, but for this season, I’ll take Gardner any day of the week.

The good news is that Michigan now has two legitimate receiving threats if we get them the ball, and other than the back breaking grab at the end of regulation, Michigan help the Big Ten’s best receiver in check.

3. Game Charts





The Six Biggest Plays

6. +26.5%: Hackenberg incomplete on 3rd and 4 in the second OT

5.  -29.3%: Pass interference in the end zone sets up Penn State’s final TD

4. –29.5%: Hackenberg to Robinson at the end of regulation

3. -32.4%: Gibbons field goal from 40 blocked in the first OT

2. +35.8%: Robinson fumbles to open the third OT

1. –38.6%: Gibbons misses from 33 yards in the third OT

What is left to say at this point, Michigan had the game in the bag at 3 different points. There are a lot of things to fix coming out of the game, but that loss had a ton of bad dumb luck.

4. Ron Zook Dumb Punt of the Week

Last weekend was one of the least dumb kicking weekends since I started following. No egregious punts from deep in opponent territory, no face saving field goal attempts down by 5 touchdowns. The worst offender was Georgia State. Trailing Troy by 7, they decided to punt the ball away with less than two minutes to play. With two timeouts left their best hope was to get the ball back with no timeouts and a minute left needing a touchdown to tie. Troy ground out the single first down they needed and Georgia State never saw the ball again.

5. State of the Stats

6. Prediction

    The six factors for all teams can still be found .

  • Even with all his turnover issues, Devin Gardner is ranked the #12 QB so far this season, averaging 8.1 points a game above average when adjusted for opponents.
  • With the struggles in MANBALL, his value is magnified even more. Replacing the plays where he carries or throws with an average play would result in a loss of 84 points for Michigan on the season, the fifth highest total for any player.
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint’s carries are on the opposite side, plays where he carries the ball are college football’s least valuable. Replacing his carries for an average Michigan non-Toussaint play would be worth another 37 points. Solve for the equilibrium, Al.
  • Jeremy Gallon is still at the edge of the top 30 and Devin Funchess keeps climbing, rising to #56 in national receiver rankings.
  • Michigan’s overall ranking is still holding strong, I have the ranked 19th based on in season results only, 8 points above an average team with most of the value coming from the defense.
  Exp Score Early Conv Bonus Yds Avg 3rd Dist Adj 3rd Conv Red Zone
Mich O 31.0 (19) 50% (64) 155 (41) 7.6 (108) -3% (79) 5.1 (55)
Ind D 25.7 (53) 50% (62) 149 (81) 5.8 (85) +8% (103) 4.5 (30)
Mich D 31.9 (111) 49% (37) 98 (13) 7.6 (11) +8% (103) 3.9 (15)
Ind O 24.4 (87) 53% (27) 168 (34) 6.4 (68) +5% (24) 5.6 (27)

This game should be some strength versus strength when Indiana’s offense goes up against the Michigan defense. The Michigan defense has moved into the top 15 in Bonus Yards, 3rd Down Distance and Red Zone. The biggest knocks are that they have been given awful field position to deal with and they’ve been poor once they get to third down.

At this point I think anything is possible with the offense, and for that matter this game. I could see this game being close and low-scoring, close and high-scoring or Michigan putting it together on offense for at least one game and looking strong.

If I go with the straight numbers:

Michigan 24 Indiana 21


Sextus Empiricus

October 17th, 2013 at 12:39 PM ^

Indiana will be a shootout, speaking from my gut.  Given the lack of experience going against this offense I think it will be interesting.  It's telling that you are torn as well.

Stats seem less prescient when the difference in victory has been as marginal as it has.  That is the way of CFB though.  

Nebraska is surprisingly good on Defensive 3rd down zone not so much.  The spread there doesn't seem so significant.  Ohio as 1 nationally for Offensive 3rd down distance - ouch.  Of course some of the more dominant teams are early converters.

I had a little time to look over this table.  Wow... what a service to the MGoCommunity and the nation.  You and Bill Connelly get my vote for playoff czar committee members when the next position opens up.

Red is Blue

October 17th, 2013 at 12:53 PM ^

I'm curious about the delay of game at the end of regulation and the subsequent run for a loss of 3 yards.  It doesn't appear that these plays resulted in a negative wrt Michigan's win potential in the charts, but it feels like those plays resulted in a potentially huge opportunity cost in that they eliminated or greatly reduced the chances of a game sealing FG.


October 18th, 2013 at 5:27 PM ^

I think his chart is based on historically the number/percentage of teams that have won in that situation. It doesn't really drop the percentages much because only 6 teams in the last 10 years have come back with 51 sec and no TO to score a TD and go on to win. Having an easier FG doesn't really matter when you're down into the very very unlikely to lose scenario already just by burning the clock. It probably moved the percentages from something like 0.1% to 0.2%

oriental andrew

October 17th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

Other than to say that I had tivo'ed the game and decided to let it record an hour longer than scheduled.  Great, as the game went into OT!  Of course, as I'm watching, the timer is nearing the 4 hour mark and we're in 3OT.  Gardner to Gallon near the 1st down marker!  3:58...  Oops, they're reviewing it, 3:59...  Showing replays and... 4:00.  

