Football Outsiders projects Michigan to finish 7-5 in 2013

Submitted by Leaders And Best on May 3rd, 2013 at 12:53 PM

Football Outsiders did a preliminary projection and simulation of the 2013 Big Ten Standings today. They projected Michigan to most likely finish 7-5 and 4th in the Legends Division with a potential win range between 5-7 and 9-3. I was pretty surprised by this as usually Football Outsiders models are some of the better ones in football. Article is ESPN Insider ($):

4. Michigan Wolverines

Projected finish: 7-5
Win total range: 5-7 to 9-3
Chance to win Big Ten: 1 percent

This projection model isn't too kind to the Wolverines, a program with an elite historical tradition but one that is still seeking its identity in the Brady Hoke era. The offense was prolific in spots under quarterback Devin Gardner after he took the reins midseason, but there is youth along the offensive line that will probably keep Michigan from being a contender. If the Wolverines can help themselves on defense and special teams, it can ease the burden. But Michigan started twice as many drives from inside its own 20-yard line (24 percent) as its opponents (12 percent) and lost the field position battle eight times, including in four of its five losses.



May 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 PM ^

Yeah but they didn't win a B10 home game and went 6-6 last year. Slightly upgrading at 1 or 2 positions doesn't make up for losing your only 2 offensive weapons. They have a linebacker at running back right now. I don't see anything that makes me think they will be leaps and bounds better. They lost to Iowa last year.


May 3rd, 2013 at 7:48 PM ^

Depth is solid at DB, LB, and DT this year. A little weak at DE (Calhoun and Rush are the only two with much playing experience). 

On offense, OL depth is great if they can stay healthy. If 2 players go down with season ending injuries like the past two years, that depth won't be as great obviously. WR has a lot of depth with young players. RB is a big question mark. Riley Bullough looked solid but ultimately it will be a freshman who will start in my opinion. TE is an even bigger question mark. Simply put, our TEs will suck this year. 


May 3rd, 2013 at 9:06 PM ^

I'd say your deep at LB and safety.  Dennard is a very good corner, but I didn't see anyone opposite him worth noting (now that Adams is gone).  Isn't Drone also a back-up DE? 

DT is deep if you mean a lot of guys who are average or below.  And I'd say the same about OL, but having Fonoti back will help.  

Bullough at RB?  Has your fanbase really bought into this?  I'm sure he's tough.  But he's slow, can't cut, can't make his own yards, and is a huge target.  He even fumbled in your spring game.  His emergence is a flashing neon sign above the cratering hole at RB.  A true freshman has to step up... but won't be nearly as good as Bell. 


May 3rd, 2013 at 6:27 PM ^

You mean All-B1G cornerback Johnny Adams, as voted by the coaches?  I realize he was burned in several high profile moments, but he was also a tough-as-nails run defender and held coverage on numerous plays where the QB decided not to throw.  He was good, even if the Sparty fanbase complained ad nauseum about him.  The B1G coaches, who watch more film than any of us, would seem to be a good judge of that.

Gholston was laughably touted as an All-American in the media, and this blog correctly knocked that down (and then went well beyond that).  But he was better than average, and disruptive often enough.  Until someone else shows something besides nothing, I'll assume a lesser player.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:28 PM ^

Yeah, who doesn't? If they can kick two field goals a game they'll win the national title with that defense. So what if every game is close , even if it's against Indiana or EMU. That team is for real. Who cares about catching passes or having a running back. Maxwell is a sure fire first team QB.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:21 PM ^

My Quick Projection: 10-2. We win one of the three tough games


ND   TossUp

Akron   W

@UConn  W

Minn   W

@PSU   W

Ind   W

@MSU   W

Neb   W

@NW   TossUp

@Iowa   W

Ohio   TossUp

B1G    ?

Bowl   ?





May 3rd, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

If you are being honest, you have to predict this as a loss. Not saying that we can't win, but from a purely objective standpoint, that team is loaded. Msu is a probable win, but i could also see listing this as a toss-up. Otherwise I agree with your predictions.


