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Posts Tagged ‘Toxic Differential’

The Numbers Game: Despite disappointing finish, U-M showed drastic improvement from Year 1

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017


(MGoBlue.com)

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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar, U-M’s dynamic big-play offense stalls in Iowa loss, U-M offense, defense remain among nation’s best entering The Game, U-M big play offense fizzles, defense holds Bucks below average, Michigan big-play offense looks to bounce back vs susceptible FSU big-play defense

Despite losing three out of their last four games, by a total of just five points, Michigan made some big strides in 2016. In this last installment of The Numbers Game I hope to give you some optimism heading into next season, based on the increased offensive and defensive production from Year 1 to Year 2 and we’ll speculate on how Year 3 might look based on Harbaugh’s past.

Let’s get right into it. In the Orange Bowl, Dalvin Cook could not be contained, accounting for six of Florida State’s nine total explosive plays (five run, four pass). Add in a botched kick coverage and Michigan lost another game they should have won. Such is life. Back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in over a decade is very good, though, lest we forget this was a 5-7 team two years ago.

Michigan didn’t manage an explosive play until the third quarter when Wilton Speight hit Ian Bunting for 21 yards on a 4th-and-4 pass. In total, Michigan notched just five total explosive plays (four run and one pass) for their second lowest output of the season. Only their three versus Ohio State was worse. That one can be chalked up to an injured quarterback and this one to Florida State doing what I was worried about the most: lining up DeMarcus Walker on the inside to take advantage of Michigan’s weak offensive guard play. I suspected Kyle Kalis would be exploited but it was true freshman Ben Bredeson who bore the brunt of the future NFL lineman’s wrath.

Regardless, Michigan finished the season with their two worst explosive play performances offensively, while giving up 17 to their opponents (OSU – 8, FSU – 9). Not exactly what we expected given how the season started but it is what it is. But as you’ll see, all is not lost.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 87 46 133 14.09% 3.71% 56
2015 47 48 95 10.49% -1.01% -3

For the year Michigan finished with 6.69 explosive runs per game (31st nationally) and 3.54 explosive passes (52nd) for a total of 10.23 explosive plays per game (30th). Their big play percentage for was 14.09 percent (35th).

After the hot 9-0 start to the season these numbers may seem a bit disappointing but when comparing them to 2015 the improvement is actually quite remarkable.

The 2015 offense averaged 3.6 explosive runs per game (116th) and 3.7 explosive passes per game (40th) for a total of 7.3 explosive plays per game (100th). Their big play percentage was 10.49 percent (97th).

Michigan improved upon every single offensive big play metric in a huge way, save for passing. But, if you’ll recall the piece on Harbaugh’s San Francisco teams you’d remember that from the year before Harbaugh to Year 1 with Harbaugh the passing game saw a decrease while the running game numbers took a giant leap. And the running game again took a giant leap in Year 2 with passing staying about the same. Remember, Harbaugh is a run-first guy, so we’re not likely to see huge numbers in the explosive pass department. Even his 2010 Stanford team with a returning starter in Andrew Luck averaged just 3.7 explosive passes per game.

In 2010 (pre-Harbaugh), San Francisco had 40 explosive runs and 36 explosive passes. In 2011, SF had 56 explosive runs and 28 explosive passes. Year 2 (2012) saw 81 explosive run plays and 33 explosive passes. The Niners went from 40 to 56 to 81 2010-2012. In Year 2, Harbaugh doubled the explosive run production from the year prior to his arrival.

Michigan’s explosive run numbers took a dip from 72 in 2014 to 47 in 2015, but then shot up to 87 total in Year 2. Progress is being made, and all with a Brady Hoke offensive line. To put in perspective how much of an improvement this is, the 10.23 total explosive plays per game this year is a 40 percent increase on the 7.3 from 2015. And the explosive runs increased by an astounding 86 percent.

Defense saw a similar theme in improvement. Although the numbers improvements were not as dramatic, the rankings were.

Defensive big plays allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.38 2.08 6.46 10.38% 3.71% 56
2015 4.80 2.40 7.20 11.49% -1.01% -3

The Wolverines gave up 4.38 explosive runs per game (35th) and 2.08 explosive passes (3rd) for a total of 6.46 explosive plays per game (11th). Their big play against percentage was 10.38 percent (30th) and their big play differential was 3.71 percent (21st). Total toxic differential was 56, good for eighth on a per game basis. Three of the four playoff teams finished in the top six in toxic differential per game.

In 2015, Michigan gave up 4.8 explosive runs per game (53rd) and 2.4 explosive passes per game (13th) for a total of 7.2 explosive plays per game (24th). Their big play against percentage was 11.49 percent, good for 59th and their big play differential was -1.01 percent (88th). Their total toxic differential was minus-3, good for 75th on a per game basis.

The 2016 defense improved in every single big play metric and saw significant jumps in their rankings as well. But wait, there’s more.

Let’s talk about tackles for loss and sacks. Michigan had 88 tackles for loss in 2015, an average of 6.77 per game. In 2016, they had 120, an average of 9.23 per game and an increase of 36 percent. The sack numbers were even better. In 2015, Michigan had 32 sacks (2.46 per game). In 2016, they had 46 (3.54 per game), an increase of 43.7 percent.

The team rankings show just how much they improved. Sacks went from 31st in total and 32nd per game to fifth in total and fourth per game. Tackles for loss went from 38th in total and 42nd per game to third in total and second per game. Don Brown took this defense from middle of the pack in sacks and TFL to top five in both in just one year.

All but the offensive explosive pass play numbers were improved upon from Year 1 to Year 2. And given Harbaugh’s past record we weren’t expecting the pass numbers to waver much anyway. Remember, Stanford in 2010 (the 12-1 Orange Bowl champion year) averaged 5.8 runs and 3.7 passes. His best passing team in San Francisco (2012) averaged just two explosive pass plays per game. We’re right in the range we can reasonably expect given the roster. Of course, a guy like Brandon Peters or Dylan McCaffrey might add a new wrinkle and we could possibly see an uptick once they take over.

So what sort of improvement, if any, can we expect in Year 3? If Harbaugh’s history shows us anything it’s that this is likely going to be the norm for the offense: around seven explosive runs per game and 3.5 explosive passes per game. Does that mean the offense won’t improve? No, but at this point I don’t think we can expect another drastic improvement. As Harbaugh builds this roster in his image, perhaps we’ll see an uptick, but don’t look for Louisville type numbers (8.5-plus run and 4.5-plus pass). There were only two teams who averaged more than 12 explosive plays per game this season, so hovering around 10.5 keeps Michigan around the top-25 in that category.

The defense ended up right about where we expected, allowing 6.46 explosive plays per game. There’s not much room to improve upon that, or the sack and TFL numbers, from Year 2 to Year 3. But as Don Brown has more time to teach and implement his system we might see Michigan get into the under six explosive plays allowed per game range, which would easily be top five nationally.

So hold your heads up high, Michigan fans, the future is very bright. No, the season didn’t end like we expected, but Jim Harbaugh took a senior class that went 12-13 their first two years and went 20-6 with them, giving Michigan its second coach ever to win 10 games in each of his first two seasons and the first back to back 10-win seasons in over a decade. Until next season, Go Blue!

The Numbers Game: Michigan big-play offense looks to bounce back vs susceptible FSU big-play defense

Thursday, December 29th, 2016


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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar, U-M’s dynamic big-play offense stalls in Iowa loss, U-M offense, defense remain among nation’s best entering The Game, U-M big play offense fizzles, defense holds Bucks below average

This bowl edition of The Numbers Game will be an abbreviated one. We already looked back at the Ohio State game and since neither Michigan or Florida State played a conference championship game we’re going to use the end of regular season numbers for our rankings. We’ll have an end of season edition too and do a look back on Year 1 of Jim Harbaugh versus Year 2 after Alabama beats Clemson, again, the title game.

We already covered Michigan’s full regular season numbers but here’s a refresher.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 83 45 128 14.71% 4.67% 59
2015 43 42 85 10.25% -0.70% -4

For the 2016 regular season the Michigan offense averaged 6.92 explosive runs per game (27th nationally) and 3.75 explosive passes (46th) for a total of 10.67 explosive plays per game (24th), a big play percentage of 14.71 percent (28th), and a total toxic differential of 59, good for 8th on a per game basis.

If you recall, the past two seasons have featured playoff teams that are excellent in the toxic differential number. This year was no different with Alabama, Ohio State, and Washington all being in the top four. Clemson was this year’s outlier at 31st. Michigan fared well in this metric (8th) but came up just short. Still, it bodes well going forward as they were 77th at the end of 2015. No wonder every NFL team with an opening is pining for Jim Harbaugh. But I digress…

Defensive big plays allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 regular season comparison
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.33 1.92 6.25 10.04% 4.67% 59
2015 4.67 2.25 6.92 10.95% -0.70% -4

Michigan’s defense averaged 4.33 explosive runs per game allowed (34th) and 1.92 explosive passes (2nd) for a total of 6.25 explosive plays per game (9th). Their big play against percentage was 10.04 percent and their big play differential was 4.67 percent (16th).

