Michigan Football By the Numbers: Michigan State


For the second consecutive week, the Wolverines gave a Big Ten foe a dose of their own medicine.  This week, it was a strangle hold slapped onto Michigan State that feels like the first step toward pay back for Devin Gardner’s ribs.  Michigan’s #1 ranked S&P+ defense held the Spartans to under 100 total yards.  Offensively, Jim Harbaugh stuck to his run-first game plan, and he was rewarded as Michigan State’s #2 ranked S&P+ rush defense could not withstand the onslaught for the full 41+ minutes that Michigan possessed the ball.

What is S&P+
The original system was based on Success rate and equivalent Points per play. It was an attempt at an OPS-style measure for football, a look at both efficiency and explosiveness. As so many things do, however, it has grown more complicated.In its current state, S&P+ is based around the core concepts of the Five Factors of winning football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnoversFull Explanation 


This was a rinse-and-repeat performance for the Wolverines’ offense. The philosophy that worked at home versus Wisconsin last week, also worked very well on the road versus Michigan State this week. Michigan ran 76 plays, to Michigan State’s 49. Time of Possession was 41 minutes to 19 minutes.  The coaching staff doubled down on their game plan centered around their dominant defense and a patient offense when they chose to punt three times from the MSU half of the field in the second quarter. Jim Harbaugh and the players believed Michigan was the better team, and that keeping the pressure on the Spartans would eventually lead to success on another stormy October Saturday, and they were absolutely correct. On the season, Michigan is running the ball on 60.9% of their offensive plays. This game was a bit above that season average with 64.5% of plays on the ground. Given the game plan, and the weather conditions, I still believe there is a significant amount of this offense that we are yet to see unveiled, especially through the air.


This season is shaping into a horror movie, directed by Don Brown and starring Big Ten quarterbacks. Teams have only been able to compile a success rate of 32.6% versus Michigan’s defense. This unit is also limiting explosiveness, giving up 3.9 yards per play, and an IsoPPP of 0.84. In this rivalry game, the defense really stepped to the forefront, even without Rashan Gary. Michigan State’s 22.5% Success Rate is the lowest for any Michigan opponent this season. This defensive performance ranked in the 94th percentile after adjusting for opponent, tied with the Wolverine’s performance in a 49-3 blowout over Western Michigan. The 1.96 yards/play for the Spartans is by far the lowest for an opponent facing Michigan this season, 28% lower than what WMU could muster. Now the revenge tour circles back to Ann Arbor in two weeks to welcome Penn State. This date has very likely been circled in red ink on Don Brown’s calendar for a full year after the Nittany Lions put up 506 total yards, and 42 points in 2017. My advice is to get your popcorn ready and watch what Coach Brown has in store for James Franklin’s squad.


Overall: 20.9, 4th (same)
Offense: 33.3, 30th (down 3)
Defense: 12.6, 1st (same)


@ Michigan State UM 21 MSU 7
Pregame Midpoint S&P+: UM by 6.05, 8-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 6, 7-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 7.3


vs. Penn State: Overall 14.7, 10th
M Offense 33.3, (30th) vs. O Defense 21.7 (27th), Midpoint: 30.35
M Defense 12.6 (1st) vs. O Offense 36.5 (18th), Midpoint: 24.55

The midpoint of S&P+ ratings gives a 5.8 point edge to Michigan. This year, Don Brown is given the bye week to prepare for this matchup with Trace McSorley and the RPO. Again, Michigan’s offense is faced with the closer matchup statistically, making Shea Patterson’s performance pivotal.

GAME WEEK UPDATE: The bye week comes at a perfect time as Michigan will look to get healthier on the defensive line, while also spending a little extra time in the film room and on the recruiting trail. Watch out for some early fireworks in this one as the Wolverines may unveil a few new wrinkles and “counter to the counter” plays that have been set up on film through eight weeks.
Michigan 34 PSU 10 (PRESEASON: Michigan 24 PSU 13)


The Michigan Football team turned in another rock solid performance, this time in a road rivalry game. Again the game plan was built around their smothering defense, and an improving offensive line. Next show on the revenge tour brings Penn State back into Ann Arbor where the Wolverines won 49-10 in 2016.

About Clint Derringer

@clint_derringer Born & raised in Warren, MI. Now in Grosse Pointe, MI with my wife Bethany and our three hilarious kids. U-M B.A. Sport Management & Communications ‘05 U-M M.S. Program & Project Management ‘18