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Posts Tagged ‘First Look’

First Look: #8 Ohio State

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017


Michigan put up a fight for 40 minutes in Madison last Saturday, leading the fifth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers 10-7 until midway through the third quarter, but disaster struck in the form of a head injury to quarterback Brandon Peters and the Wolverines suffered a 24-10 defeat to drop to 8-3 on the season and 5-3 in Big Ten play. They have one regular season game remaining and it’s the big one — the one that is simply referred to as The Game. It presents one last chance to salvage what most consider to be a disappointing season and spoil Ohio State’s hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.

Ohio State & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
44.9 3rd 26.3 82nd PPG 19.8 22nd 17.1 11th
2,778 2,136 Rush Yds 1,254 1,285
252.5 12th 194.2 35th Rush/Gm 114.0 12th 116.8 15th
6.0 4.6 Rush Avg 3.2 3.4
3,230 1,828 Pass Yds 1,953 1,588
293.6 20th 166.2 111th Pass/Gm 177.5 15th 144.4 1st
6,008 3,964 Total Off. 3,207 2,873
546.2 4th 360.4 102nd Total Off./Gm 291.5 8th 261.2 3rd
25.0 15th 19.5 99th KR Avg 17.6 14th 15.6 2nd
3.8 117h 7.5 63rd PR Avg 1.0 1st 10.5 100th
28:40 91st 32:02 22nd Avg TOP 31:20 27:58
50% 4th 33% 112th 3rd Down% 30% 14th 25% 1st
16-96 30th 29-205 102nd Sacks-Yds 29-208 23rd 36-251 8th
65 35 TDs 29 23
13-15 (87%) 15-20 (75%) FG-ATT 5-10 (50%) 9-14 (64%)
54-61 (89%) 36th 31-36 (86%) 53rd Red Zone 23-30 (77%) 22nd 21-26 (81%) 45th
41-61 (67%) 19-36 (53%)  RZ TD 18-30 (60%) 15-26 (58%)
3.79 2nd 2.27 57th OFEI/DFEI 1.39 15th 1.35 11th
40.9 4th 27.8 69th S&P+ 18.8 12th 18.1 8th

When everything is clicking Ohio State may have the most upside of any team in the country. But as their two losses indicate, they also may have the lowest floor of any of the teams in contention to make the final four. The Buckeyes have two good wins, both at home, over then-No. 2 Penn State (39-38) and then-No. 12 Michigan State (48-3). But their two losses to then-No. 5 Oklahoma and then-unranked Iowa have come by a combined 46 points.

The Iowa loss was the most surprising as the Hawkeyes took a 31-17 lead into the half and kept piling on in the second, eventually winning 55-24. They have since dropped their last two games at Wisconsin and at home to Purdue by a combined 33 points to fall to just 6-5 overall and 3-5 in conference play. They’re simply not a very good team, and yet they handed Ohio State a 31-point loss. In fact, in their two games before the Ohio State game and their two games since, they’ve combined to score a total of 56 points — one more than they scored against the Buckeyes.

So is there hope for Michigan? Objectively, sure. The Wolverines average about a half a point more than Iowa does, have a slightly better offense, and a considerably better defense. And in a rivalry game like this, anything can happen. But when applying recent history, its hard to imagine Michigan breaking out of the slump that has seen them lose 14 of the last 16 meetings.

This season, Ohio State features one of the nation’s most explosive offenses, ranking 3rd nationally in scoring (44.9 points per game), 12th in rushing (252.5 yards per game), 20th in passing (293.6 yards per game), and 4th in total offense (546.2 yards per game).

The Buckeyes have been held below 25 points just twice this season and both were losses — 24 points against Iowa and 16 against Oklahoma. They’ve scored 48 or more points in eight of 11 games with a high of 62 against Maryland. The only game in which they scored fewer than 48 but more than 24 was the 39-38 come-from-behind win over Penn State.

The running game hasn’t been held below 163 yards in a single game this season. Michigan’s rush defense, which ranks 15th nationally, allows just 116.8 yards per game and has allowed 163 or more just four times in 11 games, although it has done so in each of the past two. Ohio State has topped 200 yards rushing eight times and 300 yards in each of the last two weeks. The same Michigan State defense that held Michigan to 102 rushing yards on 39 carries yielded 335 yards on 42 carries to OSU.

The passing game isn’t quite as good under senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, but it’s still dangerous and the Buckeyes’ receivers have matured throughout the season. In the two losses, Barrett has thrown a combined five interceptions — four of which came against Iowa — and in the nine wins, he has thrown just three. Iowa and Oklahoma held the Bucks to just 195.5 passing yards per game on just a 53.6 percent completion rate. Those other nine games? He’s averaged 315.4 passing yards on a 69.6 percent completion rate.

Michigan boasts the nation’s top pass defense, allowing just 144.4 yards per game, and with a healthy Lavert Hill back, they’ll present the toughest matchup OSU has faced to date. Michigan has allowed just one opponent — Penn State — to pass for more than 200 yards.

Defensively, Ohio State isn’t nearly as good as they were a year ago but they still rank among the nation’s best. The Buckeyes rank 22nd nationally in scoring defense (19.8 points per game), 12th against the run (114.0 yards per game), 15th against the pass (177.5 yards per game), and 8th in total defense (291.5 yards per game).

With the exception of two games, OSU’s defense has been tough against the run. One of those two, Army, is excusable because they’re a service academy that runs a wacky offense like Michigan’s defense saw with Air Force. The other was Iowa, who inexplicably rushed for a season-high 243 yards on 6.4 yards per carry. To put that in context, Iowa has rushed for more than 200 yards just one other time (against North Texas) and has been held to just 89 yards or fewer four times.

Ohio State’s pass defense has been more susceptible, though it rebounded from a very poor start to the season. In the season opener, Indiana passed for 420 yards and Oklahoma threw for 386 a week later. Since then, Ohio State has allowed more than 200 yards passing just twice and has held three opponents — Army, Maryland, and Illinois — to fewer than 20 passing yards. The exceptions were Nebraska’s 27th-ranked passing offense which threw for 349 yards and Iowa’s 87th-ranked passing offense that passed for 244.

On special teams, Ohio State is one of the nation’s best in kick returns, but one of the worst in the punt return game. They’re also among the nation’s best at defending both kick and punt returns. Kicking-wise, Ohio State has converted 13-of-15 field goals.

The Buckeyes will be the most talented team Michigan has faced this season, but as Iowa showed three weeks ago, they’re beatable. Just how much of a chance Michigan will have will likely depend on the health of Peters.

First Look: #8 Wisconsin

Monday, November 13th, 2017


(David Stluka)

Michigan closed its three-game cupcake stretch with it third straight win, improving to 8-2 on the season and 5-2 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines outscored Rutgers, Minnesota, and Maryland 105-34 to stay within reach of at least a share of the Big Ten East. But it won’t come easy as a pair of top-10 foes remain in Wisconsin and Ohio State. Michigan travels to Madison to face unbeaten Wisconsin this Saturday. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare through the first 10 games of the season.

