By the Numbers: Week 2 vs. Army

LAST WEEK RECAP

Michigan showed significant change from the 2018 team on both sides of the ball vs. a C-USA opponent in MTSU. With change comes plenty of opportunity for improvement, especially on offense. For a glimpse of what the 2019 season could be, the 2nd quarter is worth re-watching as Michigan’s offense put their best foot forward: 4 play TD drive, 2 play TD drive, 12 play FG drive.

LAST WEEK PROJECTION vs. RESULTS

FIVE FACTORS

Click here for more description of the Five Factors from Week 1

NEXT UP: vs. Army: Overall -5.2, 90th

PREGAME SP+: Michigan by 25.2, Win Probability 93%
Even if you considered the Wolverines unimpressive in Week 1, the Black Knights were even less so in a 14-7 home victory over the Rice Owls (SP+ 129th).

Michigan Offense (33rd) vs. Army Defense (67th)
I’ll be looking for significant improvement in the sharpness of the Wolverines’ offensive execution. We’ve seen flashes of high-octane potential in both the passing and rushing attacks. We’ll see more physical mismatches to be exploited by Shea Patterson and the Michigan wide receivers and tight ends. Only one defensive back who registered a tackle in Week 1 for Army stands taller than 5’11”. The real key is to stay healthy going into Big Ten play. In addition to Patterson being dinged up, and Donovan Peoples-Jones in a walking boot, the offensive line depth is already being tapped as Jon Runyan and Steve Spanellis have joined Andrew Stueber on the injury report.

Michigan Defense (32nd) vs. Army Offense (91st)
The SP+ rating system underrates Army’s offense because they have no fear of using all four downs. Success Rate is built around trying to pick up first downs in three tries, typically. Michigan will have a significant size and talent advantage, but Army will be trying to force the Wolverines into missed assignments versus the Triple Option. I will start to get nervous if it feels like the clock is melting away, and the Black Knights are moving 3-7 yards at a time. The rushing attack is led by returning QB Kelvin Hopkins, Jr. He may be joined by Connor Slomka, Army’s 2nd leading returning rusher, who missed Week 1 with an injury.

PREDICTION: I am bullish on the offense, but I still expect to see a few awkward moments this Saturday. Even after some significant improvement, Michigan will be trying to walk a fine line between:
1) putting enough personnel groupings & concepts onto film to force Wisconsin to prepare for a wide variety of stuff
2) keeping enough counter punches off of film to unveil in Madison in two weeks.
The lack of interior defensive line depth will allow Army to march a little bit, and will be a concern until Michigan can hit on some big plays. This game may be closer than I had originally expected.
Michigan 33 Army 13 (PRESEASON: Michigan 45 Army 14)

MICHIGAN RESUME UPDATE (9/4/2019)

  • SP+ Overall: 14th (↓5), 17.6
    • SP+ Offense: 33rd (↓19), 42.0
    • SP+ Defense: 32nd (↓19), 24.4
  • AP Poll: 7th (same), 1126
  • Coaches’ Poll: 7th (same), 1155
  • CFP Rank: N/A

By the Numbers: 2019 Football Season Preview

Eyes on the prize!

Hello again! The dog days of summer have arrived in Michigan. The weather is unbearably hot, but the August thunderstorms also signal the return of UMGoBlue.com By the Numbers content. In our By the Numbers articles and podcasts, Phil and I will review data and metrics to analyze the football team’s performance, and try to prepare ourselves for what may lie ahead. I’ll kickoff with my 2019 Michigan Football Season Preview!

The foundation for most of our analysis comes from the SP+ college football analytics model. While the system was meant to be predictive for beating the odds against Vegas, study of the Five Factors is extremely useful for picking out what a team needs to do to win football games.

What is SP+
SP+ is the tempo and opponent adjusted college football analytical model developed by Bill Connelly for Football Outsiders (he is now at ESPN). SP+ is based around the core concepts of the Five Factors of winning football: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers.  The resulting metric is expressed in adjusted points per game, as compared to the average CFB team.
Full Explanation 

2018 Results

In 2018, the SP+ preseason predictions correctly selected the winner in 11 out of 12 regular season Michigan games (picked MSU to win). The SP+ weekly preview was correct in 11 out of 13 games (picked Michigan over OSU & Florida).

