B1G offensive holding statistics in the Harbaugh Era (Updated Per Play)

Submitted by umich1 on November 29th, 2017 at 3:41 PM

So, we've read a lot about the lack of holding calls drawn by our defense in game threads and officiating snowflake threads.  I figured it was time to get some hard numbers.

I downloaded the 2015, 2016, and 2017 play by play data from the ESPN API.  I then calculated all cases of accepted offensive holding calls in B1G conference play.  The following table shows how many holding calls each B1G defense drew.



Offensive Holding Calls Drawn

2015-2017 B1G Conference Play

Maryland 23
Minnesota 23
Purdue 22
Wisconsin 21
Iowa 20
Michigan State 20
OSU 20
Illinois 19
Penn State 19
Rutgers 16
Nebraska 15
Northwestern 15
Michigan 10

Anticipating the question; two of the 10 drawn by Michigan were in garbage time.

Updated:  Offensive Holdings Drawn Per 100 B1G Conference Plays (as requested)


Accepted Holds Per

100 Plays Defended

Total holds Per 

100 Plays Defended

Indiana 1.24 1.38
Minnesota 1.21 1.26
Wisconsin 1.17 1.40
Maryland 1.14 1.14
Michigan State 1.12 1.23
Purdue 1.12 1.32
OSU 1.10 1.27
Iowa .99 1.09
Illinois .94 1.14
Penn State .93 1.17
Nebraska .83 .94
Rutgers .81 .87
Northwestern .76 .97
Michigan .58 .76




November 29th, 2017 at 5:04 PM ^

Unfortunately I don't think anyone not representing Michigan in the Big 10 gives a shit.  U of M rightly or wrongly got a reputation for being arrogant and elitist towards opponents from Yost to Bo to Lloyd to now.  Even though Ohio State has been successful forever, if you ask most Big 10 fan bases who they hate the most Michigan wins by a land slide.  There are some conference foes who hate Michigan more than their traditional rivals.  I've just accepted that whether conscious or not that Michigan will get jobbed by officials.  I love how people claimed that two of the officials from 2016 were from Michigan, when one was documented as making comments about how he disliked Harbaugh and MSU exists.  I hope someone in U of M's department at least brings some of this to attention, but for all we know they have been and it hasn't and won't make a bit of difference.

Goggles Paisano

November 29th, 2017 at 6:40 PM ^

This got me thinking about Duke basketball, as they are, in my opinion, the most arrogant team in all of college sports.  They don't appear to be on the wrong side of the officiating.  This is not an argument against what you posted - just something that came to mind about another preceived arrogant/elitist program.  



November 30th, 2017 at 9:43 AM ^

"The term is thought to originate with carpenters who used the length of the tip of their thumbs (i.e., inches) rather than rulers for measuring things, cementing its modern use as an imprecise yet reliable and convenient standard"


"It is often claimed that the term rule of thumb is derived from a law that limited the maximum thickness of a stick with which it was permissible for a man to beat his wife. English common law before the reign of Charles II permitted a man to give his wife "moderate correction", but no rule of thumb has ever been the law in England."


November 29th, 2017 at 8:41 PM ^

Why would you sugget to send the evil result to the evil who has engineered this result? The evil will just laugh at you loud. We should pray for the evil to get out of our way ASAP. I mean ASAP, it's been more than twenty years, hope our dream will come true for whatever reason. Curse the evil to fall if you will!


November 30th, 2017 at 12:10 PM ^

To some degree Delaney is behind it. I never read what I see from bo back in the day, but it is exactly what I said. All that has to be said is don't let Michigan and Harbaugh intimidate you. Right into the subconscious, chest comes out and Michigan is on the short end of the stick when it comes to calls going there way.

It is simple if you bring out jealosies and insecurities in people they will hate on you and get you any way they can. I had people try to get my job and Michigan gets officials who will not be bullied or be made to look bad by a guy who gets all the attention and a boat load of money.

Funny that no matter how much osu and msu beat Michigan they can't stop hating and feeling inferior in some way. Michigan never stops being the hunted even when they are down. They are forever the good looking guy who gets all the women and has twenty two inch guns.

No matter what is said or not some officiatting crews have resentment towards Michigan. It only got worse with Harbaugh showing up and all the attention. It only takes a slight nudge for the little man complex to come out. It is as simple as that and why harbaugh had to change his behavior. Kill em with kindness because they are sensitive. 

There are way to many ego's on a football field and some officiating crews are run by theirs instead of being unbiased and professional. Just call the games fairly is that to much to ask you jealous little snitches.


November 29th, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

Is there any feasible football explanation for why a dline this good could draw so few holding calls over such a large sample of games compared to other dlines that are well, not very good?

e.g. Hurst beats his man so quickly that the OL doesn't even have time to hold him, something like that.

Because otherwise it's hard to chalk this up to randomness alone.

I'd like to see perhaps some regression analysis done on other dline stats vs. holding calls drawn such as QB pressures vs. holding calls drawn. Would be interesting to see how UM compares with other statistically similar dlines.

Indiana Blue

November 30th, 2017 at 10:45 AM ^

is there any statistics on having a team be flagged for THREE (thats right 3) penalties on the same play ?   Oh yeah ... right  -  in the HISTORY of college football that has only happened once, and that was against Michigan vs. Indiana this year.  No BIAS here ... move along little ones ...

Go Blue!


November 29th, 2017 at 6:05 PM ^

Our tight man to man coverage.  Opposing QBs seem to arm punt alot against us as we don't typically have safety help over the top.  It would be interesting to see drop back time before the release of a pass (for the other big ten teams and against zone/man coverage).  It just seems every time we get closer the pass is away.


