Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 2015

The fourth installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back just three years, to 2015. After a rough first game, by the middle of the season the Michigan momentum train was running full steam, with the Wolverines having recording three consecutive shutout victories. The stage was set for a legendary confrontation between Wolverines and Spartans.

Both sides fought with all their might that day, which is nothing new for this rivalry. With just 10 seconds left, Michigan was clinging to a two-point lead, knowing that a good punt should secure a victory. The biggest concern was getting the punt off successfully, which most thought would be easy enough.

Still, there was an uneasy feeling about the moment. Something was off, though it was difficult to quantify exactly what it was.

Moments later, we all knew what the problem was. Punter Blake O’Neill had trouble with the snap, and somehow the ball wound up in the hands of the Spartans’ Jaylen Watts-Jackson, who sprinted to the end zone to give Michigan State its first lead of the game, with no time remaining. Just like that, Michigan State stunned Michigan, 27-23.

It all happened so quickly that it didn’t seem real. The visual of a stunned Michigan student on national TV is etched in the memories of Michigan fans around the globe. Just like that, a game that should have been a hard-fought victory became yet another in a string of losses to Michigan State.

The truth is that the loss can’t be merely pinned on just one player’s shoulders. Michigan struggled throughout the game, and the fact that the game was still in question near the end was reason enough for concern.

No video will be provided for this game. The memories are painful enough.

As always, we own nothing. This blog post is strictly for the enjoyment of readers.

Michigan Football By the Numbers: Wisconsin

The Wolverines put together a tremendous all-around performance to dispatch of the Wisconsin Badgers. We must give credit where it’s due, and I think that starts with Ed Warriner and the Offensive Line, with a tip of the cap to Don Brown and Greg Mattison. Shea Patterson is in a lot of headlines, but Warriner and his group are the biggest reason Michigan’s offense has improved from 85th in the S&P+ in 2017 to 27th in 2018 through Week 7. Defensively, Michigan retained the #1 S&P+ defensive ranking after clamping down on what was the 8th ranked S&P+ Badgers’ offense, despite Rashan Gary missing his second consecutive game due to injury.

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 
TABLE: FIVE FACTORS

*I found and corrected a bug in my modified S&P+ excel file that affected IsoPPP.  I have corrected previous weeks’ data in my workbook also.

OFFENSE

The simplest understanding of this game is this: Michigan did to Wisconsin what we’ve seen the Badgers due to B1G Ten opponents for a decade, they executed. Even though everyone knew what Jim Harbaugh wanted to do on offense, the players were able to execute successfully anyway. Coming in, Michigan’s average success rate was 49.2%. They managed 45.6% success against Wisconsin. In terms of explosiveness, Expected Points / Play (PPP) is a metric that quantifies each play based on starting yard line versus ending yard line. IsoPPP looks only at successful play, which helps separate it from the Success Rate metric. Michigan’s average in PPP coming in was 0.49. They were above average versus the Badgers at 0.51. The offense was also slightly above (0.98) their season average (0.92) in IsoPPP. For me, the most remarkable offensive characteristic from this encouraging performance was that we can definitively say the game went according to plan. We are starting to see Jim Harbaugh’s offensive vision come into focus.

DEFENSE

In year three under Don Brown, it’s quite a challenge to avoid sounding like a broken record as I compliment the defensive unit week in and week out. Saturday night on the national stage in prime time, versus the 8th ranked S&P+ offense coming in, was precisely the defensive performance that Harbaugh’s staff has been game planning around. Wisconsin had more success than average versus the Wolverine defense, but never enough to flip field position or to create scoring opportunities. Coming into the game, opponents were averaging 33.2% success rate, 0.29 PPP, and 0.83 IsoPPP against Michigan. The physical Wisconsin offense established a 38% success rate, 0.42 PPP, and 1.01 IsoPPP. However, after the Badgers scored to tie the game 7-7 in the second quarter, their next six drives went: Punt, INT, Punt, Punt, Punt, INT for TD.