Full disclosure: in my 2018 preseason preview article I correctly picked 9 out of 12 games (picked Wisconsin, and Michigan over Notre Dame & OSU) . In the weekly previews, I corrected the Wisconsin pick and moved to 10 out of 12.

Michigan S&P+ Preseason Ranking

  • Overall – 9th
  • Offense – 14th
  • Defense – 13th

2019 Regular Season Schedule

vs. Middle Tennessee State: 104th Overall, 113th Offense, 86th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 33.4, Win Probability 97% – MTSU is a comfortable opening opponent for new defensive personnel, and a new offensive system. 

PREDICTION: Let’s hope another Week 1 night game doesn’t throw the players out of whack. Adrenaline coursing through athletes who are caged all day can significantly drain one’s energy. Don’t forget the cramp epidemic for Michigan last season in South Bend. That also needs to be solved. With all that said, Michigan is too talented on both sides of the ball for MTSU. There may be some hiccups, but there will be a lot of cheering echoing from the Big House throughout the night.
Michigan 34 MTSU 3, 1-0

vs. Army: 80th Overall, 55th Offense, 94th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 25.4, Win Probability 93% – Army’s triple-option offense befuddles the SP+ metrics. Prepare for a lot of 4th down conversion attempts.

PREDICTION: Certain nightmarish performances of the past have taught us one thing for sure: if you catch Don Brown’s defense off guard, the problems can escalate quickly. However, the Army game has been on the schedule for a long time, and Don Brown showed he can effectively prepare for the service academy option attack. In 2017, the Wolverines were very solid against Air Force, despite returning just one starter from 2016. Also, look for the Michigan offense to take a step forward against Army’s bottom-half defense.
Michigan 45 Army 14, 2-0

@ Wisconsin: 11th Overall, 5th Offense, 33rd Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Wisconsin by 1.0, Win Probability 48% – Both teams come off a bye week. Both will likely be 2-0.

PREDICTION: This is not your typical B1G opener, and the Badgers will present an early season-defining challenge in Madison. At home in 2018, Michigan outperformed the SP+ projections by an average of 7.91 points. On the road, the Wolverines under-performed by -7.14 points on average. That’s a negative 15 point swing between home and road games! The only game to qualify as a plus differential away from the Big House in 2018 was versus MSU. Before seeing more consistent leadership, play making, or results on the road I can’t pick Michigan @ Camp Randall.
Michigan 24 Wisconsin 26, 2-1

vs. Rutgers: 108th Overall, 121st Offense, 87th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 36.4, Win Probability 98% – There is no better balm to soothe a team coming off a tough week than a home game versus Rutgers.

PREDICTION: The Scarlet Knights fall into an unfortunate spot (for them) on Michigan’s schedule. Either the Wolverines will be very angry coming back home from Madison with something to prove, or they will be starting to roll as the offense irons out the wrinkles and the defensive staff finds their best personnel packages. Both possible scenarios spell trouble for Rutgers.
Michigan 55 Rutgers 10, 3-1

vs. Iowa: 25th Overall, 48th Offense, 18th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 11.6, Win Probability 75% – I think SP+ is under-rating Iowa in the preseason. Nate Stanley and the offensive efficiency will push them into the top 25 by this point in the season.

PREDICTION: The Hawkeyes will represent the second major conference test for Michigan in 2019, this one coming at home. I personally think this may be a preview of an Indianapolis match up for the B1G Ten title. I am intrigued to see how the numbers have shifted going into October. Will the Wolverines’ offensive and/or defensive units have moved up from the mid-teens in SP+ ranking? My feeling is that the projected margin will be razor thin going into Iowa week, but Michigan will ride a special teams advantage to the win.
Michigan 30 Iowa 23, 4-1

@ Illinois: 91st Overall, 54th Offense, 106th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 22.8, Win Probability 91% – The numbers project a lopsided win for Michigan, but watch out for this major TRAP GAME on the road.

PREDICTION: In addition to Brandon Peters’ revenge game, the Illini fan base has much stronger animosity for the Wolverines than you’d think. I will be watching for major improvement in road game preparation when Michigan travels to Champagne for this game. Even if there is a slow start (think 2018 Northwestern), superior talent should be enough to carry the Wolverines. Also, this point in the season may reveal a surprise contributor in a breakout performance, or perhaps in an explosive highlight reel play (eyes on the Freshmen).
Michigan 27 Illinois 14, 5-1

@ Penn State: 14th Overall, 51st Offense, 4th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 0.7, Win Probability 52% – Easiest prediction for this game: it will be at night, in a white-out @ Beaver Stadium.

