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!

We are…Clueless – A response to an “An Open Letter to the World from a Penn State Alum”


Ugh, you just don’t get it.

Even in the wake of the most horrifying scandal in the history of college football you’re missing the big picture.

Let’s start with the most important part of this – the victims. Anyone and everyone in their right mind knows what allegedly took place by Jerry Sandusky and the truly inept follow-through by the administration in this whole ordeal was (and still is) awful. Use whatever adjective you like: appalling, horrific, distressing – there is no shortage. Media types everywhere are trying to one-up each other on how truly outraged one can sound over it. And they’re right – it’s all of those words and more – and each one of those victims and their families deserve nothing but our utmost support, our prayers and, yes, justice – however it may come.

What the victims deserved was to not be victims in the first place. If someone had stepped in years ago, the number of victims would be far less.

We feel the same way as you all do – we feel sick when we think of the actions. We cringe when we read the Grand Jury Report. Our anger probably goes a lot deeper than yours, to be honest, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

No, not all Penn State students and alumni feel like you do, as evidenced by the miscreants who tipped the news truck, threw rocks, and demanded that JoPa be  returned to his job. Not to mention the proud fans who physically and verbally assaulted this Penn State alum who protested outside of Beaver Stadium.

 Let’s also not forget this – this is not about football. We are not just trying to “protect a football coach”. When people criticize us for calling it a sad day because Paterno was fired, we don’t mean because we’re going to miss his fantastic football strategies. We’re going to miss the man who did so much good for the university and, ultimately, for us – because Penn State doesn’t become Penn State without him. It’s also a sad day because his firing serves as just another reminder of how awful this situation is and how much of a widespread impact Sandusky’s alleged actions have (and, for the record, even having to type “alleged” is annoying regarding Sandusky).

What’s sad is that Paterno sat idle for nearly a decade allowing a predator to have access to the Penn State football program. Sandusky used these perks to lure his alleged victims in and used the locker room as a den for his activities.

Paterno’s legacy is, and will forever be, tarnished. But we, as a Penn State family, can’t simply toss aside all of the amazing things he did. He donated millions, was a fierce advocate for putting academics on the same level as, if not higher than, athletics (in times when few other programs ever did) and was a man many saw as a role model – and sought to be a better person because of him.

Yes, his departure was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad that the man’s most disappointing inaction will now take him and all of his amazing efforts. No, we won’t rename the library he almost single-handedly funded. No, we won’t act like he didn’t stand for something amazing all those years to us, because it did lead us to be better people, regardless of how the story ended.

Here’s a legacy for you- Paterno standing idly by while Sandusky ushered young boys into the showers of the Penn State football building for another round of “horseplay”. While he was doing everything else you mentioned, he never gave a second thought to the possibility that his former assistant coach was a monster. The library is a small consolation to the lives allegedly ruined by Sandusky.

And no, we won’t stand by like he should be free of a guilty conscience. But this is where the media and everyone has lost sight of the big picture – and why our anger and disappointment may even be more than yours. This goes even bigger than Paterno. While the crosshairs seem to have been affixed to him, others have gone ignored. Graham Spanier, former president, was allowed to resign. Gary Schultz was allowed to step down back into retirement. Athletic director Time Curley has been allowed a leave and is still on the payroll (while the university pays his legal fees!). And, by all accounts, wide receivers coach Mike McQueary – the grad assistant who witnessed the most notorious of the incidents in the Grand Jury report – will be coaching on Saturday. None of these men deserve more than to have the same “fired” title next to each of their names. Semantics? Maybe, but how can you allow anything else to happen?

See that’s where you’re wrong. We want them all gone and probably many more once the full extent of the cover-up is exposed. And while we’re on the subject of McQueary, who kept him in the Penn State football program all the while knowing he was keeping his silence? That would be JoPa.

Our anger goes to the point of wondering how these men (and, for all we know until the facts come out, maybe others) have been able to slink off to the side while Paterno’s name is the only one truly being stamped on. They have all sullied the PSU name in their own way and yet, often, when listening to a broadcast, you won’t hear any of these names until 20, 30 minutes in. And don’t hold your breath waiting for Sandusky’s name, either.

We’re not pissed at the university president, the athletic director, or some low level assistant coach. We don’t expect courage from politicians, mid-level bureaucrats, or underlings.

But we expect more from Joe “Success with Honor” Paterno. We can debate  exactly what he could have done differently, but let’s agree that he should have done more than he did. And that’s the major disappointment.

