UM does not play well on the road - why?

Submitted by philidor's legacy on October 1st, 2018 at 3:58 PM

I have turned to the Board many times to help me understand things. Thanks to many. 

I keep reading that Michigan does not play well on the road. The metrics back that up. Why is this? Growing up, every football player has home and away games. All of the coaches have coached home and away games. It's not new concept. I can understand why players don't perform well when they are used to artificial turf and then have to play on grass - but I don't get the away game stuff. I would like to hear opinions on why Michigan is road challenged. 



October 1st, 2018 at 5:19 PM ^

Well apparently Michigan's offense is not allowed to run scripted drives like its opponents. How else can you explain the inability to move the ball before the fourth drive? Warde needs to address this with the league before Harbaugh says something vague and meaningless about it in a press conference. 


October 1st, 2018 at 7:09 PM ^

UM can’t script and the other thing that drives me nuts is every time UM has a game like this it’s because the other team had a really good game plan to beat Michigan.    If that’s the case then why can’t NW have a really good game plan to beat Akron?   It’s always against UM.  


October 2nd, 2018 at 11:05 AM ^

Came off a bye week. Thorson’s first full game back. Everything that could go right for NW did for the first 20 minutes. Sounded like the coaches thought NW was consistently grabbing our pulling guards until they got called for it. And yes, our guys missed some tackles and seemed flat at first. Bottom line is I wouldn’t read this as “they lost to Akron, we barely won, therefore we’re bad.” Just a confluence of things for the start of the game. 


October 2nd, 2018 at 7:51 PM ^

"Home cooking". But that affects every away team -- all home teams have some slight ref bias (noise from the stands, etc. See the video review in our last home game -- flag wasn't thrown until whole stadium booed). 

I'm more interested in why *we*, *in particular* seem to be much worse than other teams.

We could prob run a regression on how teams do against the spear, with home and away splits. I'd bet we're not (statistically) significantly below the spread. If that's the case, its be hard to argue its not just

A.) Random chance, and

B.) We tend to remember the close ones, but forget the easy ones. Observer bias.


October 1st, 2018 at 7:29 PM ^

You are right that M has a legitimately good defense and that we should probably cut them some slack, but it has twice this year given up sequences of big drives and, unfortunately for Don Brown and co., they can't afford to do that when the offense is only going to score 17-24 points against teams with a pulse. 


October 2nd, 2018 at 10:00 AM ^

Yeah, I wouldn't call giving up 200 yards of total offense a great day for either the team or its starting quarterback

But here's the stat you've really missed: in two road games Michigan has given up 24 first quarter points and a total of 41 in those road contests, which is still less than three scores a game.

Now, for the year, the defense has given up 20 points or more just twice and a total of 74, on drives fueled by penalties that have led to 57 points in all five games. Thus on drives in which Michigan committed no fouls, the opposition has managed just 17 points.

There is a lesson there, somewhere, I think. Every score Northwestern registered on Saturday were penalty-aided. That was also true in South Bend. So, if you want to analyze why Michigan plays so poorly on the road or gets off to such slow starts defensively, you have to look at that or perhaps opposition conversion rate on third down. Michigan just seems to have a hard time getting off the field defensively on third down early in games, mostly because of penalties which extend drives or make first downs easier to obtain.

Michigan is being flagged for 5 to 6 more fouls a game than last year and 30 more yards in markoffs, which translate to three first downs on their own. Regardless of the officiating, this is a real thing.


October 1st, 2018 at 4:09 PM ^

Harbaugh's road games:

Year 1

Beat Rutgers 78-0, beat MSU by 11 or 12, were upset by Iowa, and unexpectedly took OSU to OT.

Last year (not a great team, mind you)

Beat Purdue by 18, Beat IU in OT, blown out by PSU, lost by 2 TDs to UW.

This year:

Lost to ND by a TD, beat NU by 3.

That's a 5-5 road record. Our expected record might be 6-4 out of those games. I dunno. Seems like we're doing pretty average on the road, relative to the quality of our teams and opponents.