Wisconsin & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
36.3 24th 27.9 70th PPG 13.4 3rd 16.4 9th
2,450 2,078 Rush Yds 815 1,103
245.0 18th 207.8 30th Rush/Gm 81.5 1st 110.3 9th
5.2 4.9 Rush Avg 2.8 3.3
1,881 1,652 Pass Yds 1,661 1,445
188.1 95th 165.2 111th Pass/Gm 166.1 7th 144.5 2nd
4,331 3,730 Total Off. 2,476 2,548
433.1 37th 373.0 94th Total Off./Gm 247.6 1st 254.8 3rd
21.9 52nd 19.6 99th KR Avg 18.7 29th 15.6 3rd
6.0 84th 8.2 54th PR Avg 6.2 51st 7.1 63rd
35:46 2nd 32:25 18th Avg TOP 24:14 27:35
52% 1st 33% 112th 3rd Down% 29% 10th 24% 1st
14-76 23rd 27-187 104th Sacks-Yds 35-261 4th 33-233 5th
47 34 TDs 14 20
10-12 (83%) 14-19 (74%) FG-ATT 12-15 (80%) 8-13 (62%)
40-47 (85%) 61st 29-33 (88%) 39th Red Zone 19-27 (70%) 7th 19-23 (83%) 60th
32-47 (68%) 18-33 (55%)  RZ TD 8-27 (30%) 14-23 (61%)
2.78 28th 2.31 52nd OFEI/DFEI 1.13 6th 1.40 15th
31.9 35th 28.9 53rd S&P+ 14.2 1st 18.2 6th

If you like defensive football this game is for you. Wisconsin and Michigan both rank in the top two or three in every defensive statistic in the Big Ten and in the top ten nationally. But the Badgers also feature a pretty good offense, better than Michigan’s and much better than the offenses Michigan has faced the past few weeks.

When the next College Football Playoff rankings come out on Tuesday Wisconsin will present an interesting case study. They’re one of only four unbeaten teams remaining — along with Alabama, Miami, and UCF — but have played one of the worst schedules in the country. This past Saturday’s 38-14 win over Iowa was the first time they’ve played a ranked team this season, and Iowa is now 6-4 and only ranked because they applied the Kinnick Stadium at night curse on Ohio State a week ago.

Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule featured Utah State, Florida Atlantic, and BYU, who have gone a combined 15-16 so far this season. Then the Badgers opened Big Ten play with Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue, Maryland, Illinois, and Indiana before hosting Iowa. In other words, they get to skip the gauntlet that the teams in the East Division have had to endure, facing only Michigan and skipping Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State completely.

Do the Badgers deserve to be ranked in the top four come Tuesday? By record, yes. But one could easily argue that if they had played the schedule of a team in the East Division, they would likely have at least one if not two losses. Time will tell as they host Michigan this Saturday and then will get to face the East champion in the Big Ten championship game two weeks later.

Like a typical Wisconsin team, the Badgers get it done with their defense and their running game. The running game ranks second in the Big Ten and 18th nationally, averaging 245 yards per game. Their lowest rushing output of the season was 109 yards against Northwestern’s 7th-ranked rush defense, which gives hope that Michigan’s 9th-ranked rush defense can hold them in check. The Badgers have topped 200 yards rushing in eight of 10 contests and have topped 300 yards twice — a 357-yard performance against Florida Atlantic and 353 yards against Nebraska. Illinois was the only other defense to hold them below 200.

The passing game, however, is more like Michigan’s, ranking 10th in the Big Ten and 95th nationally with an average of 188.1 yards per game. Wisconsin has topped 200 yards passing four times this season, but has done so only once since Week 3. In their last seven games they’re averaging 167.7 passing yards per game, which is right about Michigan’s average. In their last three, the average is down to just 146.7. Michigan has the nation’s second-best pass defense, giving up just 144.5 yards per game through the air, and with Wisconsin’s leading receiver, Quintez Cephus, out for the year, that bodes well for the Wolverines.

Defensively, Wisconsin is the best in the nation, statistically at least. The Badgers rank 1st in the Big Ten and 3rd nationally in scoring defense (13.4 points per game), 1st and 1st in rush defense (81.5 yards per game), 2nd and 7th in pass defense (166.1 yards per game), and 1st and 1st in total defense (247.6 yards per game).

Only four opponents have topped 100 rushing yards against Wisconsin this season. Maryland had the most success with 143 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. Illinois had 134 yards on 4.1. But Wisconsin has shut down its last two opponents, holding Indiana and Iowa to a combined 65 yards on 47 carries (1.4 yards per carry). Now, before you get too worried, both of those running games rank in the 100s nationally and 10th and 11th in the conference.

Wisconsin’s pass defense hasn’t allowed more than 271 yards in a game this season. Six of ten opponents have thrown for 155 yards or fewer including Iowa, who passed for just 41 yards last week.

Clearly, Wisconsin is one of the best teams Michigan has faced all season, at least statistically. Just how good the Badgers are remains to be seen given the strength of their schedule. But the same can be said for Michigan, who has lost to the only two good teams they’ve played. Michigan can win, but it will take a complete performance to do so.

First Look: Maryland

Thursday, November 9th, 2017


(umterps.com)

Brandon Peters got the start of his career, but last Saturday was all about the running game and the defense. Karan Higdon and Chris Evans combined for 391 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while Khaleke Hudson set a Michigan and Big Ten single-game record with eight tackles for loss, matching the NCAA record. The Wolverines will look to carry that momentum into College Park, Md. when they face Maryland this Saturday afternoon. Here’s a look at how the two teams compare so far this season.

Maryland & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
29.9 55th 27.1 73rd PPG 36.3 115th 17.1 11th
1,553 1,918 Rush Yds 1,573 923
172.6 56th 213.1 29th Rush/Gm 174.8 77th 102.6 7th
4.5 5.0 Rush Avg 4.5 3.0
1,480 1,507 Pass Yds 2,330 1,285
164.4 114th 167.4 111th Pass/Gm 258.9 104th 142.8 1st
3,033 3,425 Total Off. 3,903 2,208
337.0 112th 380.6 85th Total Off./Gm 433.7 101st 245.3 3rd
24.2 22nd 20.0 86th KR Avg 20.0 53rd 14.6 3rd
12.6 17th 8.2 57th PR Avg 11.7 108th 7.7 75th
27:27 108th 32:57 13th Avg TOP 32:33 27:03
32% 115th 33% 113th 3rd Down% 50% 127th 24% 3rd
24-124 108th 27-187 111th Sacks-Yds 15-75 88th 32-227 3rd
36 29 TDs 43 19
6-10 (60%) 14-18 (78%) FG-ATT 9-16 (56%) 7-11 (64%)
25-32 (78%) 97th 25-27 (93%) 13th Red Zone 32-37 (86%) 86th 17-20 (85%) 75th
20-32 (63%) 14-27 (52%)  RZ TD 28-37 (76%) 13-20 (65%)
2.39 48th 2.31 52nd OFEI/DFEI 2.82 107th 1.40 15th
26.8 73rd 28.6 58th S&P+ 29.7 88th 19.5 13th

If you thought Minnesota was bad last week, Maryland is even worse — statistically at least. Yes, Maryland beat Minnesota 31-24 to open Big Ten play, but they seem to have gotten worse as the season has progressed, dropping four of their last five and five of their last seven. The only wins in that span have come over Indiana (42-39) and Minnesota. Last week, they lost to Rutgers.