Sacks and tackles for loss

Michigan finished the regular season with 44 total sacks at 3.67 per game. Both rank second nationally. Their 114 total TFLs and 9.5 per game are both first overall. They are the only team to average over nine TFLs per game. They eclipsed their 2015 totals long ago and still have one game left.

Next opponent
Michigan & Florida State offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 83 45 128 14.71% 4.67% 59
FSU Off. 91 50 141 16.08% 2.35% 37
Michigan & Florida State defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 52 23 75 10.04% 4.67% 59
FSU Def. 62 46 108 13.61% 2.35% 37

Florida State is an interesting team. Their offensive line was much maligned in the passing game but they have a top five unit in overall explosive plays. Both units ranking in the top 21 individually with the running game ranking slightly higher than the passing. Both units are ranked better than Michigan.

The Seminoles average 7.58 explosive runs per game (17th) and 4.17 explosive passes per game (21st) for a total of 11.75 explosive plays per game (5th). They are one of only three teams to average at least 7.5 explosive passes and at least four explosive runs per game. West Virginia and Louisville (shocker, I know) were the other two.

They had an impressive big play for percentage of 16.08 percent (9th) and a total toxic differential of 37, good for 24th on a per game basis through the end of the regular season.

On defense, the ‘Noles weren’t quite as impressive, giving up 5.17 explosive runs per game (58th) and 3.83 explosive passes per game (103rd) for a nice even total of nine explosive plays given up per game (71st). If Michigan is to exploit FSU it’s likely going to be through the air, which is odd since no one got to the quarterback more this season (on a per game basis) than Florida State. FSU’s big play against percentage was 13.61 percent (96th) and their big play differential was 2.35 percent (36th).

As just mentioned, FSU was the best unit at getting to the quarterback, averaging 3.92 sacks per game but they tallied just 79 total tackles for loss, good for 6.58 per game. So what does this mean? They’re very good at pass rushing but likely not so good at stopping the run behind the line.

This game has the makings of a defensive struggle, with both teams fielding excellent units. FSU has the better playmaker, Dalvin Cook, but Michigan has several weapons with which to attack. Should be a good one. Go Blue!

The Numbers Game: U-M offense, defense remain among nation’s best entering The Game

Thursday, November 24th, 2016


smith-vs-iu(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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar, U-M’s dynamic big-play offense stalls in Iowa loss

For the second week in a row, Michigan held their opponent to just six explosive plays, which is their season average. Unlike last week, this time, Michigan managed to win the explosive play battle, but it was close as they managed just eight total under the watch of backup quarterback John O’Korn. But a win is a win, and Michigan moves their focus to The Game.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first 11 weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 82 43 125 15.80% 5.73% 66
2015 43 36 79 10.30% 0.13% 3

Despite Wilton Speight missing the game, back-up quarterback John O’Korn filled in admirably, adding an explosive pass in the first quarter and then finally sparking the offense with a 30-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 during the third quarter. Michigan had seven explosive runs and De’Veon Smith led the way with four of them, three of which were over 25-yards including his two 30-plus-yard touchdown runs. Chris Evans added the other two and O’Korn added his name to the big play list with his one run.

Michigan didn’t look to be clicking on all cylinders under O’Korn, as was to be expected, but the defense did its job and Michigan pulled away late for the win. It will be interesting to see which quarterback trots out against the Buckeyes next week.

For the year, Michigan is averaging 7.45 explosive runs per game (17th nationally) and 3.19 explosive passes (33rd), for a total of 11.36 (9th). Their big play percentage is 15.8 percent (15th) and their big play differential is 5.73 percent (9th).

Through 11 games in 2015 the offense was averaging 3.91 explosive runs per game and 3.27 explosive passes for a total of just 7.18 explosive plays per game. Their big play percentage was 10.44 percent and their big play differential was just barely positive, 0.13 percent. Every single offensive metric has been improved from 2015 to 2016 and the pass number is the only one that hasn’t improved dramatically.

Garbage time

There was no garbage time in this game. For the season, only 36.8 percent of Michigan’s explosive plays come during garbage time.

Defensive big play allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through 11 weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.00 2.09 6.09 10.08% 5.73% 66
2015 4.18 2.27 6.45 10.30% 0.13% 3

Last year, Indiana gashed Michigan to the tune of 15 explosive plays — 12 on the ground and three in the air. They didn’t fare so well this time around, getting just three each on the ground and through the air. No one dominated the stat sheet like last week or at MSU.

Michigan’s defensive totals continue to impress, but not surprise the readers of this blog. They’re surrendering four explosive runs per game (28th) and 2.09 explosive passes (5th) for a total of just 6.09 explosive plays per game (5th) — more than one fewer allowed per game than 2015, right about where we predicted preseason. Their big play against percentage is 10.08 percent (26th) and their total toxic differential is 66, good for second on a per game basis.

The 2015 D.J. Durkin version of this defense was also very good through 11 games, averaging 4.18 explosive runs and 2.27 explosive passes for a total of 6.45 explosive plays per game. Their big play against percentage was 10.3 percent but their total toxic differential was a paltry three. Compared to this year’s numbers the 2015 defense would rank 35th in big runs, 12th against the pass, 12th overall, 29th for big play against percentage, and 68th in total toxic differential. Not quite the meteoric jump the offense has made but still an incredible feat. However, where there has been a major leap on defense is in the sack and tackles for loss category.

Garbage time

Again, there was no garbage time during this game. For the year Michigan surrenders 42.42% of their big plays during garbage time.

Sacks and tackles for loss

Michigan added three sacks and 12 total tackles for loss to their impressive season totals. Their 36 sacks ranks 8th overall, and their 3.27 sacks per game rank 9th. They lead the nation in both total tackles for loss (101) and TFL per game (9.18). They’ve long surpassed 2015’s totals and still have at least two games remaining.

Big plays by down

um-offense-big-plays-by-down-week-12

An explosive play is about equally as likely on first down (53) as it is on second down (54). An explosive run is more likely on second (39) than first down (36) and an explosive pass play is slightly more likely on first (17) than second down (15). Third down is highly unlikely to see an explosive run (only 7.32 percent of explosive runs happen on third down) but better than a quarter (25.58 percent) of the explosive pass plays happen on third down.

opp-big-plays-by-down-week-12

On defense, Michigan is also about equally as likely to give up an explosive play on first down (27) than second down (25) with third down a good deal behind (13). They’ve only surrendered one fourth down explosive play. Almost half of the explosive runs given up happen on second down (20), followed by first (16), and then third (7). Explosive pass plays are more likely to occur on first down (11) than second (5), third (6), and fourth (1) downs.

Big play percentage of total yards

Indiana had just four drives with at least one explosive play against Michigan, but only scored on half of them. Michigan had just six drives with at least one explosive play and scored on four of them (67 percent). For the year, Michigan has had 81 total drives on which they’ve had at least one explosive play, and they’ve scored on 59 of them, or 72.84 percent of the time. On defense, they’ve surrendered just 17 scores on 48 drives with an explosive play, which equates to just 35.42 percent of the time. What this means is that almost two-thirds of the time an opponent has a drive with an explosive play (which doesn’t happen often) they still can’t score on this Michigan’s defense. Remember teams are likely to score 75 percent of the time they have an explosive play on a given drive.

Next opponent
Michigan & Ohio State offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 82 43 125 15.80% 5.73% 66
OSU Off. 90 32 122 14.29% 1.89% 47
Michigan & Iowa defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 44 23 67 10.08% 5.73% 66
OSU Def. 65 25 89 12.40% 1.89% 47

The last time The Game held championship aspirations for both teams was 2006. OSU was No. 1 and Michigan was No. 2. This time it’s No. 2 vs No. 3 but it’s just as meaningful as it was then — the winner is likely headed to the College Football Playoff. OSU needs some help but it’d be hard to keep them out if they won this weekend. OSU has shown they’re very mortal this year, as has Michigan, but rest assured they’ll bring their A-game versus Michigan, and vice versa. Let’s take a look at how the Buckeyes stack up in the explosive play stats.

On offense, the Buckeyes are averaging 8.18 explosive runs per game (9th) an 2.91 explosive passes (76th) for a total of 11.09 explosive plays per game (16th). Their big play percentage is 14.29 percent (30th) and their big play differential is 1.89 percent (40th). The run and overall explosive plays are better than the 2015 version but you wouldn’t know it by watching the two teams play.

On defense, the Buckeyes surrender 5.91 explosive runs per game (77th), 2.18 explosive passes (7th) for a total of 8.09 explosive plays per game (54th). Their big play against percentage is 12.4 percent (80th) and their total toxic differential is 47, good for 47th on a per game basis.

The Numbers Game: U-M’s dynamic big play offense stalls in Iowa loss

Thursday, November 17th, 2016


smith-vs-iowa(Mgoblue.com)

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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war, As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar

I’ll start with the good news: Michigan held Iowa to just six explosive plays. Now, the bad news: Michigan managed only three of their own –all coming in the first half — and they lost Wilton Speight for the foreseeable future. Just when I was beginning to believe he was capable of leading Michigan to the promised land.

This was just the second-time this season that Michigan lost the explosive play battle, and the third time in 10 games they were held to single-digit plays of their own. As I’m sure you’re aware, Michigan missed on several shots downfield. I haven’t been able to bring myself to go back and re-watch the game yet but I feel like there were at least three or four downfield shots that would have been touchdowns had they been on target. Just one of those missed explosive pass opportunities probably would have won the game for Michigan.

