What the Fancy Stats say when Michigan has the ball

Submitted by BuckeyeChuck on November 21st, 2017 at 3:23 PM

When we looked at the S&P+ matchups of OSU’s offense against Michigan’s defense, it was mostly a stalemate of strength vs. strength, with one identifiable statistical advantage to each side. When we compare the stats of Michigan’s offense against OSU’s defense, the numbers do not suggest an even matchup. Although, the numbers also do not fully appreciate just how good Michigan’s run blocking has become in the past month. And after seeing Iowa run in big gashes against OSU’s defense while Michigan was running for 400 yards per game, I have certainly seen visions run through my mind of a potential repeat of that dastardly number of 313.

The biggest unknown is who will play quarterback. Harbaugh has OSU’s game-planning right where he wants it…not knowing which of 3 QBs will play. Coach Harbaugh, how is Peters? “He’s coming along.” Coach Harbaugh, how is Speight? “He’s coming along.” I’m sure we won’t know until Michigan’s offense takes the field.

Over the course of the season, Michigan has been better at being explosive than consistent (40th in IsoPPP, 91st in Success Rate). OSU’s defense has been a bit more vulnerable at giving up the explosive play than being beaten consistently (25th in IsoPPP, 14th in Success Rate). Perhaps Michigan will catch a few big plays, particularly in the running game (18th best rushing IsoPPP). We’ve certainly seen Higdon & Evans do that very thing multiple times in the past month.

RUSHING: Though Michigan may have some big plays in the running game, they may have more trouble having consistent success in terms of moving the chains efficiency (69th in rushing Success Rate vs. OSU 3rd in preventing “successful” plays).

PASSING: Michigan’s passing numbers are certainly not scary, but that’s also because attempts have dwindled since going with Peters. However, pass defense is not OSU’s defensive strength. Despite all the criticism OSU’s pass defense has faced, the problem has not been cornerback #12 Denzel Ward, who has had an excellent season. The trouble has come from the other CBs and also safeties. But the worst part of OSU’s pass defense has actually come from linebacker play. It was the LBs who were regularly beaten by Mayfield throwing to TEs & backs. The LBs were awful at Kinnick when the Iowa TEs put up a huge day. (Ironically, 2 of the 3 starting linebackers did not play against Sparty after getting dinged up by Iowa, and the linebacker group had its best game of the season against MSU.) As coincidence would have it, TEs & backs are precisely the norm for the passing attack of a full-on Harbauffense. This has been even more the case with Peters. It’s very possible that using TEs & backs as a comfort zone for Peters (if he plays) will allow Michigan to do good things in the passing game against OSU’s LBs.

Michigan’s offense is actually better against the national average on passing downs (21st) than on standard downs (49th). OSU’s defense is also more vulnerable on passing downs (37th in Success Rate, 54th in IsoPPP) than standard downs (8th in Success Rate, 12th in IsoPPP).

If these trends play to form on Saturday, OSU’s defense may be more likely to win a number of plays on standard downs, but Michigan’s offense come up with big plays on passing downs, even running the ball when behind the chains (42nd in Line Yards on passing downs vs. OSU’s defense being only 46th in Line Yards on passing downs). I can see this happen on 2nd down after minimal gain on first down (OSU’s defense is 2nd in S&P+ on 1st down but drops to 41st on 2nd down, whereas Michigan’s offense is only 82nd on 1st down but jumps up to 18th on 2nd down). That equates to OSU’s defense getting a 1st down smother of minimal or no gain, with Michigan’s offense having a good chance to make up for it on 2nd down even with 8+ yards to go. Therefore, the Fancy Stats suggest Michigan’s offense does not need to stay ahead of the chains as much as OSU’s offense needs to.

The area we all know that is most advantageous for OSU’s defense is their D-line pass rushing (#1 D-Line Havoc Rate in the nation) against Michigan’s O-line (118th in Adj. Sack Rate). Shall we expect Michigan to run 70%+ of their snaps? It will be interesting to see how Michigan will scheme for successful passing plays while avoiding having its QB put on his back again.

Both defenses appear to be in line to get multiple sacks. Any of these sack plays, particularly if resulting in a turnover, could end up being the determining factor in the game’s winner.




November 21st, 2017 at 3:30 PM ^

"The biggest unknown is who will play quarterback. Harbaugh has OSU’s game-planning right where he wants it…not knowing which of 3 QBs will play."


Silver lining so thin you need an electron microscope to see it.