The offense is fairly similar to Michigan’s with a decent running game and virtually no passing game. It ranks 55th nationally in scoring (29.9 points per game), 56th in rushing (172.6 yards per game), 114th in passing (164.4 yards per game), and 112th in total offense (337.0 yards per game).

The Terrapins rushed for over 260 yards in three of their first four games, tallying 263 against Texas in the opener, 367 against Towson, and 262 against Minnesota. But UCF held them to just 42 yards on 37 carries in Week 2. Ohio State and Northwestern also held the Terps’ running game in check, combining for just 135 yards on 73 carries (1.8 yards per carry).

The passing game hasn’t topped 255 yards in a game all season and has failed to reach 175 yards in six of nine games. Against Ohio State, Maryland completed just 3-of-13 passes for 16 yards and it wasn’t because the running game was working so well. The Terps managed just 66 total yards that game.

Defensively, Maryland is one of the worst in college football. D.J. Durkin’s defense ranks 115th nationally in scoring (36.3 points per game), 77th against the run (174.8 yards per game), 104th against the pass (258.9 yards per game), and 101st in total defense (433.7 yards per game).

UCF, Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Rutgers all rushed for over 200 yards against Maryland. Three of those (UCF, OSU, and Wisconsin) have fairly similarly-ranked running games as Michigan, while Rutgers and Northwestern rank 62nd and 96th, respectively. Opponents are averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

The passing game is even worse. Much worse. Maryland is allowing almost twice as many passing yards per game as Michigan and that’s an improvement after holding Rutgers to 107 passing yards last Saturday, although “holding” may not be the right word as the Scarlet Knights threw just 18 passes and found plenty of success on the ground. Indiana passed for 410 yards and Ohio State for 303.

One of the big reasons Rutgers’ defense is so bad is that it hasn’t been able to get off the field on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 50 percent of the time. They rank ahead of only Oregon State and Eastern Carolina in that category. By comparison, Michigan’s defense allows just a 24 percent conversion rate, meaning that they get off the field twice as often as Maryland’s defense does.

Another figure that bodes well for Michigan in this one is that Maryland has given up 24 sacks this season, an average of 2.7 per game. It’s three less than Michigan’s line has allowed and that’s good news for a Wolverine defense that ranks third nationally with 32 sacks. In the past two weeks, Michigan has faced offenses that entered that game allowing a total of 14 sacks all season, and the Wolverines got to the quarterbacks 10 times themselves — five each game.

Last week’s craziness with Iowa toppling Ohio State and Michigan State taking down Penn State brought an outside shot at at least a share of the Big Ten East title into play. With Wisconsin and Ohio State looming the next two weeks, Saturday’s game at Maryland is Michigan’s best shot at another win, so expect them to take full advantage of it.

First Look: Minnesota

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017


(Gophersports.com)

Michigan got back in the win column last Saturday with a Homecoming victory over Rutgers. Not only that, but they also saw the emergence of Brandon Peters at quarterback, something fans have been clamoring for all season. The redshirt freshman threw just 14 passes (completing 10) for 124 yards and a touchdown, but it was a solid opening performance that warrants a likely start this coming Saturday when Minnesota comes to town for a night game. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare so far this season.

Minnesota & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
25.1 86th 26.4 78th PPG 18.8 21st 18.0 16th
1,458 1,547 Rush Yds 1,062 833
182.2 47th 193.4 38th Rush/Gm 132.8 36th 104.1 8th
4.1 4.4 Rush Avg 4.1 3.2
1,251 1,451 Pass Yds 1,472 1,211
156.4 115th 181.4 103rd Pass/Gm 184.0 23rd 151.4 2nd
2,709 2,998 Total Off. 2,534 2,044
338.6 110th 374.8 87th Total Off./Gm 316.8 20th 255.5 4th
20.7 73rd 19.8 86th KR Avg 22.6 94th 15.1 5th
4.5 104th 8.3 57th PR Avg 5.2 38th 8.3 80th
32:12 24th 33:37 9th Avg TOP 27:48 26:23
36% 96th 32% 110th 3rd Down% 36% 51st 24% 1st
8-47 11th 24-164 106th Sacks-Yds 12-60 100th 27-181 5th
24 24 TDs 18 18
11-15 (73%) 14-17 (88%) FG-ATT 8-13 (62%) 6-10 (60%)
25-32 (78%) 94th 23-25 (92%) 14th Red Zone 18-22 (82%) 55th 15-18 (83%) 63rd
18-32 (56%) 12-25 (48%)  RZ TD 13-22 (59%) 12-18 (67%)
2.03 66th 1.91 109th OFEI/DFEI 1.81 18th 1.33 14th
21.6 116th 27.0 73rd S&P+ 20.7 23rd 19.6 15th

Minnesota is 4-4 so far this season under first-year head coach P.J. Fleck and will be looking to avoid falling below .500 for the first time this season. The Gophers opened with wins over Buffalo, Oregon State, and Middle Tennessee before starting Big Ten play with three straight losses to Maryland, Purdue, and Michigan State. They bounced back with a 24-17 win over Illinois before falling at Iowa last Saturday.

Statistically, Minnesota is a slightly better Rutgers. They rank about 10-20 spots higher nationally in each offensive category and about 20-30 spots higher defensively than Rutgers did entering last week’s game. According to S&P+, however, which takes into account efficiency, explosiveness field position, and finishing drives, Minnesota actually ranks one spot lower than Rutgers’ offense does, at 116th nationally.

The Gophers rank 86th in scoring (25.1 points per game), 47th in rushing (182.2 yards per game), 115th in passing (156.4 yards per game), and 110th in total offense (338.6 yards per game). The rushing game has been held below 100 yards twice this season — 80 yards on 2.6 yards per carry against Maryland and 74 yards on 2.7 yards per carry against Michigan State. Conversely, they’ve topped 200 yards rushing four times with a high of 292 yards on 5.3 yards per carry against Illinois’ 108th-ranked rush defense two weeks ago. They also rushed for 227 yards on 4.8 yards per carry against Purdue. By comparison, Michigan managed just 139 yards on 3.2 yards per carry — on just three fewer carries — against the Boilermakers.

