Michigan Football By the Numbers: Penn State


The first three stops on the Revenge Tour have been overwhelming for the opponents.  The challenge for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines will be to maintain the “one game at a time” focus for two more weeks versus Rutgers and Indiana without minds wandering to Columbus for the Grand Finale.

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 


Memo to Jim Harbaugh & Warde Manuel: Please find a way to lock Ed Warriner up with a long-term contract!  The question marks we all saw along the offensive line during fall camp, and versus Notre Dame in week one, have been transformed to exclamation points in front of our eyes.  After wearing down what used to be the #1 rush defense two weeks ago in East Lansing, Michigan’s offensive line allowed just two negative-yardage plays versus the Nittany Lions’ defensive front that came in leading the Big Ten in that category.  In the last three Big Ten games versus Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State, the Wolverines’ ground-and-pound strategy has been led masterfully by the big guys in the trenches.  Over and above the rushing stats, and keeping Shea Patterson clean, Runyan Jr., Bredeson, Ruiz, Owenu, and Bushell-Beatty have enabled a multi-faceted offense because they are executing multiple zone and gap schemes.  Michigan has proven that they are capable of adapting their offensive approach to whatever an opponent gives them.  From this point forward, only individual lack of execution could still stand in the way of continued success for the offense.


The King of Defensive Coordinators has done it again.  Don Brown’s squad smothered the Nittany Lions into the dirt.  When isolating to only successful plays, Penn State actually managed to be more explosive than Michigan (SEE: IsoPPP in the Five Factors table).  However, those chunk plays for Penn State seemed like gasps for air from a panicked swimmer in a “Jaws” sequel.  Trace McSorley was clearly less than 100% from the moment he stepped onto the field at Michigan Stadium.  It’s a safe bet that he left Ann Arbor even less healthy than he came in.  The Wolverines sacked PSU quarterbacks five times, and forced three turnovers.  Brandon Watson’s interception return for a touchdown matches the lone touchdown that Penn State was fortunate to salvage versus the backups on the final drive. Let me say it this way: Jim Harbaugh could have allowed the Nittany Lions to consider it a touchdown if they crossed Michigan’s 40-yard-line, and the Wolverines still would have won 42-14 (Trips inside opp40: Michigan 7 Penn State 2).


Overall: 25.4, 3rd (up 1)
Offense: 35.2, 24th (up 6)
Defense: 10.0, 1st (same)


vs. Penn State UM 42 PSU 7
Pregame Midpoint S&P+: UM by 5.8, 9-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 24, 8-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 8.3


@ Rutgers: Overall -19.0, 126th
M Offense 35.2, (25th) vs. O Defense 32.3 (94th), Midpoint: 33.75
M Defense 10.0 (1st) vs. O Offense 13.1 (128th), Midpoint: 11.55

The midpoint of S&P+ ratings gives a 22.2 point edge to Michigan. I don’t know if that’s enough to cover the halftime score. Rutgers has plummeted to fifth-from-the-bottom among FBS schools.

GAME WEEK UPDATE: I foresee a lot of carries for Chris Evans, and Tru Wilson. If 2016 is any indication, the Wolverines will want to execute a few new plays, and would like to be explosive in front of their east coast recruits. There are really two key things for this game: 1) stay healthy 2) stay focused on the task at hand.
Michigan 48 Rutgers 3 (PRESEASON: Michigan 34 Rutgers 3)


The Michigan Football team is building to a November crescendo exactly the way Jim Harbaugh envisioned when he overhauled his coaching and strength training staff last winter. Every goal set by the Wolverines is starting to appear on the horizon. Now the challenge is to maintain focus on all three Big Ten foes who remain in the way.  Onward!

About Clint Derringer

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