Despite the crushing loss, the big thing to take away here is this: Michigan is still 100 percent in control of their destiny. No other Big Ten team can say that. Win out and they’re in the Big Ten Championship game. They had to beat Ohio State regardless of what happened in Iowa City, and that is still on the table. Better to lose at Iowa, regroup and then win in Columbus than to have won last weekend only to fall in Columbus.

Don’t forget, we saw a Michigan State team enter the Horseshoe with a back-up quarterback last year and somehow pull out the win. And as much as I hate to mention it, Ohio State won the inaugural College Football Playoff with a backup quarterback. Michigan’s playoff hopes are still just as alive as they were before last weekend; there’s just no margin for error now.

And now on to the explosive play stats.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first 10 weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 75 42 117 16.14% 6.12% 65
2015 42 33 75 10.89% 0.30% 4

Despite averaging over eight explosive runs per game, Michigan managed just two — both by Chris Evans — versus Iowa, and neither went farther than 12 yards. Speight connected with Jehu Chesson for the lone explosive pass, a 27-yarder in the second quarter.

For the year, Michigan is averaging 7.5 explosive runs per game (17th nationally) and 4.2 explosive passes per game (25th) for a total of 11.7 explosive plays per game (5th). Those numbers are down from the past few weeks but still impressive overall. Their big play percentage is 16.14 percent (11th), big play differential is 6.17 percent (6th), and their total toxic differential is 65 — good for fourth on a per game basis. All very solid numbers, especially compared to last year at this time.

Through 10 games in 2015, Michigan averaged 4.2 explosive runs and 3.3 explosive passes for a total of 7.5 explosive plays per game, which is right about where they ended up (7.3). To be averaging over four more explosive plays per game this season is borderline absurd. That is an improvement of 56 percent. James Joseph Harbaugh is an offensive genius. The 2015 team’s big play percentage was just 10.89 percent, their big play differential was 0.3 percent, and their total toxic differential was just 4.

Garbage time

There was no garbage time in this game. For the season, only 39.32 percent of Michigan’s big plays have come during garbage time.

Defensive big plays allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through 10 weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.00 2.00 6.00 10.02% 6.12% 65
2015 4.40 2.30 6.70 10.58% 0.30% 4

While the offense failed to generate the big plays it usually does, the defense held on par and gave up just six total big plays to Iowa — five run and one pass. Much like against Michigan State, there was one player responsible for most of the damage. In this case it was Akrum Wadley, who had four of the five runs and the lone reception for an incredible 83.3 percent of Iowa’s big plays. Of course Iowa had to figure out he was their best running back against us. Such is life.

At this point in 2015 Michigan had just come off a major scare versus Indiana. The loss of Ryan Glasgow had reared its ugly head as Michigan gave up 15 explosive plays (12 runs and three passes) to the Hoosiers.

The totals through 10 games in 2015 were: 4.4 explosive runs per game and 2.3 explosive passes for a total of 6.7 explosive plays per game, creeping up towards where they’d end the season, 7.2. Their big play against percentage was 10.58 percent.

Garbage time

As mentioned above, there was no garbage time in this game. For the season Michigan surrenders 46.67 percent of their big plays during garbage time.

Sacks and tackles for loss

While they didn’t have quite the party in the backfield they did last week, Michigan still managed to rack up three sacks and six total tackles for loss. They have surpassed their 2015 total in both categories in three fewer games. On the year, their 33 sacks and 3.3 per game average are both eighth nationally and their 89 total tackles for loss and 8.9 TFL per game are both third nationally. Michigan was 32nd and 42nd nationally for sacks and TFL on a per game basis overall in 2015. This is what the Don Brown defense does, ladies and gentlemen.

Big plays by down

um-offense-big-plays-by-down-week-11

An explosive play is slightly more likely on second down (51) than it is on first down (50). An explosive run is more likely on second (37) than first down (33) and an explosive pass play is slightly more likely on first (17) than second down (14). Third down is highly unlikely to see an explosive run (only 6.67 percent of explosive runs happen on third down) but better than a quarter (27.44 percent) of the explosive pass plays happen on third down.

opp-big-plays-by-down-week-11

On defense, Michigan is more likely to give up an explosive play on first down (25) than second down (23) with third down a good deal behind (11). They’ve only surrendered one fourth down explosive play. Almost half of the explosive runs given up happen on second down (18), followed by first (16) and then third (6). Explosive pass plays are more likely to occur on first down (9) than second (5), third (5), and fourth (1) downs.

Big play percentage of total yards

Iowa had five drives with at least one explosive play against Michigan, but only scored on two of those (40 percent). Michigan had just three drives with at least one explosive play but scored on two of them (67 percent). For the year, Michigan has had 75 total drives on which they’ve had at least one explosive play and they’ve scored on 55 of them, or 73.33 percent of the time. On defense, they’ve surrendered just 15 scores on 39 drives with an explosive play, just 34.09 percent of the time. What this means is that two-thirds of the time an opponent has a drive with an explosive play (which doesn’t happen often) they still can’t score on this Michigan’s defense. Remember, teams are likely to score 75 percent of the time they have an explosive play on a given drive.

Big plays by player

In the running game, De’Veon Smith holds on to the overall big play lead with 17, but Chris Evans and Ty Isaac aren’t far behind with 15 and 14, respectively. Karan Higdon maintains the highest average per qualifying runs (at least 10) with 23.9 yards per big play. Amara Darboh is still by far the leader in big pass plays with 16. He’s also the yardage leader as well, averaging a whopping 33.81 yards per explosive pass reception. Chesson comes in second with 10 and Jake Butt has eight.

Chris Evans, Ty Isaac, Eddie McDoom, Jehu Chesson, and Bobby Henderson have all recorded at least one explosive run and pass. Overall, 12 different plays have notched at least one explosive run and 10 have grabbed at least one explosive pass.

Next opponent
Michigan & Iowa offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 75 42 117 16.14% 6.12% 65
IU Off. 51 44 95 12.32% 0.19% -2
Michigan & Iowa defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 40 20 60 10.02% 6.12% 65
IU Def. 57 34 91 12.13% 0.19% -2

#CHAOSTEAM — a.k.a. the Indiana Hoosiers — comes to town this weekend and chaos will most likely ensue. Michigan stole a win in Bloomington last year on their senior day and Indiana looks to return the favor against a reeling Wolverine team on their senior day.

Statistically, Indiana is very similar to Iowa, except this time it’s a home game and something tells me Michigan won’t come out flat and looking ill-prepared like last week. You have to go back to 2009 to find the last time Jim Harbaugh lost back to back games (43 straight without suffering back to back losses) at the college level. Nonetheless, games are not played on paper and Michigan can once again expect to see their opponent’s best effort. Here’s how the Hoosiers stack up.

On offense, Indiana is averaging 5.1 explosive runs per game (80th) and 4.4 explosive passes per game (18th) for a total of 9.5 explosive plays per game (52nd). Their big play percentage is 12.32 percent (65th) and their big play differential is 0.19 percent (74th). On defense, the Hoosiers are much improved but their big play numbers aren’t that great, but then again neither were Iowa’s. The Hoosiers surrender 5.7 explosive runs per game (70th) and 3.4 explosive passes (77th) for a total of 9.1 explosive plays per game (74th). Their big play against percentage against is 12.13 percent (68th) and their total toxic differential is -2, good for 75th nationally.

The Numbers Game: As big play defense falls back to earth, U-M offense continues to soar

Friday, November 11th, 2016


evans-vs-maryland(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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays, MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war,

For the third time this season, and all in the past four weeks, Michigan’s offense topped 16 total big plays. They’ve had double digit big plays in seven of their nine games and have never had less than nine total (twice). I don’t care who you’re playing; topping 16 big plays in a game is huge and Michigan has done it yet again. Harbaugh for President!

Now some bad news, after having only given up more than seven total big plays to their opponents just twice — UCF (7) and MSU (12) — Michigan’s defense surrendered eight to Maryland last week, the majority of which came on the edge via screen passes. However, the silver lining of having a weakness exposed, yet again, is that it means they’ll be all the better prepared for the showdown in the Toilet Bowl, err, Horseshoe, in a couple weeks.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first nine weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 73 41 114 17.17% 7.00% 69
2015 37 26 63 10.24% 0.69% 8

Michigan came out of this one with nine explosive runs and seven explosive passes. Chris Evans added his name to the list of players with both explosive runs and passes when he deftly handled a bobbled screen pass and scampered into the end zone from 57-yards out. Okay, fine, the officials said it was only 56-yards and he didn’t score, but you and I know (and most definitely Jim Harbaugh knows) that was a touchdown.

On the season, Michigan’s juggernaut offense is averaging 8.11 explosive runs (12th nationally) and 4.56 explosive passes (14th) for a total of 12.67 explosive plays per game (2nd). Yes, through 10 weeks of the college football season only ONE team averages more explosive plays per game than Michigan. And it ain’t Clemson.

Read that again, and then tweet it to Kirk Herbstreit and his ESPN cronies. This may be a pro-style offense but it is innovative and explosive, and we have the numbers to prove it.