Minnesota’s passing game, however, leaves a lot to be desired, averaging about 25 yards fewer per game than Michigan’s. They’ve thrown for 200 or more yards just three times in eight games with a high of 239 yards in the season opener against Buffalo and they were limited to just 47 yards on 5-of-15 passing against Illinois. In fact, Minnesota hasn’t had a game with more than 50 percent completions since Week 3. In the last five weeks, they have completed just 54-of-127 passes, which is a miserable 42.5 percent, for seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Like Rutgers last week, Minnesota doesn’t allow a lot of sacks. They’ve given up just eight through eight games, a total that ranks 11th nationally and first in the Big Ten. However, as we saw last week, Michigan’s defense doesn’t care. The Wolverines nearly matched Rutgers’ seven-game sack total last Saturday.

Defensively, Minnesota is pretty solid, ranking above average in the Big Ten in most categories. Nationally, they rank 21st in scoring defense (18.8 points per game), 36th in rush defense (132.8 yards per game), 23rd in passing (184.0 yards per game), and 20th in total defense (316.8 yards per game). They made it through the non-conference portion of the schedule with just 24 points allowed, but they’ve given up an average of 25.2 per game in Big Ten play.

None of those first three opponents topped 80 yards rushing, but they did average 180 yards in the air and a 56.6 percent completion rate. In Big Ten play, however, Maryland and Michigan State — both of whom have running games slightly worse than Michigan’s — found great success on the ground, rushing for 262 and 245 yards on 5.6 and 4.9 yards per carry, respectively. Michigan State did so without a single explosive run — their longest run of the day was nine yards.

Minnesota’s pass defense has been pretty consistent, allowing between 120 and 211 yards in seven of eight games. The one outlier was against Purdue, who passed for 307 yards on 12.3 yards per completion with a 69.4 percent completion rate.

Minnesota isn’t great on special teams either, ranking 73rd in kick returns, 104th in punt returns, 94th in kick return defense, and 38th in punt return defense. In the kicking game, they’ve converted 11-of-15 field goal attempts with a long of 49 yards.

This is obviously a game that Michigan should win, especially at home under the lights, but it won’t be a complete pushover. The Wolverines should be able to have success on the ground, especially if the offensive line performs like it did last week. As Purdue showed, there is potential to attack Minnesota through the air, but with Peters likely making the first start of his young career don’t expect Michigan to open things up too much.

First Look: Our bitter rival, Rutgers

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017


Michigan had a tough task going into Happy Valley to face No. 2 Penn State in front of a whiteout and a national primetime audience. But they were thoroughly embarrassed by a score of 42-13, tying for the worst loss in the Jim Harbaugh era.

Now, the Wolverines get a chance to take out their frustrations on a team they beat 78-0 a year ago. Since Saturday, national pundits and rival fans have enjoyed throwing around the stat that Michigan is currently tied with Rutgers for fourth place in the Big Ten East. The Scarlet Knights have won two straight Big Ten games, ending a 16-game conference losing streak dating back to the first Big Ten game of 2015. Let’s take a look at how the two teams compare so far this season.

Rutgers & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
22.6 103rd 25.1 89th PPG 23.6 51st 18.6 22nd
1,174 1,213 Rush Yds 1,115 739
167.7 62nd 173.3 55th Rush/Gm 159.3 61st 105.6 11th
4.3 4.1 Rush Avg 4.5 3.2
935 1,314 Pass Yds 1,574 1,110
133.6 121st 187.7 97th Pass/Gm 224.9 71st 158.6 5th
2,109 2,527 Total Off. 2,689 1,849
301.3 122nd 361.0 97th Total Off./Gm 384.1 62nd 264.1 5th
14.8 127th 19.9 90th KR Avg 16.8 11th 14.0 2nd
10.4 32nd 8.1 56th PR Avg 9.4 91st 8.3 79th
31:11 42nd 33:10 11th Avg TOP 28:49 26:50
35% 98th 32% 110th 3rd Down% 30% 22nd 23% 1st
6-49 11th 23-151 118th Sacks-Yds 7-36 122nd 22-156 12th
21 19 TDs 19 16
4-6 (67%) 14-16 (88%) FG-ATT 11-13 (85%) 6-10 (60%)
19-23 (83%) 72nd 19-20 (95%) 8th Red Zone 21-22 (95%) 125th 14-17 (82%) 65th
15-23 (65%) 8-20 (40%)  RZ TD 12-22 (55%) 11-17 (65%)
1.52 122 1.82 103 OFEI/DFEI 1.88 60 0.96 6
20.7 117 26.2 85 S&P+ 22.8 33 17.5 14

Rutgers still isn’t anywhere close to competing for the Big Ten East, but in Year 2 of the Chris Ash era they are ahead of where they were last season. The offense is one of the worst in college football — yes, even worse than Michigan’s — but the defense is halfway decent.

Rutgers ranks approximately midway nationally in nearly every defensive statistic. Their 51st in scoring defense (23.6 points per game), 62nd in rush defense (159.3 yards per game), 71st in pass defense (224.9 yards per game), and 62nd in total defense (384.1 yards per game). They’re 60th in DFEI, which measures defensive efficiency adjusted for strength of opponents faced. But they’re all the way up to 33rd nationally in defensive S&P+, which measures play-by-play data of five factors: efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers. By comparison, Michigan’s defense ranks 14th in S&P+, so not much ahead of Rutgers.

Does that mean Rutgers’ defense is in the same league as Michigan’s? Absolutely not. But they are better than their stats indicate. They held Purdue to 12 points in a 14-12 win this past Saturday — the same Purdue team that Michigan let score 10 points — and it took Purdue until 25 seconds remaining to score their first touchdown of the game (they failed the two-point conversion attempt to tie the game). They held Washington to 30 points — their second-lowest output this season — and Eastern Michigan to 13 points — their lowest of the season.

But before we get carried away praising a Rutgers defense, let’s also consider that they haven’t faced the toughest schedule to date (as noted by the DFEI ranking). Yes, they hung with Washington into the third quarter, but that was the first game of the season which can always be unpredictable. The only other S&P top-50 teams they’ve faced are Purdue (48th) and Ohio State (1st). And the Buckeyes soundly beat the Scarlet Knights 56-0, nearly matching their 58-0 score from 2016. Ohio State piled up 628 total yards, averaging 6.2 yards per play. Illinois passed for 308 yards two weeks ago and Purdue, despite scoring just 12 points, piled up 474 total yards, so in the last three weeks Rutgers is allowing an average of 499 yards per game. If ever there’s a week for Michigan’s offense to taste some success it’s this one. On the other hand, if the offense struggles, it will truly be time to worry.