Edit: and I missed some games that improves Harbaugh's road record (read below).


October 1st, 2018 at 9:30 PM ^

I think we're predictable.  We beat the teams we are supposed to.  The problem is we never seem to upset any higher ranked teams on the road.  We never seem to outplay expectations.  Things seem to have to fall into place for us to win against equal or better competition.  We never out-scheme people and often get out-schemed.

5th and Long

October 1st, 2018 at 9:55 PM ^

I went back through Harbaugh's 3+ seasons looking at our road losses and rankings.  The better question might be why can't Michigan beat ranked teams on the road?

In the Harbaugh era, EXCLUDING neutral site games (bowl and Jerry's world) Michigan is 10-9 on the road.

NONE of the wins were against ranked teams

7 of the 9 losses came against teams ranked higher than UM

The two other road losses were to teams (Utah & Iowa) who ended up ranking higher than UM in the final polls.

philidor's legacy

October 1st, 2018 at 4:27 PM ^

Overall Winning Percentage, 1869-2017

Team                Win%             gm     W        L          T

Michigan        0.728               1283   917     331     35


Home Winning Percentage, 1869-2017

Team              Win%     gm       W        L          T

Michigan        0.797     769     603     146     20


Away Winning Percentage, 1869-2017

Team              Win%    gm       W        L          T

Michigan        0.644    436     274     148     14


Neutral Site Winning Percentage, 1869-2017

Team              Win%     gm       W        L          T

Michigan        0.519      78       40       37       1


data from James Howell's web site.


October 1st, 2018 at 4:30 PM ^

Something along the lines that michigan hasn't beaten a ranked team in a true road game in a long ass time (2003? 2005?).  And you completely missed a year of harbaugh. Lost at utah, beat IU in 2OT, beat minnesota with goal line stand, beat IU again in OT, beat northwestern by 3, loss to Iowa.  And this is just harbaugh, going back 10 years we havnt won at columbus or wisconsin. We have road wins over unranked notre dame x1, penn state x2, and msu x 1.  So "metrics"... even though this was just words and took 20 seconds. But sure, they play about as well as other teams if you're referring to the average big ten team. 


October 1st, 2018 at 4:53 PM ^

Outside of 2015, 2016 & (hopefully) 2018, we've been a pretty average Big Ten team. So, it seems pretty normal that we haven't beaten too many teams that hardly anyone else beats on the road. 

Maybe that's the "problem". Michigan hasn't been good enough to beat good teams on the road. So, there's the answer for the OP.


October 1st, 2018 at 10:17 PM ^

Well duh. And his answer is we haven't been that great period. It's not just a road thing. But it's harder to win on the road. After that stat about Michigan's top 25 opponent road losses, someone had a good post here showing almost every program in the B1G (except OSU) has a pretty bad road record against good teams. 


October 1st, 2018 at 4:02 PM ^

At this point i can't give a direct answer. It's a mental block. We always seem to shoot ourselves in the foot. A bad call by the ref, poor execution on a crucial play, or when we have the chance to put a team away we get conservative. The list goes on an on. 


October 1st, 2018 at 4:05 PM ^

Because the other programs don't like us and they look at it as the biggest game of their season (in many cases).  It's their Super Bowl and just a regular game for us.  That's what it seems like to me but I'm not associated with the team so I really don't know.  

L'Carpetron Do…

October 2nd, 2018 at 10:15 AM ^

Exactly, the team should get up to beat anybody they play. I know its easier said than done, but why is the fact that the other team wants to beat us so bad matter when it comes to Michigan's play? If you know everyone wants to beat you that should psych you up and give you added motivation. 

Michigan looks flat as hell on the road a lot of the time and its infuriating. They came out of the tunnel against ND - a major rival and the first game of the year - looking like they were there for a friendly game of 2-hand touch at a freaking company picnic. Michigan has to do a better job of getting up for these games.