PREDICTION: As I see it in August, this sets up as the pivotal moment for the 2019 football season. The Wolverines will have to prove to themselves on a national stage, and prove to the fan base that they can prepare for and execute against a good team in a hostile environment. This certainly could be a nail biter, perhaps similar to the 2018 MSU game that was tied 7-7 near the end of third quarter. However, I think Harbaugh and his staff will sense the critical nature of the moment, and will rise to the occasion.
Michigan 31 Penn State 17, 6-1

vs. Notre Dame: 12th Overall, 29th Offense, 9th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 5.0, Win Probability 61% – These two defenses will probably both be Top 10 in SP+ unit rankings by the last week of October. This one could end under the lights if it’s a 3:30 kick, and very well may get scheduled to kick off in prime time.

PREDICTION: I see Michigan’s return to the Big House as a continuation of whatever momentum is created the previous week in Happy Valley. If the Wolverines are riding the emotional high of a pivotal league victory, that portends well for their chances versus the Irish. If their B1G Ten East title hopes took a serious blow from the Nittany Lions, this non-conference game isn’t going to do much to change the narrative spun by Harbaugh’s critics. Third possible outcome may be the most likely: I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Michigan 33 Notre Dame 13, 7-1

@ Maryland: 67th Overall, 69th Offense, 65th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 17.0, Win Probability 84% – There is almost no reliability in the preseason metrics regarding the Terps and how they will adjust to Mike Locksley and his new staff. Maybe that’s why S&P+ ranks both Maryland units in the dead center nationally.

PREDICTION: There will be very little doubt about who creates the game plans, and who calls the offensive plays in this match up. A slight risk of a November TRAP GAME may have existed when the 2019 schedule was released. However, Maryland will now have the full attention of Mr. Gattis & #SpeedInSpace in College Park.
Michigan 35 Maryland 7, 8-1

vs. MSU: 23rd Overall, 96th Offense, 3rd Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 11.5, Win Probability 75% – Seems like there MUST be a regression to the mean for the Spartan offensive unit. They can’t be THAT bad again, can they?

PREDICTION: Despite the battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy moving to November, Michigan State still has a ferocious October gauntlet of their own in 2019: @ Ohio State, @ Wisconsin, bye week, vs. Penn State. No matter what happens in those three games, we will MOSTLY know who the Spartans are by the time they reach Ann Arbor. The B1G Ten East could be on the line, or it could just be another opportunity to be “Defeated With Dignity”. I think this will have major implications for the race in the East, and Dantonio will have MSU ready to go. Look for another weather-affected defensive struggle to be way too close for comfort.
Michigan 17 MSU 13, 9-1

@ Indiana: 46th Overall, 40th Offense, 59th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Michigan by 12.7, Win Probability 77% – Michigan has won 23 consecutive meetings against the Hoosiers. Indiana has been quite a nuisance in nearly every match up, including engineering the offensive game plan that led to the debacle in Columbus.

PREDICTION: This game will be closer than Wolverines fans think it “should” be. Memorial Stadium sure gives off quite a Horseshoe vibe, doesn’t it. The crowd may be up to 50% maize and blue, but the crimson and cream uniforms will look a little too much like scarlet and grey. If I’m struggling in August to stop myself from looking past the Hoosiers and toward The Game, can Harbaugh and the boys avoid the same pitfall in November?
Michigan 28 Indiana 25, 10-1

vs. Ohio State: 7th Overall, 6th Offense, 14th Defense

PRESEASON SP+: Ohio State by 0.2, Win Probability 49% – The main reason there is significant reliability in preseason SP+ metrics for the Buckeyes under new head coach Ryan Day is because they continue to be absolutely loaded with blue chip talent at every position.