To make their case even better Michigan’s big play percentage is a whopping 17.17 percent (4th). Not only do they average the second most big plays per game in the country but they also do so at the fourth-best rate, averaging one explosive play for every six plays (it’s actually one per every 5.8-ish but we’ll round up). Their big play differential is 7 percent (5th) and their total toxic differential — the stat that got this column started — is 69, good for FIRST nationally on a per game basis.

Both Michigan’s big play and toxic differential numbers are phenomenal. Strange, because that’s exactly what happened with Harbaugh’s teams in San Francisco too. Greatest football mind of our era? Perhaps.

Michigan is one of only two teams to average at least eight explosive runs and 4.5 explosive passes. Again, Clemson isn’t the other one. It’s still Louisville, by the way.

Garbage time

Only five of Michigan’s 16 explosive plays came during garbage time. For the year, 40.35 percent (46-of-114) of Michigan’s explosive plays have come during garbage time. They do most of their damage before the game is out of hand.

Last year at this time Michigan’s offense was starting to come into its own as the “Rudockening” (as MGoBlog calls it) was underway. They were averaging 4.11 explosive runs and 2.89 explosive passes for a total of seven explosive plays per game, right about where they ended up for the year. Their big play percentage was just 10.24 percent and their big play differential was 0.69 percent. Their total toxic differential was 8, or 0.89 on a per game basis.

Defensive big plays allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through nine weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 3.89 2.11 6.00 10.17% 7.00% 69
2015 3.56 2.22 5.78 9.56% 0.69% 8

On the other side of the ball Maryland did have those eight big plays of their own. I haven’t gone back to watch the game this week but I do remember Channing Stribling missing a tackle or two on the edge. This is where Jeremy Clark was a much better cornerback in my opinion. He could tackle and was excellent in run defense. But alas…

So far, Michigan’s defense, which took a bit of a step back in recent weeks, is giving up 3.89 explosive runs (27th) and 2.11 explosive passes (5th) for a total of six explosive plays per game (4th). Their big play against percentage is 10.17 percent (31st).

They’re right about where I thought they’d be in this new defensive scheme, and still among the elite defenses in stopping big plays. Don Brown for Secretary of Defense!

Garbage time

Five of those eight explosive plays came during garbage time. Math whizzes will tell you that means only three came before the game was out of hand, which is not bad. The Michigan defense has given up slightly more than half — 51.85 percent — of their big plays during garbage time.

The 2015 defense through nine games was allowing 3.56 explosive runs and 2.22 explosive passes for a total of just 5.58 explosive plays per game. Their big play against percentage was 9.56 percent. Remember, those numbers did not hold over the course of the season though, as Michigan ended up giving up over seven big plays per game when it was all said and done.

Sacks and tackles for loss

Michigan’s defense had a party in the Terrapin backfield last week, racking up three sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Their season totals are now 30 sacks (8th) for 3.33 per game (7th) and both their 83 total tackles for loss and 9.22 TFL per game are ranked first. Through just nine games they are only five tackles for loss and two sacks shy of matching their 2015 season 13-game totals.

Big plays by down

Michigan has registered 114 total explosive plays on offense — 73 run and 41 pass. They surpassed last year’s season total of 95 after the Michigan State game (98) but I forgot to add it in.

um-offense-big-plays-by-down-week-10

An explosive play is slightly more likely on second down (51) than it is on first down (47). An explosive run is more likely on second (37) than first down (31) and an explosive pass play is slightly more likely on first (16) than second down (14). Third down is highly unlikely to see an explosive run (only 6.85 percent of explosive runs happen on third down) but better than a quarter (26.83 percent) of the explosive pass plays happen on third down.

opp-big-plays-by-down-week-10

On defense, Michigan is more likely to give up an explosive play on second down (22) than first down (20) with third down a good deal behind (11). They’ve only surrendered one fourth down explosive play. Almost half of the explosive runs given up happen on second down (18), followed by first (11), and then third (6). Explosive pass plays are more likely to occur on first down (9) than second (4), third (5) and fourth (1) downs.

Big play percentage of total yards

The Michigan defense has given up 967 total rushing yards and 720 of them (74.46 percent) have come via explosive play. They give up just under 20.57 yards per explosive run carry. On carries that do not yield an explosive run Michigan gives up just 0.89 yards per carry. Of the 311 rushing attempts Michigan has seen they have given up an explosive run on just 35 of them (10.17 percent) or roughly one out of every ten opponent carries.

In the passing game, 53.6 percent of the yardage Michigan surrenders comes via explosive pass (670 of 1,250 total). They yield 35.26 yards per explosive pass completion but just 7.44 yards per non-explosive pass completion.

Overall, 62.7 percent of the yards Michigan gives up come via explosive play, at 25.74 yards per play.

Big play scoring drives

Maryland had six drives with at least one explosive play against Michigan, but only scored on one (16.67 percent) of those. Michigan had just nine drives with at least one explosive play but scored on eight of them (88.89 percent). For the year, Michigan has had 72 total drives in which they’ve had at least one explosive play, and they’ve scored on 53 of them, or 73.61 percent of the time. On defense, they’ve surrendered just 13 scores on 33 drives with an explosive play — just 33.33% of the time. What this means is that two-thirds of the time an opponent has a drive with an explosive play (which doesn’t happen often) they still can’t score on this Michigan’s defense. Remember, teams are likely to score 75 percent of the time they have an explosive play on a given drive.

Next opponent
Michigan & Iowa offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 73 41 114 17.17% 7.00% 69
UI Off. 73 18 91 16.37% 3.99% 17
Michigan & Iowa defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 32 14 46 9.89% 7.00% 69
UI Def. 56 18 74 12.37% 3.99% 17

This weekend is a game I had circled and predicted would be a loss in the preseason. My, how a couple months will change all that. Iowa is not who we thought they’d be and Michigan is far better than most thought. Still, Iowa City at night is a scary venue. At least we know Harbaugh will never be satisfied and will always seek to be improving each and every day. This team, and every Harbaugh team, will be absolutely prepared for every single game. Let’s look at the Kirk Ferentz-led Hawkeyes’ numbers, keeping in mind he was signed to a 10-year extension (essentially a lifetime coaching gig).

The Iowa offense is averaging 4.56 explosive runs per game (97th) and 2.89 explosive passes (81st) for a total of 7.44 explosive plays per game (99th). Yikes. Their big play percentage for is 12.16 percent (68th). Their big play differential is 2.04 percent (41st) and their total toxic differential is just 8, good for 54th on a per game basis.

The defense is a little better, but not much. The Hawkeye defense surrenders four explosive run plays per game (31st) and 3.22 explosive passes (67th) for a total of a not un-respectable 7.22 explosive plays per game (31st). Their big play against percentage is 10.12 percent (29th).

The Numbers Game: MSU wins big play battle, Michigan wins the war

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016


peppers-vs-msu(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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news, U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays

First, the good news. Michigan won and was in control of this game from just about the beginning, with a three-possession lead at halftime and at least a two-possession game throughout (save for with one-second left on the clock when Michigan State cut it to seven only to have Jabrill Peppers subsequently return it back to nine).

Now, the bad. Michigan allowed double digit explosive plays for the first time all season and lost the total explosive play battle, also for the first time. Rivalry games are a strange thing indeed.

Coming into this match-up Michigan had yet to surrender more than seven explosive plays to an opponent (Colorado and UCF each had seven). Michigan State proceeded to almost double that number with 12. The silver lining is that three of those came on two drives in the fourth quarter during the brief amount of garbage time in this game. Regardless, Michigan State found a way to run the ball effectively against the vaunted Wolverine defense. Michigan got the win though, so we can look at the numbers without crying, right?

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first eight weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 64 34 98 16.39% 6.50% 52
2015 31 19 50 10.00% 0.07% 2

Michigan did manage 11 explosive plays of their own — six run and five pass — which is slightly below their season average of 12.43. On defense, the 12 they surrendered eight were runs and four passes. L.J. Scott was the main culprit, accounting for five of the eight runs and six of the 12 total plays, with an average explosive run of 21.4 yards and an explosive play on 25 percent of his touches. Please keep in mind L.J. Scott is an excellent running back who will be playing on Sundays and — like it or not — Mark Dantonio is a great coach who came up with a great game plan for Michigan. All great seasons usually have a game or two like this, a wake-up call if you will, and Michigan will be better for the adversity going forward.

Adding Michigan’s 11 explosive plays from this game into their season total, we arrive at an average of eight explosive runs per game (12th nationally) and 4.25 explosive passes (24th) for a total of 12.25 explosive plays per game (3rd) with a big play percentage of 16.39 percent (7th). Roughly one out of every six plays is an explosive one. Their big play differential is 6.5 percent (7th) and their total toxic differential is 52, good for second on a per game basis.

Michigan is one of only two teams to average eight or more explosive runs per game AND four or more explosive passes per game. Louisville is the other. I wonder if we can send these stats to ESPN to distribute to Joey Galloway and Kirk Herbstreit so they stop with all the old-fashioned, non-explosive offense talk.

Through eight games last season, Michigan was averaging just 3.88 explosive runs per game and 2.38 big passes per game for a total of just 6.25 explosive plays per game — almost half of their 2016 average. Their big play percentage was 9.14 percent and their big play differential was just 0.07 percent. Their total toxic differential was just two. Here’s how those explosive play numbers would rank nationally this year: 3.88 runs (110th), 2.38 pass (109th), 6.25 total (123rd). To say there’s been a massive improvement on offense would be an understatement.