November 21st, 2017 at 3:48 PM ^

To be fair, I don't know that we've had anyone from a non-Michigan fanbase contribute even on a semi-regular basis in a while. We've had some MSU and OSU folks mainly lurk and occasionally post, and there was that Nebraska fan too, but it seems like this is the first time in quite some time. Actually, I am more surprised than anything. 


November 21st, 2017 at 3:54 PM ^

Or at least he missed the class on how to write well and he certainly missed the class on basic formatting.

Buckeye Chuck-  appreciate your willingness to contribute, I'm sorry that I must hate you for being an OSU fan.


November 21st, 2017 at 4:39 PM ^

I dont comprehend the mindset of someone who is a registered member of a rivals teams blog/discussion forum who isn't an overt troll.  In a way it's weirder to not be a troll.  It's pathological enough to spend signficant amounts of time on the internet forums of your own team (as I admittedly do), much less that reams chief rival. 

What motivates it?  Is it a subtler form of trolling?  Is is a subconscious need for validation?  Is it a fetish for that which is taboo?


November 21st, 2017 at 4:51 PM ^

Full disclosure - I️ don’t post on any rival websites, although I️ do frequent the CFB subreddit filled with fans from other schools. Overall, I️ think some people just enjoy talking football, and it can be enlightening to get perspectives from other people, especially those who have a reason to see things differently than you. I️ don’t think it can be condensed to “trolling,” and to be honest I️ think it’d be nice if we could embrace voices from other fan bases (as long as they’re not assholes, and there aren’t too many so as to dilute the Michigan fan presence).


November 21st, 2017 at 4:55 PM ^

When you consider the quality of content at MgoBlog, it makes sense for any student of the game, regardless of their alma mater, to have a membership here.

Given that, and a genuine desire to truly engage in a meaningful discussion of football, and being a troll is counterproductive.

Yes it is rivalry week, so take it in whatever manner you like: Buckeye Chuck has no buckeye friends, so he needs to come over to our board, or Buckeye Chuck is a super-clever kind of troll, whatever makes you happy.


I dumped the Dope

November 21st, 2017 at 5:41 PM ^

is happening this week.  I think Mich played a very good DL in the Sconnies and didn't really have wild success, but did they learn anything from playing a "better' DL (??)..we will see.  I feel like I've seen incremental improvements in run blocking and pass pro thru the season.  But having an elite DL like I feel OSU has, I think its going to be tough sledding running or passing.

As for the QB situation, its entirely possible we need two of them to finish this game...

If there's a time to throw it 12 times to Zentry then I think Saturday is the time.  McKeon had a key drop on what could have been a drive to climb back into it vs sWissconsin.  But I still think the TEs are our best way to "get open"

Then there's the X factor of this game, not really having a lot more to play for after this...we already had our shot at Wisconsin.



November 21st, 2017 at 6:01 PM ^

Michigan’s qb is is gonna die. You thought Wisconsin wrecked our dline in pass protection? It’s gonna be much worse Saturday.


November 21st, 2017 at 6:48 PM ^

I thought it was a very nicely done post. Unfortunately, I think the experience, talent and strengths of OSU, combined with injuries and youth on our side, will require me to drink several cocktails to get through the evening equably.


November 21st, 2017 at 7:40 PM ^

OSU's biggest strength is their pass rush.  Michigan's biggest weakness is their pass protection.  Considering we're probably on our #3 QB (JOK) and he's terrible under pressure, I'd say game over.  Maybe if Bosa, Hubbard, Lewis, and Holmes all get ejected for targeting eventually one of our QBs will have enough time to throw, but I doubt it.  Even if UM's defense limits OSU's offense, and UM gets some running game going, it won't be enough if they can't throw the ball.  Michigan will have to show it can do things it has not shown the ability to do yet against quality teams this year in order to win, so obviously I wouldn't expect that.


November 21st, 2017 at 7:53 PM ^

Don't mind some of our more MLive-y type posters, as you can see most of them are idiots. I appreciate the thoughtful post, it's pretty well done. I want you to lose in the most agonizingly painful way possible on Saturday, but nice post. 


November 22nd, 2017 at 12:00 AM ^

Fuck you, buckeyechuck.

With that out of the way.

Rational self: I'm expecting us to get shut out and run out of our own stadium.

Drunk or waiting for the sildenafil to kick in: WE WILL WIN! I AM A MICHIGAN FAN! L#T"S HUMP OSU LIKE WE DO TO HOTTIES!!!