PREDICTION: The narrative will be about Harbaugh and his legacy. There will be a well verbalized count of days since November 2011 when interim coach Luke Fickell took a loss to Brady Hoke’s Wolverines. Urban Meyer may have already taken a leave of absence from his interim media position and moved to Los Angeles to start understanding life as a Trojan. None of that will matter. November 30th, 2019 will be about Jim Harbaugh and his staff delivering on a long broken promise to the Wolverine seniors: Those Who Stay Will be Champions.
Michigan 37 Ohio State 33, 11-1,
B1G Ten East Champions

2018 MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Regular Season Preview– By the Numbers

 

 

 

 

 

Hello UMGoBlue fans and readers!  I am very excited to join the writing team for this site.  Throughout this season, I will be looking at Michigan’s previous and upcoming football games through a statistics-based lens.  I will use a play-by-play analysis, and I’ll review S&P+ stats to form my opinions.  Then I’ll try to explain what we’ve seen from the Wolverines, and try to predict what I expect to see in the coming week.

Below you’ll find my initial regular season outlook.  Info comes from Bill Connelly’s most recent NCAAF rankings, released last week (link).  Before we have actual 2018 stats, S&P+ scores are compiled from past performance, returning production, and recent recruiting success.  Positive scores mean better than average, negative scores mean below average.

GO BLUE!

~ClintD

MICHIGAN S&P+
Overall: 19.2, 10th
Offense: 31.2, 45th
Defense: 11.9, 2nd

Regular Season SCHEDULE

@ Notre Dame: Overall 19.5, 9th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 16.3 (7th), Midpoint: 23.75
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 35.8 (22nd), Midpoint: 23.85

PREGAME EDGE: Notre Dame
S&P+ analysis is almost dead even. I give the slight edge to Touchdown Jesus.

PREDICTION: This game will be decided by 2 or 3 plays that the national media will be dissecting for the entire week following the night game. Once S&P+ is working with 2018 game data, I am confident Michigan’s offense moves up from 45th nationally. However, I believe the key for an opening week victory will be Special Teams execution. Michigan’s punter has to ensure ND always faces that Michigan Defense on a long field. I like DPJ’s chances to make a big return, and let’s hope Quinn Nordin returns to being a strength, rather than question mark.
Michigan 21 Notre Dame 17, 1-0

vs. Western Michigan: Overall -4.1, 88th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 32.7 (101st), Midpoint: 31.95
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 28.7 (67th), Midpoint: 20.80

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis will begin to adjust for week 1 data. The edge for Michigan may even grow.

PREDICTION: There will still be some wrinkles to iron out in week 2, but this should be a comfortable home opener for the Wolverines. Personally, I am excited to see whether Michigan’s offense can build a large lead, and if so, how Jim Harbaugh manages the new Red Shirt rules.
Michigan 31 WMU 6, 2-0

vs. SMU: Overall -0.7, 73rd
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 34.9 (111th), Midpoint: 33.05
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 34.2 (29th), Midpoint: 23.05

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says SMU has a legit offense. This week against Don Brown’s group may be the low point of their season.

PREDICTION: Third time around will hopefully be especially charmed for Shea Patterson and the offense. Week 3 is a golden opportunity to get everyone involved, and put multiple sets on film to force future D Coordinators to increase the number of hours they spend breaking down Michigan.
Michigan 38 SMU 10, 3-0

vs. Nebraska: Overall 2.0, 61st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 28.8 (66th), Midpoint: 30.0
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 30.8 (48th), Midpoint: 21.35

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says Nebraska and Michigan are close offensively. I’ll say this, by the end of the year, I think I would be satisfied with matching Scott Frost’s offensive output, even with a Freshman QB.

PREDICTION: For the third consecutive week, Michigan’s offense will have the opportunity to face a bottom-half defense. I expect some surprises from Nebraska in this game, and a few nervous fans at the Big House.
Michigan 27 Nebraska 20, 4-0

@ Northwestern: Overall 6.6, 37th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 22.1 (25th), Midpoint: 26.65
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 28.7 (63rd), Midpoint: 20.3

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says this will be a low scoring game, and if I were a betting man I would ride that analysis and take the UNDER.

PREDICTION: Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald will be fired up for this game, and Harbaugh will have to keep his guys sharp mentally. I expect this to be the inverse of the “careful with Nebraska’s offense” game, with the Wildcats defense causing some stress for the Wolverines.
Michigan 17 Northwestern 14, 5-0

vs. Maryland: Overall -0.4, 71st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 27.6 (59th), Midpoint: 29.4
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 27.2 (84th), Midpoint: 19.55

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says Michigan has a large edge on both sides of the ball. I can’t imagine the summer turmoil will help alleviate that.