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:28 PM ^

loaded?  With that OL?  Have you read the reports about that super hyped DL in the spring game?  and they lost Hankins and Simon?  I think Michigan is better on both lines and at worst the game is a toss up.


May 3rd, 2013 at 4:39 PM ^

I think we're in a good position with regard to Ohio.   They'll likely have some gaudy numbers coming into the game, but that's to be expected against teams like Florida A&M and Buffalo.  They'll maybe...maybe play one ranked team before they come to A2.  They won't have a road test until they meet us.  It's going to be a bit of a shock to them having played at one level all season and then stepping up, on the road, for the last game.

I'd call it a toss up, but predicting a loss?  If you want to step expectations low, so be it, but they weren't great last year and (regardless of record against DIII teams) won't be great this year.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:22 PM ^

I feel like this year sets up for a weird year for statistical models.  Like the QB switch, and offensive philosophy switch probably messes up a bunch of the predictive measures these models normally use.  And then we lose starters like Demens, but then again, do we really lose a starter?  Because Morgan, another starter slides over, and Ross was playing starting level minutes by the end of the year last year.  And then we lose Floyd at CB, but gain Countess back, who is an upgrade and going into the 2012 season everyone was calling him our best defender.  We are a young team for sure, but 7-5 seems crazy pessimistic to me.  2012 was one of those years where statisical models don't really grasp what went on with the team, and what will going forward.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:53 PM ^

Key Losses:  Kovacs, Floyd, Demens, Ryan, Campbell, Roh

I agree that Countess and Ross should offset Demens and Floyd, but that leaves Ryan, Campbell, Roh, and Kovacs.  That's 4 starters we have to replace, at a minimum.

Campbell - we can probably replace him with Pipkins or Henry and some other kids, but going from a talented senior to a fresh or soph is usually a downgrade.  Roh to Heitzman or Wormley - same story.  DL may take a step back but it should be small, especially considering our coaches and accounting for improvement from WDE.

Ryan was our best defensive player and is irreplaceable.  I like Cam too but he obviously isn't the same player.  LB corps will probably take a step back too, unless Ross is the all-conference  player Ryan looked like.

Kovacs will be missed.  Here were asking Wilson to fill big shoes.  Will improvement from Countess, Taylor, Avery, Gordon offset Kovacs departure? - it's possible but the model is probably accurate in predicting decline for a secondary losing a productive player like Kovacs.


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:31 PM ^

but with the coaching staff, it's evident that this defense is about scheme and not personnel.  How many of these guys would've been projected to contribute to a top 20 defense for 2 consecutive years?  The scheme wins.  Also, you have to take into account guys like Frank Clark, Countess being a HUGE upgrade over Floyd, and the possibility of having an actual pass rush this season


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:50 PM ^

Jake Ryan will be back by the time we play every important Big Ten game.

Jibreel Black will replace Campbell, not an underclassman. He has lots of experience and has been looking good in the spring.

Roh was a solid but underwhelming player, and his replacement will be approximately that. Probably not quite as good, but not a big drop off.

Kovacs is the big one, but every team has that. We'll be fine.


May 3rd, 2013 at 3:21 PM ^

I can't believe it coming from you LA2!

My point is that a subjective view/model is justified in projecting a decline where you lose that kind of production.

To your points:

Mostly I agree.  I'm very high on Black and I agree that he replaces Campbell albeit with a different skill set (more pass rush, less run-stopping).  More importantly, we'll have better depth from WDE to NT.  Also agree Roh was overrated, but he was productive and didn't mess up. If Heitzman is the replacement it's probably a wash at best.  Still - WDE will be better and QWash may play a little better with Pipkins taking on a bigger role behind him.  There's enough talent and coaching for a reasonable fan to expect us to outperform a modeled outcome here.

Ryan and Countess - I wouldn't bet against them, but you have to acknowledge the uncertainty of them coming back to full strength with those severe injuries.  Countess - OK, I'm with you but Ryan coming back to full strength (even if he does return midseason) is unlikely.