Garbage time

None of Michigan’s explosive plays versus Michigan State came during garbage time. This was the third game in which Michigan did not record an explosive play during garbage time. Not because they were ineffective but because there was no, or little, garbage time during the game. There was only about seven minutes of garbage time versus Michigan State. On the season, 41.84 percent of Michigan’s explosive plays come during garbage time.

Defensive big plays allowed
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through eight weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.00 1.75 5.75 9.89% 6.50% 52
2015 3.38 2.13 5.51 9.07% 0.07% 2

On defense, Michigan did surrender those 12 explosive plays, most of which were runs (eight). L.J. Scott was responsible for 62.5 percent of the explosive runs and half of the total explosive plays given up. While he did average over 21 yards per explosive run this was only about half a yard more than Michigan’s season average given up on said runs, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Not a single one of Michigan State’s 12 explosive plays came on third down. One did come on fourth, but who’s counting?

Overall, Michigan is surrendering four explosive runs per game (31st) and 1.75 explosive passes (2nd) for a total of 5.75 (5th). The total is a big fall from last week’s 4.86 and number one overall but still well under the six per game threshold of an elite defense in this metric. Their big play against percentage is 9.89 percent (27th). Their big play rankings took a tumble, but overall these are very excellent numbers given the level of competition they have faced.

Michigan is the only team in the country to allow four or fewer explosive run plays and less than two explosive pass plays per game. And they are one of only four teams to allow less than two explosive pass plays per game.

This point last year is where the wheels started to fall off for the defense in the explosive play department. They went into Minnesota and gave up 10 explosive plays and that trend would continue as the season progressed. After eight games the 2015 team was averaging 3.38 explosive runs allowed and 2.13 explosive passes allowed for a total of 5.5 per game with a big play against percentage of 9.07 percent. Better than this year’s numbers through eight games, but remember, those trends did not continue as they ended the season with over seven explosive plays surrendered per game.

Garbage time

As mentioned, three of the 12 explosive plays surrendered did come in garbage time. For the season, Michigan is giving up 50 percent of their big plays during garbage time.

Sacks and tackles for loss

The Wolverines defense bounced back after a one sack, four tackles for loss performance against Illinois to record two sacks and seven TFLs. Despite a couple ‘down’ weeks their sack and TFL numbers are still fairly high in the national rankings. Michigan has 32 total sacks (if you recall this was their 13-game season total a year ago) and they are averaging 3.38 sacks per game good for 11th and 9th, respectively. They have 70 total tackles for loss (5th) and average 8.75 per game (4th). They should pass the 2015 season total for tackles for loss (88) in the next two or three weeks.

Big plays by down

um-offense-big-plays-by-down-week-9Michigan has registered 98 total explosive plays on offense — 64 run and 34 pass. An explosive play is slightly more likely on second down (43) than it is on first down (41). An explosive run is slightly more likely on second (31) than first down (28) and an explosive pass play is slightly more likely on first (13) than second down (12). Third down is still highly unlikely to see an explosive run (only 7.81 percent of explosive runs happen on third down) but better than a quarter (26.47 percent) of the explosive pass plays happen on third down.

opp-big-plays-by-down-week-9

On defense Michigan is almost equally likely to give up an explosive play on first (18) or second down (19) with third down a good deal behind (eight). They’ve only surrendered one fourth down explosive play. Half of the explosive runs given up happen on second down (17), followed by first (10) and then third (five). Explosive pass plays are more likely to occur on first down (eight) than second (two), third (three) and fourth (one) downs combined.

Big play percentage of total yards

The Michigan defense has given up 889 total rushing yards and 669 of them (75.25 percent) have come via explosive plays. They give up just under 21 yards per explosive run carry. On carries that do not yield an explosive run Michigan gives up just 0.91 yards per carry. Of the 273 rushing attempts Michigan has seen they have given up an explosive run on just 32 of them (11.72 percent) or roughly one out of every eight opponent carries.

In the pass game, just over 50 percent of the yardage Michigan surrenders comes via explosive pass (484 of 961 total). They yield 34.57 yards per explosive pass completion but just 7.23 yards per non-explosive pass completion. Overall, 62.32 percent of the yards Michigan gives up come via explosive play, at 25 yards per play. The rest of the time Michigan has given up just 697 yards on 419 plays, 0.61 yards per play.

The only way you will get any yards on Michigan is to have an explosive play here or there, and Michigan doesn’t surrender many (5.75 per game). Nor do they allow you to score that often on drives with explosive plays. Speaking of which…

Big play scoring drives

Michigan State had seven drives with at least one explosive play against Michigan, but only scored on four of those, or 57.14 percent. Michigan also had seven drives with at least one explosive play but scored on six of them, 85.71 percent. For the year, Michigan has had 63 total drives on which they’ve had at least one explosive play and they’ve scored on 45 of them — 71.43 percent of the time. On defense they’ve surrendered just 12 scores on 32 drives with an explosive play — just 36.36 percent of the time. Basically, two-thirds of the time an opponent has a drive with an explosive play (which doesn’t happen often) they still don’t score on Michigan’s defense. On average, teams are likely to score 75 percent of the time they have an explosive play on a given drive. Michigan is holding teams to less than half of that.

UM’s big play leaders
Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Run
Name Number of Big Runs Average Gain Big Play Pct
De’Veon Smith 15 18.53 yards 16.67%
Chris Evans 12 22.64 yards 22.42%
Ty Isaac 11 16.67 yards 14.82%
Karan Higdon 10 18.87 yards 23.90%
Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Pass
Name Number of Big Receptions Average Gain Big Play Pct
Amara Darboh 14 34.79 yards 36.84%
Jake Butt 7 20.00 yards 24.14%
Jehu Chesson 6 27.50 yards 30.00%

Our explosive play leaderboard stays about the same. De’Veon Smith leads the way with 15 total, averaging 18.53 yards per carry. Karan Higdon holds the largest yards per explosive run at 23.9 yards. Amara Darboh refuses to give up his stranglehold on the top explosive reception list with 14, double the next highest, Jake Butt, who has seven. Darboh averages a whopping 34.79 yards per explosive reception. Jehu Chesson is next at six for 27.5 yards and Jake Butt has seven for 20 yards a catch. No one else has more than two.

Michigan averages 19.52 yards per explosive run and 27.76 per explosive pass for a total average of 22.38 yards per explosive play. And they average over 12 of them per game, or about one out of every six plays. Knowing what we know about Michigan’s offense I can’t help but cackle when I hear comments about how they’re not explosive or high-powered enough.

Next opponent
Michigan & Maryland offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 64 34 98 16.39% 6.50% 52
MD Off. 73 18 91 16.37% 3.99% 17
Michigan & Maryland defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 32 14 46 9.89% 6.50% 52
MD Def. 56 18 74 12.37% 3.99% 17

And now we look ahead to a familiar face, D.J. Durkin and his Maryland Terrapins. I was going to make a veiled comment about just running Ohio State’s offense against them since Durkin clearly doesn’t know how to stop it, but let’s just look at how Maryland stacks up numbers-wise.

Maryland likes to run the ball, to the tune of 9.13 explosive runs per game (6th nationally), but they don’t seem to care for the pass much, 2.25 explosive passes per game (111th) but overall they’re a solidly explosive team, averaging 11.38 per game (17th). Their big play percentage for is 16.37 percent, just two-hundredths of a percent and one ranking spot below Michigan. Their total toxic differential is 17, good for 31st on a per game basis.

The Terrapins give up seven explosive runs per game (112th) and 2.25 explosive passes per game (15th) for a total of 9.25 explosive plays allowed per game (82nd). Their big play against percentage is 12.37 percent (80th) and their big play differential is 3.99 percent (24th). I’ll have more in my prediction tomorrow, but I’d fully expect Michigan to have great success running the ball this weekend.

The Numbers Game: U-M offense third most explosive, defense best at preventing big plays

Thursday, October 27th, 2016


speight-vs-illinois(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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1, Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news

One game after Michigan put up a season high 16 explosive plays on lowly Rutgers they came back and put up 17 on Illinois. They did however, give up four explosive plays to Illinois, which was three more than Rutgers managed.

Offensive big plays
Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first seven weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 58 29 87 16.38% 7.78% 60
2015 28 19 47 10.00% 1.52% 11

Those 17 explosive plays were fairly evenly distributed between 10 runs and seven passes. Coming in, Michigan had 22 total explosive passes through six games. The offensive outbursts over the last two games have vaulted Michigan up in the offensive rankings nationally. How high, exactly? Let’s dig in and see.

So far, Michigan has put up 8.29 explosive run plays per game (9th nationally) and 4.14 explosive pass plays (25th) for a total of 12.43 explosive plays per game (3rd). Yes, you read that right, only two teams in the country average more explosive plays per game than Michigan: Louisville (15.57) and Army (12.57). I think we can begin to put to rest the notion that this offense is a slow, plodding, pro-style offense.

Their big play percentage is 16.38 percent (9th), their big play differential is 7.78 percent (3rd), and their total toxic differential is 60, good for No. 1 nationally on a per game basis. Remember, teams that fare well in the toxic differential metric are usually the ones left standing at the end of the season.

