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MnB B1G Preview: New Math -- Revisiting Michigan vs. Northwestern

It's been a busy week and I'm a little behind on this, but here's the look back on Michigan's game in Evanston against Northwestern last season, with an emphasis on advanced statistics.

ESPN Game Recap | MGoBlog Recap | Highlight Video

Michigan 42, Northwestern 24

EqPts Differential: Michigan +11.446
Michigan N'Western

Michigan N'Western
Success Rate 0.493 0.561 Success Rate 0.451 0.615
Points Per Play 0.516 0.413 Points Per Play 0.439 0.432
SR + PPP 1.010 0.974 SR + PPP 0.890 1.047
Success Rate 0.600 0.625 Success Rate 0.583 0.357
Points Per Play 0.854 0.411 Points Per Play 0.680 0.344
SR + PPP 1.454 1.036 SR + PPP 1.263 0.701
RUSHING PLAYS 50 26 1st Down S&P 0.548 1.015
Success Rate 0.440 0.462 2nd Down S&P 0.680 1.167
Points Per Play 0.347 0.417 3rd Down S&P 1.263 0.679
SR + PPP 0.787 0.878

1st Quarter S&P 1.028 1.226
Standard Down Rush S&P 0.684 1.009 2nd Quarter S&P 0.892 1.046
Standard Down Pass S&P 1.560 1.071 3rd Quarter S&P 1.031 0.586
Passing Down Rush S&P 1.153 0.440 4th Quarter S&P 1.073 0.804
Passing Down Pass S&P 1.356 0.896

Leverage Rate 68.0 % 78.8 %
TURNOVERS 3 2 % of plays past midfield 53.3 % 43.9 %

Stat Definitions (via Football Study Hall):

Leverage Rate: A team's ratio of standard downs to passing downs. National average: 68%. Anything over 68% means a team did a good job of avoiding being leveraged into passing downs.

Passing Downs: Second-and-7 or more, third-and-5 or more.

PPP: An explosiveness measure derived from determining the point value of every yard line (based on the expected number of points an offense could expect to score from that yard line) and, therefore, every play of a given game.EqPts is the sum PPP of every play run by an offense. National average: 0.32.

S&P: Think of this as an OPS (the "On-Base Plus Slugging" baseball measure) for football. The 'S' stands for success rate. The 'P' stands for PPP, an explosiveness measure that stands for EqPts Per Play. For more about this measure, visit the main S&P+ page at Football Outsiders. National average: 0.747. Standard downs S&P average: 0.787. Passing downs S&P average: 0.636.

Standard Downs: First downs, second-and-6 or less, third-and-4 or less.

Success Rate: A common Football Outsiders tool used to measure efficiency by determining whether every play of a given game was successful or not. The terms of success in college football: 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down. National Average: 42%.

A brief analysis after the jump:

  • Perhaps the most significant stat would be the defensive turnaround from the first half to the second. Michigan headed into the locker room down 24-14 but managed to shut out the Wildcats in the second half and went on to win rather comfortably. Northwestern ran the ball effectively in the first half and moved the ball with ease against the Michigan defense, but adjustments made by Mattison locked down the edge on outside runs and Northwestern's offensive S&P fell from 1.124 in the first half to 0.756 in the second.
  • A lot of that turnaround stems from the Michigan offense's ability to keep the ball away from Northwestern -- the Wildcats only managed to run six plays in the third quarter. Michigan scored a touchdown on the first drive of the second half, Northwestern went three-and-out, Michigan scored another touchdown on a six-and-a-half minute drive, and Northwestern quickly turned the ball over. That's a 14-0 margin for Michigan; the Wolverines took a 28-24 lead into the fourth quarter with the ball inside the Northwestern five yard line and scored on the next play.
  • Michigan's passing S&P was abnormally high (1.454), but then again, S&P disregards turnovers so Denard Robinson's three interceptions didn't factor into that number. Considering that Denard was pretty darn good when he wasn't throwing picks -- 337 yards and two touchdowns isn't anything to sneeze at -- this game was another in a long line of games where Denard's passing was alternately horrible and awesome, seemingly without any pattern, rhyme or reason. If those interceptions somehow get cut down for next year...
  • Even though Northwestern wasn't able to put any points on the scoreboard in the second half, they still were able to move the ball effectively and totaled almost 500 yards. Part of that comes from the last drive of the game, a 79 yard drive that ended at the Michigan two yard line, when the game was out of reach, but an S&P of 0.974 was good and was the third-worst showing of the year for the Michigan defense (behind Notre Dame and Ohio State, respectively). Even with the second half improvement, Michigan struggled with the mobility of Dan Persa and Kain Colter gave the Michigan defense problems.