S&P+ THROUGH WEEK 7

MICHIGAN S&P+
Overall: 20.4, 4th (up 1)
Offense: 34.7, 27th (down 2)
Defense: 14.6, 1st (up 1)

REGULAR SEASON PROJECTIONS vs. RESULTS

vs. Wisconsin UM 38 UW 13
Pregame Midpoint S&P+: UM by 3.65, 7-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 4, 6-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 6.3

NEXT UP

@ Michigan State: Overall 8.3, 33rd
M Offense 34.7, (27th) vs. O Defense 20.1 (21st), Midpoint: 27.4
M Defense 14.6 (1st) vs. O Offense 28.1 (75th), Midpoint: 21.35

PREGAME EDGE: Michigan
My midpoint S&P+ method gives a 6.05 point edge to Michigan. The Spartan defense versus Wolverine offense is a key match-up of similarly ranked units. Defensively, Michigan will have to weather the storm as MSU empties the entire bag of tricks.

GAME WEEK UPDATE: Can Michigan pack their balanced, complementary game plan with them for a short trip to East Lansing? The struggles on the road are still worrisome, and we know the Spartans will come out firing hay-makers. I expect Pep Hamilton and Shea Patterson to expose a weak MSU secondary. However, if the weather gets sloppy, this could turn into an old-fashion battle of will power.
Michigan 20 MSU 14 (PRESEASON: Michigan 27 MSU 17)

TL;DR SUMMARY

Now we have finally seen the Michigan game plan of an efficient offense complementing a dominant defense work to effectively grind a solid opponent into powder. There is still a significant amount of work to be done, and it is crucial for the Wolverines to show they can execute the game plan at a similar high level in a hostile environment in East Lansing this week.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1990

The third installment of this year’s series looking back at the football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us to 1990. The United States sent troops to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Shield, and on TV, “The Simpsons” aired for the first time. On the gridiron, Michigan’s game with Michigan State was billed as “No. One vs. No one” despite the fact that the Wolverines had started the season with a loss to Notre Dame. But since that loss, the Wolverines had won three in a row, and they were rolling. Unfortunately, this series has a long history of odd bounces.

And trips.

Michigan State had played Michigan tough all game, but the Wolverines had found a way to “gut” their way back into the game, on a day when things just weren’t going their way. When Elvis Grbac connected with Derrick Alexander, it left Michigan trailing by just one point, 28-27, and first-year coach Gary Moeller courageously decided to go for two points and the win. That’s when Eddie Brown became one of the great villains in the history of Michigan football.

To be fair, Brown had the smarts to take a calculated risk. Seeing Grbac standing in the pocket with Michigan playmaker Desmond Howard headed for the end zone, Brown knew he had a challenging situation on his hands. If Howard got the ball in his hands, Michigan would almost certainly win the game. So Brown made the only logical decision: He tripped Howard.

The play unfolded in a sort of surreal manner. For a millisecond, it appeared that Howard had the ball, and a comeback victory, in his grasp. But just as Michigan fans started to jump in exultation, the ball fell away, and the Spartans wound up celebrating.

For his part, Brown was grateful his teammates mobbed him, and asked them to get him off the field as quickly as possible, well aware that he’d gotten away with the trip. Michigan fans and alumni around the globe were dazed by the result.

In the end, Michigan bounced back, and routed Ole Miss in the Gator Bowl, 35-3. But that game against the greenies from East Lansing still won’t fade into the recesses of football memories.

Thanks to youtube poster Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis for the video clip below. As always, we own nothing and do not profit from this blog post in any way, it is strictly for the enjoyment of the readers of umgoblue.com.

Michigan Football vs Michigan State — Looking Back — 1970

The second installment of this year’s series looking back at the  football rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State takes us back to  1970. The Age of Aquarius had dawned, and we watched nightly clips of  the war in Vietnam. On the gridiron, Bo Schembechler and the Michigan Wolverines were the toast of the Big Ten, having earned a surprise trip to the Rose Bowl at the end of the previous season. Probably the only place where the Wolverines weren’t looked up to was their own state.

In his first season, it could be argued that Bo didn’t give enough credence to the rivalry with the Spartans, and he paid dearly for it as Michigan State gave the Wolverines a bruising welcome to the conference. But as Bo once said, “Don’t let one loss turn into two.” By 1970, Bo was ready, and his Wolverines were waiting for the Spartans. He turned running back Billy Taylor loose behind offensive linemen Dan Dierdorf and Reggie McKenzie, and the Wolverines romped over Michigan State 34-20. The victory was the first of eight for Michigan against their rivals, while the Spartans suffered their third consecutive loss of the season, coming on the heels of back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Michigan State finished 4-6, while the Maize & Blue roared to a 9-1 record in 1970.

Our thanks to youtube poster WolverineHistorian for this coaches’ film
from the 1970 season below. As always, we own nothing and do not profit
in any way from this blog post.