On the other side of the ball, Rutgers ranks 103rd nationally in scoring (22.6 points per game), 62nd in rushing (167.7 yards per game), 121st in passing (133.6 yards per game), and 122nd in total offense (301.3 yards per game). Yes, only seven teams nationally rank worse in total offense than Rutgers.

Interestingly, Rutgers actually averages more rushing yards per game than Penn State did entering the Michigan game last week. But much of that is inflated by a 326-yards performance against Morgan State, which ranks 74th nationally in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in rush defense. Against FBS competition, Rutgers is averaging just 141.3 rushing yards per game, which would rank 89th. Except for a 274-yard rushing game against Illinois’ 107th-ranked rush defense, Rutgers hasn’t topped 131 yards on the ground. They managed just 68 yards on 2.4 yards per carry against Nebraska and 2.9 yards per carry against Ohio State.

The passing game is even worse. Rutgers hasn’t reached 200 passing yards in a game this season and has been held below 100 twice. In the last three weeks, they’ve averaged just 93.7 passing yards per game while completing just 45.6 percent. By comparison, Michigan’s passing offense the last three weeks is averaging 140.7 passing yards per game and 50.6 percent completions. That’s how bad Rutgers’ passing game has been.

If there’s one bright spot for the Rutgers offense it is the fact that they’ve allowed just six sacks through seven games, a figure that ranks 11th nationally. That’s 17 fewer sacks than Michigan’s offensive line has allowed.

As you can see, Rutgers is slightly improved over last year and has a decent defense and an offense even worse than Michigan’s. Given all that has transpired this season I wouldn’t expect a repeat of last year’s result, but anything but an easy Michigan win this Saturday should definitely be cause for real, legitimate concern.

First Look: Purdue

Monday, September 18th, 2017


Michigan’s offense struggled for the second week in a row but defense and special teams helped the Wolverines to another double-digit victory. Michigan closed out the non-conference slate with five offensive touchdowns, three defensive touchdowns, one special teams touchdown, 11 field goals, and a safety. In other words, the special teams has scored 48 points, the offense has scored 30, and the defense 20.

This Saturday, Michigan faces a stern test in its Big Ten conference opener in West Lafayette. Raise your hand if you thought you’d hear that sentence prior to the season. No one? Ok, let’s take a look at how the team’s compare through the first fourth of the season.

Purdue & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
35.7 43rd 32.7 57th PPG 19.7 41st 14.7 24th
519 598 Rush Yds 389 247
173.0 63rd 199.3 41st Rush/Gm 129.7 53rd 82.3 9th
4.5 4.7 Rush Avg 4.1 2.3
860 608 Pass Yds 734 377
286.7 35th 202.7 84th Pass/Gm 244.7 83rd 125.7 12th
1,379 1,206 Total Off. 1,123 624
459.7 45th 402.0 72nd Total Off./Gm 374.3 68th 208.0 5th
13.5 120th 18.0 94th KR Avg 22.2 94th 15.4 14th
2.6 98th 14.8 18th PR Avg 9.0 87th 2.0 28th
34:35 12th 31:25 45th Avg TOP 25:25 28:35
40% 69th 34% 102nd 3rd Down% 35% 50th 24% 13th
8-40 98th 8-41 98th Sacks-Yds 1-7 129th 13-85 6rd
14 9 TDs 7 5
3-6 (50%) 11-13 (85%) FG-ATT 4-4 (100%) 3-6 (50%)
13-13 (100%) 1st 9-10 (90%) 39th Red Zone 9-11 (82%) 60th 3-4 (75%) 35th
10-13 (77%) 1-10 (10%)  RZ TD 5-11 (45%) 2-4 (50%)
OFEI/DFEI
29.4 66 32.0 49 S&P+ 29.9 75 12.8 2

Purdue is 2-1 under first-year head coach Jeff Brohm and has looked surprisingly un-Purdue-like so far. They hung with Louisville in the season opener, leading 28-25 in the fourth quarter before allowing 10 unanswered points in the final nine minutes. In Week 2, the Boilermakers topped Ohio University 44-21, and this past Saturday they traveled into SEC country and whooped Missouri, 35-3. Missouri is hardly the Mizzou of the past decade, but it’s becoming clear, neither is Purdue.

Brohm has already topped the 2013 season long win total, tied the 2015 total, and needs just one more win to tie 2014 and 2016’s. He has done so with a revamped offense that ranks in the top third nationally in most categories. Last season, in Darrel Hazel’s final year at the helm, Purdue ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring, but actually led the conference in passing. Three games into 2017, the Boilers are fourth in the conference in scoring, and sixth in total offense — ahead of Michigan in both categories.

Purdue is averaging 11 more points per game so far than they did a year ago, and that’s not simply because of schedule strength. Despite playing 16th-ranked Louisville this year — compared to a poorer non-conference slate last year — the Boilers have scored 18 more points than they did in the first three games of 2016.

They’ve done it with a strong passing game that is averaging 286.7 yards per game and ranks 35th nationally. They threw for 294 yards against Louisville, which is relatively the same as what the Cardinals allowed to 3rd-ranked Clemson this past Saturday. They followed that up with 295 yards against Ohio and 272 against Missouri. What’s more is that they’ve completed 65 percent of their passes with a 10-4 touchdown to interception ratio.

Purdue is less potent on the ground, ranking 63rd nationally with an average of 173 yards per game. That’s about 26 yards fewer than Michigan on a per game basis, though they’re averaging just 0.2 yards per carry fewer than the Wolverines. Louisville’s defense, which ranks 43rd nationally against the run, held the Boilers to just 51 rushing yards on 21 carries in the opener, so there’s precedent for Michigan’s defense.

Before we get carried away by the success of Purdue’s offense in the early season, let’s also point out that their two wins came against two poor defensive teams. Ohio ranks 69th in scoring defense, 64th against the run, 70th against the pass, and 65th in total defense. Missouri is even worse at 112th in scoring defense, 91st against the run, 98th against the pass, and 102nd in total defense. Louisville is worse yet, ranking 115th in scoring defense, 43rd against the run, 122nd against the pass, and 104th in total. Granted, the Cardinals have played Clemson, who may very well wind up in the College Football Playoff once again this season.

Defensively, Purdue isn’t quite as stout as their offense, ranking 41st in scoring (19.7 points per game), 53rd against the run (129.7 yards per game), 83rd against the pass (244.7 yards per game), and 68th in total defense (374.3 yards per game).

Purdue’s defense let Lamar Jackson throw for 387 yards and two touchdowns and rush for another 107 yards in the opener, but held Missouri to just 203 total yards and 70 rushing yards on 2.4 yards per carry. They did, however, give up nearly 400 total yards to Ohio, letting the Bobcats rush for 4.6 yards per carry and pass for 223 yards. Purdue has struggled to get into the backfield with just one sack and eight tackles for loss through three games. By comparison, Michigan has 13 sacks and 27 tackles for loss so far.

