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The numbers game: Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1

October 14th, 2016 by Josh DeMille


peppers-wildcat-vs-rutgers(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Previously: Is Don Brown’s defense high-risk? The numbers say noMichigan’s Harbaughfense will be more explosive in Year 2, Run game makes big plays in Week 1, While UCF loaded the box Michigan went to the air for big plays, Michigan offense doubles 2015 big play pace through 3 weeks, UM’s smothering defense narrows gap between 2015 D’s big play pace, U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D

Well, that game got out of hand quicker than most expected. I mean, I know Rutgers is bad, but holy cow Michigan! And the beat down wasn’t just on the scoreboard and in traditional stats. Let’s dive in!

Michigan racked up 16 explosive plays — yes, 16 — while the defense only gave up ONE, and it didn’t come until the fourth quarter when the game was in hand and Michigan had rolled out their second and third stringers. Let’s add these ludicrous numbers to Michigan’s already impressive 2016 total.

Thus far, the Wolverine offense is averaging eight explosive run plays per game (11th nationally) and 3.67 explosive pass plays (45th) for a total of 11.67 explosive plays per game (10th) with a big play percentage of 15.77 percent (11th). Their big play differential is a healthy 7.36 percent (6th) and their total toxic differential is 46, good for third on a per game basis.

At this point last year Michigan had just finished a string of three straight shutouts, and the offense was hovering right around the season total averages. Through six games in 2015 Michigan averaged 4.5 explosive run plays per game and 2.33 explosive pass plays, for a total of 6.83 explosive plays per game. Their big play percentage for was 9.58 percent, their big play differential was 1.97 percent and their total toxic differential was just 13.

Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first six weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 48 22 70 15.77% 7.36% 46
2015 27 14 41 9.58% 1.97% 13
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through six weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 3.67 1.33 5.00 8.40% 7.36% 46
2015 3.50 1.00 4.50 7.61% 1.97% 13

To put the 2015 numbers in perspective let’s see how Michigan would rank if they put up those numbers this year. Run plays would rank 93rd, pass plays 103rd, total explosive plays 114th, big play percentage 114th, big play differential 51st, and total toxic differential 41st. That is a massive improvement halfway through the season, even considering opponents like Rutgers.

On to the defense.

Michigan only gave up one — yes ONE — big play to Rutgers last week. That is insane. Yes, Rutgers is bad. Ohio State also dismantled Rutgers, but they surrendered three explosive plays (two pass and one run). Take that however you will, but OSU still gave up three times more explosive plays to Rutgers than Michigan did. Adding that one play into Michigan’s season totals and…

Michigan’s dominating defense so far is giving up 3.67 explosive run plays per game (30th) and 1.33 explosive pass plays (2nd), for a total of five explosive plays given up per game (2nd), with a total big play against percentage of 8.4 percent (11th). Not too shabby.

At the halfway point in 2015 Michigan’s defense was giving up 3.5 explosive run plays per game and one explosive pass play per game for 4.5 total explosive plays per game with a total big play against percentage of 7.61 percent. Right about where they are at the halfway point this year.

Michigan’s Week 6 big plays
Quarter Down & Distance Player Yards Gained Run/Pass
1 1st and 10 Jabrill Peppers 63 Run
1 2nd and 10 Ty Isaac 12 Run
1 2nd and 8 Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson 30 (TD) Pass
2 2nd and 5 Chris Evans 43 Run
2 2nd and 6 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 45 Pass
2 1st and 10 Chris Evans 15 Run
2 1st and 10 Chris Evans 11 Run
2 2nd and 6 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 20 Run
2 2nd and 7 Chris Evans 15 Run
2 1st and 10 Karan Higdon 15 (TD) Run
3 1st and 10 Karan Higdon 15 Run
4 2nd and 10 Ty Isaac 11 Run
4 2nd and 14 Ty Isaac 10 Run
4 3rd and 4 Bobby Henderson 13 (TD) Run
4 3rd and 3 Karan Higdon 44 (TD) Run
4 2nd and 10 Ty Isaac 34 (TD) Run
Rutgers’ Week 6 big plays
4 1st and 10 Trey Sneed 10 Run

However, while all of those numbers are better than 2016’s up to this point don’t forget that 2015 Michigan just came off three shutouts and did not keep up this pace. They ended the 2015 season surrendering a total of 7.2 explosive plays per game. The 2016 defense will probably not continue this pace either (especially with Indiana and OSU still lurking) but I still expect them to be around six total explosive plays given up at season’s end, which would put them in the elite defense category.

What about the sacks and tackles for loss, you say? Interesting you should ask. Please keep in mind that I don’t have the week by week numbers for last year (next year we’ll be able to compare not only numbers but national ranks on a weekly basis) so we are comparing this year’s numbers to their 2015 totals.

To refresh your memories; last year Michigan had 88 total tackles for loss (6.77 per game) and 32 total sacks (2.46 per game). On a per game basis, those numbers were good for 42nd for tackles for loss and 32nd for sacks.

At the halfway point in 2016 Michigan has 60 tackles for loss and 24 total sacks for an average of four per game, both 2nd in the country. Only Miami averages more tackles for loss per game, while Ohio is first in sacks. No, not Ohio State, just plain Ohio University.

To add some context to those four sacks per game, over the past eight full seasons (dating back to 2008) only two teams averaged over four per game for the season (Stanford in 2012 and Utah in 2014).

Over that same time frame Michigan averaged just 2.04 sacks per game, topping out at 2.46 per game (2015). The average sacks per game of the top five teams over that same time span was 3.39.

Michigan’s defense is on pace for a historical year, even if those numbers taper off a bit. They have almost matched their 13-game sack total from last year in just six games and are on pace for over 120 total tackles for loss (assuming a 13 game season – I am not going to jinx anything by assuming they play 14 or 15 games). If they don’t end up in the top three for both sacks and tackles for loss per game I’d honestly be shocked.

To sum up, the #HarbaughEffect and the #DonBrownEffect are in fact real, and they’re spectacular! And this is with a roster mostly full of Brady Hoke recruits. This is not to take anything away from the Hoke kids — there was a lot of talent left behind — but they haven’t had elite coaching their entire careers. Fast forward a year or two and Harbaugh will be like…

Last week I promised we’d be adding some new stats to the mix before the bye week. Unfortunately, I misspoke. I meant after the bye week, since we won’t have a game to review. I apologize if you were looking forward to extra content this week. However, I assure you we will have it next week.