The JoPa of myth would have grabbed Sandusky by the collar and kicked his ass out of the football building, then called the police. He would have sat down next to McQueary as he told the police what he witnessed.

The real JoPa hid behind explanations of how he had done everything required by law in the matter.

While Sandusky kept preying on little boys.

Say it isn’t so, Joe…Paterno Out at Penn State

I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then…

– Bob Seger “Against the Wind”

A week ago, Penn State football was riding high. In prime position to take part in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, head coach Joe Paterno was seemingly a shining example of old school values.

Success with honor was his team motto.

A week ago none of us could imagine the scandal that broke over the weekend in Happy Valley.

Of course, a few did know what had occurred at Penn State. Most importantly Joe Paterno knew that something unseemly had happened in his football facility between a former coach and a young boy.

And shockingly despite being told of the incident by one of his graduate assistants, he did nothing to clarify the situation.

Business as usual continued in Penn State football. The retired coach in question continued to have unfettered access to Nittany Lion football facilities, games, and through his charity an endless supply of young boys.

And Joe Paterno, the paragon of virtue, never questioned a thing.

We can debate  exactly what Joe Paterno could have done differently, but let’s agree that he should have done more than he did.

And that’s the problem. Paterno had always cast himself as a teacher first and foremost, his classroom was the football field, the lessons he taught were for life.

And what lesson did he teach with his 9 years of  silence since he  first heard about the abuse?

Of the scandal Paterno said in a statement, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Coach, we all wish you’d done more.

Especially the children who suffered in silence while this abuse was allowed to fester under your watch.

You can ponder that as you enter retirement.

Michigan Football 2007-Michigan 48, Penn State 21-Toughening Up

The Michigan Wolverines displayed fortitude, aptitude and effort on both sides of the ball Saturday for 59 minutes while humbling Purdue’s Boilermakers 48 to 21.  The Boilers were left steaming and clanging ineffectively before a Homecoming crowd of 110,888.

Even the run right or left on first down play calling that had seemed to contribute to Michigan recently being among the statistical bottom feeders in Big Ten scoring offense, and some other offensive categories, was abandoned at times, with much success.

With temperatures in the low 50’s and blue skies mixed with fleecy clouds, it was a perfect autumn afternoon in Ann Arbor to tailgate, listen to the Blast from the Past (Michigan’s musical has beens from prior bands), and the current Marching Band.  I never grow tired of Temptation and the Hawaiian War Chant.

It was a great day to enjoy a victory over a team recently ranked 23rd in the nation and a definite stumbling block on the Maize and Blue road to a Big Ten title.  Purdue’s fine Marching Band was not on scene, nor was the much admired and missed “Golden Girl”.

Prior to this game, most Michigan fans wondered how we would fare against Coach Tiller’s usually productive “spread” offense. Not to worry.  Coach Tiller’s lack of success against the Wolverines in Michigan Stadium was to continue.

Michigan fans witnessed the finest Chad Henne performance of the season, He was a sterling 21 of 28 for 264-yards, 2 TDS and no interceptions.

Both the offense and defense played well for a 31-7 Wolverine lead at the half.

Credit the Boilers that they did not give up and produced not one but two successful on side kicks, and scored TDs on a couple of drives with little time left in the game.  Both the resulting scores came late against Michigan’s reserves.  Since those onside kicks and drives came against reserves, and in the last minute, they really are not indicative of the game as a whole.  This was a good, old fashioned, country butt whuppin.

Perhaps, the successful onsides happened because Michigan had failed to put in a “hands” team, with Carr explaining that his “hands” team was cold since they had not been in the game for fifteen minutes, so he did  not put them in.  I suppose to avoid risk of injury.  He also said it would give people something to complain about.  I agree with that.  They should and will complain about those two errors and resulting scores.

Otherwise the special teams acquitted themselves well enough, allowing no really big run backs, except one early one which approached really big. With KC Lopata hitting a couple of FGs and Mesko hitting some towering punts and Wright kicking kick offs to the short returners instead of to the proficient Purdue deep returners (after getting burned a little bit first), they seemed more  proficient than usual.  At least one FG was nearly touched, but  it went over the cross bar with room to spare.  Lopata’s FG kicks looked strong.  Brandon Minor had a 35-yard KO return to set up an early field goal.

While it was still Hart on first down for little gain on some occasions, they did toss it downfield to Manningham who had an outstanding game after returning from the “dog house”.   He snagged 8 catches for an outstanding 147 yards.  This ties his career best number of catches.