Unlike the Air Force matchup, Michigan will face a more traditional offense this Saturday, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be the best passing offense the Wolverines’ young defense has faced so far this season. Purdue hasn’t been great at protecting the quarterback — they’ve allowed eight sacks just like Michigan has — so expect Don Brown to dial up plenty of blitzes to keep quarterback David Blough out of rhythm.

If Michigan can survive its first road test of the season the Wolverines will head into the bye week at 4-0 with an extra week to prepare for a rivalry game against Michigan State and a pair of road games at Indiana and Penn State the weeks following.

First Look: Cincinnati

Monday, September 4th, 2017


All the talk heading into Michigan’s season opener was about the Wolverines’ inexperience after losing 15 starters including 10 from the defense alone. But there was plenty of young talent remaining to shut down Florida’s offense and capture a 33-17 victory. It was an important first road block cleared by the baby Wolverines and now they get a few games against less talented teams to refine things before the meat of the schedule begins.

Cincinnati is the first victim — I mean, opponent — and the early line has Michigan favored by 33 points. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Cincinnati & Michigan team stats comparison
Offense Defense
Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank Average Rank
26.0 81st 33.0 55th PPG 14.0 34th 17.0 44th
97 215 Rush Yds 224 11
97.0 89th 215.0 44th Rush/Gm 224.0 99th 11.0 3rd
3.3 4.4 Rush Avg 3.7 0.4
151 218 Pass Yds 89 181
151.0 99th 218.0 68th Pass/Gm 89.0 12th 181.0 46th
248 433 Total Off. 313 192
248.0 107th 433.0 58th Total Off./Gm 313.0 48th 192.0 17th
20.5 58th N/A N/A KR Avg 19.3 63rd 17.8 50th
10.5 29th 8.0 42nd PR Avg 1.0 58th N/A N/A
22:19 113th 34:13 25th Avg TOP 37:41 25:47
27% 100th 33% 80th 3rd Down% 19% 18th 15% 14th
0-0 1st 5-22 112th Sacks-Yds 1-6 69th 6-35 3rd
4 3 TDs 2 2
0-1 (00%) 4-6 (67%) FG-ATT 0-0 (–%) 1-2 (50%)
4-5 (80%) 74th 3-4 (75%) 84th Red Zone 2-4 (50%) 25th 0-0 (–%) 1st
4-5 (80%) 1-4 (25%)  RZ TD 2-4 (5-%) 0-0 (–%)
OFEI/DFEI
S&P+

Cincinnati won its opener against Austin Peay 26-14 on Saturday in the head coaching debut of former Ohio State defensive coordinator and interim head coach Luke Fickell. Austin Peay is an FCS team that went 0-11 last season, has a 28-game losing streak, and featured the third-worst (120th-ranked) total defense in FCS. The Governors allowed 506.6 total yards per game last season and held Cincinnati to just 248 yards on Saturday. They were also dead last in FCS in scoring defense, allowing 47 points per game, and they held Cincinnati to 26. Either they’ve made major improvements defensively, or Cincinnati’s offense is pretty bad this year.

The Bearcats went 4-8 in 2016 and had the nation’s 99th-ranked offense, but still compiled at least 80 yards more in each game last season than they did on Saturday. Now they have to face a Michigan defense that held Florida to just 191 total yards and 11 yards rushing. Cincinnati managed just 97 yards on the ground on Saturday against a run defense that allowed 257.8 yards per game in 2016. Cincinnati had the nation’s 117th-ranked running game a year ago and it doesn’t appear to be much better this fall.

Quarterback Hayden Moore completed 17-of-28 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns, which is a positive for the Bearcats. He had a career touchdown to interception ratio of 20-to-18 entering Saturday.

Defensively, Cincinnati allowed Austin Peay to compile 313 total yards including 224 on the ground. The Governors ran the ball 60 times compared to just 19 passes, but clearly they felt they could run on the Bearcats’ defense, which bodes well for Michigan’s running game this week. In fact, first-year Austin Peay head coach had an interesting comment after the game.

“There’s nothing that Cincinnati did that stopped us on offense,” quarterback JaVaughn Craig said after the game. “We stopped ourselves. I do give credit to Cincinnati’s defense. They’re very physical, they run to the ball and they play hard. I just feel like we can control and do things a lot better on the offensive side of the ball.”

Yes, a quarterback of a team that has the longest losing streak in the nation — FBS or FCS — played the “we stopped ourselves” card. Michigan ran for 215 yards on a stout Florida defense and should run all over Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati pass defense allowed just 89 passing yards on 9-of-19 passing, but the Bearcats ranked 74th against the pass last season. Fickell is a defensive coach, but Michigan’s passing game will get a chance to give the young receivers plenty of work.

Cincinnati.com opined that Fickell may have been holding back on Saturday given the opponent so as to not show Michigan and future opponents much of anything. That’s a bit hard to believe since it was a six point game until five minutes left. Even if it’s true, there’s only so much the Bearcats can improve, and Michigan presents the toughest test they’ll face all season.

First Look: #17 Florida

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017


Michigan kicks off its 2017 campaign in just three short days, and unlike last year when the Wolverines hosted an underwhelming Hawaii squad there is plenty of anticipation for this year’s opener. Florida enters the season ranked 17th in the AP Poll and 16th in the Coaches Poll while Michigan finds itself slightly higher at 11th and 9th, respectively.

While we haven’t had a look at either team yet this season we can take a look at how last year’s stats stack up, though it should be taken with a grain of salt since neither team is the same as the one that finished last January.

Florida 2016 team stats & Michigan comparison
Offense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank Defense Rank
23.9 107 40.3 11 PPG 16.8 6 14.1 2
1,667 2,768 Rush Yds 1,878 1,550
128.2 113 212.9 33 Rush/Gm 144.5 38 119.2 15
3.7 4.8 Rush Avg 3.8 3.2
2,805 2,756 Pass Yds 1,931 1,853
215.8 79 212.0 85 Pass/Gm 148.5 2 142.5 1
4,472 5,524 Total Off. 3,809 3,403
344.0 116 424.9 58 Total Off./Gm 293.0 5 261.8 1
22.3 39 18.7 110 KR Avg 23.6 110 22.1 91
7.6 72 14.3 8 PR Avg 9.8 96 6.5 47
31:13 38 33:03 15 Avg TOP 28:47 26:57
42% 55 43% 40 3rd Down% 35% 24 21% 1
28-221 68 22-145 40 Sacks-Yds 31-208 40 46-296 4
35 66 TDs 27 22
21-25 (84%) 19-24 (79%) FG-ATT 10-15 (67%) 10-18 (56%)
30-42 (71%) 126 62-68 (91%) 13 Red Zone 28-39 (72%) 4 20-28 (71%) 3
21-42 (50%) 44-68 (65%)  RZ TD 18-39 (46%) 14-28 (50%)
-.42 100 .81 11 OFEI/DFEI .95 6 .89 8
26.0 88 33.8 40 S&P+ 13.3 4 7.7 2

Florida went 9-4 overall last year and 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference, finishing the season on a high note with a 30-3 throttling of Iowa in the Outback Bowl. The Gators’ best win of the season was a 16-10 victory on the road over 16th-ranked LSU. But when they lost they lost bad, losing by an average of 21.8 points per game. Arkansas beat the Gators 31-10 and Florida State and Alabama beat them by a combined score of 85-29 to close the regular season.

