Judging our offense by our opponents: S&P+ rankings

Submitted by Eye of the Tiger on September 25th, 2017 at 6:20 PM

In a discussion about O'Korn's performance, I saw a couple people say "yeah, but it was just Purdue." Which, granted, it was. But how does Purdue's defense stack up against the ones we've played and the ones we have coming up? Here are the S&P+ defensive rankings for our opponents (LINK):

  • Florida: #10
  • Cincinnati: #64
  • Air Force: #103
  • Purdue: #73
  • MSU: #24
  • Indiana: #31
  • PSU: #12
  • Rutgers: #23 (LOLWHUT)
  • Minnesota: #15
  • Maryland: #60
  • Wisconsin: #4
  • OSU: #9

According to available information, Purdue is not the worst defense we will see this year--it's the second worst, after Air Force, with Cincinnati the 3rd worst. 

Obviously this is subject to change, as more games are played. Somehow I doubt Rutgers will remain the #23 defense, and PSU's seems inflated by bad competition. But the lessons for the O'Korn/Speight question, in my opinion, are:

  • Yes, it was only one game against a not-great defense.
  • It was still a much better performance than against two other not-great defenses, one of which is appreciably worse, statistically speaking, than Purdue. 
  • It does only get harder from here on out.



September 25th, 2017 at 6:36 PM ^

A number of our upcoming opponents played tomato cans (hello msu, psu) w maybe one decent opponent and will settle in around average plus or minus on defense by season end I believe.


September 25th, 2017 at 7:09 PM ^


Excuse my shouting. I was channeling Don Brown.

We just need to keep correcting mistakes with coaching.

It's a process. Be patient. We have good coaching. Say it with me... "we have good coaching."

Over time, it makes all the difference.

Think halftime adjustments.

Some of you went to Michigan. Here's an SAT analogy for you...

performance in 1st half vs Purdue : performance in 2nd half vs Purdue :: consistency of execution in 1st half of season : consistency of execution in 2nd half of the season


September 25th, 2017 at 6:35 PM ^

Still a lot of noise in these rankings. Hard to take seriously Air Force at #103--after they played us, they just played a really good San Diego State team and lost a much closer game. That's the SDSU team that hammered Stanford, FWIW.

These rankings must, surely, be using preseason data as part of the formula. There's no way Florida and Air Force are so far apart when Michigan is either a quarter or a third of their total season performance and our numbers were relatively similar (actually better against Florida!) on paper. 


Leaders And Best

September 25th, 2017 at 7:16 PM ^

I usually post a weekly Polls and Ratings thread during the season, but I don't start until after week 5 or 6 because of the small sample sizes in the first weeks.

S&P+ and FEI both phase out the preseason projections over the the first 6 games or so of the season. Teams with early byes or missed games due to the hurricane will take even longer.


September 25th, 2017 at 8:48 PM ^

Connelly said it takes about 6 weeks to get preseason rankings out of it. Plus, there's more influence from preseason rankings this year because so many games got cancelled. So, not only is Florida missing a data point from having a game cancelled, but they also have more of their preseason rankings in there than we do. That's why he still has Florida State 3rd, they've only played 2 games. High preseason rank + playing a hard-fought game against by far the best team + losing a game against a quality team.

Big Boutros

September 25th, 2017 at 6:38 PM ^

If you put Richard Lagow on BGSU and Wilton Speight on WMU, MSU is 0-3 right now. Their secondary has been doused in gasoline the first three weeks but with little consequence.

Brandon Wimbush was passing at 50% for 5 YPA before he played MSU. He was utterly stinking against everyone else but against their tire fire secondary he was over 70% and 9 YPA.

What I'm saying is that MSU does not have the #24 defense. That number means nothing to me.


September 25th, 2017 at 7:08 PM ^

there is some talent, particularly in the secondary.  They've held both Washington and Nebraska to a below average success rate in those games.

I wouldn't necessarily take the #23 ranking at face value --- too early for that.  But I do see some value in the ranking as a directional tool.  Their defense is better than many think.  Their offense remains hideous, however.

As for other things I see:

1.  Michigan State is very very very very very likely overrated at #24.  That ranking is definitely opponent driven.  They were #109 in passing S&P+ in 2016 for a reason.

2.  Penn State finished 2016 at #14 in defensive S&P+.  I think they'll be in the teens this year as well: the current #12 ranking doesn't seem overly high.  What could be a trend: Iowa didn't succeed on a high percentage of plays Saturday night but when they did - they were HUGE plays.  The DL looks stout but the safeties look exploitable.

3.  Maryland's getting better - I guess that's inevitable given they were 127th in rushing S&P+ last year.  But UCF showed they've got a ways to go.  Likely to be the worst D in the B1G, IMO.  I'm still bear-ish (vs. the general public consensus) on the Terps.

4.  AFA's ranking is too heavily weighted by preseason rankings (86th defense in 2016).  AFA held SDSU to a 32% success rate Saturday - I didn't see that game but that number looks pretty good when a national average is 41%.


September 25th, 2017 at 7:02 PM ^

The SP rankings have so much preseason weight put on them that they are not useful right now. They need about 3 more weeks of data to be super useful. 


Air Force's defense is far better than ranked. Their overall ranking is 94th when taking into account pre-season information, but if they were judged solely on their first 3 games, they'd rank 45th

They also excel at doing the exact thing we're bad at, pick up blitzes and twists and stunts and stuff

Ask again in 3 weeks and we'll see. 


I sure hope our passing game keeps looking like it did against Purdue, but at some point we're going to have to be able to hit vertical routes to our WRs and not rely on mesh routes to TEs, quick hitters to WRs, and occasional digs and out routes

SF Wolverine

September 25th, 2017 at 7:34 PM ^

And those numbers will be way more meaningful. Sparty overrated, as are most who has played tomato cans. Random thought -- we might well be the first decent team Wiscy plays this year. In game 11.


September 25th, 2017 at 9:26 PM ^

There are two B1G teams I don't pay attention to in non-conference, Northwestern and Iowa.  They seem to use the non-conference season to get to know what their team is all about, then turn it up in conference play.  Iowa almost pulled off a huge upset last week, and I expect NW to keep it close for three quarters this week.


September 25th, 2017 at 7:37 PM ^

precisely this early in the season, but I doubt AF is the 103rd D, or FL is the 10th best. Rutgers is actually playing very well on defense given their opponents, but they'll likely wake up soon!

Baugh So Har

September 25th, 2017 at 10:31 PM ^

His footwork was sharp, release was quick, passes were accurate. You could accuse him of staring down his receivers, but he was clearly waiting for the routes to develop. I can't remember many instances where he even had to progress through his reads.