So I was feeling good.  We're in the red zone, around the 15.  All we need is an easy 32-33 yard FG to win, as PSU already turned it over on the first possession of 3OT.  So I happily turn on my iPad and hit, only to find that Gibbons flubbed it and PSU scored the game-winning TD in 4OT.  

Worst.  Ending.  Ever.  It was like the anti-Manningham.

Indiana Blue

October 17th, 2013 at 1:45 PM ^

of course you are just reporting the statistical facts, but oh boy, watch out for the Borges apologists ... they won't like those statistics on Gardner ... I mean everyone knows you can't risk a turnover /s

Go Blue!


October 18th, 2013 at 3:29 PM ^

Space Coyote is one of the most knowledgable people on this board, and consistently contributes quality content on a weekly basis. You, as far as I can tell, contribute nothing but snarky snipes at people that you disagree with, without really offering anything of substance. You have been a one trick pony that spews post after meanlingless post in every single thread whether it has anything to do with Al Borges or not.

And somehow SC is the one "talking crap."


October 18th, 2013 at 3:35 PM ^

I forgot that posting on message boards (like this one) about sports that we are all common fans of (like this team/university) about strategies/game-plans/play-calls that are pertinent (like right now) are no longer allowed to be said because it offends someone like dare someone like me (internet poster, much like yourself) calls out one of the "smarter" internet posters (much like space coyote, notice I didn't say he was dumb nor have I ever) for being wrong.

Question for you: are you one of those guys/girls while at work (whatever you do for pay/career/hobby) who blindly follows the boss/leader even when they are blatantly wrong and in doing so risk everything you have worked for or care about???


October 18th, 2013 at 4:59 PM ^

I don't think it's about offending anyone, I think it's about the same posters saying the same thing about Borges in every thread they post in.   And that "thing" is of no substance, simply snide remarks about our OC, often recycled.  It lowers the quality of content on the board.


October 18th, 2013 at 6:25 PM ^

While Space Coyote has certainly been pretty ubiquitous and vigorous in his defense of Borges, he does it by submitting evidence and analysis to support his claims. He went through, play by play, and gave his reasoning from a coach's perspecitve (not hypothetically either, I believe he does actually coach football). As people respond to and criticize his analysis, he offers his defense and expands on his thoughts, again, usually with evidence and analysis. Whether or not you agree with him, his submissions add value to the discussion.

Compare that with posters such as AriGold, whose contribution seems to begin and end with "Fire Borges, ZOMG he's the worst OC ever, [email protected] all the apologist who try and prove me wrong." It's not just that I don't agree with him, it's that really doesn't add much. I disagree with Brian and most of the staff here, but they do a lot to show their work so to speak and I appreciate the differing point of view. When you consider AriGold has been pretty much spewing the same one thought all over the board in threads that have very little to nothing to do with Borges, I think it's fair to say it detracts from the overall discussions here.


October 18th, 2013 at 3:57 PM ^

so thanks for the heads up...I am well aware that SC is fairly smart and usually does post very detailed/intelligent posts and has good insight...however he is dead wrong on this topic/issue and i have no problem calling him out...if other posters want to be mad at me for saying the truth, so be it....i have been wrong in the past, and i have no problem when admitting i am wrong...if the over-tackle ends up working great and if somehow the conservative play-calling ends up working I will personally apologize to SC with a hand-written letter....but i don't see that happening given the PLETHORA of proof from all the other smart people on this board (and watching it fail miserably week-in and week-out)....I can no longer put up with listening/reading the Borges apologists posts! and we as fans cannot accept 8-4 seasons as the normal due to one stubborn play-caller


October 18th, 2013 at 4:06 PM ^

of course you are just reporting the statistical facts, but oh boy, watch out for the Borges apologists

It looks to me like the Mathlete's numbers demonstrate that we were in position to win multiple times before we kept missing field goals.

I understand a lot of the offensive criticism at the macro level - yeah, something is seriously amiss when your tailbacks combine for 0.9 ypc - but the biggest reason we lost this game was because we went 0-3 on game-winning field goal attempts, and that's not on the OC.


October 18th, 2013 at 5:35 PM ^


Here's the relevant part if you don't want to click through

“Circle Jerk” is a slang term referring to the positive feedback loop that can occur when ideas and beliefs are reinforced within a group or subculture’s enclosed space. The phenomenon is typically observed on websites that consists of self-contained forums for specific interests or subcultures.


October 18th, 2013 at 4:46 PM ^

He addresses that punt here

By kicking it, Michigan forced Penn State to go at least 80 yards with less than minute to go and no time outs. Since 2003, only 6 teams have scored a TD under these circumstances, one of which was Michigan in UTL1. Yes a field goal would have won it but that is a low likelihood possibility. I have no issues at all with the decision to punt.

Ron Utah

October 18th, 2013 at 6:30 PM ^

Obviously, the RB metric is really judging the success of the running game when a player carries the ball, because I think Fitz has been playing very well since the bye.

The numbers on 3rd down support my (and almost everyone's) point that we should passing to set-up the run instead of the other way around.

The argument that DG is a turnover machine holds no water when you're forcing yourself into 3rd-and-11.  Now you MUST pass, and your turnover-prone QB is put in a situation where he's much more likely to turn it over.

I'd much rather see us come out throwing on first down with Gallon/Funchess in a one-on-one situation than being forced to throw against a defense that knows it's coming on 3rd down.