Agree replacing Kovacs is the toughest part -- but I'm pretty optimistic about Wilson.  A freshman who passed some serviceable vets to get playing time so early in his career usually ends up having a nice career.  With the way the schedule lays out (most important games in November) a young kid like that could be very very good by the end of the year.

SC Wolverine

May 3rd, 2013 at 3:10 PM ^

This.  Except that, while I loved Kovacs like everyone else, his lack of speed did hurt in pass defense.  I'm not at all sure that our safety play will be worse.  Run support and blitzing could hardly be better than Kovacs.  But pass defense definitely could be.  Add Countess back in, plug in Jake by mid-season (fingers crossed), Ross is very likely to be a stud linebacker, and then replace average players (Campbell and Roh), then give everyone more experience -- and our defense will be better.  Good luck running against us next year, is my prediction.


May 3rd, 2013 at 5:27 PM ^

If we keep doing this then is safe to say that we'll never be good again, every team loses seniors every year, and most of them are key players (otherwise they'd have left the team by then) next year we'll be debating about who is going to replace Lewan, Schofield, Qwash, etc... Just keep the faith, we're developing pretty good players and we'll lose great players year in and year out.


May 3rd, 2013 at 6:59 PM ^

But, most teams that win consistently year in and year out are not starting Fr and Sophs out of neccessity.  They do it when the talent warrants, but even then they have quality juniors and seniors as back-ups.  Michigan just doesn't yet have the depth of experience that it needs.


May 3rd, 2013 at 9:45 PM ^


Yeah, most of the times I'll agree with that, but although we have young players in the two-deep, they're no newcomers, we lose JMFR and he's replaced by a senior, Morgan is a true junior with his share of games under his belt, and although Ross is only a true sophomore, he beat a RS senior last year for playing time in Hawtorne and is ahead a RS senior this year in Mike Jones, he's young, but talented, Campbell and Roh were seniors, but they were underwhelming, I don't think the bar is set too high for whoever ends up filling this spots.
On offense we have 2 true sophomore tight ends, but they have a full year of playing experience under their belt and if anything they should be better than last year.
On the OL we have a couple experienced tackles whom will play in the NFL most likely (talking about Schofield) we have a RS Junior center between them and a couple young guards, we can't count out Bryant, who has 3 years in this team, and if he's beaten for the position as the optimist I am, I'd like to think that that's due to the talent of his competition and not because he's a bad player. To add to that even though we had 3 veteran seniors starting at the interior offensive line, they were average, so again the bar is not that high in that regard. 
We have a RS junior at the helm, a couple of reliable senior wide receivers and some talented kids behind them, the player we're going to find harder to replace IMO is Jordan Kovacs, because although we have some very promising players in the team, they're young (Wilson and Thomas) and the experienced guys in the team (Furman and Robinson) haven't shown yet that they can play there and be effective.

South Bend Wolverine

May 3rd, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

Yeah, I really don't see a 5-7 season as being within the range of potential outcomes.  This is a really, really pessimistic prediction that is dependent on believing that there will be no O-line improvement, Gardner will not be as good as his numbers say, and the defense without Jake Ryan will be hamstrung.  I just don't see that as likely at all.  Gardner is a great fit for what Borges wants to do, we've got the best LT in America, and Mattison continues to head up the defense.  We'll see, but a 7-5 season really seems like the worst-case scenario, if a lot of things go wrong, not a most-likely outcome.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:26 PM ^

I'm trying to figure out where you get the 5 losses from.

Wins - CMU, Akron, @UConn, Minn, Indiana

SWBWKSH* - @PSU, @NW, @Iowa

Tossup - ND, @MSU, Nebraska, OSU

I see no sure losses on this schedule. PSU should be falling apart. Iowa won't have a RB by the end of November. NW is just a team that we should be, but it's on the road so who knows. That's 7-8 wins right there. That means that they are predicting us to lose every tossup game this year with 3 of them being at home. I just don't see how we lose all of those games.