Through seven games last season, the 2015 team — Harbaugh’s first — was averaging just four explosive run plays and 2.71 explosive pass plays for a total of 6.71 explosive plays — almost half of what the 2016 team is doing. Their big play percentage was 10 percent, their big play differential was 1.52 percent, and their total toxic differential was 11 (1.57 per game). I’ve hit this nail before but I’m going to keep hammering it: Jim Harbaugh is an offensive genius, and perhaps the greatest of our era. What he’s done with Michigan in just his second year is nothing short of miraculous.

Garbage time

Just under half (eight) of Michigan’s 17 explosive plays versus Illinois came during garbage time. So far this season, 41 of their 87 total explosive plays (47.13 percent) have come during garbage time. That means that more than half of Michigan’s explosive plays happen before the game is out of hand.

Defensive big plays allowed
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 3.43 1.43 4.86 8.61% 7.78% 60
2015 3.14 1.71 4.86 8.15% 1.52% 11

Michigan gave up four total explosive plays to Illinois last week, which is just below their new season average of 4.86. If you’ll recall what I’ve said previously: anything under six explosive plays per game is in elite territory. Michigan is well below five.

Overall, Michigan is giving up 3.43 explosive run plays per game (16th) and 1.43 pass plays (2nd) for the aforementioned total of just 4.86 explosive plays per game (1st). The next best is Auburn and LSU with 5.43 allowed per game. Michigan’s big play against percentage is 8.61 percent (7th).

Last year at this time Michigan was just coming off the last second collapse against Michigan State and didn’t fare too well against that team, giving up seven total explosive plays, six in the passing game. Their totals through seven games in 2015 were 3.14 explosive run plays and 1.71 pass plays for a total of 4.86 explosive plays given up. Exactly what it is this year. Unfortunately for the 2015 defense, injuries took their toll and they could not maintain that pace, finishing with 7.2 explosive plays given up per game, which was still an impressive 24th nationally. I don’t want to jinx this team but even if they slow their pace (doesn’t look likely with the remaining schedule) they should still finish with fewer than six explosive plays given up per game.

Garbage time

Michigan gave up three of its four explosive plays to Illinois during garbage time last week. So far this season, 20 of the 34 explosive plays Michigan has given up (58.82 percent) have come during garbage time. That means that most of Michigan’s explosive plays given up come after the game is well in hand and the other team is highly unlikely to come back and win. Only Penn State (3-of-4) and Wisconsin (5-of-5) put up most of their explosive plays before garbage time kicked in (there was no garbage time vs Wisconsin).

Sacks and tackles for loss

Michigan only registered one sack last Saturday, but their season total and per game average are still up there. After eight weeks Michigan has 25 total sacks and is averaging 3.57 per game, both good for fourth nationally. They have 63 total tackles for loss (4th) and average nine per game (3rd). Remember, Michigan only averaged 2.46 sacks and 6.77 TFL per game last year. This season, they’re averaging over one more sack per game and almost three more tackles for loss per game, all while giving up the fewest big plays per game in the nation. The “high risk/high reward” nonsense has been laid down in a wooden box, pending the final nails in the coffin.

Big plays by down

um-offense-big-plays-by-down-week-8

Michigan has 87 total explosive plays on offense — 58 run and 29 pass. An explosive play is just as likely on first down as it is on second down (37 for each down). An explosive run is slightly more likely on second than first down (27 versus 26) and an explosive pass play is slightly more likely on first than second down (11 versus 10). Third down is highly unlikely to see an explosive run (only 8.62 percent of explosive runs happen on third down) but better than 27 percent of the explosive pass plays happen on third down).

opp-big-plays-by-down-week-8

On defense, Michigan is equally likely to give up an explosive play on first and second down (13 apiece) with third down a good deal behind (eight). Half of the explosive runs given up happen on second down (12), followed by first (seven) and then third (five). Explosive pass plays are more likely to occur on first down (six) than both second (one) and third (three) downs combined.

Big play percentage of total yards

I thought it might be fun to take a look at what percentage of yards Michigan gives up on explosive plays. It was eye opening when it came to what they do in the run game. Michigan has given up 672 total rushing yards and 501 of those came on just 24 explosive run plays. That means 74.55 percent of the total rushing yards Michigan has given up has come via an explosive run play at 20.88 yards a pop. So what are they giving up per play on non-explosive runs? A mere 0.83 yards per attempt.

To truly put that into some perspective consider this: Michigan has faced 231 total rushing attempts. Of those, 24 have resulted in explosive plays (501 total yards) and the other 207 rushes have yielded just 171 total yards. So what does this mean exactly? Michigan will give up an explosive run play about 10 percent of the time at just under 21 yards per rush. The other 90 percent of the time they give up just 0.83 yards per rush. You get a big gain once in a while, but most of the time you literally get almost nothing.

Let that sink in for a minute. Ninety percent of the time a team runs the ball against Michigan they average less than a yard per attempt.

On offense just over 63 percent of Michigan’s rushing yards come via explosive play and just under 53 percent of their passing yards come via explosive play. All in all, over 58 percent of Michigan’s total offensive yards come via explosive plays. I think they’ve come that long way already, eh Herbie?

Without the total explosive play yardage for the rest of the country we cannot see how Michigan compares. If you know how to get it without going through play-by-plays for every team/game hit me up at @jdemille9. But what we do know quantitatively is that Michigan has an explosive play 16.38 percent of the time — roughly one out of every six plays. Only two of the eight teams with a higher big play percentage than Michigan are in the playoff hunt — Washington (16.45 percent) and Louisville (20.11 percent). No, they are not quite in Louisville’s stratosphere percentage-wise, but their offense isn’t built to be basketball on grass.

UM’s big play leaders
Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Run
Name Number of Big Runs Average Gain Big Play Pct
De’Veon Smith 14 18.43 yards 17.72%
Chris Evans 11 23.55 yards 22.44%
Ty Isaac 10 14.82 yards 17.46%
Karan Higdon 9 25.11 yards 20.93%
Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Pass
Name Number of Big Receptions Average Gain Big Play Pct
Amara Darboh 11 35.00 yards 36.67%
Jake Butt 6 19.00 yards 23.08%
Jehu Chesson 5 28.40 yards 27.78%

With Chris Evans out with a concussion after just one carry, De’Veon Smith was able to climb back to the lead with 14 total explosive runs, he’s also the overall leader with 14. I’m still amazed that his explosive run average is so high (18.43 yards). It’s amazing what one can do when healthy. Karan Higdon took the opportunity presented in Evans’ absence and moved to the top in average per explosive run with 25.11 yards. As a team, Michigan is averaging 19.62 yards on 58 explosive runs.

Amara Darboh stayed atop the explosive pass play list for both total (11) and average yards per (35). As a team, Michigan is averaging 28.32 yards on 28 explosive pass plays. Overall, Michigan averages 22.45 yards on their 87 explosive plays.

Big play scoring drives
Michigan’s 2016 big play scoring percentage
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Offense 56 39 69.64%*
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Defense 26 8 30.77%*
*A drive with a big play typically yields points 75% of the time per recent NFL study

Against Illinois, Michigan had 10 drives in which they registered an explosive play and they scored on seven of those. Side note: one of those ten drives was the game ending drive in which Michigan ran out the clock, so that will skew the results downward slightly. Overall this season Michigan has had 56 drives with an explosive play and scored on 39 of them (69.64 percent). Just under 70 percent of the time they have an explosive play, they score on that drive. On a per game basis, they average eight drives with an explosive play and score on 5.57 of them.

On defense, Michigan surrendered four drives with explosive plays to Illinois and the Illini only capitalized on one of them. For the year Michigan’s defense has surrendered 26 drives with an explosive play and only allowed scores on eight of them. Opponents only score 30.77 percent of the time they register an explosive play. Remember, the NFL study we base this off of says that a team is likely to score on 75 percent of the drives on which they register an explosive play. Michigan gives up a score less than one third of the time. The Michigan defense is very good, in case you didn’t know already.

Next opponent
Michigan & Michigan State offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 58 29 87 16.38% 7.78% 60
MSU Off. 28 21 49 10.47% 1.36% 0
Michigan & Michigan State defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 24 10 34 8.61% 7.78% 60
MSU Def. 24 21 45 9.11% 1.36% 0

And now we take a look forward to our next opponent. This line from Star Wars always comes to mind when I think of East Lansing; “you won’t find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Unfortunately, Sparty isn’t who we thought they’d be, but they still consider this their championship game, a la Rutgers. We saw how well that worked out for the Scarlet Knights. For what it’s worth, Jim Harbaugh prepares for every team as if it’s a championship game. No one will ever say his Michigan teams weren’t prepared.

MSU is bad on offense — not Rutgers bad — but still very bad. They average four explosive run plays per game (102nd) and three explosive pass plays per game (75th) for a total of seven explosive plays per game (111th). Their big play percentage is 10.47 percent (101st) and their big play differential is 1.36 percent (53rd).