November 29th, 2017 at 6:10 PM ^

Proper analysis requires this. An analysis of average time to release a pass could tell us a lot. What if the reason Indiana draws so many holding penalties is that QBs hold onto the ball for a couple of extra seconds?

No idea. I tend to favor an unconscious bias explanation, but if there's data it should be explored.


November 29th, 2017 at 3:50 PM ^

To be fair, OSU has had a damn good defensive line in that same time period, possibly better than Michigan's in the aggregate, and they are right in the middle of the pack.

Edit: never mind. Posted this before the OP edit. Now it really looks fishy.


November 29th, 2017 at 3:53 PM ^

Fair point. It still seems strange that the top 4 teams are generally terrible on defense (or they might have one extremely good defensive lineman in a sea of overall bad players). Makes it seem more like a general favoring of the lesser teams rather than a conspiracy.

OTOH 10 is insane compared to the rest.


November 29th, 2017 at 8:21 PM ^

I was kind of looking at it a slightly different way.  If you figure the best defenses in the B1G, at least on paper, are OSU, Wisconsin, MSU and UM, everone except UM is ranked middle to top of this list, and relatively similar in stats (1.10 to 1.17 accepted penalties per 100 plays) yet michigan is barely HALF of the next best defense despite this.  

Maybe I'm wrong in how I'm looking at it, or not giving someone in the league credit where it's due, But it makes sense to me to look at it from this standpoint.

Mocha Cub

November 29th, 2017 at 4:01 PM ^

In all fairness to Warde, we don't know that he hasn't already. Harbaugh complaining in the open (either on the field or in press conferences) hasn't really helped things. Perhaps he's handling things "the right way," which means behind closed doors so the stuffed shirts in the Big Ten offices don't get upset that they're getting called out for being horrible at their jobs.


November 29th, 2017 at 4:27 PM ^

The idea that Warde is some stealth super-hero doing things "the right way" behind closed doors has NO support in actual data.  Look at the table above - do you see any evidence that he's done anything to correct the situation?  Did you watch the OSU game by any chance?  If so you might've seen one, two or maybe 15 calls go against us.  You know - just like last year.  And last year I was ASSURED that mighty Manual was fighting the good fight on our behalf "the right way."  Didn't really work out that way for us now did it?

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.  He's doing NOTHING about it because candidly I doubt very much he sees this as some sort of big problem.  Just a bunch of wack-a-doodle bloggers with their tin foil hats on.


November 29th, 2017 at 5:11 PM ^

Trust me.  Clips are being sent to the league every week.  We did this when I was a manager back in the early 90's.  They definitely still do it today.  Every week they submit plays to be reviewed with an undertone of "why do we keep getting screwed?!?"  The problem is, EVERY team in the league does the same thing.  

Hence, it doesn't necessarily follow that because we're not seeing more calls go Michigan's way that our AD is somehow not making an issue of it at the league level.  You're can't  assume that him doing something would have to have some sort of direct result.  There are 13 athletic departments doing this every week (one for every team in the Big Ten!!). 

Addressing a perceived bias with the league and getting that to trickle down to the refereeing are two different things.  An AD can only effect this indirectly, he can't get out there and blow the whistle himself.  He can point it out, bargain, cajole and scream at league leadership all he wants.  It happens so much the league pretty much tunes it out.  They address each call and move on.  They'll never admit that a trend is emerging.  

An AD can't sit down and have a one-on-one with every individual referee whose ever hosed us... and even THAT wouldn't necessarily lead to some kind of "evening out" of calls.  At best, a crop of underperforming refs would get scrutinzed more closely, be given an opportunity for more training and then shown the door if they don't improve.  They would then be replaced by another group who may, or may not, be any better.  The best we can hope for is a crop of new refs whose random periods of ineptness would fall more disproportionately on other teams.

Just because things aren't improving within this "narrative" doesn't "prove" that our AD isn't doing everything within his power to address it.  Likewise, these stats could flip and Michigan could lead the league in holding calls drawn over the next three years and that wouldn't "prove" he necessarily did anything.  


November 29th, 2017 at 8:30 PM ^

But here is what should be undisputed, after last year's Ohio State game in which Harbaugh was fined 10K for his outburst and comments after the game, things changed at the league level.

For one, there was a sideline behavior rule against coaches put into effect, which, whether instiigaged by Harbaugh's behavior, was at least seen that way by many. And, the crew that worked last year's OSU-Michigan game, was assigned to one Michigan game this year. Now, maybe that crew was moved from the East to the West division of the Big Ten and just didn't get as many East assignments this year. But even if that were so, it reflects a move on the part of the Big Ten to adjust crew assignments based on some critieria.

And, I'm just spitballing here, but my belief is the vehemence of fan outrage after the OSU-Michigan game officiating outrage prompted the change in game assignments. Recall that the league publicly pronounced Dan Capron's crew as its No. 1 crew. And yet this year, this crew doesn't work games in which the league's top rated teams are playing? Why?

If you look at those holding numbers, and look at Michigan's defensive ranking nationally, its sack rate and third down efficiency numbers, the lack of holding calls on the offense it played against doesn't make sense rationally on any level. And so, the only conclusion you can draw is one that officials have decided privately not to make certain calls in Michigan games.

It is curious that both Indiana and Purdue's coaches who both made public comments about officiating benefitting Michigan based on historical bias, and who complained vociferously for calls in their games against the Wolverines this year, are the two schools getting the benefit of holding calls against their opponents.


November 29th, 2017 at 4:21 PM ^

Without any facts to back this up, it could be possible that our D has faced fewer plays (lots of 3 & out, our O dictates a slow pace).  Additionally, teams counter our defense by quick throws/screens, etc.  Tough to get a holding call if the QB gets the ball out of his hands as soon as he gets it.  

I doubt that would explain the full difference though.