The offense in Jim McElwain’s second season in Gainesville was among the nation’s worst, ranking 116th nationally in total offense and 107th in scoring. They topped 30 points just four times and 40 points once while being held to 16 or fewer points five times. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly describes Florida as “good against bad and bad against good” in 2016 and that seems right. That’s also good news for Michigan.

The good news for McElwain is that most of his offense returns from last season. The bad news is that leading receiver Antonio Callaway is among eight players that are suspended for the season opener. The question mark is the quarterback. Will Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire get the nod? Will McElwain go with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks? Or will he turn to veteran Luke Del Rio?

Regardless of the quarterback, the running game is where Florida will need to improve. The Gators ranked 113th nationally in rushing last season and were held below 100 yards rushing four times including an astounding zero yards against Alabama and 12 yards against Arkansas. Michigan’s rush defense ranked 15th nationally last season and although it lost a lot of starters to the NFL, it returns plenty of talent with starting experience.

Defensively, Florida was nearly on Michigan’s level last season, ranking fifth nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring. The Gators held eight of 13 opponents to 10 points or less, but there wasn’t really any middle ground. In the four losses, they allowed 38.5 points per game. That’s good news for a Michigan offense that ranked 11th nationally in scoring a year ago.

The Gators return five starters, but have to replace nearly the entire secondary, and that secondary was second only to Michigan in pass defense a year ago. With Michigan’s young receiving corps that could make for an interesting matchup of young but unproven talent on both sides of the ball.

Florida’s rush defense wasn’t quite as good in 2016, ranking 38th nationally, and the pass rush was good but not great, recording 31 sacks for a national ranking of 40th. The first string should be good, but depth issues abound, especially when the suspensions come into play.

All told, Florida is returning a solid team that certainly won’t be an easy matchup for a Michigan team that has to replace a lot of production this season. Most experts seem to be overvaluing Michigan’s losses defensively and calling for a Florida win, but only time will tell.

First Look: Hawaii

Monday, August 29th, 2016


Hawaii dance

Game week is finally here. In five days, Michigan will kick off Year 2 of the Jim Harbaugh era against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. While Michigan fans will finally get their first look at the Wolverines, Hawaii already has a game under their belt. Like Michigan last season, Hawaii lead off the college football season, this time with a game against California in Sydney, Australia. And like Michigan last season, it ended in a loss.

Cal beat Hawaii 51-31 on Friday night in a game that didn’t feature much defense from either team. The two offenses piled up over 1,100 total yards, 57 first downs, and 82 points. That’s not surprising given that the two teams ranked 118th and 108th in total defense a year ago.

Any hopes that new Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich had of an improved defense were put on hold for at least another week. Hawaii allowed 630 total yards including 441 through the air. Hawaii’s pass defense was actually respectable in 2015, ranking 42nd nationally, but Texas Tech transfer quarterback Davis Webb carved up the Rainbow Warrior secondary for 441 yards and four touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes. Michigan’s receiving corps will be licking its chops after seeing the performance of Cal receiver Chad Hansen, who caught 14 passes for 160 yards and two scores.

Offensively, Hawaii managed 482 total yards, which was more than they had in any game last season. But after a strong first quarter, Hawaii’s offense faded away until the game was well out of reach. Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey completed 17-of34 passes for 234 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, while running back Diocemy Saint Juste rushed for 118 yards and a score on 14 carries (8.4 yards per carry).

Simply looking at Hawaii’s offensive stats shows reason for hope this season, but the defense is still a sieve and it’s hard to see that changing against Michigan this weekend.

Since Michigan has yet to play a game, let’s take a look at how Michigan and Hawaii’s stats compared in 2015.

Hawaii 2015 team stats & Michigan comparison
Hawaii | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 17.6 | 31.4 118 50
35.6 16.4 105 6
Rushing Yards 1,611 2,057 3,118 1,589
Rush Avg. Per Game 123.9 158.2 115 | 83
239.8 122.2 118 16
Avg. Per Rush 3.8 | 4.2
4.5 3.6
Passing Yards 2,501 | 3,090 2,716 2,060
Pass Avg. Per Game 192.4 237.7 98 53 208.9 158.5 42 3
Total Offense 4,112 5,147 5,834 3,649
Total Off Avg. Per Game 313.6 395.9 120 69 448.8 280.7 104 4
Kick Return Average 21.3 28.4 60 3 26.7 20.5 123 | 48
Punt Return Average 7.7 11.4 71 31 7.5 11.5 56 95
Avg. Time of Possession 23:30 | 33:28 127 | 9
36:30 | 26:32
3rd Down Conversion Pct 31.0% | 46.0% 120 17
44.0% | 28.0% 99 3
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 31-217 | 18-95
82 | 27
25-145 | 32-250
75 | 35
Touchdowns Scored 29 | 50
59 | 24
Field Goals-Attempts 8-11 18-22
17-18 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (24-31) 77%|(52-56) 93% 105 7
(54-62) 87%|(27-34) 79% 93 37
Red Zone Touchdowns (20-31) 65%|(37-56) 66% (41-62) 66%|(14-34) 41%
OFEI/DFEI -1.42| .56 123 19 -1.45 | .63 122 15
Off. S&P+/Def. S&P+ 17.9 34.7 119 32 34.0 13.6 99 | 2

While going 3-10 and 0-8 in the Mountain West Conference, Hawaii ranked near the bottom nationally in most categories, both offensively and defensively. On offense, Hawaii averaged two touchdowns fewer than Michigan, 34 fewer rushing yards, 45 fewer passing yards, and 10 fewer minutes of possession. Hawaii converted just 31 percent of third downs compared to Michigan’s 46 percent and they allowed 13 more sacks.

Defensively, Hawaii allowed nearly 20 more points, 118 more rushing yards, and 50 more passing yards per game than Michigan. They allowed opposing offenses to convert 44 percent of third downs, while Michigan’s defense only allowed 28 percent. They also allowed more than twice as many touchdowns (59 compared to Michigan’s 24) and allowed opponents to convert touchdowns on two-thirds of their red zone trips.