On defense it gets a little better, but not quite the Spartan teams of yesteryear. They give up an average of 3.43 explosive run plays per game (16th) — which is same as Michigan — and three explosive pass plays (53rd) for a total of 6.43 explosive plays per game (21st). Their big play against percentage is a decent 9.11 percent (15th) but their total toxic differential is a flat zero (70th). Still fairly solid on defense as far as explosive plays given up are concerned, but just awful on offense.

I expect Michigan State to bring their A-game this weekend. Unfortunately, their A-game is light years behind Michigan’s A-game. Don’t think Michigan’s players (or Jim Harbaugh for that matter) have forgotten last year and how the Spartans celebrated the way they did in Ann Arbor. I’ll have my full prediction tomorrow, but for now all I will say is that I fully expect something similar to 2009 Stanford versus USC to go down in East Lansing this Saturday.

The Numbers Game: Michigan’s big play stats continue to tell good news

Thursday, October 20th, 2016


chris-evans-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, Michigan out-big-plays Rutgers 16 to 1
Related: Midseason comparison: Michigan’s 2016 offense vs 2015 offense, Midseason comparison: Michigan’s 2016 defense vs 2015 defense

As promised, we’ve got a ton of new information to add to our regular explosive play stats. But first let’s quickly recap where Michigan stands after the bye week with some updated rankings.

Michigan’s offense is averaging eight explosive run plays per game (12th nationally) and 3.67 pass plays (38th) for 11.67 total explosive plays (9th) with a big play percentage of 15.77 percent (10th).

On defense they are surrendering 3.67 explosive run plays per game (24th) and 1.33 pass plays (2nd) for a total of just five explosive plays given up per game (1st) and their big play against percentage is 8.4 percent (11th).

Their big play differential is 7.36 percent (4th) and their toxic differential is 46, good for fourth on a per game basis.

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’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.

After the bye week Michigan is currently fifth nationally in total sacks (24) but still first in sacks per game (four). They are also third with 59 total tackles for loss, which is good for second on a per game basis (9.83).

Now, on to some new stuff. It’s all well and good that Michigan has been stellar at putting up explosive plays and preventing them, but when exactly is Michigan most likely to have an explosive play, or give one up on defense? Here’s what I found.

Michigan has had 70 total explosive plays on offense — 48 run and 22 pass.

Michigan’s 2016 big run plays by down – Offense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 24 18.96 yards 50.00%
2nd 20 20.50 yards 41.67%
3rd 4 21.75 yards 8.33%
Michigan’s 2016 big pass plays by down – Offense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 8 32.25 yards 36.36%
2nd 8 25.63 yards 36.36%
3rd 6 32.50 yards 27.27%

An explosive run play has happened 24 times on first down with an average gain of 18.96 yards, 20 times on second down with an average gain of 20.5 yards and just four times on third down with an average gain of 21.75 yards.

An explosive pass is equally as likely on first and second downs (eight on each down), with first down passes gaining more yards than second (average gain 32.25 vs 25.63 respectively) and just behind on third down (six) with the highest average gain of 32.5 yards. Overall, 85 percent of Michigan’s explosive plays occur on either first (45.71%) or second downs (40%).

On defense Michigan has given up 30 total explosive plays — 22 run and 8 pass. An explosive run play has happened seven times on first down with an average gain of 17.86 yards, 11 times on second with an average gain of 19.91 yards and just four times on third down, with an average gain of 23.75 yards.

Michigan’s 2016 big run plays allowed by down – Defense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 7 17.86 yards 50.00%
2nd 11 19.91 yards 41.67%
3rd 4 23.75 yards 8.33%
Michigan’s 2016 big pass plays allowed by down – Defense
Down Big Plays Avg Gain Percent
1st 5 40.60 yards 62.50%
2nd 1 37.00 yards 12.50%
3rd 2 22.00 yards 25.00%

Of the explosive passes Michigan has allowed, 62.5 percent (five) have occurred on first down with third down (two) and second down (one) hardly ever yielding explosive pass plays.

Overall, Michigan gives up 8o percent of their total explosive plays on first down and second down combined (both 40 percent) and just 20 percent on third. Their lowest gain per play is on second down at 21.33 yards. Michigan averages 24.1 yards per explosive play given up.

To sum it up, Michigan’s offense is most likely to have an explosive run play on first down, and an explosive pass play is equally likely on first or second down. On third down they are three times more likely to have an explosive pass than a run. Most of their explosive plays occur on first (45.71%) or second downs (40%).

On defense Michigan is most likely to give up an explosive run on second down and an explosive pass on first down. They are equally as likely for any explosive play to happen on first or second down. Without comparing these numbers to other teams it’s a little hard to tell how good, or not, they are. However, it is probably a good thing that Michigan gives up the fewest percent of their big plays on third downs. Luckily for them they give up so few big plays a game it is highly unlikely that they give up more than one or two big third down plays.

In order to combat any Michigan State or Ohio State fans who say Michigan hasn’t played a great schedule or all their plays happen in garbage time, consider the following. Garbage time is defined by Football Outsiders as the following: “a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth quarter.”

Nearly half — 33 — of Michigan’s 70 explosive plays on offense have occurred during garbage time — or 47.14 percent — aided greatly by the Rutgers game (12 of 16 came in garbage time which was essentially the last three quarters). On defense, 17 of the 30 explosive plays given up have occurred in garbage time — 56.67 percent — well more than half. Four opponents (Hawaii, UCF, Colorado, and Rutgers) each had greater than 57 percent of their explosive plays in garbage time. Penn State only had four total explosive plays — one in garage time — while the Wisconsin game was never in garbage time.

Just more than half of Michigan’s explosive plays on offense occur when the game is not out of hand and well over half of those given up are when the game is out of hand, which is generally what we’d like to see. So, who exactly is putting up all these big plays and who averages the most yards per big play? You might be surprised.

There is a three-way tie for most explosive run plays between De’Veon Smith, Ty Isaac, and Chris Evans, who each have 10. As you might have guessed, Evans leads the team in yards per explosive run play (24.3) but he’s not as far ahead as you might think. Karan Higdon is close behind at 23.83 yards per explosive run and — perhaps shockingly — Smith is third with a healthy 20.03 yards per explosive run play average. Technically, Jabrill Peppers has the highest average but he’s only had two explosive run plays, so he didn’t make the cut of at least four explosive plays.

Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Run
Name Number of Big Runs Average Gain Big Play Pct
Chris Evans 10 24.30 yards 20.83%
De’Veon Smith 10 20.03 yards 16.39%
Ty Isaac 10 14.80 yards 18.87%
Karan Higdon 6 23.83 yards 17.14%
Michigan’s 2016 big play leaders – Pass
Name Number of Big Receptions Average Gain Big Play Pct
Amara Darboh 8 38.38 yards 32.00%
Jehu Chesson 5 28.40 yards 33.33%
Jake Butt 5 18.40 yards 21.74%

As a team Michigan averages an explosive run play on 17.78 percent of its carries and gains an average of 19.83 yards per explosive run. This was a lot higher than I expected, almost doubling what is considered an explosive run play (10 yards or more). For all the talk about how Michigan’s offense is not explosive like Clemson or Louisville, these numbers seem to indicate Michigan is, in fact, an explosive offense.

Amara Darboh headlines the explosive pass play leaders, both in total (eight) and in average yards (38.38). Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt are not far behind (five apiece) but Chesson averages 10 more yards per explosive pass play than Butt (28.4 versus 18.4). No one else on the team has more than two.

Michigan averages an explosive pass play on 20.18 percent of its pass attempts and gains an average of 29.91 yards per explosive pass. The offense as a whole averages an explosive play 15.77 percent of the time and gains an average of 23 yards per explosive play. Not too shabby for an old-fashioned pro-style offense from the 1970s, eh?

Ty Isaac has the overall team lead with 11 total explosive plays — 10 run and 1 pass.

What got me so interested in the explosive play and toxic differential metric was an article I read about Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. My brother is a huge USC fan, despite growing up with a father who is a Michigan grad, so I kept tabs on them as well and now Seattle sometimes.

In the article it discussed Pete Carroll’s defensive priorities. Here is the part that really caught my eye: Give up either an explosive run or pass play in any given drive and the opposition will score over 75 percent of the time for the period studied.

That is what we’re going to look at now as it pertains to Michigan — how often do they either score or give up a score on drives with explosive plays?

On offense Michigan has had 46 drives with explosive plays. Keep in mind that many drives have more than one explosive play. They’ve scored on 32 of those drives, or 69.57 percent of the time. From that NFL study, 75 percent is the key number (also keep in mind the NFL regards explosive plays as runs of 12 or more and passes of 16 or more as compared to our 10-plus runs and 20-plus passes), so scoring on almost 70 percent of the drives with explosive plays is excellent.

Michigan’s 2016 big play scoring percentage
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Offense 46 32 69.57%*
Drives With Big Play Drives w/Big Play and Score Big Play Scoring Pct
Defense 22 7 31.82%*
*A drive with a big play typically yields points 75% of the time per recent NFL study

Conversely, on defense Michigan’s, opponents have had 22 drives with explosive plays and scored on only seven of those drives, or 31.82 percent. To keep teams under 32 percent scores on drives with explosive plays (based on these definitions) is incredible. Just because Michigan may give up an explosive play on a drive doesn’t necessarily mean they will give up a score, in fact, they usually don’t. That’s the #DonBrownEffect in action.

