2018 MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Regular Season Preview– By the Numbers


Hello UMGoBlue fans and readers!  I am very excited to join the writing team for this site.  Throughout this season, I will be looking at Michigan’s previous and upcoming football games through a statistics-based lens.  I will use a play-by-play analysis, and I’ll review S&P+ stats to form my opinions.  Then I’ll try to explain what we’ve seen from the Wolverines, and try to predict what I expect to see in the coming week.

Below you’ll find my initial regular season outlook.  Info comes from Bill Connelly’s most recent NCAAF rankings, released last week (link).  Before we have actual 2018 stats, S&P+ scores are compiled from past performance, returning production, and recent recruiting success.  Positive scores mean better than average, negative scores mean below average.


Overall: 19.2, 10th
Offense: 31.2, 45th
Defense: 11.9, 2nd

Regular Season SCHEDULE

@ Notre Dame: Overall 19.5, 9th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 16.3 (7th), Midpoint: 23.75
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 35.8 (22nd), Midpoint: 23.85

S&P+ analysis is almost dead even. I give the slight edge to Touchdown Jesus.

PREDICTION: This game will be decided by 2 or 3 plays that the national media will be dissecting for the entire week following the night game. Once S&P+ is working with 2018 game data, I am confident Michigan’s offense moves up from 45th nationally. However, I believe the key for an opening week victory will be Special Teams execution. Michigan’s punter has to ensure ND always faces that Michigan Defense on a long field. I like DPJ’s chances to make a big return, and let’s hope Quinn Nordin returns to being a strength, rather than question mark.
Michigan 21 Notre Dame 17, 1-0

vs. Western Michigan: Overall -4.1, 88th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 32.7 (101st), Midpoint: 31.95
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 28.7 (67th), Midpoint: 20.80

S&P+ analysis will begin to adjust for week 1 data. The edge for Michigan may even grow.

PREDICTION: There will still be some wrinkles to iron out in week 2, but this should be a comfortable home opener for the Wolverines. Personally, I am excited to see whether Michigan’s offense can build a large lead, and if so, how Jim Harbaugh manages the new Red Shirt rules.
Michigan 31 WMU 6, 2-0

vs. SMU: Overall -0.7, 73rd
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 34.9 (111th), Midpoint: 33.05
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 34.2 (29th), Midpoint: 23.05

S&P+ analysis says SMU has a legit offense. This week against Don Brown’s group may be the low point of their season.

PREDICTION: Third time around will hopefully be especially charmed for Shea Patterson and the offense. Week 3 is a golden opportunity to get everyone involved, and put multiple sets on film to force future D Coordinators to increase the number of hours they spend breaking down Michigan.
Michigan 38 SMU 10, 3-0

vs. Nebraska: Overall 2.0, 61st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 28.8 (66th), Midpoint: 30.0
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 30.8 (48th), Midpoint: 21.35

S&P+ analysis says Nebraska and Michigan are close offensively. I’ll say this, by the end of the year, I think I would be satisfied with matching Scott Frost’s offensive output, even with a Freshman QB.

PREDICTION: For the third consecutive week, Michigan’s offense will have the opportunity to face a bottom-half defense. I expect some surprises from Nebraska in this game, and a few nervous fans at the Big House.
Michigan 27 Nebraska 20, 4-0

@ Northwestern: Overall 6.6, 37th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 22.1 (25th), Midpoint: 26.65
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 28.7 (63rd), Midpoint: 20.3

S&P+ analysis says this will be a low scoring game, and if I were a betting man I would ride that analysis and take the UNDER.

PREDICTION: Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald will be fired up for this game, and Harbaugh will have to keep his guys sharp mentally. I expect this to be the inverse of the “careful with Nebraska’s offense” game, with the Wildcats defense causing some stress for the Wolverines.
Michigan 17 Northwestern 14, 5-0

vs. Maryland: Overall -0.4, 71st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 27.6 (59th), Midpoint: 29.4
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 27.2 (84th), Midpoint: 19.55

S&P+ analysis says Michigan has a large edge on both sides of the ball. I can’t imagine the summer turmoil will help alleviate that.

