Michigan Football By the Numbers: Northwestern

It’s tough to win on the road in the B1G Ten, especially when you’ve spotted a 17-point lead to a team with a top-25 defense.  Michigan definitely showed some guts as they pulled off the largest comeback in Jim Harbaugh’s NCAA coaching career.

TABLE: FIVE FACTORS

OFFENSE

I am not worried about the Offensive Coordinator Committee, yet. Maybe this game was more about a solid Northwestern defensive staff having a bye week to prepare. Michigan still averaged 5.7 yards per play against a top-25 defense. However, I have had this blind optimism in years past. I held out hope that there was an ace or two up Harbaugh’s sleeve that he would pull out at exactly the right moment, perhaps against a favored Buckeye team. If I recall correctly, those previous seasons ended in disappointment. Here’s hoping that the offensive game plan looks sharper against what should be an over-matched Maryland squad.

DEFENSE

Do you want the good news, or the bad news first? The good news is that Don Brown and his staff can be counted on to make superb in-game adjustments. Once Michigan’s defensive staff has diagnosed the offense’s plan of attack, they are almost lights out. The bad news? Slow starts on the road have resulted in giving up 31 first half points, as opposed to just 3 in the second half. The Wolverine defense has carried the lion’s share of the load under Harbaugh, but offensive success was the only thing that made this game feel different than Week 1 versus Notre Dame.

S&P+ THROUGH WEEK 5

MICHIGAN S&P+
Overall: 21.6, 7th (down 2)
Offense: 35.6, 27th (down 3)
Defense: 14.5, 4th (same)

REGULAR SEASON PROJECTIONS vs. RESULTS

@ Northwestern: UM 20 NEB 17
Pregame S&P+: UM by 10.7, 5-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 17, 4-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 4.4

vs. Nebraska: UM 56 NEB 10
Pregame S&P+: UM by 8.6, 4-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 11, 3-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 3.6

vs. SMU: UM 45 SMU 20
Pregame S&P+: UM by 20.0, 3-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 39, 2-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 2.6

vs. Western Michigan: UM 49 WMU 3
Pregame S&P+: UM by 10.8, 2-0
Pregame Clint: UM by 25, 1-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 1.6

@ Notre Dame: ND 24 UM 17
Preseason S&P+: ND by 0.1, 1-0
Preseason Clint: UM by 4, 0-1
MICH Cumulative 2ndO Wins: 0.6

NEXT UP

vs. Maryland: Overall 3.2, 56th
M Offense 35.6, (27th) vs. O Defense 25.5 (50th), Midpoint: 30.55
M Defense 14.5 (4th) vs. O Offense 28.3 (76th), Midpoint: 21.4

PREGAME EDGE: Michigan
The midpoint S&P+ gives a 9.15 point edge to Michigan. The Terrapins have a slightly better-than-average defense, and slightly worse-than-average offense.

GAME WEEK UPDATE: The Wolverines simply play much better at home. I expect to see Maryland cause some early problems before Michigan settles in and starts to roll along. I am particularly interested to see if the Michigan defense can eliminate the penalty issues. On the offensive side, I wonder what happened to Grant Perry?
Michigan 35 Maryland 10 (PRESEASON: Michigan 45 Maryland 10)

TL;DR SUMMARY

Some concerning trends are emerging, but Michigan is 4-1 and still showing signs of growth offensively. A home tilt versus the wildly inconsistent Maryland Terrapins should be another opportunity for the Wolverines to correct mistakes before key games against Wisconsin, MSU, and PSU.