I rarely post, but with all the talk about the offensive struggles, I was curious about how Michigan's rushing yardage over the past three years by game and how it correlates to success on the field. Since I don't have time to adjust for sacks, I used 125 yards per game as the threshold for deeming a game a successful rushing afternoon/evening. Here are the results:
2015: 4 games under 125 rushing yards, 3 losses during these particular games
2016: 4 games under 125 rushing yards, 3 losses during these particular games
2017: 5 games under 125 rushing yards, 5 losses during these particular games
The past three seasons, Michigan has only one 2 games when rushing for fewer than 125 yards (87 yards against Penn State in 2015 and 119 yards against Central Florida in 2016). The rest are all losses!
I know this is an overly simplistic and not very surprising if you know anything about football, but with so many irrational and over the top takes on how the season unfolded and what's killing our success, this is the statistic that matters to me. Whatever Harbaugh and Co. can do to ensure a successful rushing game is where the focus needs to be. The three things we need the most: 1) Better Offensive Line play -- great run blocking and average pass blocking, 2) An average or better QB that can make the play action pass a viable threat to make the run game more effective, and 3) Some game changing running backs that can break some big plays.
We saw spurts of #1 and #3 this year against weaker teams, but rarely saw #2.
(For what it's worth, I looked at turnover differential as an important variable for predicting losses. In the past 3 years, Michigan has had a turnover differential of -2 or worse five times, with 4 of these resulting in losses. Two of these games were against teams we should have beat (MSU and South Carolina this year) and two were in toss up games (Utah in 2015 and OSU in 2016). The one game we had -2 or worse and won was against Minnesota in 2015.)
I know this was long, so don't neg too hard.