Honestly, I think it's more likely that we go 12-0 than 7-5 (not that I think 12-0 is terribly likely either). We'd just have to have a lot of things go very wrong for us to lose 5 games and I just don't see it happening.


*Should win, but who knows? Shit happens.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:55 PM ^

Northwestern, for all intents and purposes, is a home game. There will be more M fans there than NW fans.


But yeah, I see nine or ten wins as most likely, based on splitting the tossups (three of four of which are at home, so that's probably conservative).

MI Expat NY

May 3rd, 2013 at 2:18 PM ^

Northwestern had us beat last year but for a minor miracle, so there's that.  I also think most impartial observers would have a couple of your tossups as at least "lean losses."  I can see 5 losses out of this group, but I can't see 7 loses as predicted by the model.  

We have a lot more questions than some of the commenters here seem to appreciate, but we should have more pure talent to guarantee a winning record.  I'd say we'll see a range of 7-5 to 10-2 with 8-4 and 9-3 being the equally most likely outcomes.  


May 3rd, 2013 at 5:02 PM ^

I'd move Northwestern to "tossup" but other than that minor quibble, I agree with your assessment. I'm usually pretty pessimistic and I am currently predicting a 9-3 season as being the most likely for UM with a decent shot at a 10-2 regular season. Whatever model they are using for this prediction seems...faulty.

NOTE: All bets are off if Gardner gets injured and misses significant time because UM would be proper f*cked if that happens.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:28 PM ^

Come on now. As long as #12 is healthy, we'll be just fine. Most of the team is in their second and third year in this system. The talent and depth are improved. Call me me Mr. Optimistic , but I'm expecting a huge year.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

We have none at QB, and about the same on the OL (in that its either freshman replacements, or upper classmen replacements who couldn't beat out the freshmen). I do think the ceiling is higher than 9-3 if we keep the key players healthy, but if you have any sort of probabilistic model, you have to account for the possibility that Gardner, Lewan, or Schofield get hurt, at which point things can get ugly in a hurry.

Undefeated dre…

May 3rd, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

Though I did find OP's quote kind of funny:

I was pretty surprised by this as usually Football Outsiders models are some of the better ones in football.

Even on the most scientific blog in the Big 10 (TM?), the homerism such that the first reaction is to question the model, not figure out why it might be right. joeyb broke it down well -- 7 losses is basically us losing every game there's a decent chance for us to lose. But only a 1% chance of winning the Big 10? That's pessimistic, even for me.

EDIT add: Curious if they define Devin as a returning starter at QB or not. If not, that may explain some of the pessimism; these models usually give decent boosts for having a returning starter at QB.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:38 PM ^

Did anyone else notice that he gives PSU a 7% chance to win the big ten and Michigan a 1% chance? That basically throws any credit this guy had out the window. The 1 team that's ineligable to even comepte for a big ten title he gives a 7% chance to win it.


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:17 PM ^

But they can't win the big ten. They have a 0% shot at winning the big ten. That's different than winning the division because the team below them would still go to the title game and compete to win the big ten.


May 3rd, 2013 at 2:25 PM ^

But I bet their model doesnt exclude them because of that. And, since they can come in first place in the division, they get a technical percent for winning the whole league. IIRC, they had percentages for both OSU and PSU last year too. So on those few times their models put PSU in first place in the division, rather than back track like would happen in reality, they just keep going forward in their computer world. There are many reason to pick apart their analysis, I just dont think this is one of them


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:46 PM ^

It's not that hard to get to 7-5.  Team is basically the same, but minus half a season of Denard and Jake.  That said, I'd be surprised if the rest of the B1G has enough talent to actually capitalize on our weakness.  We'll be at a talent deficit against ND and OSU.  That's about it no? 8-4 sounds right to me.


May 3rd, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

I see six challenging games on that schedule.  Do you really think we will go 1-5 vs ND, @MSU, @Iowa, @NW, Neb, OSU?  I say we will win all the home games and go 2-1 on the road. for a overall record of 11-1 division champs.