Michigan Football By the Numbers: SMU

Many Wolverine fans are clamoring for a return to the “good ol’ days” of Michigan football.  Some of those same fans forgot that those bygone days consist of complaining about the lack of domination in 25-point home victories…Onward into the B1G Ten season!

TABLE: FIVE FACTORS
FACTOR EDGE STATS
Explosiveness Michigan – small Yards/Play (MICH 7.36 / SMU 4.89);

IsoPPP (MICH 0.73 / SMU 0.73)

Efficiency Michigan – LARGE Success Rate (MICH 54.2% / SMU 32.3%)
Field Position Michigan – LARGE Avg Start (MICH Own 32 / SMU Own 22)
Finishing Drives Michigan – small Pts/Trip40 (MICH 5.17 / SMU 4.67)
TO’s & Penalties SMU – LARGE TO Margin (EVEN)

Offense Net Pen. Yds. (SMU +72 / MICH +5)

OFFENSE

I am calling this another business-like performance from the Michigan offense.  Jim Harbaugh’s staff has shown they are going to game plan around efficiency, and will stretch the field vertically via play action passes.  The offense exceeded 54% success rate for the second consecutive week, and only had to punt twice.  However, the fact that the first three drives went punt, punt, interception put a bad taste into the mouths of the Michigan fans.  While I certainly felt frustrated by the 0-0 first quarter as well, I am very encouraged that the offensive staff is adjusting to the defensive looks they are given early in the game, and the players are executing successfully more times than not.

I am particularly happy with the evolution of the pass attack, led by Shea Patterson.  He had a shaky first quarter, including a Red Zone interception, and another pass that should have been intercepted around Michigan’s 30-yard line.  However, after that, he made very accurate throws, to all six areas of the field (Short/Deep & Left/Middle/Right).  Patterson ended his day 14-of-18 overall for 237 yards & 3 TD’s, and eleven of the completions resulted in successful plays across first, second, and third downs.  After three games, I am very comfortable that Michigan is capable of maximizing their opportunities.  Going forward, I feel that we will only be limited by the O-Line’s execution.

DEFENSE

On defense, we have seen three very similar performances so far in 2018.  The Success Rate for opposing offenses is remarkably consistent: ND – 34.3%, WMU – 32.4%, SMU – 32.3%.  Where we’ve seen the greatest variation, and where my #1 concern rests, is in Explosiveness.  When using the Isolated Points per Play (IsoPPP), we are only looking at successful plays.  IsoPPP answers the question, “How big are your good offensive plays?”.  Remember in Week 1, after an explosive start, Notre Dame was held pretty much in check through the second half.  SMU outperformed Notre Dame in the IsoPPP metric versus Michigan’s defense, SMU – 0.73, ND – 0.61.  The coverage bust in the second quarter is the most egregious example, but 17 of SMU’s 65 plays went for 10+ yards.  Giving up big plays is a logical expectation, given Don Brown’s mantra “Solve your problems with aggression”.  Swinging for the fences produces many swing-and-misses, but it also produces home runs like the Josh Metellus pick-six to end the first half.  The key for Michigan remains the same: the star play-makers need to connect on enough big defensive plays to win the big games.

S&P+ THROUGH WEEK 3

MICHIGAN S&P+
Overall: 21.2, 10th (down 1)
Offense: 34.8, 38th (up 14)
Defense: 13.7, 7th (down 4)

REGULAR SEASON PROJECTIONS vs. RESULTS

vs. SMU: UM 45 SMU 20
Pregame S&P+: UM by 20, 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. Nebraska: Overall 6.9, 46th
M Offense 34.8 (38th) vs. O Defense 26.3 (58th), Midpoint: 32.4
M Defense 13.7 (7th) vs. O Offense 33.4 (45th), Midpoint: 23.55

PREGAME EDGE: Michigan
S&P+ gives the edge to Michigan on both sides of the ball. Under first-year coach Scott Frost, the Cornhuskers’ offense is on the steep end of their learning curve, similar to Michigan with Shea Patterson.

GAME WEEK UPDATE: Nebraska’s defense has performed better than the preseason outlook had suggested, as the Black Shirts have moved into the top half of the rankings. I still expect some surprises from Nebraska in this game, and I’d love to see Michigan start pulling out a few of their own.
Michigan 31 Nebraska 20 (PRESEASON: Michigan 27 Nebraska 20)

TL; DR SUMMARY

The Michigan offense continues to march toward Jim Harbaugh’s vision of an efficient, pro-style outfit capable of exploding a few times per game. On defense, the Wolverines continue to keep teams mostly bottled up, but still haven’t developed the killer instinct they need. As the Big Ten season kicks off, Michigan must utilize the next couple games against underwhelming opponents to take another step up to the level of the nation’s elite teams.