PREDICTION: Maryland will come to Ann Arbor and find the Wolverines catching their stride. Most college football fans will be rooting against Maryland this season, and I expect this game to deliver another pound of Terrapin flesh to the masses.
Michigan 45 Maryland 10, 6-0

vs. Wisconsin: Overall 17.1, 11th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 17.3 (9th), Midpoint: 24.25
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 34.4 (25th), Midpoint: 23.15

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says Michigan has a razor-thin advantage over the Badgers, and gets to play this game in Ann Arbor.

PREDICTION: This will be Notre Dame game 2.0, in terms of boiling down to perhaps a singular pivotal moment. I don’t have a great feeling about this game, but the fan in me hopes my gut is wrong.
Wisconsin 24 Michigan 21, 6-1

@ Michigan State: Overall 16.2, 13th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 13.5 (3rd), Midpoint: 22.35
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 29.7 (54th), Midpoint: 20.8

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says this could be very evenly matched. Two average+ offenses will battle to execute against top-end defenses.

PREDICTION: Again, with similar strengths and weaknesses on paper, my focus turns to special teams execution. The Paul Bunyan trophy almost always sees some whacky plays, and I am sure 2018 will be no different. However, I believe Mark D’Antonio will be welcoming a ticked-off Michigan squad with something to prove.
Michigan 27 MSU 17, 7-1

vs. Penn State: Overall 20.3, 7th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 19.4 (16th), Midpoint: 25.3
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 39.7 (8th), Midpoint: 25.8

PRESEASON EDGE: Penn State
S&P+ analysis says the Nittany Lions bring the best offensive unit the Wolverines will have faced up to this point in the season.

PREDICTION: Put me in the “PSU is over-rated” camp. James Franklin lost the most important offensive asset he had. No, not Saquon Barkley, I mean Joe Moorehead. Losing Barkley’s Superman ability also hurts, and I don’t expect PSU to be in the top 10 of offensive S&P rankings by the time they come to Ann Arbor after Michigan’s bye.
Michigan 24 PSU 13, 8-1

@ Rutgers: Overall -6.6, 94th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 26.1 (50th), Midpoint: 28.65
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 19.5 (118th), Midpoint: 15.7

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says the Scarlet Knights might not score. Tough to win in that scenario (see 2016).

PREDICTION: Consider the obligatory “trap game” warning evaluated and dismissed. I will again be focusing more on Jim Harbaugh’s Red Shirt management. If this game is stressful into the second half, something has gone very wrong.
Michigan 34 Rutgers 3, 9-1

vs. Indiana: Overall 3.9, 49th
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 23.8 (38th), Midpoint: 27.5
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 27.8 (79th), Midpoint: 19.85

PRESEASON EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ analysis says that Michigan should be thankful Indiana has more institutional integrity than some other B1G schools, since Kevin Wilson’s Offense gave way to Mike DeBord’s.

PREDICTION: There are those Trap Game SIRENS! Michigan cannot get caught looking ahead to Urban’s “fixers”. I believe Senior Day at the Big House is adequate to keep the Wolverines focused on the task at hand. By this point, a berth in the B1G Championship game will be on the line also.
Michigan 24 Indiana 14, 10-1

@ Ohio State: Overall 27.1, 1st
M Offense 31.2 (45th) vs. O Defense 16.7 (8th), Midpoint: 23.95
M Defense 11.9 (2nd) vs. O Offense 43.8 (2nd), Midpoint: 27.85

PRESEASON EDGE: Ohio State
S&P+ analysis says that the Buckeyes will bring the nation’s most talented team into The Game. I wonder if Urban will be able to conceal their intentions well enough to stay in front of Don Brown.

PREDICTION: Good vs. Evil takes on a much more somber tone to describe the 2018 Michigan / OSU game. The Buckeyes deserve to lose. Who knows how the season will have developed statistically to this point, but at least the Wolverines can add karma to their side of the equation this year. It’s Rashan Gary’s time. It’s Chase Winovich’s time. It’s OUR time. Time to go make the plays that we’ve just missed on for the better part of 15 years!
Michigan 28 OSU 27, 11-1, B1G Ten East Champs

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