Mike Hart had 102 yards on 21 totes, and a couple of TDs.  Another outstanding day, a record seven 100-yard games, but again leaving the game nicked, limping off not to return.  Carlos Brown replaced the also nicked Brandon Minor who had replaced Hart at TB and had the best day of his career.  In contrast to Hart, Brandon Minor came off the field on the cart. Carlos Brown demonstrated his speed on an outstanding 29-yard scamper for a TD, scored another TD, and totaled 66-yards on 13 carries.  Minor and Milano also rushed, but not as successfully as Brown.

Both Hart and Henne are over 1,000 yards for the season.

Henne hit a variety of receivers besides Mario, with Adrian Arrington having 6 receptions for 55-yards.  Mathews, McLaurin, Moundros, Butler, Hart and Clemons all snared one or more aerials.

Michigan’s first possession of the game started with a Henne roll out and nice pass to Carson Butler for a first down and 13-yards on the first play of the game.  While our offensive coaches were not exactly riverboat gamblers Saturday, this seemed a better offensive scheme, and the results show it.  It was an efficient plan, and more importantly, a convincing winner.

As unlikely as it seems, special teams breathed first life into Michigan’s effort early.  Stevie Brown, on special teams, grabbed a loose Purdue punt that had glanced off the back of a Boilermaker, and ran it into the endzone, but it was considered down and called back.  Michigan had great field position with the ball at the Purdue 31, and subsequently Chad hit Mario with a perfect 24-yard strike for the first TD of the game.  KC Lopata converted all EPs on the day.  M 7, PU 0.

The vaunted left side of Michigan’s offensive line let a blitzer through and Henne was blindsided and separated from the football.  The result of the recovery was a short Purdue drive for their only meaningful TD of the day.  M 7, PU 7.  So much for our early advantage as worry began to replace elation.

M stalled, but Lopata hit a strong 34-yard FG.  M 10, PU 7.  Maybe this field goal unit is beginning to jell.

Purdue fumbled on their 26, and M capitalized on an outstanding 10-yard run by Mike Hart in which he was on a pile, maneuvered off, and without touching down, twisted and propelled himself into the into the endzone.  This was in the south endzone, so I got a good look at it and it was an amazing effort. Ruled a TD on the field, the review confirmed.  M 17, PU 7.  Vintage Hart.  Again and amazing effort.

In the early second quarter, the Wolverines and Boilers exchanged punts.  An end around by Mario, a couple of catches by Greg Mathews, and nice Hart run, a penalty, and another Hart run for 8-yards, and the Blue looked at a 24-7 lead with 5 or 6 minutes left in the half, and the Wolverines were rolling.  This was confirmed when Brandon Harrison grabbed a Purdue pass, and sprinted to the Boiler 21.  The crowd was alive with anticipation, and they were certainly not disappointed by a perfect Chad Henne toss to Mario of 21-yards for a TD. Great throw and catch.  M 31-PU 7.

Offensively and defensively it was a great half of Michigan football.   This was the kind of performance that restores confidence and enthusiasm.

The third quarter was unremarkable except for the injury to Brandon Minor and a late 35-yard Lopata FG.  M 34-PU 7.

The fourth contained some offensive fireworks with Carlos Brown scampering 29-yards into the north endzone.  M 41-PU 7.  Jamar Adams made an interception and Brown ran another TD in.   M 48-PU 7.

Purdue then got their two last minute consolation TDs mentioned above for a final score of M 48-PU 21.

Michigan had a total of 459 yards to Purdue’s 292, passing for 279 and running for 189.

All in all an outstanding performance all around except for the last minute.

All the defensive wounded that were thought before the game to able to play did, except John Thompson, including Will Johnson, Chris Graham, and Brandon Graham.  Brandon’s return surely helped Shawn Crable’s effectiveness, and Shawn had a good game, as did Terrence Taylor and the fast improving Obi Ezeh.  LB Chris Graham led the defense with 6 tackles.  Adams and Harrison both had interceptions.

The OL wounded did not return and Schilling and Ortman manned the right side of the OL and appeared to do a credible job.

What more could we ask for?  We are still in the Big Ten race, but with successive challenges looming. At Illinois is a nasty place to play.  A night game, this one will be broadcast by network television.  The Illini will be energized by their recent difficulties at Iowa.

Hopefully we will not get Zooked, but will continue to improve.  It ought to be a great game.

Go Blue!

Andy Andersen

Andy Andersen