There is one area in which Hawaii fared better than Michigan last season, and that is punt return defense. Michigan gave up 11.5 yards per return, while Hawaii allowed 7.5. But that’s not a category that means a lot in the grand scheme of things, especially when there’s such a discrepancy in all of the other categories.

With nine returning starters on offense and a decent performance against Cal on Friday, there’s a good chance that Hawaii’s offense improves this season. But Michigan’s defense isn’t Cal’s. While Cal’s defense ranked 108th nationally in 2015, Michigan’s ranked fourth. If the Wolverines defense under new defensive coordinator Don Brown lives up to expectations, it will make for a long day for Hawaii.

First Look: Florida

Monday, December 28th, 2015


Gator

After a month-long break, Michigan hits the field for one last time this season on Friday in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The Wolverines have a chance to win 10 games in a season for just the fourth time since 2000, as well as a chance to pick up another win over an SEC foe. Michigan faces Florida, a program that has had a very similar past year with an underachieving 2014 that led to the firing of their coach, and then a resurgence under their new coach. Let’s take a look at the Gators.

Florida team stats & Michigan comparison
Florida | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 24.5 | 30.6 98 57
16.5 17.2 8 11
Rushing Yards 1,659 1,832 1,568 1,471
Rush Avg. Per Game 127.6 152.7 113 92
120.6 122.6 17 18
Avg. Per Rush 3.4 | 4.1
3.4 3.6
Passing Yards 2,744 2,812 2,272 1,905
Pass Avg. Per Game 211.1 234.3 78 54 174.8 158.8 11 3
Total Offense 4,403 4,644 3,840 3,376
Total Off Avg. Per Game 338.7 387.0 109 72 295.4 281.3 6 4
Kick Return Average 20.8 28.4 72 3 20.24 20.21 43 | 41
Punt Return Average 13.9 11.4 11 31 3.7 11.5 17 96
Avg. Time of Possession 31:43 | 33:02 29 | 13
28:17 | 26:58
3rd Down Conversion Pct 35.0% | 44.0% 103 26
31.0% | 26.0% 12 | 3
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 43-250 | 18-95
121 | T37
40-294 | 30-226
9 | T34
Touchdowns Scored 43 45
25 | 23
Field Goals-Attempts 7-17 16-20
13-18 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (33-48) 69%|(46-49) 94% 123 6
(25-32) 78%|(26-31) 84% 30 69
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-48) 58%|(33-49) 67% (15-32) 47%|(13-31) 42%

Florida is very similar to Michigan statistically. Both feature one of the nation’s top defenses and middling offenses. Florida is slightly better in scoring defense, allowing 16.5 points per game compared to Michigan’s 17.2. The Ohio State game hurt Michigan in that regard, dropping the Wolverines from sixth nationally to 11th. While Michigan let OSU score 42 points and also gave up 41 to Indiana, Florida allowed more than 30 points just once all season, a 35-28 loss to LSU. However, the Gators didn’t record a shutout and Michigan posted three straight early in the season.

Both teams’ rushing defenses are about the same with Florida allowing two fewer yards per game on the ground. Only three teams eclipsed 200 yards rushing against the Gators, Tennessee with 254, LSU with 221, and Alabama with 233. Alabama’s Derrick Henry likely locked up the Heisman trophy with a 44-carry, 189-yard performance against Florida in the SEC Championship game. LSU’s Leonard Fornett, a Heisman candidate for most of the season, tallied 180 yards on 31 carries against the Gators, while Tennessee had two 100-yard rushers — quarterback Joshua Dobbs (136) and running back Jalen Hurd (102). Unfortunately, Michigan’s rushing game isn’t poised to have as much success on the ground.

Florida’s pass defense, however, is slightly more susceptible, though still ranking among the nation’s best. The Gators rank 11th nationally, allowing 16 more passing yards per game than Michigan. Four opponents topped 200 yards passing, led by East Carolina’s 346 in Week 2. The best passing offense Florida faced all season, Ole Miss, threw for 259 yards. Florida’s corners, Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor, form one of the nation’s best duos and will be a tough match for Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh.

Offensively, Florida isn’t nearly as scary. They’re fairly similar statistically to where Penn State and Minnesota were when Michigan faced them this season — in the bottom third nationally in most categories. They score just 24.5 points per game, six fewer than Michigan. A 61-13 throttling of New Mexico State in the season opener inflated the average as the Gators topped 30 points just twice the rest of the way, a 31-24 win over East Carolina the following week and a 38-10 win over Ole Miss in Week 5. Since then, Florida has averaged just 18.3 points in their final eight games. They managed just nine points in a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt, then were held to a measly two in a 27-2 loss to rival Florida State.

The running game is even more nonexistent than Michigan’s, averaging 25 fewer yards per game. The Gators’ best output was a 258-yard performance against Georgia — one of only two times they cracked 200 yards. The other was in the opener against NMSU. They were held below 100 yards four times, most recently 15 yards on 21 carries in the SEC title game against Alabama. Only 14 teams nationally average fewer yards per game than Florida, none of which Michigan faced. The closest, BYU, ranks one spot ahead of Florida, and Michigan held the Cougars to just 50 yards on 22 carries.

The passing game is slightly better, but it was more dynamic under Will Grier, who completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in the first six games before being suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Sophomore Treon Harris replaced him, but has completed just 49.2 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and five picks since then. He threw for 271 yards in his first start against LSU, but managed 200 yards just once in the final six games. Alabama’s defense held him to just 9-of-24 for 165 yards.

As far as intangibles go, Florida converts just 35 percent of its third downs (103rd nationally) compared to Michigan’s 44 percent. They also have allowed 43 sacks — more than all but six teams nationally. For perspective, Penn State has allowed 39. The Gators gave up five sacks in a game five times, including each of the last three, and allowed three or more sacks in eight of 13 games. On the flip side, the Gators rank 12th nationally in third down defense (31 percent) and ninth nationally with 40 sacks — 10 more than Michigan’s defense has recorded.

On special teams, Florida is an average 72nd in kick returns, averaging eight fewer yards per return than Michigan. However, they are dynamic in the punt return game, averaging 13.9 yards per returns. They’ve returned two punts for touchdowns this season. The Gators are also solid against punt returns, allowing just 3.7 yards per, which ranks 11th nationally. If the game comes down to the kicking game, Michigan should have the advantage as Florida has made just 7-of-17 field goals with a long of 43, and has missed the last five attempts. Three of those 10 misses have been blocked.

Overall, it should be a pretty even game with two great defenses and two average offenses. Michigan has the advantage offensively, but will have to be able to have at least some success on the ground against a very stingy rush defense. It should be a low scoring game, but regardless of the outcome, it’s two tradition-rich programs on the rise and it’s exciting to be playing on New Year’s Day once again.