PREDICTION: Maryland will come to Ann Arbor and find the Wolverines catching their stride. Most college football fans will be rooting against Maryland this season, and I expect this game to deliver another pound of Terrapin flesh to the masses.
Michigan 45 Maryland 10, 6-0

vs. Wisconsin: Overall 17.1, 11th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 17.3 (9th), Midpoint: 24.25
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 34.4 (25th), Midpoint: 23.15

S&P+ analysis says Michigan has a razor-thin advantage over the Badgers, and gets to play this game in Ann Arbor.

PREDICTION: This will be Notre Dame game 2.0, in terms of boiling down to perhaps a singular pivotal moment. I don’t have a great feeling about this game, but the fan in me hopes my gut is wrong.
Wisconsin 24 Michigan 21, 6-1

@ Michigan State: Overall 16.2, 13th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 13.5 (3rd), Midpoint: 22.35
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 29.7 (54th), Midpoint: 20.8

S&P+ analysis says this could be very evenly matched. Two average+ offenses will battle to execute against top-end defenses.

PREDICTION: Again, with similar strengths and weaknesses on paper, my focus turns to special teams execution. The Paul Bunyan trophy almost always sees some whacky plays, and I am sure 2018 will be no different. However, I believe Mark D’Antonio will be welcoming a ticked-off Michigan squad with something to prove.
Michigan 27 MSU 17, 7-1

vs. Penn State: Overall 20.3, 7th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 19.4 (16th), Midpoint: 25.3
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 39.7 (8th), Midpoint: 25.8

S&P+ analysis says the Nittany Lions bring the best offensive unit the Wolverines will have faced up to this point in the season.

PREDICTION: Put me in the “PSU is over-rated” camp. James Franklin lost the most important offensive asset he had. No, not Saquon Barkley, I mean Joe Moorehead. Losing Barkley’s Superman ability also hurts, and I don’t expect PSU to be in the top 10 of offensive S&P rankings by the time they come to Ann Arbor after Michigan’s bye.
Michigan 24 PSU 13, 8-1

@ Rutgers: Overall -6.6, 94th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 26.1 (50th), Midpoint: 28.65
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 19.5 (118th), Midpoint: 15.7

S&P+ analysis says the Scarlet Knights might not score. Tough to win in that scenario (see 2016).

PREDICTION: Consider the obligatory “trap game” warning evaluated and dismissed. I will again be focusing more on Jim Harbaugh’s Red Shirt management. If this game is stressful into the second half, something has gone very wrong.
Michigan 34 Rutgers 3, 9-1

vs. Indiana: Overall 3.9, 49th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 23.8 (38th), Midpoint: 27.5
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 27.8 (79th), Midpoint: 19.85

S&P+ analysis says that Michigan should be thankful Indiana has more institutional integrity than some other B1G schools, since Kevin Wilson’s Offense gave way to Mike DeBord’s.

PREDICTION: There are those Trap Game SIRENS! Michigan cannot get caught looking ahead to Urban’s “fixers”. I believe Senior Day at the Big House is adequate to keep the Wolverines focused on the task at hand. By this point, a berth in the B1G Championship game will be on the line also.
Michigan 24 Indiana 14, 10-1

@ Ohio State: Overall 27.1, 1st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 16.7 (8th), Midpoint: 23.95
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 43.8 (2nd), Midpoint: 27.85

S&P+ analysis says that the Buckeyes will bring the nation’s most talented team into The Game. I wonder if Urban will be able to conceal their intentions well enough to stay in front of Don Brown.

PREDICTION: Good vs. Evil takes on a much more somber tone to describe the 2018 Michigan / OSU game. The Buckeyes deserve to lose. Who knows how the season will have developed statistically to this point, but at least the Wolverines can add karma to their side of the equation this year. It’s Rashan Gary’s time. It’s Chase Winovich’s time. It’s OUR time. Time to go make the plays that we’ve just missed on for the better part of 15 years!
Michigan 28 OSU 27, 11-1, B1G Ten East Champs

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About Clint Derringer

@clint_derringer on Twitter U-M B.A. Sport Management & Communications ‘05 U-M M.S. Program & Project Management ‘18