Before we take a look ahead to this weekend’s opponent, Illinois, I thought we could briefly discuss some numbers from last weekend’s Wisconsin-Ohio State game, transitive property and all. It’s not apple to apples but I think the results will make a lot of you feel better about the trip to Columbus at the end of the season.

Wisconsin had 11 explosive plays against OSU (six run and five pass). Against Michigan they only had five total (three run and two pass). On defense Wisconsin gave up 12 total explosive plays to OSU (seven run and five pass), whereas versus Michigan they gave up only nine (five run and four pass).

Now for the really interesting stat. Against OSU, Wisconsin had six drives with an explosive play and they scored on five of those — a whopping 83.3 percent. Against Michigan, they had 5 drives with an explosive play and scored on none of them. That’s zero percent. Wisconsin’s lone score versus Michigan was set up on a short field by a 46-yard interception return.

Here’s what I took away from last week’s game, and these numbers: Ohio State is mortal, Wisconsin’s defense is as good as advertised, and Michigan’s defense is good enough to shut down the Ohio State offense, at least to the point where Michigan doesn’t need to score 45-plus to win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar score (30-23) come the end of November and my optimism has upticked slightly.

Okay, on to Illinois. The Fighting Illini aren’t very good, but they are better than Rutgers. But then again, who isn’t?

Michigan & Illinois offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 48 22 70 15.77% 7.36% 46
ILL Off. 37 13 50 13.81% 1.91% 8
Michigan & Illinois defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 22 8 30 8.40% 7.36% 46
ILL Def. 30 20 50 11.90% 1.91% 8

On offense the Illini average 6.17 explosive run plays per game (44th) and 2.17 pass plays (109th) for a total of 8.33 explosive plays per game (80th). Their big play percentage is 13.81 percent (38th). On defense they surrender five big run plays (59th) and 3.33 pass plays (75th) for a total of 8.33 per game (60th) — exactly as many as their offense puts up. Their big play against percentage is 11.9 percent (58th), their big play differential is 1.91 percent (48th), and their toxic differential is 8 (51st on a per game basis).

That places Illinois comparable to Penn State prior to their meeting a few weeks ago. All Michigan did in that game was win the big play battle nine to four and win the game 49-10.

Overall, Michigan is in great shape with all of the advanced stats we have been profiling throughout the season. Remember, Pete Carroll made USC and the Seattle Seahawks into powerhouse teams with big play metrics as one of his core principles. If Michigan continues to succeed in these metrics on both sides of the ball over the second half of the season, we’re in for a special finish.

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

Friday, October 14th, 2016


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.

The numbers game: U-M offense maintains big play pace versus tough Wisconsin D

Thursday, October 6th, 2016


darboh-vs-wisconsin(MGoBlue.com)

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

Last week turned out to be much more of a defensive battle than we here at Maize and Go Blue thought it would be. But Michigan got the win and it wasn’t as close as the score might say. Let’s see what the explosive play numbers looked like.

On offense, perhaps surprisingly, Michigan had nine total big plays — five big run plays and four big pass plays. I know it might not seem like that was the case given the pace of the game but I went back and watched the game and they indeed had nine big plays last week. That’s still down two from their season average coming in (11.25) but right about where I thought they’d end up. However, I think I might change my prediction (they might average around 11 big plays per game) but I’ll wait to see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

So far this season, through five games Michigan is averaging seven big run plays (25th nationally) and 3.8 big pass plays (42nd) for a total of 10.8 big plays per game (20th) with a big play percentage of 14.52 percent (30th). Their big play differential is 4.95 percent (23rd) and their total toxic differential is 31, good for 7th on a per game basis.

Through five games the 2015 team averaged 4.2 big run plays and 2.6 big pass plays, for a total of 6.8 big plays per game with a 9.47 percent big play percentage. Their big play differential was a paltry 1.73 percent and their toxic differential was just nine. Based on this year’s numbers that would put them around the high 50s or low 60s nationally for both big play differential and toxic differential. Michigan has improved their offense by leaps and bounds in Year 2 under Harbaugh.

Michigan offense – 2015 vs 2016 first five weeks comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 35 19 54 14.52% 4.95% 31
2015 21 13 34 9.47% 1.73% 9
Michigan defense – 2015 vs 2016 averages through five weeks
Year Big Run Plays/gm Big Pass Plays/gm Total Big Plays/gm Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
2016 4.20 1.60 5.80 9.57% 4.95% 31
2015 3.60 1.00 4.60 7.74% 1.73% 9

On defense, Michigan only surrendered five big plays on Saturday — three run and two pass. In case you forgot, or this is your first time here, anything under six big plays given up per game is an elite defense.

Adding those numbers into the season totals and we see that Michigan is giving up 4.2 big run plays per game (47th) and 1.6 big pass plays (4th) for a total of 5.8 big plays per game (18th), with a big play against percentage of 9.57 percent (35th).

Contrast those numbers against last year’s team through five games: 3.6 big run plays given up and one big pass play for a total of 4.6 big plays given up with a big play against percentage of 7.74 percent. They were better in every big play against metric than this year’s team. But, as I mentioned last week, these numbers still put them in elite defense categories and the tackles for loss and sacks are on pace to blow the 2015 numbers out of the water.

Keep in mind that the 2015 did not keep up their breakneck pace on defense either. Season long, the Wolverines gave up an average of 4.8 big run plays per game and 2.4 big pass plays per game, good for 56th and 13th nationally. Based on total number of plays Michigan gave up a big play 11.49 percent of the time, which ranked 59th nationally. All told, Michigan gave up 7.2 big plays per game, good for 25th nationally. That’s impressive for sure, but they were not able to sustain their early season pace as the competition got tougher. I don’t think that will be the case with this year’s team. I’m on record saying this team should give up around six big plays per game over the course of the season, and I’m sticking with that.

Michigan’s Week 5 big plays
Quarter Down & Distance Player Yards Gained Run/Pass
1 2nd and 8 Wilton Speight to Jake Butt 23 Pass
1 2nd and 4 Chris Evans 22 Run
2 2nd and 10 Wilton Speight to Grant Perry 20 Pass
3 2nd and 10 Wilton Speight to Jehu Chesson 24 Pass
3 2nd and 5 De’Veon Smith 13 Run
3 1st and 10 De’Veon Smith 16 Run
3 1st and 10 Ty Isaac 10 Run
4 1st and 10 Ty Isaac 13 Run
4 1st and 10 Wilton Speight to Amara Darboh 46 (TD) Pass
Wisconsin’s Week 5 big plays
1 3rd and 7 Alex Hornibrook to Robert Wheelwright 24 Pass
1 1st and 10 Corey Clement 10 Run
2 3rd and 3 Alex Hornibrook to Robert Wheelwright 20 Pass
2 1st and 10 Jazz Peavy 17 Run
4 1st and 10 Corey Clement 10 Run

Since I tossed them in last week, and mentioned them again this week I think it’d be good to continue to look at tackles for loss and sacks as an added stat of interest and further proof of Don Brown’s defensive genius. Unfortunately, I do not have game by game numbers for tackles for loss and sacks so for now we’ll just compare the 2015 totals and how this year’s team would stack up if they continue on their current pace.

To refresh your memory, last year Michigan had 88 tackles for loss (6.77 per game) and 32 sacks (2.46 per game). On a per game basis, those numbers were good for 42nd for TFLs and 32nd for sacks. Through five games this year Michigan has 46 tackles for loss (9.2 per game) — 4th and 6th, respectively — and 19 sacks (3.8/g), also 4th and 6th best respectively. Both massive improvements a direct result of Don Brown’s new defense. I know Marcus Ray won’t agree but if Michigan keeps up this pace we may be talking about the 2016 team as one the greatest Michigan defenses of all-time.

Before the bye week we’re going to add in some new stuff to aid in our discussion of explosive plays and to reinforce the football genius of Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown. However, apparently Rutgers is an actual school and they do indeed field what I’m told is a ‘football’ team so this week does not count as bye week. All kidding aside, Chris Ash is a good coach and should eventually have Rutgers looking respectable. Just not by Saturday night.

Let’s take a look at the Scarlet Knights’ numbers through five weeks. Spoiler alert: 2016 Rutgers is bad and they should feel bad. Michigan’s new ‘rival’ to the East is a bad football team and their explosive play/toxic differential numbers confirm that.

Michigan & Rutgers offense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Off. 35 19 54 14.52% 4.95% 31
RU Off. 27 9 36 10.08% -4.36% -16
Michigan & Rutgers defense comparison
Year Big Run Plays Big Pass Plays Total Big Plays Big Play % Big Play Diff Toxic Diff
UM Def. 21 8 29 9.57% 4.95% 31
RU Def. 38 15 51 14.45% -4.36% -16

On offense, Rutgers averages a middling 5.4 big run plays per game (59th) and a less than stellar 1.8 big pass plays (118th) for an incredibly shameful 7.2 total big plays per game (106th). Their big play percentage is 10.08 percent (105th), their big play differential is an unsurprising -4.36 percent (117th), and their total toxic differential is -16 — good for 112th on a per game basis.

The line is set around minus-28 right now. I don’t see any reason why Michigan won’t win by at least four touchdowns and I’m pretty sure my weekly staff prediction is going to say we’re on shutout watch. Hooray for new rivalry games!