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MnB B1G Preview -- New Math: Revisiting Nebraska at Michigan

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Michigan 45, Nebraska 17
EqPts Differential: Michigan + 17.465
Michigan Nebraska

Michigan Nebraska
TOTAL PLAYS 75 52 STANDARD DOWNS 45 30
Success Rate 0.440 0.385 Success Rate 0.533 0.567
Points Per Play 0.429 0.283 Points Per Play 0.431 0.420
SR + PPP 0.869 0.668 SR + PPP 0.964 0.987
PASSING PLAYS 18 23 PASSING DOWNS 30 22
Success Rate 0.500 0.261 Success Rate 0.300 0.136
Points Per Play 0.756 0.347 Points Per Play 0.425 0.096
SR + PPP 1.256 0.608 SR + PPP 0.725 0.232
RUSHING PLAYS 57 29 1st Down S&P 0.797 0.967
Success Rate 0.421 0.483 2nd Down S&P 0.695 0.492
Points Per Play 0.326 0.232 3rd Down S&P 1.210 0.422
SR + PPP 0.747 0.715

1st Quarter S&P 0.852 1.068
Standard Down Rush S&P 0.917 0.874 2nd Quarter S&P 0.855 0.280
Standard Down Pass S&P 1.453 1.296 3rd Quarter S&P 0.849 0.774
Passing Down Rush S&P 0.310 0.215 4th Quarter S&P 0.936 0.583
Passing Down Pass S&P 1.120 0.239

Leverage Rate 60.0 % 57.7 %
TURNOVERS 1 3 % of plays past midfield 50.7 % 34.6 %


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%.

Analysis after the jump:

Michigan's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense:

Firstly, and any Nebraska fan will readily tell you this when last year's contest is brought up, the final score -- namely Michigan's 45 points -- was a bit deceptive. Due to a few unfortunate fumbles on kickoffs, the Wolverines were set up with great field position and scored without much effort; a Kenny Bell fumble led to a Denard Robinson touchdown in the third quarter as Michigan began to open up their lead. Even though it wasn't as good of an offensive performance as the scoreboard might indicate, it was a very good game for the Michigan offense and for Denard Robinson in particular -- Michigan did manage 32.166 equivalent points and Michigan's offense tallied an S&P of 0.869 on 75 total plays. The offense was equally effective on the ground (0.747) and through the air (1.256) although big plays in the running game were rare. Still, the Wolverines totaled 418 yards of offense and 45 points, and regardless of the bad fumble luck that plagued Nebraska, the Cornhuskers didn't have a prayer when it came to slowing down Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Michigan's Defense vs. Nebraska's Offense:

What's immediately striking about Nebraska's offense in this game was that it was actually pretty good when in standard down-and-distance (0.987 S&P) situations and on first down (0.967), but outside of that, Michigan was dominant. The Huskers were leveraged into passing downs quite often, and when in those situations, they couldn't really run or pass the ball. Taylor Martinez made a few plays -- including a long TD pass when two Michigan defenders ran into each other Tony Gibson-style -- but he was largely ineffective, especially when Michigan knew it was likely a passing situation. Nebraska moved the ball well enough on the ground (0.483 success rate) but couldn't ever break the big play; in fact, that Martinez to Brandon Kinnie touchdown was one of only two plays over 20 yards for Nebraska. After that first quarter, Michigan outplayed Nebraska by a pretty significant margin, and most of that margin was contributed by the near-dominant play of the defense later on in the game.

What this means for next year:

Nebraska fans seemingly always cite the deceptiveness of the final score as a reason why next year's game will be much more competitive, and I tend to agree with them, but Michigan still outplayed the Huskers in a way that no one else, save Wisconsin, did all season. The game will be much tougher in Lincoln than it was in Ann Arbor, of course, but since most of the offensive casts intact for both teams, it's hard to see Martinez performing much better or Robinson doing significantly worse next year. This should be a very challenging game year-in and year-out and this upcoming contest is no exception, but I'd be surprised if the Huskers were able to completely reverse their fortunes and blowing out Michigan. It should be a much closer game, but judging by last year's performance, Nebraska has a lot of ground to make up, especially on offense, to beat the Wolverines.