RECENT SP+ HISTORY vs. Wisconsin
During the bye week, I was able to take a peek back to the three previous meetings between Michigan and Wisconsin. Here is a quick review of those games through an SP+ lens. When game statistics feed into Bill Connelly’s SP+ system, a Postgame Win Expectancy gets created. The system calculates the percentage of repeated games with those statistics that would result in a Michigan win. Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan has a 2-1 record versus the Badgers.
2018: #17 Wisconsin @ #5 Michigan; W 38-13; Postgame Win Exp. 86%
Michigan started to see the offensive line gel as a unit, and the Arc Read QB read option package made its debut. The defense was without Rashan Gary, but Kwity Paye and Josh Uche filled in admirably. Inexplicably, Wisconsin continually took Jonathon Taylor off the field on 3rd down.
2017 (SBNation): #27 Michigan @ #6 Wisconsin; L 10-24; Postgame Win Exp. 26%
Both defensive units established dominance in 2017, but the Wisconsin offense was able to make more big plays in key spots. Wisconsin edged Michigan slightly in success rate 31% to 27%, but had a much more prominent edge in explosiveness. The Badgers dominated the Yards/Play metric 5.27 to 3.68. On standard downs, the Badgers recorded an IsoPPP of 1.08 compared to 0.75 for the Wolverines.
2016 (SBNation): #11 Wisconsin @ #3 Michigan; W 14-7; Postgame Win Exp. 97%
In 2016, Michigan utilized an Army-style game plan to grind out a one-score victory. The Wolverines ran 80 offensive plays, compared to just 53 for the Badgers, and were also boosted by a +2 turnover margin. While being slightly less explosive, especially in the ground game, Michigan doubled the success rate of Wisconsin 42% to 21%. The game was kept close largely because of the Wolverines’ inability to finish drives. Michigan averaged 2.33 points in six trips inside Wisconsin’s 40 yard line. The Badgers only created three scoring opportunities in the game.
NEXT UP: @ Wisconsin: 7th, 24.9
PREGAME SP+: Wisconsin by 9.0, Michigan Win Probability 30%
Michigan’s defense has moved up to 1st in SP+ unit rankings, but the offense is down to 74th. That is below average for FBS, and way below Power 5 average.
Michigan Offense (74th) vs. Wisconsin Defense (10th)
This match up will likely determine Saturday’s winner. The Wolverines absolutely MUST eliminate turnovers, and they would be well served to continually move the chains and give the defense a break. I expect to see an outing that looks more like Week 1 vs. MTSU (still not flawless) as opposed to what we saw in Week 2 vs. Army. The expected return of Donovan Peoples-Jones should lead to increased space for Shea Patterson to attack through the air. That in turn could stretch the Wisconsin linebackers out of the zone running lanes for Zach Charbonnet and Christian Turner.
Michigan Defense (1st) vs. Wisconsin Offense (16th)
Don Brown will come up with a creative game plan to contain the Badgers’ rushing attack. The key for the game will be whether Wisconsin can exploit Michigan’s lack of depth on the interior defensive line. The Wolverines will need to swarm to the ball on every tackle to limit +2, +3, and +4 yard running play add-ons by Jonathon Taylor. It would also be crucial for an opportunistic Michigan defense to create an early turnover and help take the crowd out of the game.
PREDICTION: Jim Harbaugh’s appreciation of this team’s work ethic, and their ability to string together good practices encourages me a bit. His short press conference answer about “having a good team” as the key to winning on the road seemed abrupt to some. However, he has previously discussed that being a “good team” is being able to find a way to be successful in the face of adversity. In the Army post game, he also alluded to good teams having to win a “football fight” like the Wolverines did against the Black Knights. These intangibles should be a program focus for improving road game performance in 2019. With all of that said, I haven’t seen enough offensive cohesion or explosiveness to outweigh my preseason concerns about Michigan winning away from Ann Arbor.
Wisconsin 27 Michigan 23 (PRESEASON Wisconsin 26 Michigan 24)
MICHIGAN RESUME UPDATE (9/17/2019)
- SP+ Overall: 16th (↓1), 18.4
- SP+ Offense: 74th (↓20), 27.2
- SP+ Defense: 1st (↑14), 9.0
- AP Poll: 11th (↓1), 917
- Coaches’ Poll: 10th (same), 928
- CFP Rank: N/A